Birth injuries include any injury to a newborn that occurs at the time of labor and delivery. These injuries include brachial plexus injuries (also called Erb’s palsy) and cerebral palsy. Currently, deficits falling within the autism spectrum have not been related to injuries occurring at birth. Parents who have a child with cerebral palsy or a brachial plexus injury often have questions about whether these injuries are preventable. An experienced birth injury lawyer can obtain these answers for you.
To determine if cerebral palsy or a brachial plexus injury was caused by birth trauma or avoidable delays in obtaining a cesarean delivery (or C-section) requires a very detailed review of the prenatal, labor and delivery and post-delivery records. Both the mom and the child’s medical charts must be carefully reviewed. We begin our reviews with the assistance of a skilled and experienced legal nurse consultant. However, we also solicit input from various experts in the field, including many of the following: obstetrician (or OB/GYN), neonatologist, pediatric neurologist, neuroradiologist, pediatric infectious disease specialist, hematologist and placental pathologist. Often times, one expert alone cannot determine the precise mechanism of injury, so multiple experts must be consulted.
For such injuries, the investigation focuses on three key time periods: (1) the prenatal period which involves assessment of fetal size and health and maternal risk factors, planning to avoid premature labor and treatment of any infections; (2) labor where fetal health is monitored using a fetal monitor and progress of labor is graphed; and (3) delivery which requires care be taken to avoid using excessive force after a shoulder dystocia (the baby becomes stuck) is encountered.
In some circumstances, a newborn can suffer injury in the absence of medical negligence. However, a thorough investigation should be performed to determine the cause of injury. If errors are made by a careless caregiver (OB, OB nurse, midwife or doula) or by an inexperienced resident or intern, then a claim for medical malpractice may exist.
Birth injuries are devastating for parents, both emotionally and financially. Therefore, it is important to investigate the circumstances surrounding such an injury with a keen eye for detail, experience to know when the care was substandard, and resources to engage qualified experts to answer technical medical questions.