Birth injuries are a serious matter regardless if they are small, such as a bruise or laceration on the child, or a severe injury (such as cerebral palsy or an HIE brain injury) that leaves your child permanently disabled. In many instance, birth injuries can be attributed to medical malpractice. If someone on the medical staff or a physician makes a careless mistake, children may have to live with these negligent errors for a lifetime. Unexpected doctor bills and other related costs can get quite expensive, but fortunately, victims of birth injuries and the families of victims of birth injuries may be eligible to file for damages against the responsible party via a birth injury lawsuit.
What is a Birth Injury?
During a birth injury lawsuit, it’s probable that a defense attorney will argue that your child doesn’t have a birth injury, but instead, a birth defect. A birth injury and a birth defect are often confused because they have similar signs and symptoms, but in reality they are different. A birth defect means that your child was genetically predisposed to having a certain kind of disability, whereas a birth injury is a specific kind of injury that happened during birth that caused a disability or disorder in an otherwise healthy infant. An experienced birth injury attorney understands these tactics and will prepare your case with evidence that proves your infant indeed was injured because of medical negligence.
How Does a Birth Injury Lawsuit Help?
Some parents may be reluctant to file a birth injury lawsuit. Often time parents feel a lawsuit would be too stressful and they need to devote their time to caring for their child. Parents have to juggle medical appointments for the child, therapy for the child, and daily caring for the child. However, there are experienced birth injury lawyers out there who will make a lawsuit as stress free as possible, and many are even willing to work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid out of the settlement or verdict you receive. In other words, they only get paid if you get paid. Many families are entitled to significant financial compensation for their child’s birth injury–money that can help your child and whole family tremendously.
A birth injury lawsuit can help you and your family recover damages for:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses
- Healthcare costs associated with rehabilitation, therapy, counseling, and specialized medical equipment
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Lost wages due to providing care for the disabled child
- Loss of enjoyment and companionship
One of the leading ways a birth injury lawsuit can help is the financial aid that comes from a Life Care Plan. It doesn’t matter what your child’s birth injury is, most injuries require some forms of treatment. If your child’s injury is something as mild as a laceration or bruise, you may have extra costs from x-raying or other medical imaging tests that verify that there’s no internal damage to the child.
If your child’s birth injury is more severe, you have the costs of these tests and a number of other costs such as appointments with specialists, appointments with various kinds of therapists, the cost of medication and supplies, potentially adaptive equipment that you need to purchase, and if your child’s condition is severe, the annually-climbing costs of in-home care or the costs of an institution.
If you choose to keep your disabled child at home, you also need to include respite care costs for the parents’ needs, and if one parents has sacrificed his or her career to give proper care to the child, the loss of that second income is of an extreme hardship to the family.
A Life Care Plan takes all of these financial considerations from the expertise of a number of medical professionals and estimates how much it will cost to keep the child healthy over the course of his or her lifetime. Courts are happy to grant money to parents and children with Life Care Plans, and receiving the money for these plans allow parents to relax a bit more, sometimes allowing them to leave their job in order to care for their child full-time.
Prevention of Future Medical Negligence
A birth injury lawsuit not only help the family of the birth injury victim, but other families as well. Sometimes your child’s birth injury can be similar to another child’s birth injury related by a physician, hospital, or medication. When you go through a birth injury lawsuit, you are making it easier for that other family to get the care that they need through their own birth injury lawsuit. If you know of that other family before your lawsuit, both families can be represented together, strengthening their case.
Additionally, going through a birth injury lawsuit is helpful to families that you don’t even know: if a physician is routinely injuring babies, stopping that physician keeps him or her from committing the same kinds of harm to countless other families.
When Do I Start a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
The first step of a birth injury lawsuit is assessing the birth injury itself and making sure that your child is treated first. While you may suspect your family to be the victim of medical malpractice, you want to have as much data as possible –but more importantly you want to make sure that your child is on the road to recovery. Some parents want to wait for the settlement from the lawsuit before they start racking up debt, but lawsuits can sometimes take awhile, and you don’t want your child’s condition to get worse in the meantime. It’s always a good idea to start treatment as soon as possible for your child.
The next step is to ensure that you indeed do have a birth injury lawsuit. In most states, in order to have a valid medical malpractice suit, which is typically what most birth injury lawsuits fall under, you must prove the following:
Duty of Care
In order to prove your case, it must be clear the the defendant (ex. the physician or medical staff responsible for the injuries) was responsible for the medical care of your infant with the birth injury happened.
Breach of the Duty of Care
There must also be clear evidence that the defendant breached the required care of duty, meaning they made a medical mistake while your baby was under their care.
The Breach of Duty of Care Caused the Birth Injuries
If your baby was injured, a successful birth injury lawsuit must show that injuries were caused after the defendant breached the duty of care. For example, if a traumatic event occurred during pregnancy that’s unrelated to medical care, such as falling down a flight of stairs or getting in a car wreck, you can’t sue the defendant for damages. If the defendant breached the duty of care, they must have also caused birth injuries as a result in order to have a valid case.
The next step is to find a reputable, experienced birth injury attorney. As aforementioned, an experienced birth injury lawyer understands the intricate process that comes along with a birth injury lawsuit and will know how to gather evidence to prove your case.
Is Going Through a Birth Injury Lawsuit Difficult and Time-Consuming?
Birth injury lawsuits are rarely settled in a short amount of time. In some cases, it may take several months and in other cases it may take a few years. A birth injury lawsuit can be extremely complex and time-consuming. From gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, research, and more, birth injury lawsuits are usually extremely complex and require a lot of time of dedication.
Fortunately, your birth injury lawyer handles the majority of the complex issues, allowing you time to spend with your infant. However, it’s important that you keep track of your baby’s medical appointments and records during this time, including all related medical expenses.
Although your lawsuit may seem to drag on and never end, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney will always keep you updated on the status of your case.
How Much Compensation Will I Get?
Compensation for birth injury lawsuits will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of birth injury, the severity of the birth injury, and the estimated past and future costs associated with the birth injury. In addition, there may be caps in your state that dictate a maximum amount of compensation allowed in medical malpractice cases.
In general, however, when you win your case, you can expect compensation for:
- Medical costs, including past and future
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- Costs associated with in-home care, special education, and therapy
- Specialized equipment (if needed), such as wheelchairs, braces, etc.