One of those most serious and most devastating birth injuries that an infant can experience is trauma that leads to brain damage. Infant brain damage can result in a myriad of disorders, including cerebral palsy (CP), cognitive impairments, physical disabilities, and a host of other medical issues that can last a lifetime. Most infants who experience who experience infant brain damage will need continuous, long-term care, which takes its toll financially with pricey medical testing, treatments, physical and rehabilitative therapy, and more.
What is Infant Brain Damage? How is it Linked to Medical Malpractice?
As its name implies, infant brain damage is any type of harm to an infant’s brain that leads to damage. During birth, it can occur due to lack of oxygen to the brain if the baby isn’t delivered in time, if the fetal distress signs are ignored, or if the baby experiences head trauma through improper birth-assisting tools use by the physician. In rare cases, an infant in dropped shortly after birth, suffering head injuries severe enough to lead to brain damage. Excessive jaundice can also cause brain damage. When jaundice becomes severe, an infant can develop a rare type of brain damage known as kernicterus, in which extremely high levels of bilirubin attack the brain.
Although there are some instances in which infant brain damage develops with no fault to anyone, it’s when healthcare care providers act inappropriately and negligently that it becomes medical malpractice. For example, a doctor who fails to diagnose a baby’s jaundice that leads to brain damage is not taking the proper medical standards of safety to ensure that the baby is as healthy as possible. In addition, a physician who doesn’t diagnose an infection, either fetal or maternal, that leads to infant brain damage, may be liable for any medical issues that result.A doctor who fails to schedule and carry out a necessary emergency cesarean section (C-section) may be responsible if a baby isn’t delivered in time, leading to brain damage.
What is an Infant Brain Damage Settlement?
When there is overwhelming evidence that a healthcare provider acted in a way that directly resulted it the cause of an infant’s brain damage, there is a good chance that, if sued, they will agree to settle the case rather than dragging it out in court, especially when they know the odds are against them winning. This is known as an infant brain damage settlement, and it’s meant to help parents or legal guardians by providing compensation for lifelong expenses associated with the infant’s care. It’s also a way for parents or legal guardians to recover damages for emotional anguish and stress that’s directly caused by the injury.
Before deciding if an infant brain damage lawsuit should conclude in a settlement, both parties, including the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney, generally start a “discovery” phase, in which evidence and key witnesses and statements are made available. It’s during this process that the defendants learn exactly what is stacked up against them, and what chances they would have if they decide to risk going to trial. Most infant brain damage cases end in settlements after the defense is presented with enough evidence to show that the injuries were caused by medical negligence.
How Much Compensation Can I Get From an Infant Brain Damage Settlement?
Although there is no set way to determine how much compensation you’ll get, it’s important to note that given the severity of the injury, infant brain damage settlement compensation amounts are usually considerable. Since each case is unique, however, there is no definite way to know how much you may be entitled until the settlement is negotiated. In general, when your attorney is negotiating a settlement amount with the defense, the following factors are considered:
- How severe the brain damage is: some babies may experience slight learning issues due to brain damage, while others may experience severe cognitive disorders with serious physical limitations
- The extent of the medical mistakes made
- The estimation of lost earnings: for example, if a parent must leave work to care for the infant full-time, lost earnings may be factored into the settlement amount
- Medical and therapy costs
- Home accommodation costs
- Mental stress and anguish
Examples of Infant Brain Damage Settlement Cases
Even though, as aforementioned, there is no way to determine exactly how much your case is worth up-front, the following examples of infant brain damage settlements may give you a rough idea of the compensation amount that’s awarded, given the circumstances surrounding each case.
Spectrum Health Settlement
In August 2014, a settlement was reached in the case of a young girl who was born with severe brain damage after a medical mistake occurred at Grand Rapid, Michigan’s Spectrum’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
According to court documents, Eliza Gort, now 4-years-old, was born February 26, 2010, at Spectrum Health. Shortly after birth, she underwent treatment for jaundice, which involved an exchange transfusion. During the transfusion, air got into an intravenous line, which caused the air to enter into her bloodstream. Consequently, she lost necessary blood and oxygen to her brain, resulting in infant brain damage.
After evidence proved the medical negligence, Spectrum Health admitted to the medical mistakes, and a settlement amount was agreed upon, just right before a trial for medical malpractice was due to take place. Although the exact settlement amount has been been kept confidential, it’s said to be a substantial amount.
“This is not a simple injury,” the family’s attorney said. “It’s a terrible lifelong struggle for this little girl and for her family. We want to be certain at the end of the day that she will be taken care of for the rest of her life,” the attorney continued.
Los Angeles Triplets Settlement
In another infant brain damage settlement case, a family filed a lawsuit after the mother of triplets lost one baby and the other babies were left with severe physical limitations brain damage.
According to report, a physician in Los Angeles County, California, misdiagnosed the mother’s distress signs and prematurely scheduled a C-section at only 25 weeks into the pregnancy. Consequently, one of of three babies died within minutes of birth. The other two will now live with severe complications for the rest of their lives.
In one of the largest settlements ever in infant brain damage cases in Los Angeles, the family received a settlement amount of $10,550,000. The names of plaintiffs and defendants remain confidential.
University of Iowa Settlement
In July 2012, the State of Iowa agreed to a $3.75 settlement, stemming from a severe infant brain damage case. According to court documents,in 2007, Martha Fountain was admitted into the University of Iowa to deliver her infant. She had a full-term, normal pregnancy, and once admitted, she was given Pitocen, a drug commonly used to help speed up pregnancies.However, the drug had the opposite effect on Fountain, resulting in a prolonged labor of 28 hours.
Since she experienced a prolonged and difficult labor, Fountain’s son was born with severe brain damage. She filed a lawsuit against the state afterwards, claiming that the administration of Pitocen was the main reason that her son was injured. The lawsuit also states that the drug was administered before the healthcare provider determined if it was even needed.
Although the hospital denied wrongdoing in the incident, the state decided to settle the case instead of letting it go to trial. Fountain was awarded a $3.7 million settlement compensation amount for her son’s brain damage, that left him with severe cognitive and physical impairments that will last a lifetime.
Additional Tips to Remember for Infant Brain Damage Settlements
Keep in mind that if your baby suffers from brain damage and you feel the injuries are due to medical negligence, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the culpable party. However, each state is different when it comes to medical malpractice cases. Be certain to retain experienced legal representation and observe your state’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases.