The loss of a baby is one of the most devastating things that a parent can experience. If the loss is a result of medical negligence and errors, it’s even more catastrophic as the infant would still be here today if not for the careless errors of those who made reckless mistakes. An infant wrongful death settlement helps grieving parents or guardians recoup damages from the party who caused such a heartbreaking event.
Medical Malpractice and Infant Wrongful Death
Infant death, either before or shortly after birth, can happen due to numerous reasons. In some instances, no one is at fault and there is nothing that could have prevented the outcome. Yet, in cases of medical malpractice, the direct actions of healthcare providers and in some cases, hospitals, is what leads to infant death, and could have been prevented with due care and proper safety procedures.
Medical malpractice that leads to infant death can happen in a variety of ways, with the most common reasons including:
- The physician and/or medical staff fails to appropriately monitor, detect, and treat fetal distress
- The wrong dosage or incorrect medication is administered to the infant
- Delivery trauma
- Failure to perform an emergency C-section
- Infections and illnesses acquired in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
- Failure of the medical staff to alert the physician of fetal issues
- Administering the wrong or incorrect medication to the mother during labor
What is an Infant Wrongful Death Settlement?
When there is clear evidence that an infant died due to medical negligence and carelessness, a settlement may be agreed upon between the plaintiff (the parents, legal guardian, etc.) and the defendant (a physician, hospital, etc.) that states that the defendant agrees to pay compensation to the plaintiff (s) for their losses.
Settlements usually do not happen right away. In fact, it may take many months or even a few years before an agreement is made. This is generally because both sides present evidence and key information to each other so that they can access the strength of the case. Known as the discovery phase, this part of an infant wrongful death compensation claim is usually the longest time period of the entire claims process.
Most hospitals and healthcare providers are reluctant to admit fault in wrongful death cases. Yet, as mentioned earlier, when clear proof is provided that points strongly towards medical malpractice, the majority of defendants in wrongful death cases settle the case with the plaintiff instead of risking their chances at a trial. Sometimes, the defense will not agree to the settlement until right before a trial starts. In some instances, they may choose to settle after a trial has already started.
How Much Will I Receive After the Settlement Has Been Agreed Upon?
Although all infant wrongful death compensation claim deals with babies who died due to the negligence of another party, the details of each case are unique. Since no two cases are alike, it’s difficult to ascertain how much compensation you can expect. In addition, some states do not allow non-economic damages in infant wrongful death cases, and other states may not allow an infant wrongful death case at all unless the baby was alive after delivery. In other words, some states do not honor wrongful death claims for stillborn cases. Although this is a harsh and unfortunate rule, it’s always recommended to understand your state’s laws prior to filing a lawsuit. An experienced infant wrongful death attorney will be able to assist you through the process and help you understand the laws in your state.
In general, however, compensation for infant wrongful death cases include:
- Medical costs
- Burial and funeral costs
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and anxiety
Examples of Infant Wrongful Death Settlement Cases
The following examples are among a few of the many infant wrongful death settlement cases that have occurred in the United States. Keep in mind that most names are kept confidential due to privacy clauses that are agreed upon prior to the agreements.
Failure to Detect Fetal Distress Settlement
In September 1998, the medical staff at a Macon County, Illinois hospital failed to monitor and recognize fetal distress in an infant whose mother was admitted for delivery. Consequently, the physician was never notified and the infant was without oxygen for several minutes after birth. The baby developed spastic cerebral palsy, but the lack of oxygen is what ultimately caused the death.
Although the hospital initially denied any wrongdoing, a written deposition presented during the discovery phase of the lawsuit confirmed that the healthcare providers acted in a negligent manner, which in turned caused the baby’s death. The case was eventually settled for $1.7 million.
A woman, who unknowingly had acquired HIV, was treated by a local OB/GYN when she became pregnant. However, the physicians at the OB/GYN failed to properly screen her, and in turn, it wasn’t until her infant was born HIV-positive that she learned that she had the disease herself. Since she was never treated, her infant’s HIV developed into a full-blown AIDS virus, and he subsequently died from his injuries.
The OB-GYN reached a $1.35 million settlement agreement due to poor monitoring, failure to administer proper testing, and negligent medical care.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Wrongful Death Settlement
In 2008, the parents of a 20-month-old boy field and infant wrongful death lawsuit after the infant passed away from complications that were connected to a birth injury. When the infant was born, he developed Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), a form of brain damage caused by oxygen loss. According to the lawsuit, the nurses failed to monitor the infant’s fetal distress signs, and in turn, failed to alert physicians that the infant was losing oxygen.
Additionally, the baby’s medical records indicate that there were other signs of distress for more than six hours. When he was born, he had an extremely low APGAR score, umbilical cord pH acidotic level of 6.1, and seizure activity. He also had poor poor reflexes and was unresponsive. Consequently, he died shortly before his 2nd birthday.
Eight months prior to the trial starting, the hospital settled with the family for $2 million.