Birth injuries refer to damage that an infant suffers during the process of labor and delivery. Some birth injuries result from natural causes. Many are caused by a medical professional’s negligence or mistake. Statistics suggest that 27 of every 1,000 births have some sort of preventable complication or injury associated with them.
When there is a lapse in judgment or care, and a patient is harmed, the health care professional may be found liable for what is known as “medical malpractice.” There are a number of people who may be held responsible for a birth injury other than the doctor, including attending nurses, support staff, technicians and even the hospital itself. Given the complexity of birth injury cases, it is important to contact an attorney if you believe your child’s birth injury could have been prevented.
For more than four decades, the Rhode Island birth injury lawyers of Gemma Law Associates, Inc., have helped victims of medical errors and their families throughout Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, Newport, Cranston, Woonsocket and Bristol. To learn how Gemma Law Associates, Inc., can help you, call us today toll free or use our online form. We provide free initial case evaluations.
Common Causes of Rhode Island Birth Injuries
There are two major causes of birth injuries. One is oxygen deprivation. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including compression or twisting of the umbilical cord. The second is physical trauma, which may occur when the baby assumes an unnatural position during birth.
Common mistakes that result in birth injury include:
- Leaving the baby in the birth canal too long, which can result in oxygen deprivation
- Failure to perform a Caesarean section when the baby is in distress, which can result in oxygen deprivation
- Failure to detect umbilical cord problems, such as that it is blocked or around the baby’s neck
- Excessive force during extraction, which can cause physical trauma to the infant
- Failure to respond to the mother’s changing health conditions, such as high or abnormally low blood pressure or toxemia, i.e., toxins in her blood.
Some common injuries include:
- Bone fractures
- Bleeding / bruising
- Nerve damage
- Brain injuries / mental retardation from oxygen deprivation or physical trauma
- Cerebral Palsy, caused by insufficient oxygen or physical trauma to a baby’s brain and resulting in irreversible neuromuscular deficiencies
- Erb’s Palsy, also called Brachial Plexus Palsy or Klumpke’s Palsy, caused by injury to a group of nerves known as the “brachial plexus” and resulting in paralysis in the shoulders and arms.
Signs that a Medical Error May have Occurred
A medical error that causes a birth injury can rob that child of a healthy and fulfilling life and have lifelong consequences for the child’s parents. In any case of a serious injury that occurs while in the care of a medical professional, it is important to have the case reviewed as soon as possible by an experienced Rhode Island medical malpractice attorney, such as those employed by the law firm of Gemma Law Associates. Signs that a child may have experienced a birth injury due to the negligence of a medical professional may be noticeable immediately after the child’s birth. These signs include:
- The baby has bruises, abrasions or swelling on the face, head or shoulders
- One of the baby’s arms is limp
- The baby has seizures within 2 days of birth
- The baby does not begin to breathe immediately after birth and requires CPR or a breathing tube
- The baby lacks muscle tone and has a “floppy” appearance
Other signs may not appear for several months after birth. For example, if the child misses critical developmental milestones, such as the ability to support his or her head at 3 months or crawl at 12 months, it is possible that he or she suffered a birth injury.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Proving medical negligence or malpractice in a birth injury case may require a lengthy investigation. Qualified medical witnesses are likely to be required to establish that the medical practitioner’s conduct failed to meet accepted standards of care. Documentation of all procedures and medicines used during the prenatal, delivery and immediate post-natal phases of the child’s birth must be gathered. Also important are your personal observations. For example, your observations about how you felt during your pregnancy as well as your observations of your baby’s developmental milestones. Finally, a thorough understanding of Rhode Island law and its application to medical malpractice cases is essential.
If you think you may have a claim for medical malpractice, or even if you are not sure if you do or not, the main thing that you should not do is delay approaching an attorney about your concerns. Because malpractice cases rely on not only documented medical records, but also on memory, it is best to file your claim as quickly as possible in order to not jeopardize your case. Even though under Rhode Island law the statute of limitations may not be an issue as your child has 3 years after his or her 21st birthday to file a medical malpractice claim, it is best not to wait as during that time you will forgo any financial award that may be crucial for your child’s medical care.
The Legal Process
Where birth injuries are caused by a medical professional’s mistake, the parents of the injured baby may be entitled to compensation. Although financial compensation cannot make up for the injury, it can help pay for the expensive and lengthy medical care that the child will likely need. Many medical malpractice lawsuits can be lengthy and involve the following steps:
- Investigation and Reviews Medical Records. Your lawyer will interview and review your medical records. This preliminary investigation may take months as it often takes time to secure and review all medical records. Your attorney will also request that an expert review your case and issue an opinion.
- Demand. Your lawyer will contact the defendant and make open discussions for a financial settlement.
- Lawsuit. If no settlement agreement is reached, your lawyer will file a complaint to begin the lawsuit.
- Discovery. Once the litigation begins, the discovery process involves each side reviewing the other’s claims and defenses. This is accomplished by deposing witnesses and getting questions answered through written interrogatories. Discovery can take more than a year.
- Settlement. Both sides will consider settling and negotiate. In some cases, mediation may be involved.
- Trial. If no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial.
From the time the lawsuit is filed until the end of the trial, the timeframe can be 1-3 years or more. Added to this, is the time it takes for the preliminary investigation and settlement negotiations prior to filing a lawsuit.
Contact Our Rhode Island Birth Injury Lawyers Today
The birth injury attorneys at Gemma Law Associates, Inc., have investigated medical malpractice cases for decades. We’ve won multimillion-dollar settlements on behalf of injured clients in Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, Newport, Cranston, Bristol, Woonsocket and areas throughout Rhode Island.
We have a successful record of litigating claims involving hospital negligence and medical errors that resulted in birth injuries, and we are prepared to argue on your behalf in the courtroom if necessary to recover the damages you deserve.
Rhode Island places strict time limits on filing medical malpractice claims, so it’s important to act immediately if you believe your child’s birth injury was caused by medical error or negligence. For a free legal consultation, call our Rhode Island birth injury attorneys today toll free or use our online form.