Birth Injury Lawyer Los Angeles
In the United States, more than 4 million babies are born every year, and the circumstances of how, when, and where they enter the world are always changing.
With millions of babies being born on a yearly basis in the United States, the likelihood of a birth injury, while small on a percentage basis, is significant from a gross magnitude perspective. Even if only 0.1% of births are complicated by a birth injury, such a figure translates to over 4,000 injured babies on a yearly basis.
Birth injuries can be devastating to not only the child but to the parents as well. Typically, birth injuries relate to failure to deliver a baby in a timely manner, failure to properly deliver a baby either vaginally or by c-section, or failure to monitor a baby following delivery.
Most commonly, a birth injury occurs because of the baby’s size or the position of the baby during labor and delivery. A birth injury attorney can help navigate your family through the legal waters.
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is characterized as an injury that occurs to a baby due to the physical pressure of the birthing process and/or as a result of negligence on behalf of the physician and/or medical staff. Most birth injuries happen as the baby moves through the birthing canal. Some are minor and will resolve on their own, with little to no intervention from a doctor. Other injuries are more severe and can put the baby’s health at risk.
Common Conditions Associated with a Difficult Birth
• Large Babies: Also called a Large for Gestational Age (LGA) birth. Babies can be deemed large if they weigh more than nine out of ten (90%) babies. Some children are born larger due to their parents being large, the mother gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy, and/or when the mother has high blood sugar.
• Premature Babies: A premature birth takes place if a baby is born more than three weeks before the mother is estimated to give birth. Premature births can cause complex medical issues for babies.
• Cephalopelvic Disproportion: Otherwise known as CPD, Cephalopelvic disproportion happens when a baby’s body or head is too large to fit through the pelvis of the mother. This typically calls for a Cesarean section to be performed.
• Dystocia: Labor that is difficult and/or obstructed in some way. Characterized by a slower than normal dilation of the cervix or descent of the baby during the birth process. Births that take longer than normal increase the risk of infection and other medical complications in the mother and baby.
• Prolonged Labor: Also called a “failure to progress,” this occurs if labor lasts for more than 20 hours (if a first-time mother) and more than 14 hours if a mother has previously given birth. Prolonged labor can be caused by a large baby, small birthing canal, medication, multiple babies, stress, etc.
• Abnormal Birthing Presentation: Refers to the part of the baby that will appear first through the birth canal. Ideally, a baby will be in the cephalic (vertex) position, which is headfirst. If they are not in the ideal position, it can cause issues such as umbilical cord complications, birth trauma, etc.
Common Birth Injuries
• Caput Succedaneum: When there is noticeable swelling in the baby’s scalp that takes on the appearance of a bump on the head shortly after she or he has been delivered. This typically occurs when there is prolonged pressure on the baby’s head during birth.
• Cephalohematoma: Characterized by blood collecting in one area between the baby’s scalp and head. This is not a rare condition as it happens in one to two percent of all births. It can be caused by a prolonged birth or the use of birthing tools.
• Facial Paralysis: If the cranial nerve is damaged during birth, it can cause partial facial paralysis. It can be caused by a prolonged birth or the incorrect use of forceps by a doctor. In many cases, it can improve within months. However, in extreme cases, it can cause permanent facial paralysis.
• Fractures: Infants have weak skin and bones. This makes them particularly susceptible to broken bones. If fractures occur during the birth process, it is usually a sign that something went wrong during the delivery.
• Brachial Palsy: This happens when the brachial plexus nerves have been damaged. When damaged, a baby may have trouble moving their arms. It can happen during birth and may heal on its own; however, in serious cases, this can lead to lifelong disability and/or paralysis.
• Cerebral Palsy: In extreme cases, where a baby is denied oxygen during the birth process, the baby can be delivered with cerebral palsy, which is perhaps the most catastrophic injury that can happen to a baby. Cerebral Palsy is considered a neurological disorder generated by a malformation or non-progressive brain injury (including oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or birth) that transpires while the child’s brain is developing. Cerebral Palsy primarily impairs muscle coordination, muscle control, muscle tone, body movement, posture, reflex, and balance. This injury can also affect fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and oral motor functioning.
How to Identify a Birth Injury
Identifying a birth injury can be difficult. In general, if you notice any abnormalities in your baby’s physical condition, breathing, excessive crying, etc. then it may be a sign that they have suffered a birth injury. It is best to have your baby seen by a physician the moment that you suspect any issues.
Birth Injuries vs Birth Defects – What’s the Difference?
A birth defect happens while the child is still in the womb, and is usually a result of chromosomal abnormalities or an abnormal anatomical problem that occurs within the uterus. A birth injury, by contrast, occurs during labor or while the baby is being delivered. Birth injuries may be caused by the negligence of a doctor and/or medical staff or by an unavoidable natural consequence of birth.
When a Birth Injury is Medical Malpractice
Birth injuries are considered medical malpractice when they happen as a direct result of the actions or inactions of a doctor or medical staff during the delivery process that deviates from accepted medical practices.
Why Negligent Birth Injuries Happen
Negligent birth injuries happen when a physician and/or medical staff fail to diagnose or treat a particular circumstance with an appropriate level of care. This can include injuries encountered during the birthing process, botched hysterectomies that cause a wrongful pregnancy prior to the birthing process, a misdiagnosis of a medical condition in the mother and/or child, misuse of birth-assisting equipment, neglecting to perform a C-section when necessary, etc.
Laws in California
Birth injury laws typically fall under the purview of personal injury in California. Under California’s MICRA law, injured patients can only sue for a maximum of $250,000 for pain and suffering. However, patients can still recover significant damages for other economic harm such as a loss of earnings, benefits due to prolonged disabilities, and the cost of all necessary future medical care, which can cost millions of dollars in severe birth injury cases.
Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury
The statute of limitations for birth injuries can range anywhere from six months to eight years for an injured infant. If an infant is injured in a non-governmental institution, the applicable statute of limitations is eight years. However, if the child was born at a California public health facility (such as a state-operated hospital), the applicable statute of limitations may be as short as six months. If you are unsure of the applicable deadline to file your claim, you should contact a Los Angeles birth injury attorney immediately.
How Can an Attorney Help You?
A birth injury attorney can help you determine whether or not you have a viable birth injury case. They can then help with evidence collection, developing expert witness lists, and proposing a settlement amount. They will also play an important role in negotiating a settlement or taking the case to court if a settlement agreement cannot be reached.
Dr. Kramer is a licensed California birth injury lawyer who specializes in birth injuries AND a medical doctor with decades of experience handling birth injury cases in California. This means he can evaluate birth injuries in a way few attorneys can. If your child was injured as a result of a birth injury, please call our office to speak with an attorney at 310-289-2600, so we can help you get the maximum available compensation for your injuries.