There isn’t a much more exciting event than the delivery of your child. There are so many unknowns and such an anticipation of joy. Usually things go very smoothly, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. We have helped thousands of people investigate possible medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois for birth injuries. While not every injury is a lawsuit, every serious injury is worth investigating. These are the six most common ones that lead to lawsuits being filed against doctors, nurses and/or hospitals.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that impairs movement and affects muscle tone or posture. CP is caused by damage that occurs to the developing brain, sometimes during birth. People with CP may experience stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), variations in muscle tone, and/or lack of balance and muscle coordination, among other symptoms. When the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain is interrupted during childbirth, cells in the brain quickly begin to die. This is what eventually leads to cerebral palsy. These damages can be catastrophic and turn an otherwise healthy child in to someone who needs a lifetime of care.
In a full-term or post-term pregnancy when the baby is very big, they might be too big to go safely through the birth canal. The OBGYN should recognize this and perform a C-section. If they don’t, the baby’s shoulder might be wedged behind the mother’s pelvic bone. The doctor may use excessive pressure or force to dislodge the baby’s shoulder, leading to a shoulder dystocia injury.
Brachial Plexus Injuries (Erb’s Palsy)
The brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or torn from the spinal cord. Newborns can suffer from brachial plexus injuries, often associated with high birth weight, breech position, or prolonged labor. If an infant’s shoulders get stuck within the birth canal, there is a higher risk of brachial plexus palsy. While sometimes these injuries get better, quite often it can lead to years of physical therapy and a lifetime of complications.
When a baby becomes stuck during delivery, the OBGYN must deliver the baby quickly. Sometimes this results in the doctor pulling too harshly or being too aggressive while using birth-assistance tools, which may lead to a skull fracture or fractured clavicle. A doctor or nurse dropping a baby shortly after birth may also be a cause of a skull or other bone fracture, but that is less common. What you should know is that fractures are not an expected outcome of most deliveries so if your child has one it should be investigated by a lawyer.
During labor or birth, sometimes when forceps are used for delivery, pressure on a baby’s face may injure the facial nerve. This injury is evident when the baby cries. There is no movement on the side of the face with the injury, and the baby can’t close their eye. The paralysis may improve in a few weeks if the nerve was only bruised. However, if the nerve was torn, surgery may be necessary. Whether or not a lawsuit is worth pursuing usually comes down to the recovery made by the child.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow during or near the time of birth. Other terms used for HIE include birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia, and neonatal encephalopathy. In some cases, therapeutic hypothermia given very quickly after the injury may prevent or minimize permanent brain damage. However, with or without that treatment, many infants with HIE develop permanent disorders including cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities, epilepsy, and others. The largest birth injury lawsuit we’ve ever been involved in came from a HIE case where fetal monitoring strips failed.
Note that while in most cases you have eight years to sue whoever was negligent for a birth injury, it can be as little as two years from when it happened in some cases such as if your doctor was provided through a Federally funded clinic. It’s possible you won’t know that they are so we highly recommend talking to a lawyer as soon as you are aware of an injury. If you would like to speak to an experienced attorney for FREE, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.