The terms birth defect and birth injury are often used interchangeably. However, these terms are very different with important legal ramifications. Being able to recognize the difference is essential to know whether or not you can pursue a birth injury claim.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a birth defect is “something visibly abnormal, internally abnormal or chemically abnormal about your newborn baby’s body. The defect might be caused by genetics, infection, radiation or drug exposure, or there might be no known reason.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that upward of 3 percent of all babies born in the U.S. are born with some kind of birth defect. That is 1 out of every 33 births.
The CDC defines a birth injury as “as an impairment of the neonate’s (a newborn; usually less than 1-month-old) body function or structure caused by adverse influences occurring at birth.” These injuries are preventable, unlike birth defects, and include the following:
- Brachial plexus
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE, or brain cell death due to lack of oxygen leading to epilepsy, cerebral palsy and death)
- Broken clavicles
- Cranial trauma (including Caput Succedaneum, which is swelling in the scalp from pressure on the head during a vacuum extraction )
- Erb’s palsy (Nerve damage caused when a newborn’s neck/shoulders are stretched too far)
- Joint dislocations
- Skull fractures
Causes of birth injuries
While birth defects are caused while the baby is still in utero, birth injuries are often caused by birth tools (including forceps or vacuum extractors), a delivery error, mishandling a newborn, medication errors or failure to monitor a treatable condition while in utero.
Examples of common mistakes a physician can make before and during childbirth include:
- Failing to notice a tangled umbilical cord
- Failing to diagnosis hypoglycemia or Rh incompatibility in the mother
- Failing to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy
- Failing to diagnose a contagious disease
- Failing to perform a c-section if the baby is oxygen-deprived
- Failing to react to fetal distress
- Prescribing too much medication
- Excessive use of traction when a baby is stuck in the birth canal
When birth injuries are NOT caused by negligence, common causes include:
- Breech birth
- Inadequate size and/or shape of mother’s pelvis for a vaginal birth
- Large babies
- Premature delivery
- Prolonged labor
Birth injury compensation
Depending on the severity of the injury, babies injured at birth can face life-long consequences because of a doctor’s negligence. Moreover, a birth injury doesn’t only impact the child, but it can also impact the entire family. Injured children can face a need for life-long support, which often involves surgeries, special education and extensive therapies. When faced with these realities, it’s often that a medical malpractice lawsuit is your child’s best chance to ensure that their needs will be met.
Bringing a baby into the world should be a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, this joy can be shattered when things don’t go as planned and the newborn is injured. If your child experienced a birth injury, you will have to act on their behalf to receive compensation for their injury. The first step is reaching out to a competent and trained birth injury lawyer in your area right away.
Additional resources provided by the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Brown
Laura Brown has dedicated her career to being an advocate for individuals, children and families who’ve been hurt due to another person’s negligence. In 2000, she launched her own personal injury law firm to focus on cases in Texas and nationwide, and she is especially passionate about birth injuries. Laura has handled birth injury cases across the country, securing multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for her clients in birth injury and medical malpractice lawsuits nationwide.
Visit https://browntrialfirm.com/ today.