San Antonio Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Lawyers
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Common Birth Injuries: Causes, Consequences & Legal Action

A birth injury is any injury suffered by an infant before, during, or shortly after birth. When that birth injury is caused by a medical provider’s negligence, it becomes a medical malpractice concern that could be met with an claim for damages filed on behalf of the child and by the child’s parents.

Adequate medical care needs to be provided to a pregnant mother, fetus, and newborn; There are some birth injuries that can appear subtle at first, but the true extent of the injury may not being recognizable until days, weeks, months, or even years after the child is born. It is not uncommon for parents to not realize immediately that something is wrong with their child, which is why it is worth it for every parent to take a moment to become better familiarized with some of the most common types of birth injuries. It is important to be aware that even if the hospital becomes aware that a birth injury was caused by a member of their staff or a physician that they do not have any obligation to report the determining cause of the birth injury to the parents. As such, many parents may not even be aware that a preventable birth injury has occurred--- one that will go on affecting their child and their family for many many years in some cases.

Four Common Types of Birth Injuries

There are many different types of birth injuries noted in medical contexts. Our team from Maloney Law Group, P.L.L.C. has compiled cross section of information of four of the most common types of birth injuries that we hope you will find useful. You might be able to learn more about what has happened to your child or come to recognize the telltale symptoms of a birth injury.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a birth injury that usually manifests as musculoskeletal disorders and brain development issues. Mild cases of CP can take years before the symptoms are noticeable, but there might be an obvious problem immediately after a child is born with a moderate or severe case of CP.

The exact cause of CP is still contested. Although, it is generally believed that cerebral palsy can result from oxygen deprivation or high blood toxicity at any stage during pregnancy or birth. The longer the child’s brain is not receiving the right amount of oxygen, the more likely it is believed to be that CP or another infant brain injury will occur. CP might be attributed to medical malpractice if there were signs of fetal distress that a medical provider like a doctor or obstetrician should have noticed but failed to act upon.

Brain injuries are often permanent, which means that children born with CP of any severity will usually live with the symptoms of it for their entire lives. Some of the most common lifelong symptoms of CP are a lack of muscular control and balance paired with speed impediments and learning difficulties. Specialized care will likely be required for the child’s entire life, too, such as one-on-one teaching sessions and an electronic wheelchair for mobility.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is caused by an injury to a child’s brachial plexus, which is a bundle of nerves, tendons, and ligaments that connect the upper arm to the shoulder. It is well-known that Erb’s palsy can and is often caused by a doctor’s or nurse’s mistakes during the birthing process. Specifically, if a child gets stuck in the birth canal, and the provider pulls on the child’s arm to try to loosen them, then the strain on the arm can cause a brachial plexus tear and Erb’s palsy.

Symptoms of Erb’s palsy can range from mild numbness in the fingers to full-arm paralysis. In most cases, the symptoms are more moderate, including arm and shoulder weakness that makes lifting and dexterous manipulation difficult.

As with most injuries involving nerves, Erb’s palsy birth injuries are difficult to heal, leaving the child with a lifetime of the symptoms. Routine physical therapy sessions can allow for some pain alleviation or the return of some arm mobility. However, paralysis associated with Erb’s palsy is practically impossible to treat.

What is HIE?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a medical term for low – and usually sustained – blood-oxygen levels, especially as suffered by unborn children and newborns. Because HIE is usually caused by an extended period in which the child has a low blood-oxygen count, medical professionals should be monitoring the problem and take action before the situation gets worse.

Obstetricians can use a variety of medical tests to look for signs of HIE during the prenatal period and pediatricians can use similar tests during the neonatal period. Typically, seizures, laborious breathing, feeding difficulties, weak muscle definition, and an unusual reaction to light sources are strong indicators that the child might be suffering from HIE. Immediate and specialized medical care can be used to correct the child’s blood-oxygen counts and potentially reverse the worst HIE symptoms.

When HIE is severe or unaddressed, a child can suffer a number of severe side effects that might last their entire lives.

Children with HIE might experience:

  • Epilepsy
  • Learning difficulties
  • Musculoskeletal disabilities

HIE can be difficult to notice and treat, though, as the worst symptoms often do not manifest until the child is several years old. Routine check-ups with a pediatrician should be scheduled throughout a young child’s life to catch the first signs of HIE.

What are C-Section Errors?

Another common type of birth injury is one that affects the mother, not the child: C-section error. A pregnant mother’s medical team needs to be careful when deciding to conduct a C-section and delicate when performing it. Mistakes anywhere in the process, including performing a C-section too soon or too late can be catastrophic to the mother’s health and potentially endanger the child as well.

A C-section is a type of surgery, which means every C-section brings unique risks and those associated with any other sort of surgery. Organ lacerations, nerve damage, and blood clots are all immediate concerns for a mother undergoing a C-section by an inexperienced or inattentive surgical team. Sepsis and infection are health concerns that can arise after the C-section birth is completed.

When a C-section is not performed but it should have been, the mother and her child can also be put in extreme danger due to a medical provider’s mistakes. For example, if a child is suffering from oxygen deprivation due to an umbilical cord entanglement around their neck, then an emergency C-section should be performed. Otherwise, the child could be born with HIE, CP, or other forms of severe birth injuries.

Other conditions that call for an emergency C-section include:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption

Answering Birth Injuries with Legal Action

If you suspect that your child has suffered a birth injury due to a medical provider’s mistakes, either before your child was born or during the birthing process, then you should consider contacting a local birth injury attorney. You only have a certain amount of time to file a birth injury claim or lawsuit against the liable parties before your state’s statute of limitations expires. Although, birth injury statutes of limitations typically begin when the negligence occurs. However, the birth injury may not have been explained or immediately apparent until years later. Only in exceptional cases will this statute be extended. However, the child’s individual statute of limitations is tolled beyond 2-years. Although the parents my not be able to recover once the 2-year statute has expired, the child himself/herself will have claims that go beyond 2 years. It is important to note that these statutes of limitations are quite complex, and in order to best preserve your rights, it’s important to contact an attorney quickly so that you may get the best answer on what your rights and claims are.

To get information about filing a birth injury claim in your area, pick an experienced and local legal team to guide and represent you. Maloney Law Group, P.L.L.C. offers legal support to parents and their children in San Antonio and the surrounding area. Please call us at (210) 361-2997 or contact us online today if you would like our attorneys’ assistance with your birth injury claim.