When a newborn child suffers an injury during child birth, the lives of both the baby and parents are forever changed.
One of the most tragic events a new parent can face is being told their child has suffered an injury, often before the child has taken his or her first breath. The tragedy of this news becomes even more devastating when the parents learn that their child’s injury was caused by medical malpractice that could and should have been avoided.
During the birthing process, newborns can suffer injury to their brain due to a deprivation of oxygen, or a traumatic physical injury that can interfere with proper function of the child’s spine, shoulder or arm. Some birth injuries may not be diagnosed for months or even years after birth. When such a condition is diagnosed, parents are often led to believe that their child’s injury was genetic when, in fact, many of these birth injuries could have and should have been prevented.
A birth injury can occur at many different times throughout the birthing process. Birth injuries can vary from being very minor to catastrophic and can even result in death. Parents of an injured child face the daunting prospect of years of astronomical medical expenses, and emotional stresses which accompany the process of raising a child with a significant disability. Also, a disabled child will often suffer the impact of profound physical and neurologic injuries for the remainder of his or her natural life.
Most parents have no way of knowing what happened to their child and many do not know where to even begin to search for answers. We’re here to help. We have the expertise to successfully prosecute these claims, and we rely upon the best expert witnesses to secure significant awards for our clients and their children.
Two of the most common types of birth injury are cerebral palsy and Erbs palsy (also known as brachial plexus).
Cerebral palsy is damage to a child’s brain during pregnancy or the labor-and-delivery process, and it is often the result of avoidable medical errors. That damage can interfere with the normal communication between a child’s brain and body. A child with cerebral palsy may suffer lifelong consequences that negatively impact many of his or her sensory and physical processes, including speech, hearing, sight and the ability to walk and talk normally, etc. Cerebral palsy is often caused by a physician’s failure to properly manage the birth process, which in turn results in a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain, causing brain tissue to be destroyed.
The factors and circumstances that can cause unnecessary injury to a newborn during the labor-and-delivery process are incredibly complex. Navigating these circumstances to determine whether a child’s cerebral palsy could and should have been avoided with proper medical care and treatment requires input not only from experienced lawyers, but also from medical experts of the highest quality. You can rely on our experience and experts to accurately interpret and evaluate your child’s medical care to determine whether your child’s condition could have been prevented – and, if so, the very best way to prove it in court.
Cerebral Palsy – Symptoms And Types
A child is most commonly diagnosed with cerebral palsy within the first two years of age. Oftentimes, however, a child’s labor and delivery and perinatal medical records contain clear signals of the diagnosis even before it is made. A child suffering from cerebral palsy will begin to demonstrate signs and symptoms of the condition, including a failure to reach early developmental milestones, delays in physical development and muscle coordination, delays in crawling or walking, stiff or tight muscles, walking on toes, and/or floppy muscle tone. Other neurologic systems can be negatively impacted by the condition, including bowel and bladder function, breathing, speech, eating, swallowing, learning, vision and hearing. Negligent delivery techniques can result in any of the three known types of cerebral palsy – spastic, athetoid and ataxic.
If your child suffers from cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice, you will be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, future lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Cerebral Palsy – Oxygen Deprivation During Labor And Delivery
During the labor-and-delivery process, physicians, midwives and obstetrical nurses must adhere to well-recognized and available techniques to closely monitor the health of the unborn child. These techniques have been developed over decades of obstetrical practice following a number of high-level medical studies. Appropriate monitoring during labor and delivery is an important and fundamental aspect of sound obstetrical medical practice, and any sign of fetal distress can be a clue that the unborn child is suffering from conditions such as hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply) or anoxia (total lack of oxygen). Physicians, midwives and obstetrical nurses have at their disposal many tools to diagnose fetal distress in a timely fashion – before a child suffers injury. Whether it’s through the use of ultrasound, bio-physical profiles, stress tests, non-stress tests or fetal monitoring strips during labor, applicable standards of medical care require physicians to appreciate and respond quickly to any evidence of fetal distress, including by ordering emergency or STAT C-section delivery to prevent the unborn child from suffering brain injury or other permanent injury.
Cerebral Palsy – Early Signs
A child suffering from cerebral palsy as a result of injury during labor and delivery can demonstrate early signs of the condition in many different ways. A common sign that a newborn has suffered oxygen deprivation and injury is seizures which present themselves in the form of body shaking, blank stares, interruptions in normal breathing patters, inability to sleep, head nodding, uncontrolled eyelid blinking, a loud pitched cry, tightening of an arm or leg, lip smacking, or shivering.
Erbs Palsy or Shoulder Dystocia
Erbs palsy is a condition caused by injury to a child’s brachial plexus – the large system of nerves that runs down the spinal column to muscles in the shoulders and arms. A child is especially vulnerable to this type of injury during the labor and delivery process, and physicians are expected to utilize well-known and accepted techniques to protect newborns from these injuries. When a newborn suffers this injury as a result of a physician’s failure to take advantage of these techniques, he or she has deviated from applicable standards of medical care, and can be held responsible for the resulting injury which can cause total or partial paralysis of a child’s shoulder and arm, and other profound physical consequences.
Erbs Palsy – What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
During delivery of a newborn, the baby’s shoulder can get stuck in the birth canal or on the mother’s pelvis. When this occurs, the baby’s natural progression through the birth canal, and the delivery process, are delayed. Physicians and midwifes have at their disposal many medical tools that will signal when delivery is being compromised by shoulder dystocia. These medical professionals are expected to be aware of these tools to identify these complications and use them in a timely fashion. They are also expected to take advantage of time-tested and standard delivery protocols to remedy dystocia which may be causing a delay in the delivery process. It is imperative to identify this complication and take steps to alleviate it in a timely manner because the failure to do so can cause permanent and profound injury to the unborn baby – including physical injury to the nerves that control spinal and upper extremity function, and other neurologic injuries resulting from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Physicians must work quickly and safely to ensure the baby does not suffer from oxygen deprivation, nerve stretch injuries, and the like.
Erbs Palsy – Risk Factors Of Shoulder Dystocia
Before the labor-and-delivery process even begins, competent medical providers can identify certain risk factors (for the mother and baby) that can signal an increased risk for shoulder dystocia. These known risk factors include: an unusually large baby (as diagnosed by ultrasound), gestational diabetes, a “breech” presentation (i.e., the baby exits the pelvis with the buttocks or feet first as opposed to the normal head-first position), the mother has an unusually small pelvic structure, prior deliveries with complications, unusual large weight gain during the pregnancy, etc. Applicable standards of medical care require a treating physician and/or midwife to identify these risk factors, and prepare in advance of the labor and delivery process for complications that might occur.
Erbs Palsy – Available Delivery Techniques To Avoid Injury
When shoulder dystocia occurs, physicians and midwives can and should employ one or more delivery techniques to alleviate the dystocia to avoid permanent injury to the newborn baby. These techniques are designed to essentially “unstick” the shoulder, thereby permitting the baby to be delivered without suffering the devastating consequences of oxygen deprivation and/or prolonged trauma to the nerves in the shoulder.
Commonly, physicians and/or midwives will change the position of the mother’s legs in an effort to widen the birth canal. Also, gentle pressure can be applied to the mother to free the baby’s shoulder. A physician will often physically rotate the baby while in the birth canal in order to free the shoulder. If these maneuvers are unsuccessful, a physician and/or midwife may intentionally break the baby’s collar bone or order an emergency C-section to promote delivery.
A physician or midwife’s failure to employ these techniques in a timely fashion can result in profound and devastating injury to the newborn. Klumpke’s palsy will cause paralysis of the fingers and hands. Horner’s Syndrome can cause the eyelid to droop and result in an uneven pupil size. Erb’s palsy causes the arm to stay close to the body, with the palm facing backwards and no movement of the arm from below the elbow. A Complete Brachial Plexus Injury is the most severe form of injury, and causes total paralysis of the affected arm. Each one of these injuries can happen due to rupture of the nerves, stretch injury of the nerves, crush injury to the nerves, neuroma or scar tissue development, or an avulsion injury where the nerve is no longer attached to the spine.
While some brachial plexus injuries may improve over time, most result in severe permanent disabilities that will negatively impact the child over the course of his or her entire life. As such, if your child has suffered such an injury, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The medical costs alone can be overwhelming. These types of injuries can also directly impact an individual’s ability to work in certain fields when they reach adulthood, and often result in chronic pain, lifelong medical care including multiple surgeries, and other emotional injuries due to their physical limitations.
With stakes this high for you and your child, you can turn to the experienced legal team at Porter Nordby Howe LLP for answers to your questions. We will work hard for the compensation you and your child deserve. We will investigate the complex aspects of your case, and use the very best experts to build your case, and maximize the likelihood that you win.
Children who suffer birth injuries face serious consequences, including the need for lifelong medical interventions, surgeries, home health care, physical and occupational therapy, etc. The costs associated with this medical care can be daunting. If your child has suffered a birth injury, or if you have a question that has not been answered appropriately by your medical providers, call Porter Nordby Howe LLP now at 888-477-7731, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.