Birth Injury Attorneys Serving West Virginia
The birth of a child should be an exciting occasion and one filled with joy and love. Emotions run wild as you anticipate all the good times that parenthood will bring. Unfortunately, a mistake in the delivery room can result in those good times being tainted by a birth-related injury.
Some birth-related injuries are the result of a complication during labor, and some are because a doctor neglected to diagnose or treat a condition that was present during pregnancy. Doctors and nurses are human, and they make mistakes, but when those mistakes interfere with the health of your child, you may have a right to seek financial compensation.
Children who are injured during birth may have a difficult life filled with countless medical bills and other expenses. Thankfully, if the negligence of a medical professional caused your child’s injury, you may be able to get money to help cope with these expenses. Find out if you have a valid birth injury case by contacting the Morgantown birth injury lawyers at Colombo Law.
Birth Injury Statistics
Birth injuries are common. On average 6-8 out of every 1,000 babies born will suffer a birth injury. That means out of every 9,714 people living in the U.S., one will be living with a birth injury.
Here are some more facts on how common birth injuries are:
- Each year, 28,000 babies are born with a birth injury.
- That’s a total of 2,333 birth injuries each month, 538 each week, 76 each day, and three each hour.
- Statistically speaking, male babies are more likely to suffer a birth injury than female babies.
- More birth injuries occur at non-profit hospitals than they do at for-profit hospitals.
- Birth injuries are most common in mothers between 25 and 34 years of age who require a tool-assisted delivery.
- For mothers who have a non-tool-assisted delivery, the greatest risk for birth injury occurs in those who are between the ages of 25 and 29.
Common Delivery Room Errors
It is not at all uncommon for an error to occur in the delivery room. Most delivery room errors do not cause any problems, but some can result in serious injuries or even risk the life of mother and baby. These errors can be caused by almost any medical professional, including obstetricians, nurses, and anesthesiologists and can occur after:
- Forced delivery
- Delayed delivery resulting in emergency c-section
- Improperly administered epidurals or drugs
- Failure to properly monitor vital signs of fetal distress
- Incorrectly used instruments, forceps, or vacuum extractors
- Miscalculated contractions
- Failure to plan procedures necessary for the birth of a very large or very small baby
- Failure to stop excessive bleeding
- Failure to identify or fix umbilical cord entrapment
- Improper handling of the infant’s body or improper extraction
- Poor use of inducement drugs
Frequently Asked Questions About Birth Injuries
What Is Considered a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is any type of trauma a baby suffers before, during, or immediately following childbirth. Many birth injuries occur due to negligence on the part of doctors, nurses, and other professionals involved in the labor and delivery.
Examples of birth injuries include:
- Bone fractures: The collarbone is particularly at risk of breaking during delivery.
- Caput succedaneum: Pressure to the top of the head can lead to swelling of the scalp. The condition generally resolves on its own, but in rare cases can lead to infection.
- Facial paralysis: Injury to nerves in the baby’s face can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Cephalohematoma: Hematoma is the medical term for bruising. A cephalohematoma is a bruise that develops between the skull and its outer lining. If it is not properly managed, cephalohematomas can lead to infection, anemia (insufficient red blood cells), and jaundice.
- Infant jaundice: Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin) is fairly common in newborns. It is caused by a buildup of bilirubin (a compound created when the body breaks down blood cells). Mismanagement of infant jaundice can lead to kernicterus, or brain damage stemming from excess bilirubin.
- Brachial plexus injuries: Damage to the brachial plexus (a collection of nerves that control the shoulders, arms, and hands) can lead to weakness and even paralysis in the affected limb.
- Spinal cord injuries: Errors during delivery can damage the baby’s spinal cord, potentially resulting in permanent paralysis.
- Brain damage: Both traumatic injury to the baby’s head as well as oxygen deprivation can damage the brain. Neonatal brain injuries can cause cerebral palsy and a host of other serious complications.
Some birth injuries are detectable in the hours or days after a baby is born, while others might not become apparent until months or even years after the fact. If your baby was injured at birth and you suspect negligence on the part of one or more medical professionals, you owe it to yourself to speak to a birth injury lawyer.
What Is the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?
Birth defects are abnormalities or disorders that occur when babies are in the womb. Unlike a birth injury, which generally occurs when a baby is being born (or shortly before or after delivery), birth defects typically arise at some point earlier during the pregnancy.
Multiple issues can lead to birth defects, including genetic factors, maternal health issues, and exposure to toxins. A birth injury, meanwhile, is usually caused by trauma or lack of oxygen when the baby is born.
How Are Birth Injuries Treated?
Treatment for a birth injury depends on the nature of the injury and the deficits your baby faces. Minor injuries may require little to no treatment. For example, swelling of the scalp due to caput succedaneum or cephalohematoma can generally be monitored without the need for additional intervention.
Extensive, ongoing treatment may be needed for more serious birth injuries. This may include:
- Physical therapy
- Assistive devices such as canes, crutches, braces, etc.
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Psychiatric counseling
- And more
If your child suffered a birth injury due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional, you should not have to shoulder the cost of treatment on your own. A birth injury lawyer can analyze your current expenses and consult experts to determine what the cost of care may be over the course of your child’s life.
Current and future treatment expenses will account for a substantial portion of the damages sought in a birth injury claim. A birth injury attorney will seek to maximize compensation on your behalf.
Are Birth Injuries Permanent?
Not all birth injuries cause permanent damage. Bruising, broken bones, and even nerve damage can be healed with proper and timely medical treatment. Unfortunately, brain damage (which affects approximately 1 to 3 babies out of every 1,000 born in the United States) sustained during labor and delivery is not reversible.
Cerebral palsy and other conditions arising due to neonatal brain injury can impact many different aspects of a child’s life. Families also face a number of challenges.
Medical professionals can assess your child and determine his or her prognosis after a birth injury. A birth injury lawyer can ascertain whether you and your family are entitled to compensation for any losses you have sustained to date, as well as the damages you will face in the future.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Birth Injury Claims?
In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims (technically known as “medical professional liability”) is generally set at 2 years from the date of injury. However, the time limit is different when a minor suffers a medical injury.
Medical professional liability claims where the injured party is a minor child under the age of 10 are subject to whichever of the following time limits is longer:
- 2 years from the date of injury
- Prior to the child’s 12th birthday
– See West Virginia Code § 55-7B-4
If your child was injured at birth, you can bring a claim at any point before he or she turns 12. However, it is imperative to take action much sooner.
Litigation involving medical professional liability is complicated. Complete and thorough records are needed to pinpoint errors that may have led to your child’s injuries.
A birth injury attorney will investigate promptly and collect relevant evidence as soon as possible. If negligence caused your baby severe harm, a lawyer can take action on your behalf before the statute of limitations expires.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most common birth-related injuries suffered by children in the U.S., with 2-3 out of every 1,000 babies being affected.
CP is a birth-related disability that interferes with the brain’s control over the muscles to the point where it affects the child’s ability to control their movement, mobility, coordination, reflexes, posture, balance, and basic motor skills. In severe cases, cerebral palsy may also interfere with the child’s speech, sight, and/or hearing.
CP is a brain injury that is almost always caused by an error in the delivery room and affects the development of the brain for the remainder of the child’s life. While not life-threatening, it does reduce the expected life span to a range of between 30 and 70 years. Cerebral palsy is not progressive or contagious, but it is a permanent impairment that currently has no cure.
How to Spot Signs of Cerebral Palsy
CP isn’t always noticeable right after a child is born. It may take months for the signs to show up. The Centers for Disease Control points out that if you suspect your child suffered a birth injury, the following signs may indicate they have cerebral palsy:
6 Months and Younger
- Underdeveloped neck muscles resulting in a floppy head
- Stiff muscles/body
- Ragdoll feeling when picked up
- Overextension of the back muscles when being held
- Stiff, crossed or scissored legs
6 Months and Older
- Failure to roll over
- Failure to hold hands together
- Unable to bring the hands toward the mouth
- Reaching out with one open hand while keeping the other in a closed fist
- Crawling lopsidedly
- Scooting on bottom or hopping on knees while failing to crawl on all fours
Side Effects of Cerebral Palsy
The symptoms of cerebral palsy will affect a child for their entire life. While some children have mild effects and can largely care for themselves as adults, others will require medical care for their entire lives. This can be very stressful for you as the child’s parent and may mean you have to deal with daily issues like:
Children whose CP affects their ability to speak may have to undergo speech therapy. In some cases, speech is not possible at all, and the child and their family must make use of an alternate option such as sign language or electronic speaking devices.
Hygiene and Care
Some children with CP will be able to learn to get dressed on their own and take care of other hygienic needs. Others will require lifelong assistance with things like bathing, brushing their teeth, and going to the bathroom.
Mobility and Walking
Mild mobility concerns may leave a child with cerebral palsy able to walk by themselves or with the assistance of a mobility device, like a cane or crutches. Others will be able to accomplish this task but may need help overcoming obstacles like steps. Severe cases of CP may mean that the child will be forced to use a wheelchair for their entire life.
Meals and Eating
Sometimes kids with CP need to be on a special diet. They also often need help with eating and drinking, since one of the hallmarks of cerebral palsy is an inability to control facial muscles or swallow.
Around 50 percent of people who live with CP have some intellectual disability or learning issue. In some cases, these people can have their educational needs catered to by attending special schools or taking classes to help them learn life skills.
It’s rare, but some kids that have CP have impaired hearing or are deaf. Sign language can help children overcome this, as can hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Blindness is rare in kids with CP, but it is not uncommon for some children to suffer from vision impairment, gaze issues, and persistent squinting.
Almost everyone who has CP will experience chronic pain throughout their lives. Much of this pain comes from skin problems, scoliosis, and development issues with the spine and hips. Pain like this can be managed with medication and therapy, but it will likely always interfere with the individual’s ability to do certain physical things.
Since CP is a birth injury that affects the brain’s development, it can also cause behavioral or emotional problems that can make the individual depressed, anxious, hyperactive, and dependent.
Epilepsy and Seizures
Roughly one-quarter of people with CP are epileptic or experience seizures frequently. These conditions can cause irreversible worsening of pre-existing speech problems, mental impairments, or physical ailments over time.
Cerebral palsy interferes with the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Reduced levels of this hormone, combined with epilepsy and muscle pain, can make it very hard for someone with CP to sleep well.
Constipation and bladder control problems are common for those with CP. Kids who have these issues and have trouble communicating may have trouble letting their parents know when they need help with going to the bathroom.
How Much Does Cerebral Palsy Cost?
The CDC publishes the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report which provides information on how much caring for a child with cerebral palsy can cost:
- The average lifetime cost for someone with cerebral palsy is $921,000;
- 80 percent, or $742,326, of these causes are indirect or related to the inability to work;
- 2 percent, or $93,942, are direct medical expenses for things like doctor’s visits, medication, therapy, and medical devices;
- 2 percent, or $84,732, are direct non-medical costs for things like education, and home and vehicle modifications.
If you think your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by negligence of a doctor or nurse, the Morgantown birth injury lawyers at Colombo Law can help you determine how much it will cost for you to provide healthcare and implement physical and environmental adaptations for your child. We can also calculate lost earning capacity and other costs to make sure that you are compensated in a way that allows you to care for your child for the remainder of their life.
Additional Birth-Related Injuries
Besides cerebral palsy, there are many other birth-related injuries that can be caused by delivery room errors, such as:
If the baby spends too much time in the birth canal as the mother is in labor, or if they are in a breech (upside down) position during delivery, they could experience umbilical cord entanglement. When the umbilical cord gets wrapped too tightly around the baby, they can experience a lack of oxygen that can cause permanent paralysis.
Sometimes the baby’s shoulder or head gets caught behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. For the mother, this could result in a life-threatening hemorrhage or uterine rupture. For the baby, this could result in a bone fracture, disability, or death.
Erb’s palsy is a condition commonly associated with shoulder dystocia and can result in the partial or complete, temporary or permanent paralysis of one or both of the baby’s arms.
Like Erb’s palsy, brachial palsy can affect a child’s ability to move. The difference is that instead of the shoulder being injured, the brachial plexus is damaged. This usually affects the upper part of the arm, often interfering with grip or causing a painful burning sensation.
This brachial plexus injury affects the lower part of the arm, often damaging wrists and causes paralysis or makes the baby’s hand permanently curl up into a claw or club.
Aside from the conditions mentioned above, trauma during labor can cause babies to suffer cuts, bruises, broken bones, skull abnormalities, or high blood pressure.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Receive for Birth Injuries?
Typically, birth injury claims are filed against either the doctor that caused the injury or the hospital where the injury occurred. For a birth injury case to be valid, your birth injury lawyer will need to establish that:
- An established doctor/patient relationship existed at the time the injury occurred;
- The doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, etc. was medically negligent, and their treatment fell below the acceptable standard of care;
- AND that medical professional’s negligence was the cause of the birth-related injury.
If all of the above is true, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages like:
- Medical expenses (medication, doctor’s visits, equipment, etc.)
- Therapy costs
- Time away from work
- Home or vehicle modifications
- Loss of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional trauma
- Special educational or counseling
- Wrongful death
Why Should I Hire a Morgantown Birth Injury Lawyer?
Many women whose children experience a birth injury feel guilty. You should know that if this has happened to you, there’s almost certainly nothing you could have done to prevent it. Many birth injuries are caused by medical negligence and are not the fault of the parents.
One thing is for sure, you and your family do not deserve to suffer financially because of someone else’s negligence. Doctors and hospitals carry insurance specifically designed to cover birth injuries. You owe it to yourself to file a claim and see to it that this coverage gives you the money you need to care for your child.
We know this time is unbelievably stressful. At Colombo Law, our Morgantown personal injury lawyers are here to make it easier on you by handling every last detail. We’ll gather the evidence we need to make our case and will even put together a life care plan to demonstrate how much money you’ll need to give your child the kind of care they deserve.
Call the personal injury firm of Colombo Law in Morgantown, at 304-906-2815 to schedule a free consultation and find out if you and your family have a birth injury case worth financial compensation.