Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyers
Some of the most disturbing cases that we handle are those involving children and birth injury. Bringing home an infant from the hospital is a joy that all of us look forward to. It is heartbreaking that some parents’ joy turns quickly to horror when they learn that their newborn has suffered a brain injury giving rise to cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a type of severe brain injury that impacts a child’s muscle control and coordination, and may affect the child’s vision and produce speech and learning disabilities. Children with cerebral palsy may also lack control over their breather, their bladder or their bowels. Although the symptoms of cerebral palsy do not tend to worsen over time, they are often so severe at the outset that they preclude effected children from engaging in many of the activities that we take for granted. At a minimum, extensive and expensive rehabilitation will be required.
Cerebral palsy is caused by a deficiency of oxygen to the brain prior to, during, or shortly after birth. Sometimes, cerebral palsy is results from mistakes made by medical professionals or hospital staff during their patient’s pregnancy, delivery or after the child is born. These are complicated matters that require experienced counsel. If you need to file a birth injury lawsuit, contact Kane & Silverman P.C. today for a free case evaluation.
Birth Injury Causes
There are a number of pregnancy issues that can result in neurological and brain damage. These occurrences can cause a lifetime of hardships and problems. Some of these are not even a result of malpractice or labor negligence including infections and genetic abnormalities. Others are a direct result of malpractice or labor negligence including lack of oxygen to brain, skull compression, hydrocephalus, ischemia, umbilical cord compression, and premature separation of the placenta from the uterus.
Brain injury to a newborn can eventually lead to cerebral palsy, special therapy, lifetime attendant care, lifetime medical equipment, cognitive rehab and emotional support and family counseling.
For every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year, between six and seven will suffer a birth injury. Mild birth injuries include scratches and bruises while severe birth injuries include spinal cord injury, brain damage, fractures, dystocia, paralysis, erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy.
Statistics also show that males are at a higher rate to suffer a birth injury than females and injuries occur more frequently in non-profit hospitals than for-profit hospitals. Additionally, statistics also show that more birth injuries occur in large hospitals (hospitals with over 300 beds) than small hospitals (hospitals with less than 100 beds).
Simply put, Shoulder Dystocia (also known as Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus) is a condition caused by an injury to the brachial plexus, which are the nerves surrounding the shoulder. While one out of every five hundred newborns will suffer some form of brachial nerve injury, only one newborn out of every five thousand will require surgery to treat Erb’s Palsy. Surgery is not the first resort and is usually recommended when a newborn shows no improvement within the first four months following delivery.
These injuries usually occur when the neck and head are drawn to the side when the shoulders exit the birth canal. However a breech birth, excessive pulling or poor use of labor tools may also lead to injury. To repair the brachial plexus, or the nerves that surround the shoulder, medical professionals may have to graft nerves or release tendons or muscles.
Klumpke’s Palsy, also known as Klumpke’s paralysis is a type of brachial plexus palsy that causes paralysis of the muscles of the hand and forearm. To suffer from Klumpke’s Palsy, the lower nerve roots of the brachial plexus including roots at the C8 (eighth cervical vertebrae) and T1 (first thoracic vertebrae) will become injured. It is rare to have an isolated situation involving only Klumpke’s Palsy so the term is usually spoken about when there is palsy of the brachial plexus.
While there is no formal treatment for Klumpke’s Palsy physical therapy or occupational therapy, or both, may help. The following must be taken into consideration to assess the probability of an injury to the brachial plexus:
- previous large birth weight babies
- gestational diabetes
- previous c-sections
- physical size of mother
Doctors refer to a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or more simply put hypoxia. When this develops during birth it can become life-threatening and have a high potential to cause serious and permanent brain damage. Hypoxia may also lead to abnormal tone and reflexes, problems with feeding and problems with breathing.
Studies show that between 15 and 20 percent of all infants suffering from hypoxia will die during the newborn period with another 25 percent of those that survive suffering from permanent problems including cerebral palsy and mental retardation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are various causes for hypoxia in addition to birth problems including cigarette smoking, carbon monoxide and placental insufficiency.
Labor and delivery negligence are an unfortunate result of neglect that causes damage on a mother or child during delivery or shortly thereafter by a medical professional because necessary steps were not taken to prevent it. There are a variety of negligent actions that can or cannot be committed by a medical professional including:
- failure to diagnose medical condition
- failure to monitor fetus
- delayed causation
- medication errors
- anesthesia errors
- improper use of extractors
- failure to prevent or treat umbilical cord strangulation
Regardless of the serious of events that lead to labor and delivery negligence, serious consequences often result including cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, klumpke’s palsy, paralysis, brachial plexus and brain damage. Make sure that your that your legal professional understands how to interpret fetal heart strips and delivery room records. Make sure that your legal professional is familiar with ACOG guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the most common birth injuries?
The most common birth place injuries are brachial plexus injury, infant brain damage, birth head trauma, breech delivery injury, cerebral palsy birth injury, failure to diagnose down syndrome, fetal distress and oxygen deficiency.
- Are birth injuries common?
Less than 1/2 of 1% of all deliveries result in a birth injury, or roughly 5 births out of every 1000.
- Who is responsible for my child's birth injury?
There is not always a definitive answer to this question because it is often difficult to determine whether any medical negligence existed or if the problem occurred before birth.
- What is shoulder dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is a problem occurring when the shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal during vaginal delivery. It can lead to serious nerve injury to the baby’s arm and shoulder and thus needs to be monitored closely so that a C-section or early delivery can be arranged.
- Are there different types of cerebral palsy?
Yes, there are several types of cerebral palsy that can be linked directly to birth trauma including:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy
- Spastic Quadriplegia
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
- Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy
- What kinds of damages can be collected from a birth injury claim?
When a case is resolved successfully, you may be able to collect pain and suffering, medical expenses, future medical care, lost wages, life care plan expenses, and diminished earning capacity.
- Who receives the money if the claim is successful?
In most cases damages will be awarded to the child with the money being placed in a trust fund or blocked account that is subject to court order and review.