The birth of a child is an event that deserves celebration and joy. It is one of the happiest of times for new parents and their families. Unfortunately, even a seemingly simple medical mistake can replace the celebration and joy with pain and devastation. Medical negligence during labor and delivery can cause birth injuries that are life-altering for the newborn and their parents.
At Birth Injury Guide, our national birth injury lawyers have experience helping families just like yours. We know what it takes to hold healthcare providers or facilities accountable for their wrongdoing. And furthermore, we know what it takes to protect your rights and ensure there is justice for your newborn and family.
If you are a parent and suspect that your newborn’s injury is due to negligence, you need an experienced birth injury lawyer on your side. Contact Birth Injury Guide to find out how we can help your family. You may be entitled to compensation for your newborn’s injuries and resulting financial losses.
What is a Birth Injury Lawyer?
Birth injury lawyers, or birth injury attorneys, are lawyers who dedicate their practice to pursuing justice for families affected by medical negligence. Birth injury lawsuits, or claims, are different from other personal injury claims because the injuries are not always immediately apparent. Sometimes, injuries are only identified after the child misses milestones or shows signs of health problems as they age. For those reasons, birth injury lawyers must have extensive knowledge of birth injuries and related laws.
Birth injuries can happen for a variety of reasons. In instances where they are due to negligence and careless mistakes made by a healthcare provider, you have the option and legal right to hold the responsible party accountable. An experienced birth injury lawyer can help you understand these rights, while at the same time work diligently to ensure that you have the best chances in proving your case.
Before you get started or settle on a birth injury lawyer, it’s a good idea to understand what they do, how they can help you, why you need a birth injury lawyer, and most importantly, what to look for when choosing the best attorney to represent you.
Types of Birth Injury Cases Do Birth Injury Lawyers Take On
Whereas some birth injury lawyers may specifically focus on one birth injury, such as cerebral palsy (the leading birth injury in the United States), most focus on a variety of birth injuries. Here at Birth Injury Guide, we have a team of lawyers available to help you. We will make sure that you are partnered with a lawyer who is best suited to handle your child’s birth injury lawsuit. Some of the most common birth injuries that our lawyers help clients with include:
Cerebral palsy is a medical disorder that is caused by brain damage. Brain damage can occur before, during or shortly after delivery. Brain damage that causes cerebral palsy is often caused by a birth injury to the newborn, such as oxygen deprivation, trauma to the head or bleeding in the brain. Cerebral palsy is a life-long disorder that can affect infants in many ways.
Erb’s palsy is an injury to certain parts of the brachial plexus network of nerves. These nerves run from the neck to the shoulder and down the arm. Erb’s palsy affects the upper nerves, which can cause weakness or paralysis in the baby’s shoulder, arm or hand. Most often, Erb’s palsy birth injuries are the result of force used during a difficult delivery, such as when the infant becomes lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone.
Infant Brain Damage
Infant brain damage can be caused by various injuries and illnesses. The newborn brain is incredibly vulnerable. Trauma or illness during pregnancy, labor or delivery can result in devastating injuries. Most commonly, newborn’s experience brain damage due to birth injuries involving oxygen deprivation, infections, stroke or physical injuries. If jaundice is not properly treated, it can also lead to a type of brain damage called kernicterus.
Infant Broken Bones
Infant’s bones are very soft and vulnerable, especially during labor and delivery. Infant broken bones can occur during labor and delivery if the baby is breech, is too large for the birth canal or becomes stuck in the birth canal. Broken bones are also caused by forceful delivery or improper use of vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery. The bones most often broken during delivery include the clavicle, femur and the long bones in the arms and legs.
Cephalohematoma is a birth injury that most often occurs with use of forceps or vacuum extraction. Trauma to the skull causes the tiny blood vessels under the skin to rupture, and blood to pool under the skin. As blood accumulates, it causes a bulge on the baby’s head that can be quite pronounced. There is generally no bruising or cuts, but the bulge can be scary for parents. While cephalohematoma is a mild birth injury, there are possible complications that doctor’s should not ignore. If not treated properly, cephalohematoma can develop into sepsis or osteomyelitis.
Spinal Cord Damage
Newborns can experience spinal cord injuries if the doctor uses too much force during labor and delivery. Spinal cord damage can cause weakness or paralysis in the newborn. In severe cases, birth injuries are severe enough to cause permanent disability.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when a newborn’s shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pelvis during delivery. Most often, this is because the baby is too large to easily fit through the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency because the baby’s head has been delivered but the rest has not. Immediate delivery is key to preventing additional complications. Possible complications include birth injuries like brachial plexus injury, nerve damage or broken bones. In most cases, shoulder dystocia could be prevented if healthcare providers recognize that the infant is too large and perform a c-section instead of attempting vaginal birth.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a series of five nerves that run from the spinal cord to the neck, across the chest and down into the armpit. It is these nerves that control movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm and hand. A brachial plexus injury is an injury to any part of these nerves. Some of the causes of these birth injuries are excessive force during delivery, improper use of forceps or vacuums, shoulder dystocia or breech positioning. Damage to the brachial plexus nerves can cause loss of movement, numbness, pain or paralysis.
Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, occurs when the blood vessels in the back of the baby’s eye do not grow and develop normally. When the blood vessels grow abnormally, they can cause bleeding in the eye or can stretch the retina or cause it to detach. ROP is most common in premature infants and those weighing less than three pounds. ROP can cause vision impairment or blindness.
Necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, is a birth injury that develops most often as a result of premature infants being fed cow’s milk-based formula. NEC is a gastrointestinal disease that can lead to serious problems like bowel perforation or sepsis. Research shows that the risk of NEC can be reduced by using only human-based milk in premature babies.
In the most severe circumstances, birth injuries can result in death of the mother or baby. This is a risk particularly when there are infections, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed complications or a healthcare provider’s failure to take immediate action when a problem arises. Wrongful death is devastating for everyone involved.
Birth Injury Complexities
Regardless of the types of cases a birth injury attorney handles, the most important thing is a proven track record and extensive experience in representing clients with birth injury cases. For example, if your infant has hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, find an HIE infant lawyer with experience handling this particular type of case.
Birth injury cases are extremely intricate and although they are considered personal injury cases, a general personal injury attorney who takes on all types of personal injury cases may not have the experience and knowledge needed to give you your best chances in proving your child’s birth injury case. Much like you wouldn’t want a chiropractor to remove a tooth, you don’t want a car accident lawyer handling your birth injury claim. Your best chance for success is choosing a lawyer who is skilled in the particular area of law surrounding your case.
Statistics show that attorneys who specialize in a specific area are much more like to obtain a higher amount of compensation for their clients as opposed to an attorney who has a general practice.
Was My Child’s Injury Preventable?
Every child’s birth injury and case are different. However, many birth injuries are preventable with proper medical care. Healthcare professionals have years, or sometimes decades, of training and experience. They are aware of medical standards and how to properly assess, diagnose and treat medical conditions. That includes proper prenatal care and recognizing complications. Unfortunately, healthcare providers are human and they make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are genuine or are the result of something outside the healthcare providers control.
Often, however, medical mistakes are due to negligence. Some examples of how medical negligence can lead to birth injuries include:
As you can see, there are many ways that doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers can make mistakes that cause birth injuries and cost your family. When these actions or omissions occur, it is important to take action as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Where Can I Find an Experienced Birth Injury Lawyer?
A recent study performed by Google suggests that most people seeking a birth injury attorney begin their search on the Internet. That’s because there is so much information available online. Generally, you can quickly find reviews, testimonies and an overview of the attorney’s areas of practice with a simple search for “birth injury attorney near me”. However, keep in mind that even after narrowing down your choices, you’ll need to interview each prospective birth injury attorney directly. This helps ensure that there will be a comfortable working relationship between the two of you.
While everything may look wonderful online, you still need to make sure you’re at ease with whichever attorney you choose. You should always feel at ease and have no problems asking any questions you may have about your case. The best way to learn more about prospective birth injury lawyers is to meet with them in person.
In addition to finding birth injury lawyers online, you can also ask friends, family and colleagues for a recommendation. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find out who’s who in your area. Plus, you will get more candid information from friends and family than you will a testimony on a lawyer’s website. If you still have trouble finding a birth injury lawyer, you can also contact your local Bar Association. They can give you a referral to birth injury attorneys in your area.
Choosing a Birth Injury Lawyer
Chances are, if you are reading this it is because your child is suffering birth injuries and you believe a healthcare provider is responsible. As a parent, it is perfectly natural that you want to learn more about your situation and your legal rights. Part of that is knowing how to choose a birth injury attorney or birth injury law firm that is right for you. You have come to the right place. At Birth Injury Guide, our birth injury lawyer has helped numerous families recover from devastating birth injuries.
Estimates suggest that around 28,000 babies are born each year with a birth injury. Sadly, many of these injuries are the result of a healthcare provider’s negligence and could have been prevented. If your baby is one of these innocent victims, you should know that you have the legal right to hold the party responsible for your baby’s injuries accountable.
No matter where you live – Texas, New York, Georgia, or Oregon – if your child is suffering a birth injury, it is important that you find a birth injury attorney to discuss your case. Here, we offer tips for choosing the best birth injury lawyer for your situation and your family.
Find a Lawyer that Specializes in Birth Injury Claims
Birth injuries fall under the umbrella of personal injury law, but these claims are very unique. One of the mistakes many people make when choosing a lawyer is hiring a general practice lawyer rather than a lawyer who specializes in the type of case they have. Birth injury claims are unique, and a law firm that specializes in birth injury claims will know how to manage all aspects of these claims.
Ask About the Lawyer’s Experience with Your Specific Birth Injury
Ideally, you want to find a lawyer who has experience handling birth injury claims similar to yours. If your child suffers from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), your best chances for success is finding a lawyer who has successfully litigated HIE claims.
Choose a Lawyer with Connections to Medical Professionals
The crux of a birth injury claim is proving that the healthcare provider was negligent. This is often done by hiring expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf. These experts are generally obstetricians, gynecologists and neonatal specialists. A birth injury lawyer who has handled many claims will have ready access to experts who can work with your legal team.
Good birth injury law firms also generally have staff members with medical knowledge and experience in-house. These law firms often have nurse paralegals on staff who can help review medical records and communicate well with medical experts and healthcare professionals.
Ask the Lawyer About Previous Results
Whether the lawyer you are considering has a team of 100 or a team of 10, what matters is that they have a track record with proven results related to birth injuries. Ask prospective birth injury attorneys about their experience with previous cases. What sort of verdicts and settlements have they won on behalf of clients? Do they usually settle out of court or go to trial?
Consider What Other Qualifications the Lawyer Has
You can often find information about a lawyer’s education and professional experience online. Sometimes lawyers post this information on their websites, and most state bar websites offer more detailed information. Lawyers who have specific education or certifications related to birth injuries may be better equipped to handle your case than their peers.
Look for certifications, memberships in professional organizations, accomplishments related to birth injury claims, experience educating other lawyers, etc. The more knowledge and experience a lawyer has, the more that he or she will benefit your cause.
Find out About Payment Schedules and Fees
Legal claims cost money, and that includes a birth injury lawsuit. There are fees for filing claims, deposing witnesses, interviewing experts, gathering medical records, and there are a host of small fees along the way. Before hiring a birth injury lawyer, find out what their payment schedule and fees are upfront. Many birth injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning that you only owe them money if they obtain a verdict or settlement in your favor. You should find out upfront if that is the case, or if you will be responsible for any fees as the case progresses.
Research Reviews and Testimonials from Previous Clients and Peers
A good way to find out more about a lawyer’s reputation is to research reviews and testimonials. Most law firms will post some reviews and client testimonials on their websites. You can find more on Google, Facebook and other social media sites. You can find reviews and ratings from peers in the legal community online as well. The Avvo website is a good source to search for lawyers and see what others are saying.
Think About How Your Interaction Made You Feel
When vetting a potential birth injury lawyer, one of the most important things to consider is how your initial experience made you feel. Consider these factors:
- What is your first impression of him or her?
- Do you feel comfortable in his or her presence?
- Were you able to effectively communicate during your initial consultation?
- Do you feel like the lawyer listens to you and is patient as you explain your situation?
- Does the lawyer seem seem sympathetic to clients with birth injuries?
- Does the law firm seem like there is adequate staff?
After you meet with your small list of lawyers, you should be able to decide. Go with your gut instinct and choose to work with the lawyer that you feel the most comfortable with. You want a lawyer and law firm that will do the job right (which is why you filtered your list), but you also want a lawyer that you feel comfortable with, as sometimes these cases get very personal and last for a few years.
Why Finding the Right Birth Injury Lawyer is Important
One of the markers of a good lawyer-client relationship is the ability to trust one another and communicate effectively. Even if a lawyer is top-notch, if you are not comfortable with him or her, then your case may suffer. That is why we recommend these tips for finding the right birth injury lawyer for you. Every legal claim is different, and what works for one person often does not work for another.
Finding the right lawyer can help you be confident about your child’s birth injury claim. It offers assurance that your legal rights are going to be paramount. Furthermore, you can rest assured that what your family is going through is not pushed aside.
What Will a Birth Injury Lawyer Do to Help Me and My Baby?
If you believe you or your baby were injured due to negligence, a birth injury lawyer will first determine if you have a case. They start by reviewing your case information thoroughly to ensure you have a valid claim. To help the process move faster, be certain to bring in all medical documents and anything else you have that you think will help your case.
Afterwards, an experienced lawyer begins the process of pre-litigation. During this phase, they will collect additional evidence, documents, a witness and expert list and will go through the additional intricate details involved in building a birth injury lawsuit. During this time, it’s not uncommon for an attorney to propose a settlement amount to the defense. It is not guaranteed, however, that they will agree to settle. You, as well as the defendant, must agree to the settlement amount.
Part of the pre-litigation stage is proving liability. Your birth injury lawsuit must detail how the defendant is liable for your baby’s birth injuries. To do this, your lawyer will provide evidence that proves the following:
- Duty of Care: Your lawyer will show evidence that the defendant had a duty of care to you and/or your baby. That means, for example, the doctor had a duty to provide quality care that meets acceptable medical standards.
- Breach in the Duty of Care: A breach in the duty of care is where you prove negligence. That means that you provide evidence that the healthcare provider did not uphold the standard of care.
- Causation: You must prove that the breach in the duty of care is what caused the injuries detailed in the lawsuit. For example, if the doctor did not properly monitor the baby during labor and the baby suffered HIE from oxygen deprivation, then it can be proven that the doctor’s negligence caused the baby’s HIE.
- Damages: Now, you must prove that the doctor’s negligence caused damages. This can include economic damages like medical bills or lost income; or it can include non-economic damages like pain and suffering or disability.
If a settlement can’t be reached, the litigation phase of your case begins. Now, your birth injury lawyers will formally file a birth injury lawsuit against the defendant in civil court. Once the complaint is filed, the defense has an allotted amount of time to formally answer. The discovery phase of a lawsuit usually starts during this time. During discovery, the defense has the right to see “what’s stacked up against them”. That means they can see the evidence, the witness list and any other crucial information that has been gathered by your birth injury attorney.
It is during this time that most defendants will negotiate a settlement once they see that it would be easier to settle than to fight a case at trial. However, although rare, there are instances in which a settlement is not negotiated. If this happens, be prepared that you may have to go to trial. Going to trial can be a lengthy and stressful process for parents. You should be prepared for this process to take weeks, months or even years to resolve your claim. That’s why it is so important to work with a birth injury lawyer who you are comfortable with and confident in.
You should know that it is also not uncommon for the defense to negotiate a settlement after a trial has begun. Keep in mind that your case can be settled at any point once the litigation process has begun, even up until the last week of a trial.
Is a Birth Injury Lawyer Expensive?
Most birth injury attorneys have their own rates based on experience and specialty. Of course, it is understandable to want a birth injury attorney who is experienced and affordable, but it is impossible to determine the exact amount each lawyer charges.
The good news, however, is that most birth injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means that the attorney only gets paid when you do. In other words, they must successfully recover compensation on your behalf in order to get paid. You won’t have to worry about any fees until your case is resolved. Most people, especially families worrying about the care of a baby with a birth injury, can’t readily afford lawyer fees on top of medical expenses. Most attorneys understand this, and are paid a percentage of your final compensation amount when you win your case.
It’s important to note that it is best to look for an attorney who works on a contingency fee basis. This way, you can rest assured that your attorney has the up-front financial resources needed to give you the best chance at winning your lawsuit. In addition, you should never be charged for an initial consultation. It is during these times that an attorney determines if they can handle your case or not, and most birth injury lawyers will provide the consultation free of charge. If a birth injury attorney attempts to charge you for a consultation, that is a red flag.
What do Birth Injury Lawyers Charge For?
It is also important to understand what birth injury lawyers charge for. Although this will vary according to each one, along with the fees for taking on your case and representing you, other costs may include:
- Office expenses
- Court costs, including the fees for filing the birth injury lawsuit
- Costs associated with copies of additional medical and witness reports
- Any hours due to other legal staff for working on your case
- The cost of hiring medical experts to testify on your behalf
How Long Will a Birth Injury Lawyer Work on My Case?
A birth injury lawsuit can be long and time-consuming. The time it takes will greatly depend on the factors involved in your case. Factors like how severe the injury is, how many witnesses there are, medical records and how willing the other party is to resolve the case. A birth injury attorney will work on your birth injury lawsuit from the day you hire them until the day your case is resolved. Of course, you want resolution as soon as possible, but what is most important is that you have the right legal team on your side.
Birth injury lawsuits are rarely resolved in weeks or even months. Be prepared beforehand that, although the case may take a while, your attorney is using this time to ensure you have the best chances of success. A knowledgeable, experienced birth injury lawyer will not give up on your case – no matter how long it takes. He or she will ensure that every detail is thoroughly investigated and handled properly.
Make sure that you and your birth injury attorneys are on the same page about communication. Provide updated contact information if it changes, and make sure your lawyer knows how often you would like to hear from them.
How Much Compensation Can I Expect?
Birth injury lawsuits are all different. Therefore, it is difficult for a birth injury attorney to tell you beforehand an exact amount you can expect. In fact, if an attorney promises you a certain amount of compensation, this should raise a red flag. There are so many details to each individual case that it is impossible to guarantee what you will get. However, in general, plaintiffs who win their birth injury lawsuits may be entitled to:
- Medical expenses associated with the injuries, including past, present and estimated future costs.
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs.
- Physical pain and suffering endured because of the injuries.
- Lost wages, if a parent loses employment or hours are reduced in order to care for the injured infant.
- Emotional pain and anxiety.
- Costs of special education and in-home care.
- Punitive damages.
While one plaintiff may win damages for all of the aforementioned reasons, another may only win damages for a few. As each case is different and tort laws vary among states, there is no way to estimate what you’re entitled to. This should only be used as a guide based on typical damages.
When to Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer
If you suspect that your baby is a victim of a birth injury, the time to contact a birth injury lawyer is now! The sooner you take action and explore your legal rights, the better. Birth injury lawsuits are complex and take time to resolve. But with the right help, you can start the process and work toward a favorable outcome for your family.
Each state has what is called a statute of limitations for filing a birth injury lawsuit. In most states, this period of time is two years from the date of the injury or the date that the injury was discovered. In the case of birth injuries, many injuries are not discovered until the child gets older. It is important that parents know what the statute of limitations is, and get legal help as soon as possible. Once the statute of limitations expires, you may be unable to take legal action.
Get started exploring your rights and options by contacting Birth Injury Guide. Let our birth injury attorneys help your family get the justice and compensation that you deserve. Our initial consultations are always FREE, and we work on a contingency fee basis. That means you are under no financial obligation to learn more and get started. Our birth injury lawyers are dedicated to finding the best possible options for your case.