How Common is Birth-Related Malpractice?

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Women who are fortunate enough to receive quality prenatal care throughout their pregnancy often deliver their babies without any major complications. Even when unavoidable complications do arise, doctors are often able to quickly address the issue and prevent the complication from becoming serious or life-threatening. Unfortunately, there are times when negligent medical care causes women and babies to become injured, during pregnancy, during labor, or immediately following the delivery. If a patient suffers a birth injury that was the result of medical negligence, a skilled medical malpractice lawyer will assist the patient with the claims process and secure the financial compensation she and her family deserve.

Medical negligence occurs when a health care provider fails to provide the standard of care that another provider in the same community would provide under similar circumstances. When this happens, it can result in the following:

  • Serious injuries to the mother or the baby during pregnancy, or during the delivery process.
  • Wrongful birth occurs when the parents were not told that the baby will likely have a serious birth defect, in which case they would have terminated the pregnancy or avoided getting pregnant. A medical malpractice claim is usually based on the following factors:
    – Negligent genetic testing that was performed before the baby was conceived
    – A failure to detect health issues in the early stages of pregnancy
  • Wrongful pregnancy occurs when a couple’s attempt to avoid or end a pregnancy fails. Parents may file a medical malpractice claim if efforts to prevent a pregnancy, including sterilization, pregnancy testing, and abortion, failed owing to the negligence of the health care professional.

What are Some Examples of Prenatal Care Malpractice?

Women who receive quality prenatal care throughout their pregnancy are less likely to experience any major complications. If a routine examination or abnormal test result suggests that there might be a problem, the obstetrician will be able to conduct further tests and closely monitor the health of the mother and baby. This will ensure that any preventable injuries are detected and treated as soon as possible. A failure to diagnose a condition is one of the most common forms of prenatal care malpractice. The following are examples of conditions that can affect the health of the mother and/or the baby, which doctors may fail to diagnose in a timely manner:

  • Preeclampsia: This is a potentially serious disorder that is characterized by high blood pressure. Other symptoms include protein in the urine and swelling in the legs, feet, and hands. It is the leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
  • Gestational diabetes: This occurs when the mother’s body is unable to make and use the insulin it needs for pregnancy. When there is not enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be converted to energy. When there is a build-up of glucose in the blood, this can cause hyperglycemia. Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can cause the baby to develop macrosomia, which is a baby who has a higher-than-average birth weight, or breathing difficulties, as well as other health issues.
  • Hypoglycemia: This is a condition that involves low blood glucose; it is particularly dangerous for women with type 1 diabetes. In some cases, it can result in congenital malformations, other fetal health conditions, or stillbirth.
  • Rh incompatibility: This is a condition that can develop when a pregnant woman has Rh-negative blood, but the baby has Rh-positive blood. This is a preventable condition, but if it is not detected and treated, it can cause seizures, brain damage, and other disorders.
  • Severe anemia: The amount of blood in a woman’s body increases by up to 30 percent during pregnancy. As a result, the body needs more iron and vitamins to make hemoglobin. When a woman’s body does not produce enough iron, she can become anemic. Severe anemia can put the baby at risk for developing anemia, as well as other health problems.
  • Infections: If infections such as herpes or Escherichia coli (E. coli) are not detected, they can be transmitted to the baby, resulting in neonatal sepsis.

What are Some Examples of Childbirth Malpractice?

Complications can arise during the childbirth process, but serious injuries are preventable with the proper care. If the health care provider is negligent, the mother and/or the child can suffer serious health complications. In extreme cases, negligent behavior can cause fatal injuries. The following are examples of preventable injuries that can occur during childbirth:

  • Brachial plexus injuries: This is an injury to the brachial plexus nerves during delivery. The nerves can become stretched, compressed, or torn during a difficult delivery, or if too much force is used to pull the baby through the birth canal.
  • Shoulder dystocia: This occurs when the baby’s anterior shoulder gets caught above the mother’s pubic bone. Oftentimes, it is caused by the inappropriate use of a vacuum extractor during delivery.
  • Fractured clavicle: A difficult delivery can result in a broken collarbone. In some cases, however, it can be caused by unnecessarily rough delivery techniques or the careless use of forceps.
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord: This occurs when the fetus’s body puts pressure on the umbilical cord, which prevents oxygen from getting to the baby. In most cases, this requires a cesarean delivery. If the doctor fails to detect the issue and respond immediately, the baby could suffer brain damage.
  • Cerebral palsy: When medical negligence is responsible for causing cerebral palsy, it usually means that the doctor did not detect or immediately address a disruption in the supply of oxygen to the baby’s brain during childbirth.
  • Fetal distress: When there is a complication during labor and the fetus does not receive enough oxygen, fetal distress can occur. For example, if the pregnancy lasts too long or the labor is difficult, it can cause fetal distress. An example of medical malpractice would be if the doctor failed to induce labor, thus depriving the baby of oxygen.
  • Premature rupture of membranes: This occurs when the amniotic fluid begins to leak before labor begins. If the doctor fails to administer prompt medical care, the mother and the baby are at an increased risk of developing an infection.
  • Postpartum hemorrhage: This occurs when there is excessive bleeding from the uterus during or immediately following delivery. It is the most common cause of maternal death after delivery, but it can often be avoided if the patient’s vital signs are closely monitored and complications are addressed quickly.

How Do I File a Birth Injury Claim?

If an expectant mother or her baby suffered a birth-related injury, the top priority is to seek immediate medical attention to treat the injury and avoid further complications. To build a strong case, it will be necessary to collect as much evidence as possible, including all medical records and test results from the pregnancy. It is highly recommended that the injured victim hires an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can investigate and determine whether the patient has a viable case.

If negligence was involved, it will be necessary to consult with an expert witness who can attest to the fact that the health care provider was negligent and breached the standard of care. Oftentimes, medical malpractice cases are settled out of court to avoid the uncertainty and expense of a trial. A dedicated medical malpractice lawyer will communicate with the health care provider’s insurance company and negotiate the best possible settlement offer.

What Damages am I Entitled to Receive for a Birth-Related Injury?

Birth-related injuries can be devastating, particularly if the baby is born with severe injuries that will require extensive medical attention or long-term care. Medical bills for birth injuries can be extremely costly, whether the birth injury affected the mother, the baby, or both. Every medical malpractice case is different, and the damages will depend on the severity of the injury. However, victims of birth-related injuries may be eligible for the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Physical therapy, rehabilitation, wheelchairs, and other expenses associated with the injury
  • Lost income for the parents and the child
  • Expenses associated with long-term care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Decreased quality of life

In the state of Maryland, there is no cap on economic damages such as medical expenses and loss wages. However, the cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or wrongful death is $890,000,000 and $1,335,000.00 for a wrongful death if there are two or more beneficiaries. Birth-related medical malpractice claims must be filed within five years of the time that the injury occurred, or within three years of the date the injury was discovered.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Birth-Related Injuries

If you or your baby suffered a birth-related injury, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of your case and determine whether the health care provider responsible for your case was negligent in any way. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.