Brain Injuries at Birth
Birth injuries are among the most catastrophic of all personal injuries. A baby who is injured at birth begins life with pain, suffering, and physical or mental impairments that can last for a lifetime. When negligence causes a birth injury, the child has important legal rights that must be protected to place the child in the best position possible to recover and move forward with his or her life.
The Clearwater personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have decades of experience helping parents protect their legal rights after a birth injury. Here, we explain the extensive damage that can result from brain injuries suffered at birth, as well as the theories of liability to hold potentially negligent parties responsible.
The Types of Damage Caused by Brain Injuries at Birth
The brain is a highly complex combination of neurons that process millions of different tasks. Damage to the brain can result in a wide variety of symptoms, depending upon the area affected. Even mild brain injuries at birth can have long-lasting or permanent consequences for a child. Independent reports on a study out of the University College in Cork, Ireland found that children who suffered from even a mild lack of oxygen at birth had developmental impairments up to five years after the birth injury occurred. This finding is significant because previous research had found delays in only those children who suffered moderate to severe oxygen deprivation at birth.
More severe oxygen deprivation can lead to cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and even death. It is, in fact, one of the leading causes of neonatal deaths. Interestingly, academic studies have found a fairly strong correlation between the severity of the oxygen deprivation and the severity of impairment in general cognitive functioning, educational performance, neuropsychological functioning, and behavioral delays. One study reported in the European Journal of Pediatrics found that outcomes for children who had experienced moderate oxygen deprivation at birth varied greatly, whereas the outcomes of mild and severe oxygen deprivation were more predictable.
For the families of babies who suffer brain injuries, these effects have very real and devastating consequences. The Independent spoke with one mother about her struggles during the first year of life with her daughter who had suffered a brain injury at birth. She described an endless litany of nurses, doctors, therapists, and caseworkers who struggled to find effective methods of meeting the child’s needs. She described her frustration at the conflicting advice she often received, and a sense of loss over the important life events her daughter might never experience. Perhaps most poignantly, she described a huge sense of accomplishment at the smallest gestures her daughter ultimately accomplished. Touching a toy was akin to “winning a marathon.” This, perhaps more than any other example, demonstrates the ongoing struggle and heartbreak that families endure after a child suffers a brain injury.
Who Is Responsible for Causing a Brain Injury at Birth?
In many cases, a brain injury at birth is the result of negligence during the birthing process. Negligence on the part of a birth doctor is medical malpractice. If the doctor failed to meet the prevailing professional standard of care, he or she has committed medical malpractice. Section 766.102(1) of the Florida Statutes defines this standard as the level of care, skill, and treatment that, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.
One example of neonatal medical malpractice is an obstetrician who fails to monitor a baby’s oxygen levels after birth, or fails to provide oxygen to the baby upon receiving a low reading. Other hospital staff members can also negligently cause a newborn to suffer a brain injury. Although they cannot commit medical malpractice as this designation is reserved for doctors, they and their employers can be held liable for negligence. An example would be a nurse who fails to notify a doctor of a low oxygen reading until brain damage has already occurred. Transportation staff could also cause a finding of negligence. If, for example, a baby is roughly transported in an incubator, it may cause brain damage.
Finally, medical equipment used in the labor and delivery process may also cause oxygen deprivation or other brain damage. In this instance, the doctor is not liable for reasonably relying on the faulty equipment, but the manufacturer may be held liable for producing an unsafe product. Just like manufacturers of automobiles, cleansers, medications, and other household products, medical equipment manufacturers have a legal obligation to sell products that are safe for consumer use. Manufacturers who design or manufacture unsafe products can be found liable for products liability.
Whether a doctor, hospital staff, or a manufacturer of defective medical equipment caused a birth injury, the negligent party is responsible for compensating all losses that occur as the result of the brain injury. This can include medical bills, occupational and speech therapy bills, pain and suffering, tutoring, lost wages for the inability to work, pain and suffering, and the costs of in-home care service made necessary by the injury. These and many other costs create a heavy financial burden upon the families of newborn victims of brain injuries. The law requires negligent parties to compensate these children and their families for their very real losses.
Fighting for Your Child’s Legal Rights
Children injured at birth because of someone’s carelessness have the legal right to compensation for the lifelong impairments and losses they will suffer. It is important for parents to seek the advice of a skilled attorney who knows how to protect these rights. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have decades of experience in helping parents protect an injured child’s legal rights. Call our office at (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Clearwater personal injury attorney. We help parents meet their child’s legal needs so they can focus on their child’s recovery while we maximize the compensation available to pay for medical care and any other expenses.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375