What Is a Birth Injury?
The birth of a baby should be a joyous time, but sometimes a newborn suffers a birth injury during labor or delivery. About one in every 9,714 people in the United States are born with a birth injury. Even deliveries which may seem routine may lead to long-term or permanent disabilities for your baby. The term birth injury refers to an impairment of the infant’s body function or structure related to a problem that occurred at birth. The term sometimes refers to birth trauma, which is a physical injury to the infant during the birth process.
There are many types of birth injuries. Symptoms vary from one infant to another, and the effects may be temporary, or permanent. If your child has suffered a birth injury, you should contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of George Salinas at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation. They can evaluate your case, the long-term effects of the birth injury on your child and your family, and help you get the settlement you deserve.
Common Birth Injuries
There are many different types of birth injuries, which sometimes lead to permanent disabilities. Brain and nerve damage are usually irreparable and have a serious impact on your child’s life. Some common forms of birth injury include:
- Cerebral palsy (CP), which can be caused by birth asphyxia, infection, birth trauma, and other complications. It is a debilitating and life-long condition.
- Erb’s palsy, which is a form of brachial plexus palsy. This condition is an injury to the nerves that control arm and hand movement.
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is a type of brain damage caused by birth asphyxia (oxygen deprivation around the time of birth). Depending on how long the baby’s body is deprived of oxygen, brain tissue may be destroyed. This may lead to severe impairment or death.
- Caput succedaneum, which is a swelling of soft tissues in the baby’s scalp. It develops as the infant moves through the birth canal. This sometimes occurs when the baby is delivered using vacuum extraction. Although caput succedaneum itself is not a life-threatening condition, it may lead to other infant health issues.
- Clavicle or collarbone fractures. These sometimes occur when the baby is born breech.
- Facial paralysis. This may be temporary bruising of the facial nerves, but if there is a nerve tear, surgery may be required.
- Head trauma. Bruising or lacerations on the baby’s head may be a result of forceful contractions. However, it can also be caused by tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors.
- Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), refers to brain damage of the white matter. It results in the death and decay of injured cells.
Birth Injury Signs and Symptoms
In some cases, a birth injury may be determined immediately. However, in other cases, it can be difficult to know whether your infant has suffered a birth injury, because the symptoms may not appear until long after the birth. Medical staff will assess and monitor your infant immediately after birth, but you may see signs or symptoms after bringing your baby home. Do not hesitate to seek medical attention if you notice that your infant has health-related symptoms, including fever, low heart rate, or any symptoms that concern you. Also be aware of problems with feeding, extreme fussiness, vomiting, or seizures. You may also notice muscle stiffness or looseness, favoring one side of the body, or weak movement or reflexes.
Early signs of a birth injury may include:
- Low APGAR scores, which are used to assess infants at one minute and five minutes after birth
- The infant’s failure to begin breathing immediately after birth
- The infant needs resuscitation
- The infant’s breathing or heart rate is slow
- A generally lethargic condition, or slow responses
- The infant is not interested in feeding or is unable to feed
- The baby has seizures or favors one side of the body
- Bruising or swelling on the infant’s head, face or shoulder
However, some symptoms may not become apparent until months or years later. You or your pediatrician may become concerned when the child misses certain developmental milestones. The child may show disabilities or behavioral problems. Later symptoms may include:
- Delays in development such as the inability to roll over, sit up, crawl or walk
- Weak muscle coordination
- Motor impairments
- Speech and language problems or delays
- Learning disabilities
- Behavioral problems
Why Birth Injuries Happen
Birth injuries may be caused by improper use of medical equipment, inappropriate medications, medical mistakes, or other types of negligent medical care. In many cases, the injury is preventable. Some of the medical errors that cause birth injuries include:
- Insufficient or incorrect prenatal testing
- Failure to recognize and promptly treat infections
- Not recognizing and dealing with potential concerns in the fetus’ condition
- Prescribing defective or incorrect drugs
- Administering an incorrect amount of a drug
- Missing or not treating serious conditions, including placental abruption or umbilical cord issues
- Not properly monitoring the heart rate or fetal growth during the pregnancy
- Delay in delivery, which leads to oxygen loss and serious brain damage
- Failure to determine the need for a cesarean section
- Failure to meet medical standards when performing a cesarean section or other needed surgery
- Improper use of delivery tools, such as vacuum extractor or forceps, causing an increased risk of injury to the infant
- Head trauma during delivery
- Failure to refer a high-risk patient to an appropriate specialist
Damages That May Result From Birth Injury Cases
In most personal injury cases, the damages are awarded to the injured person. But birth injuries don’t just affect the individual. They impact the lives of everyone in the family, especially the child’s parents. Parents must deal with the enormous medical costs incurred by the life-long care of a child with a birth injury. Each case is different, so the damages will also be different in each case. Generally, however, the child and his or her family are awarded reimbursement for all medical expenses that may result from the birth injury. Costs may include rehabilitation, special medical equipment, and future medical care, therapy, and personal care.
If the birth injury results in a permanent disability, the child’s future earning capacity may be limited or non-existent. The parents may also miss work or have a reduced income because they need to care for the child. Damages may be awarded for these losses. The child may receive compensation for pain and emotional suffering. In some cases, the parents are also awarded damages for their emotional distress.
How Your Austin Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help You
Birth injuries have long-term physical, emotional and financial consequences. Such cases are highly complex and can be difficult to prove. Texas imposes strict deadlines for filing cases. If your child has suffered a birth injury, it is critical that you contact a skilled attorney to explain your legal rights and advocate for you and your child. For more information, email The Law Offices of George Salinas, or call at (512) 851-1004. We are here to help you.
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