When you identify symptoms of a birth injury in your child, a number of really important steps have to be taken. First, you need to get your child medical attention as quickly as possible before the potential birth injury gets worse. Once your child is properly diagnosed, you need to make a number of appointments with various medical professionals so that there is a second opinion if necessary, and at the very least, there is a number of different recommendations for therapy and other specialist care.
Once you make these appointments, you can start to discuss medical goals for your child and other accommodations you’ll have to make, drafting a Life Care Plan. Once you draft a Life Care Plan, you’ll identify how expensive the cost of care could be for a child who requires a number of additional requirements for the general health and well-being for that child. A birth injury settlement, however, can help with this.
What If I’m Too Tired to Follow Through With a Settlement?
Caring for a child with a birth injury is exhausting. On top of that, you may have a job, you have a family, and you have unnatural stresses preying on your time and emotions.
You might not feel like you have the time or the energy for a birth injury settlement, but the settlement will actually make your life a lot easier. Some of the financial stresses will be eliminated, and with certain provisions in the Life Care Plan, the responsibility of you as the caretaker could be evenly distributed with other medical professionals so that you can feel human again, you can invest in other relationships, and you can have the luxury of living as you did before your child was born with a birth injury.
Furthermore, although you’ll play an important part in obtaining a settlement for your infant’s injuries, your birth injury attorney will do most of the difficult work involved. For example, your attorney will thoroughly research the details of your case, interview key witnesses, and set up the birth injury lawsuit.
Once the lawsuit is underway, your attorney will then present your case, including all evidence, to the defendant’s attorney. Known as the discovery phase, your lawyer will also start the settlement negotiations. Although this is an extremely intricate process, rest assured that most of the difficult details will be handled by your attorney.
Does a Settlement Help?
A birth injury settlement helps parents and loved ones significantly. When a baby is injured, no matter how minor, there is almost always costs associated with treatment. More severe injuries can result in lifelong medical issues and disabilities.
For example, a child who experiences oxygen deprivation at birth may in turn develop brain damage. Brain damage has been directly linked to disorders such as cerebral palsy (CP). If an infant develops CP, parents can expect to pay not only for medical expenses, but also physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other expenses.
The costs for caring for a child with CP is typically more than an average family can afford. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical costs alone reach over 10 times the amount of medical costs for children who do not have the disorder.
A settlement helps you financially so that you’ll have the funds to take care of your baby. In addition, it also holds the responsible party liable for their mistakes, which can help prevent future medical mistakes.
Keep in mind that most infants who experience serious birth injuries will not only need long-term medical care, but they may also require special education assistance, cognitive and behavioral therapy, specialized equipment and technology-based aids, additional in-home care, and much more.
With all of these expenses combined, it may become impossible for parents and caregivers to financially provide what’s needed. Birth injury settlements were created to ensure that children with birth injuries are afforded the financial resources needed to live their lives as normally as possible.
What Information do I Need to Provide?
Although your attorney will handle the the intricate details of your case, it’s important to give as much evidence and proof as possible. For example, you should keep all copies of any medical documents, medical checkups, and medications your baby is taking.
Additionally, if you have any pictures taken of the injury, provide them to the attorney, and give a list of any witnesses that can help your case.
Is a Birth Injury Settlement Better Than Going to Trial?
Most birth injury lawsuits are settled before trial. Settlements have many distinct advantages over going to trial, including:
Trials often come with more expenses than a settlement, including additional legal fees, travel expenses for witnesses (if applicable), and more.
Stress and Privacy
Many people who’ve experienced a personal injury trial state that it was an extremely stressful time, marked by the fear of the witness stand, and the uncertainty of being cross-examined by the defendant’s attorney.
Privacy is also an issue with trials. When a case is settled, the information is usually kept confidential. However, during a trial, all of the cases’ documents become public in many instances.
Longer Time Periods
Trials typically last longer than settlements, with an estimated time from 1 to 3 years. When you win the trial, the defendant may appeal the decision, which prolongs the outcome ever further.
How Much do Birth Injury Settlements Pay?
Since each birth injury case is different and each child has a set of different circumstances, there isn’t one set number that relays how much money you will get in a birth injury settlement.
Past settlements have averaged anywhere from several thousand to millions dollars. The amount you’ll receive will greatly depend upon the type of injury your baby endured, the severity of the injury, and how the injury has impacted the baby’s life.
In most instances, you can expect to receive economic damages for:
- Medical expenses, including past and future costs
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy costs
- Specialized equipment costs, if applicable
- Costs for special education and in-home care, if applicable
- Lost wages, if the caregiver (parent or guardian) must take off from work for the medical care of the infant
You may also receive non-economic damages, which are usually much more difficult to calculate when compared to economic damages. Non-economic damages will vary according to the state you live in, but generally include:
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Other tangible injuries
According to the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), each state has a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that plaintiffs can receive. For example, Alaska Stat. § 9.17.010 mandates a cap of $250,000 to $500,00, depending on the type of injury, while Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 60-1902, 60-1903 (Kansas) limits non-economic damages to $250,000.
In other words, each state has its own set of laws when it comes to non-economic damages limitations. Your birth injury attorney will explain your states laws to you.
Where Does the Settlement Money Come From?
Often the money comes from hospitals and their insurance plans. Sometimes representatives from the hospital will try and talk to you and negotiate on a price with you so that they can give you an amount of money that sounds huge, but in reality is not as much money as you’ll need to properly care for your child.
As a result, your attorney may suggest a Life Care Plan. Life care plans are legal documents drawn up with the assistance of your attorneys and other professionals, such as economic experts, that estimates the expenses of of the future costs associated with the infant’s care. Life care plans include the current and future inflation prices of care costs, including:
- Medical expenses
- In-home care expenses
- Special education expenses
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Therapeutic devices and toys
- Counseling and behavioral assistance costs
- Home accommodations, if applicable, such as ramps, hand rails, etc.
- Respite care
- Lost wages, if it applies to leaving a job or reducing work hours to care for the infant
When Will I Receive My Settlement Compensation?
Once your case is settled, you can usually expect compensation within a few months, but there are no exact rules on when you get your money. A few months is a general timeline of when most people begin receiving their money, but it greatly depends on the details regarding your case, the state you live in, and other various factors. In some cases, your compensation may arrive in only a few weeks.
Furthermore, depending on how large your settlement is, you’ll either get paid in monthly installments or one lump sum. Generally, the larger the settlement amount, the more likely that you will receive your compensation in installments.