Preventable Birth Injuries: Recognizing the Signs and Understanding Your Legal Rights

Birth injuries occur when a baby or mother suffers trauma during or immediately following delivery. In many cases, birth injuries result from negligent care by an obstetrician or other medical professionals who are part of the delivery team. Families devastated by preventable birth injuries may have the right to seek accountability and financial relief from the medical professionals whose negligence caused those injuries. 

The birth injury lawyers at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. have a proven record of success in achieving maximum compensation for families who have suffered from medical errors and birth trauma. Some of our more notable results in medical malpractice cases and birth injury claims include:

  • $8.9 million for an infant who sustained brain damage due to oxygen deprivation when doctors missed signs of an umbilical cord blockage or occlusion and failed to perform a timely cesarean section to reestablish blood and oxygen flow to the infant’s brain
  • $4.5 million for a newborn who sustained neurological damage when nurses failed to notice signs of a uterine rupture
  • $3 million for a girl who suffered brain damage

If you would like us to review your birth injury claim, call us today for a free consultation. 

Common Types of Preventable Birth Injuries

Many birth injuries can occur due to negligent care from an obstetrician or other members of an expecting mother’s medical team. Some of the most common birth injuries that may occur due to a healthcare provider’s negligence include:

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy occurs when an infant suffers brain damage during pregnancy or during or immediately following delivery. They may suffer a traumatic brain injury or lack of oxygen or blood flow, affecting the child’s motor function. More severe cases of cerebral palsy may leave children needing mobility equipment or lifelong care.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy involves paralysis of the arm caused by nerve damage to the nerve bundle that runs through the brachial plexus. Erb’s palsy can occur when a newborn suffers shoulder dystocia during the labor and delivery process, a condition where the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis.

Broken Bones

Newborns can suffer bone fractures during delivery due to shoulder dystocia, improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors, breech birth, or excessive pulling on the baby’s body.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are some of the most common birth injuries that occur. Newborns can suffer traumatic or acquired brain injuries during delivery, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), hemorrhage, hematoma, or contusions. Traumatic brain injuries may occur due to improper use of delivery-assisting tools on a baby’s head when trying to extract the baby from the birth canal. Acquired brain injuries result from a lack of oxygen to the brain, which may occur during fetal distress or complications of delivery.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Infants may sustain spinal cord injuries and paralysis from improper positioning during delivery or forceful pulling by doctors.

Facial Paralysis

Improper use of forceps can damage a baby’s facial nerves, causing paralysis that may lead to a droopy facial appearance or difficulties with suckling or swallowing.

Jaundice/Kernicterus

Newborns sometimes develop jaundice, a condition involving a buildup of a substance called bilirubin in the bloodstream, which can cause the skin to appear yellow. If left untreated, jaundice can develop into a life-threatening illness called kernicterus.

Cephalohematoma

Cephalohematoma involves a buildup of fluid around the brain, which can increase pressure on brain tissue and damage them.

Vaginal/Perineal Tears

Birth injuries can affect both the mother and child. Mothers may experience traumatic tearing of the vagina or perineum during vaginal birth. Doctors can prevent tearing by making surgical incisions in the perineum to give the baby more room, as surgical incisions typically heal better than traumatic tearing.

Uterine Rupture

A uterine rupture may occur when a mother has had previous cesarean sections or abdominal surgery. When a rupture occurs, doctors should perform an emergency cesarean section to prevent a baby from going into fetal distress.

Postpartum Hemorrhage

Mothers may experience severe bleeding after delivery, which can cause life-threatening complications if not stopped by medical professionals.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

A mother may suffer a prolapse of the uterus or other pelvic organs after delivery, which may cause severe complications if not prevented or promptly treated, including an emergency hysterectomy.

Other birth injuries can occur if a doctor fails to properly monitor the mother or child during the birthing process, including serious injuries that can cause birth defects and life-threatening situations. If you or your child suffered birth injuries due to preventable medical errors, contact an experienced birth injury lawyer who can help you seek compensation for the harm you suffered.

Wrongful Death

Sadly, a doctor’s mistake can result in the loss of your child’s life in some circumstances. Our compassionate wrongful death lawyers can help you seek justice and recovery if you have lost your baby due to medical negligence. 

Damages Recoverable in a Birth Injury Lawsuit

If you or your child suffered severe birth injuries, you could have the right to financial compensation for the injuries and losses you’ve suffered, such as:

  • Medical expenses to treat your injuries
  • Future medical costs
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Families affected by birth injuries often require significant financial support to get the proper medical care they will need. If you are considering pursuing legal action against a negligent medical provider, contact our birth injury lawyers today for a free case review.

Signs of a Birth Injury

While birth injuries to expectant mothers may become immediately apparent, birth injuries suffered by children may have signs or symptoms that appear weeks or months after birth. Some of the signs of birth injuries that parents should watch out for after delivery include:

  • Odd positioning or twisting of the hands or arms
  • Muscle stiffness or looseness
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Weak or absent reflexes
  • High-pitched crying or grunting
  • Droopy face
  • Excessive drooling
  • Arched back while crying
  • Difficulty suckling or swallowing

As a child gets older and begins reaching developmental milestones, parents may notice new birth injury symptoms, such as:

  • Delays in the child’s development
  • Delayed or absent speech 
  • Difficulty with crawling or learning how to walk
  • Lack of muscle control or spasms
  • Lack of bodily movements (ataxia)
  • Lack of reaction to loud noises
  • Poor coordination or fine motor control
  • Difficulty eating, drinking, or swallowing
  • Unable to sit or stand without assistance
  • Odd positioning or appearance of hands, feet, arms, or the neck
  • Cognitive or intellectual difficulties, such as poor memory retention or slow learning
  • Onset of new medical conditions

When a doctor fails to provide proper care during the labor and delivery process, the resulting injuries can have a lifelong impact on the family. 

Medical Negligence and Birth Injuries

Although some birth injuries occur due to unavoidable circumstances, other birth injuries happen because of the medical negligence of healthcare providers. Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider renders treatment that falls below the applicable standard of care. 

While each patient’s case will have a unique standard of care, medical professionals generally define the standard of care as the treatment that another medical provider of similar training and experience would provide under similar circumstances. Therefore, when a medical provider makes treatment decisions that their peers would not and a mother or child suffers a birth injury as a result, that provider may be responsible for the mother or child’s injury. Examples of preventable medical errors that can lead to birth injuries include:

  • Failure to treat maternal illnesses or infections during pregnancy
  • Failure to learn the mother’s medical history to identify potential risks during labor or delivery
  • Failure to notice signs of fetal distress or complications during delivery, such as placental abruption, uterine rupture, shoulder dystocia, or breech birth
  • Failure to recommend cesarean section when a mother has risk factors that contraindicate vaginal birth, such as prior cesarean sections, abdominal surgeries, or large baby size
  • Improper use of delivery-assisting tools like vacuum extractors or forceps
  • Failure to control blood loss
  • Failure to diagnose or treat newborn jaundice
  • Failure to monitor a newborn’s vital signs

Parental Rights in Birth Injury Cases

If your child’s birth injury is due to a medical professional’s negligent errors, a family may have the right to hold that professional accountable through the birth injury legal process in PA. The statute of limitations for a birth injury in PA typically requires the filing of a lawsuit against a negligent healthcare provider within two years of the negligent treatment and injury. 

However, state law also states that when a minor suffers an injury, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor turns 18. Nevertheless, parents should immediately talk to a medical malpractice attorney about filing a birth injury lawsuit. An experienced birth injury attorney can help parents pursue the financial recovery they need to obtain treatment and rehabilitation for a birth injury.

Contact a Medical Error and Birth Trauma Attorney Today

If you or your child suffered preventable birth injuries due to negligent medical care, you may have the right to pursue a legal claim against the at-fault healthcare providers. Contact us today at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss how our law firm can assist your family with a cerebral palsy lawsuit, a wrongful death claim, or another legal claim.