A “birth injury” is any injury to a mother or child during a childbirth procedure. These injuries can occur in many ways, and some of these injuries result from the negligent application of medical devices, techniques, or even incompetently performed procedures. Some of the most common birth injuries reported in California include:
- Cerebral palsy. This is a medical term used to describe a host of complications resulting from brain damage that occurs before or during childbirth. A negligent doctor may cause a child to develop cerebral palsy if they fail to monitor fetal vital signs, incorrectly extract the child from the birth canal, or cause oxygen deprivation to a newborn. Cerebral palsy is a complex condition that can result in various symptoms, most of which will last for the rest of a child’s life.
- Brachial plexus injuries. The brachial plexus is a cluster of nerves that extends from the arm through the shoulder and into the collarbone area and the upper back. When a baby leaves the birth canal, their shoulders are the widest part of the body, and it can be difficult to extract them for several reasons. In addition, when a brachial plexus injury occurs, the child may suffer Erb’s palsy, a condition characterized by poor muscle growth and lack of mobility in the affected side of the body.
- Head and face injuries. Some childbirth physicians must use forceps and other instruments to extract a child from the birth canal, but they must do so very carefully. Misuse of forceps and other instruments can cause acute injuries to the head and face of the newborn, sometimes resulting in permanent damage and disfigurement.
- Injuries to the mother. Attending medical staff handling childbirth procedures must carefully monitor the baby’s vital signs and the mother’s, and they must also account for any known medical conditions the mother has. Negligence during childbirth can potentially lead to life-threatening injury to the mother and her child.
- Negligent prenatal care. An expectant mother has the right to expect safe and effective prenatal screenings, medical care, and guidance from her doctor. However, if a medical professional fails to address known medical issues, provides unsafe or unsound medical advice, or adversely affects pregnancy, these actions can easily constitute birth injuries.
There are many ways birth injuries can occur. Costa Mesa, CA, families adversely affected by birth injuries often face challenging recoveries, and sometimes the effects of a birth injury are permanent. Many children who sustain birth injuries face developmental delays, physical handicaps, cognitive impairment, and other disabilities. The parents may face years of extensive medical treatment, various specialist appointments, and expensive ongoing rehabilitation programs for their child.
While a medical malpractice case is a form of personal injury case, California enforces unique laws and statutes that apply specifically to medical malpractice claims. Therefore, if you intend to file a civil action against a medical professional for a birth injury, the case will fall within the purview of medical malpractice, and you must be prepared to address the unique legal standards that apply to your case.
First is the statute of limitations or time limit for filing the claim. The plaintiff has three years from the date a birth injury occurs or one year from the date they discovered a birth injury to file a claim. This limit will pause or “toll” if the defendant engaged in any fraudulent actions or concealed their liability for the injury in any way.
Second is the limit on non-economic damages. California state law restricts non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000 regardless of the severity of the injury. However, there is no cap on the economic damages you can claim in a birth injury case. Therefore, a Costa Mesa birth injury attorney can help their client calculate immediate and future medical expenses they can include in their claim. Some plaintiffs will qualify to recover lost income and lost future earning potential for the time they must take off work to address a birth injury or in the event they must quit their job to care for a newborn afflicted by a birth injury.
Q: Are Birth Injuries Permanent?
A: Many birth injuries result in permanent harm. Cerebral palsy, for example, can cause a host of disabilities and developmental delays in a child. Likewise, brain damage during childbirth is irreversible. The medical professional responsible for causing it faces liability for all medical expenses the family incurs for managing their child’s symptoms.
Q: What Happens If a Birth Injury Is Fatal?
A: If a mother or child dies due to negligent medical care during childbirth, the medical professional responsible would be liable for wrongful death. This type of civil claim is very similar to a personal injury claim but with a few key differences. Additionally, wrongful deaths resulting from medical malpractice are highly likely to result in severe professional disciplinary action against the medical professional responsibility, usually resulting in them losing their license to practice.
Q: What Happens If a Birth Injury Isn’t Immediately Obvious?
A: Some children will appear to be born perfectly healthy, seemingly afflicted by no serious medical conditions. However, some birth injuries can occur without causing immediately noticeable symptoms. If parents did not recognize signs of a birth injury until months after the birth, the discovery rule would apply, and they would likely have one year from the date they discovered the injury to take legal action.
Q: How Much Does a Costa Mesa Birth Injury Attorney Cost to Hire?
A: Most personal injury attorneys offer contingency fee billing to clients, taking percentages of case awards once they win their clients’ cases. California restricts legal fees for medical malpractice claims based on the total value of damages sought in the claim. For example, an attorney can charge no more than 40% of the first $50,000 recovered, followed by no more than 33.3% of the next $50,000, followed by no more than 25% of the next $500,000 recovered. In addition, an attorney may not charge more than 15% for cases seeking $600,000 or more in damages.
Easton & Easton understands how traumatic a birth injury can be for any Costa Mesa, CA, family. Our firm has successfully represented many clients in the area in various medical malpractice cases, including those pertaining to birth injuries. Our goal is to clarify any legal statutes you do not understand, guide you through your case with confidence, and help you and your family maximize your recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation if you are ready to discuss your case with an experienced Costa Mesa birth injury attorney.