When it comes to personal injury claims related to injuries caused by healthcare professionals, “birth injury” and “medical malpractice” are the two terms used. Both involve potential harm to the patient, but they differ in their scope and legal implications.

Understanding the differences between birth injury and medical malpractice is crucial for individuals seeking compensation for medical harm. If you believe you or your child is a victim of either, an Indiana birth injury lawyer from Wagner Reese can help.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to misconduct or negligence by a healthcare provider that does not meet the accepted standard of care, resulting in harm to a patient. It encompasses a wide range of errors or omissions in medical treatment, such as misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, medication errors, and inadequate patient care.

You must meet certain legal elements to establish a medical malpractice claim, including proof of a doctor-patient relationship, breach of duty, causation, and resulting damages. Medical malpractice cases often require expert testimony to win, but can lead to compensation for the injured party. 

What is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury refers to any physical or neurological harm sustained by a newborn or mother during labor and delivery. These injuries can occur due to natural circumstances or negligent actions, including complications during childbirth, improper use of medical devices, or negligent medical care.

Birth injuries to infants commonly include fractures, nerve damage, brain trauma, or oxygen deprivation. Birth injuries can have long-lasting effects on a child’s health and development, often requiring ongoing medical care and support. They can even result in permanent disability.

In legal terms, birth injuries are a type of medical malpractice case; however, due to the nature of these cases, they tend to be treated as a specialty practice area. 

How Birth Injuries Differ from General Medical Malpractice Cases

While birth injury and medical malpractice cases are similar, they have some differences. The most notable variations include:

  • Parents file on behalf of the child: In birth injury cases, parents typically file a lawsuit on behalf of the child who sustained the injury. The child is the affected party, and the parents act as legal representatives advocating for their rights.
  • Higher damages for lifetime disabilities: Birth injuries often result in long-term or permanent conditions and disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and cognitive impairments. The medical expenses for children diagnosed with CP are 10 times higher than for children without the condition. A 2022 study found that the median annual cost of caring for a child with CP in 2020 was around $12,515.

The lifetime cost of care means that the potential damages in birth injury cases may be higher than in general medical malpractice cases due to the lifelong impact on the child’s well-being and quality of life.

  • Harder to prove: Proving a birth injury case can be more challenging than general medical malpractice cases. Birth injuries often involve complex medical factors and require extensive evidence to establish a causal link between the healthcare provider’s actions or negligence and the resulting injury.
  • Longer diagnosis time: Some birth injuries, particularly those affecting the brain or neurological system, may not manifest immediately after birth. Diagnosis and identification of birth injuries may take time, as certain symptoms or disabilities may only become apparent as the child grows and experiences developmental delays.

For example, cerebral palsy may not be reliably diagnosed until a child reaches age 5. This delayed diagnosis can complicate legal proceedings and the ability to prove the link between the injury and the medical provider’s actions.

Get Help with Your Medical Case Today

Understanding the distinctions between birth injuries and general medical malpractice cases is crucial for individuals seeking justice and compensation for their child’s harm. Birth injury cases can be inherently challenging to prove, requiring the experience of a skilled attorney to gather extensive evidence and expert testimony to establish the connection between the medical provider’s actions and the resulting injury.

If you believe your child has suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence, seek the assistance of our experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Wagner Reese. We can help you recover the damages you deserve and hold a negligent medical provider responsible for their actions.

Contact our legal team today to receive the legal support and guidance you need to navigate your birth injury claim and win compensation for your child.