What Constitutes a 'Birth Injury' in a Legal Context?
A birth injury can refer to any damage to the infant during labor or delivery, either from physical trauma or a disruption of blood or oxygen. Birth injuries can include bone fractures, nerve damage, and brain injuries. Most birth injuries are preventable with due care from physicians. When a doctor or another party fails to exercise reasonable care during labor or delivery, resulting in a birth injury, it is medical malpractice.
Legal Definitions in Illinois
Illinois law defines medical malpractice as a health care professional causing an injury to a patient, through a negligent act or omission. Any error made during diagnosis, treatment, or patient care that causes an injury may constitute medical malpractice. Many different types of medical malpractice exist, including misdiagnosis, medication mistakes, and surgical errors.
A birth injury is any damage that occurs during the birthing process, typically as a result of physical pressure on the infant. Not all birth injuries are medical malpractice. A birth injury may fulfill the definition of medical malpractice if a reasonable or prudent health care practitioner would not have caused – or would have prevented – the injury under the same circumstances.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
Many types of birth injuries can occur during labor, delivery, or shortly after delivery. Infants may suffer bruising, lacerations, or bone fractures during difficult delivery processes. Certain types of birth injuries point to medical malpractice more than others, including:
- Brachial plexus injuries. Damage to the bundle of nerves in the shoulder, typically due to tugging on the infant’s arm when stuck in the birth canal. Brachial plexus injuries can cause Erb or Klumpke’s palsy.
- Cerebral palsy. Damage to the infant’s brain during or after delivery could cause a permanent condition such as cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy affects the child’s motor function and muscle development.
- Spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries during labor may occur due to improper use of tools such as vacuums or forceps. Spinal cord injuries may result in permanent paralysis for the infant.
- Soft-tissue injuries. An infant’s soft tissues can suffer injuries if a physician misuses birth-assisting tools. Soft-tissue injuries may include lacerations, bruises, broken bones, skull fractures, swelling of the scalp, and cephalohematoma.
Birth injuries can include cuts, scrapes, bruises, internal bleeding, brain damage, broken bones, pulled muscles, and more. If your child suffered any type of internal or external injury during labor or delivery, speak to a birth injury lawyer. The circumstances surrounding the injury may point to medical malpractice.
When do Parents Have Grounds for a Birth Injury Claim?
A birth injury might be cause for legal action if medical malpractice seriously impacted the child’s life. While even prudent physicians may not be able to prevent minor infant injuries during complicated deliveries, many types of birth injuries would never occur without negligence. If your child suffered a serious injury that will cause your family lasting damages, talk to a lawyer about a potential claim. A birth injury lawsuit in Illinois requires four main elements:
- Duty. The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty of care at the time of the injury. Establishing a doctor-patient relationship typically fulfills this element, as all doctors owe their patients strict duties of care according to the medical industry.
- Breach. The defendant must have breached, or failed to fulfill, his or her duties of care to the patient. A breach can be any act or omission that another physician would not have made under similar circumstances.
- Causation. The defendant’s breach of duty of care must be the proximate cause of the infant’s injuries. The plaintiff’s lawyer must establish a causal link between the act of malpractice and the birth injury in question.
- Damages. The act or omission must have inflicted real, compensable damages upon the victim. Damages may include physical injuries, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, medical expenses, and a family’s mental anguish.
If your case has these four elements, your child’s birth injury may constitute medical malpractice. Illinois civil law would then give you – as the child’s parent or guardian – the right to file a medical malpractice claim on your child’s behalf in pursuit of damage recovery. You have eight years from the date the incident occurred to file your claim.
Does Your Child Have a Birth Injury?
Parents want what is best for their children. Discovering your child suffered an injury during or after delivery can be devastating. Believing someone else’s negligence caused or contributed to that injury gives you a reason to contact a medical malpractice attorney.
If a doctor recently diagnosed your child with cerebral palsy, a fractured bone, or another type of birth injury, speak to an attorney in Chicago about a potential medical malpractice lawsuit. Filing a claim could be the only way to receive financial damages for your child’s medical bills and other lifelong costs of the injury. It could also hold the negligent physician or birthing center accountable for its actions and bring your family justice. Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC today.