A child’s birth is both among the happiest and the most stressful times in a family’s life. Even when everything goes right, the amount of medical attention and uncertainty can be overwhelming for new parents. When medical professionals put the mother and infant at risk of a birth injury, the situation worsens a thousandfold.
Everyone makes mistakes but when it comes to a newborn, those mistakes can have lifelong and potentially tragic consequences. Life-altering injuries or even death enter the realm of possibilities. A birth injury lawyer in Indianapolis can help you and your family find the justice you deserve.
What Constitutes a Birth Injury in Indianapolis?
Birth injuries are any injuries and ailments that happen in the course of the birthing process, while the mother is in labor, and as a result of improper care and negligence by medical professionals. The law specifies that the mother, the baby, or both can suffer from birth injuries.
Birth injuries are frequently caused by delivery room errors that can range from handling a procedure improperly to not reacting quickly enough to a developing issue. An Indianapolis birth injury lawyer can help you determine whether the injury was a result of intentional or unintentional negligence, and take the next steps accordingly.
Are You Seeking Compensation for a Birth Injury?
A birth injury has consequences that can last a lifetime. Significant conditions like cerebral palsy or HIE will not end a few weeks, months, or even years after birth. This life-changing event can put a significant emotional and financial burden on the entire family.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average medical cost of a birth injury surpasses $1 million. Depending on the exact conditions, those medical bills can become even more extensive, with consistent professional care required throughout the child’s life.
When another party, like the hospital or individual medical professionals, is responsible for this financial and emotional cost, you deserve compensation and justice. The birth injury lawyers at Wagner Reese can become your partners to determine who is responsible and pursue appropriate compensation.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can affect both mother and baby. While the possibilities range widely, a few of the most common conditions and consequences are worth exploring further.
Birth Injuries Common Among Infants
Birth Asphyxia and Other Forms of Oxygen Deprivation
Birth asphyxia occurs when not enough blood and oxygen flow to the baby’s brain. Due to a lack of nutrients, the baby’s cells cannot function properly, leading to potentially significant damage. One common result is Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), potentially resulting in disabilities that follow the newborn for the rest of their life.
Cerebral palsy is among the biggest causes of disabilities among young children, affecting more than 10,000 babies every year in the United States alone. It most commonly results from brain injury during the birthing process, affecting the child’s coordination and movement. A lack of blood flow to the brain, bleeding in the brain, maternal infections, and untreated seizures during birth can all cause cerebral palsy.
In some cases, your baby may be born with bruises on its little face. While some bruising is relatively common, it can also be the symptom of a more serious underlying issue like cephalohematoma. It’s a type of brain bleed in which blood gathers just above the head, between the outer layers of skin and the brain. It usually goes away after a few weeks or months, but in rare cases can have longer-lasting, more serious effects as well.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
If the baby’s neck is unnaturally stretched to the side during the birthing process, the result can be an injury to the brachial plexus. This nerve network roots in the spinal cord, meaning any injury could have serious consequences. Stretched or torn nerves can lead to a condition known as Erb’s palsy, may require surgery to fix, and could even lead to paralysis in the baby’s arm.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when either one or both of the baby’s shoulders become lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone during labor or in the birthing process. The baby may “turtle” back into the mother’s body during birth, even though they need to be born quickly to receive life-giving oxygen. Other dangers include trauma, bladder damage, and postpartum hemorrhaging for the mother.
Vacuum Extraction Injuries
When the natural delivery stalls, some doctors will move to vacuum extraction with a suction cup to increase the force by which the baby is born. While generally safe, an incorrect extraction can have potentially life-threatening consequences for the baby including many of the conditions listed on this page, like brachial plexus injuries, shoulder dystocia, and HIE.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
A lack of oxygen can cause infants to suffer from PPHN, with potentially devastating consequences. The baby’s lungs do not fully open, causing too much blood to pass by the lungs and too much pressure to build up. The result can be permanent damage to the heart and lungs of the newborn, in some cases even resulting in infant death.
Common Birth Injuries Affecting Mothers
Of course, the infant isn’t the only person at risk during a challenging or even routine birth. Due to intentional or unintentional negligence, the mother may also be at risk of one of these common birth injuries.
During vaginal birth, the mother’s uterus may tear and cause the baby to slip into her abdomen. As a result, the mother may suffer from significant internal bleeding, making it one of the leading causes of maternal death during labor. The baby may suffocate, adding to the potentially tragic nature of this injury.
New mothers may suffer from uterine prolapse when the pelvic floor muscles can no longer support the uterus well enough, and it begins to slip into or even protrudes out of the vagina. While not life-threatening, its worst cases may require long-term medical treatments to avoid chronic pain and disruptions to daily life.
When the baby’s head is being birthed at a wrong angle or too large for the vaginal opening, a tear can occur. While perineal tears are relatively common, doctors who don’t immediately take care of them or make a mistake when sewing them back up can worsen them. At worst, a tear can cause months of discomfort and require eventual surgery.
Hemorrhaging and Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Postpartum hemorrhaging is another name for severe bleeding, especially abnormal uterine bleeding, as a result of giving birth. It can occur for up to 12 weeks after the day of birth, occurring in up to 10% of deliveries. When mistreated or left untreated, the mother can lose enough blood to weaken her heart rate or blood pressure, making it a potentially fatal birth injury.
When doctors make mistakes during cesarean section surgery, the results can be devastating. These errors can lead to broken bones, lacerated internal organs, and oxygen deprivation, causing significant and potentially fatal damage to both the mother and the child. Especially when considering that some c-sections are not actually necessary, fighting for justice and compensation can become a crucial next step.
As different disorders related to high blood pressure, preeclampsia and eclampsia can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby during birth. The baby may not receive enough blood supply, while the mother may develop seizures or even go into a coma. While the exact cause is often unknown, insufficient blood flow, mistreatment of autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular changes may all contribute to this condition.
Any of the above conditions, left untreated, may infect and worsen for the mother. A wound caused by a c-section or perineal tear getting infected can be devastating and have long-lasting consequences. Often, the mistreatment by medical professionals who did not take enough care to clean the wound or prepare the environment causes the infection.
What Is the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?
The biggest difference between birth injuries and birth defects is in their respective timelines. A birth defect occurs during or even before the pregnancy, long before birth. It’s usually caused by genetics, health problems on either of the parents’ sides, or misuse of substances during pregnancy.
On the other hand, a birth injury is specifically defined as an injury that occurs as part of the birthing process. In this situation, the baby is assumedly perfectly healthy until some event during labor and delivery causes it to develop health problems.
The Main Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries most commonly occur in the delivery room, when doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals fail to address or even cause an injury to the mother or the baby. The most common causes of birth injuries include:
- Failure to monitor the baby’s heart rate.
- Failure to admit and begin the birthing process in a timely manner.
- Failure to order a timely c-section, or unnecessarily order a c-section.
- Improper administration of a procedure like a c-section or an epidural.
- Mistakes made during any part of the delivery process.
- Errors in medication for the mother or the infant.
However, improper care doesn’t necessarily cause all birth injuries. The position of the baby, size of the baby, length of labor, complications, or the mother’s pelvis shape can all put the newborn and mom at a higher risk of potentially significant harm. Birth injury lawyers in Indianapolis can help you determine whether the injury was tragic but inevitable, or whether the hospital or its employees are potentially liable.
How Are Birth Injuries Diagnosed?
Credible medical professionals can diagnose some birth injuries, like shoulder dystocia, on sight. Others, like traumatic brain injuries, are more difficult to spot.
Developed in 1952 by William Apgar, the Apgar Score is a common tool still used by the medical profession today to quickly diagnose the physical condition of a newborn infant. It scores these areas by a score of either 0, 1, or 2:
- heart rate.
- muscle tone.
- skin color.
The score is usually tallied within five minutes of the baby’s birth. Scores of 7 or above are considered normal, while those below require medical attention. The score appears on the record to ensure the baby receives sufficient medical attention.
What If Medical Malpractice Causes a Birth Injury?
In the state of Indiana, medical malpractice comes into play when both of these two conditions are satisfied:
- The healthcare provider did not exercise the care and skill expected in their profession.
- That failure caused an injury to the infant or the mother.
It’s the patient’s responsibility to prove both of these conditions. A credible birth injury lawyer will look to prove that the healthcare professional or entity in question acted unreasonably and not within the expectations of their profession, and how that behavior caused the ailment.
What Is Birth Trauma Compensation in Indianapolis?
In Indiana, a birth injury case allows the claimant to sue for both economic and non-economic damage. In addition to the initial medical expenses, compensation can include the care of support throughout the child’s life as long as the injury caused the disabilities.
Can You Sue for Medical Negligence in Indianapolis?
Families affected by birth injuries can sue for medical negligence in Indianapolis. However, these cases tend to be both complex and lengthy.
The time limit for medical malpractice under Indiana law is two years from the date of the injury. In partnering with a reliable birth injury lawyer Indianapolis parents can increase their chances of meeting the relevant legal deadlines and moving your suit forward.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Indianapolis?
Indiana defines medical malpractice as a legal wrong that occurs as the result of either action or inaction of a healthcare provider. The act (or lack of action) has to negatively affect a patient, causing injury or death. Suing under medical malpractice requires both proving that the medical professional acted outside the standards and expectations of their profession and that this caused the injury.
Living With a Birth Injury
Living with a birth injury can be life-altering for the parents as well as the baby. Even temporary injuries can incur significant medical bills as well as follow-ups up to and including surgery. In the worst case, the death of an infant or new mother can cause lifetime emotional trauma for the survivors.
Birth Injury Treatment
Many of the most common birth injuries, especially when not caused by negligence, can heal on their own. Others may need additional procedures, like follow-up surgery or stitches for a perineal tear.
As the injury type and occurrence worsen, treatment options become more extensive. Physiotherapy for infants and mothers may be common, as might follow-up surgeries to fix more significant issues.
Finally, injuries that cause chronic disabilities can lead to treatments that last a lifetime. Brain injuries, for instance, may require full-time professional care for the rest of the patient’s life.
What Kind of Resources and Support Are Available in Indianapolis?
The Birth Injury Resource Center is a vital free resource for parents and others affected directly or indirectly by birth injuries. In addition, the Centering Healthcare Institute is a national organization looking to improve infant health and can offer vital resources related to birth injuries.
Ultimately, though, partnering with a birth injury lawyer will be the best resource and support. The right attorney can not only help with the legal process, but also direct clients to non-legal resources to get the help and support needed both short-term and long-term.
How to Take Legal Action With Indianapolis Birth Injury Lawyers
For more than 20 years, the Indianapolis birth injury lawyers at Wagner Reese have been helping patients in and around Indianapolis with what is one of the most challenging medical situations imaginable. Together, our personal injury lawyers bring more than 150 years of combined experience to the table, and we’re ready to help you benefit from that same experience.
Have you or your loved one been injured during the delivery of a newborn baby? Or do you suspect that medical negligence was the cause of a birth injury and resulting complications? Reach out to Wagner Reese to schedule a free consultation. We offer advice and help you need to pursue justice.
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