There are few things in life that are more momentous than welcoming the birth of a new child. While most Illinois parents are able to bring home healthy children soon after birth, not everyone is so fortunate. Birth injuries as the result of medical negligence can cause a lifetime of harm to both children and their families. At Thomas Law Offices, our Chicago birth injury lawyers work tirelessly for families who are seeking justice for their children harmed due to medical errors.
If your child was injured during the labor and delivery process, we can help you file a birth injury claim. Compensation secured through this type of medical malpractice lawsuit can be vital for supporting your child’s ongoing medical needs.
Illinois Birth Statistics
In 2010, there were 164,998 births in Illinois. By 2019, the number of births had dropped to 140,145. In Cook County alone, there were 26,147 babies born that year.
Birth injuries occur in approximately seven out of every 1,000 live births. While this might seem relatively low, it is important to put it into perspective. Taking this figure into account for 2019, there were an estimated 1,154 birth injuries in Illinois. That is 1,154 families dealing with the aftermath of a serious and potentially lifelong injury that could have been prevented had proper medical care been provided at the time of birth.
The Difference Between Birth Injuries and Birth Defects
A birth injury is an injury that occurs during childbirth that in most cases could have been prevented. Oxygen deprivation, delayed birth, and other negligent acts are often the cause of such injuries.
A birth defect is a health problem that develops during a woman’s pregnancy while the baby is still growing and developing. Birth defects are not the result of a doctor or other medical professional’s actions and as such, are not preventable. Parents cannot seek compensation for birth defects, although it is possible to file a medical malpractice case for a child who was born with both birth defects and birth injuries.
Examples of birth defects include:
- Orofacial clefts
- Down syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Certain heart conditions, including tetralogy of Fallot and hypoplastic left heart syndrome
When a birth injury occurs in conjunction with a birth defect, you may face an uphill battle to secure compensation for your child’s personal injury. A Chicago birth injury attorney can help you accurately value your medical malpractice claim.
The Role of Medical Negligence in Birth Injuries
Doctors and other medical professionals have a duty of care to their patients. This duty of care means that doctors are legally obligated to provide treatment that aligns with currently accepted standards of care. When Chicago personal injury attorneys are considering whether a doctor’s actions met that duty of care, they will ask whether they acted in a way that any reasonable physician would under the same or similar circumstances.
Obstetrician gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are the specialists who care for pregnant women. Their duty of care extends throughout the woman’s entire pregnancy, into the labor and delivery process, and even the weeks following birth.
Most birth injuries are the result of obstetricians failing to meet the standard of care before, during, or after childbirth. Ways in which a doctor might fail to meet the standard of care for a woman and her baby during labor include failure to:
- Place a woman on bed rest.
- Monitor the baby’s oxygen levels.
- Perform a cesarean section in a timely manner.
- Notice signs of fetal distress.
- Notice signs of maternal exhaustion
- Assess a newborn’s condition.
A child’s birth injury can affect their overall health and quality of life. Many require ongoing and even lifelong medical care, which can be expensive, physically debilitating, and mentally exhausting. When medical mistakes lead to a child’s injury, the Chicago birth injury lawyers at Thomas Law Offices work to ensure they receive compensation for future medical expenses.
The Most Common Types of Birth Injuries
Some birth injuries are only minor in nature and may heal on their own in a matter of days or weeks. Children who have suffered more severe, devastating birth injuries will not recover this quickly or necessarily at all. When a child suffers one of the following forms of birth trauma, they may face a lifetime of medical complications.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
A brachial plexus birth injury affects the network of nerves that affect muscle control and feeling in the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. A newborn may suffer a brachial plexus injury if their neck is stretched too far to one side during the birthing process as they are forced incorrectly through the birth canal. Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include:
- Lack of movement in the shoulder and elbow
- Weak grip
- Limpness in the shoulder or arm
Neurosurgery is often necessary to correct more severe forms of brachial plexus injuries, which are also referred to as Erb’s palsy, brachial plexus birth palsy, facial nerve palsy, and neonatal brachial plexus palsy depending on the location of the nerve damage. Ongoing physical therapy is also necessary.
While there are multiple causes of cerebral palsy, brain trauma in the form of birth injuries is one of the most common causes. Depending on the severity of a child’s injury, a medical professional might diagnose:
- Spastic cerebral palsy
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
- Ataxic cerebral palsy
- Mixed cerebral palsy
Symptoms will vary, but all children with this type of serious injury will have trouble with both movement and posture. Many people with cerebral palsy require specialized equipment to walk or must use a wheelchair instead. On the mild end of the spectrum, a cerebral palsy victim might be able to live independently, while on the more severe end, they will require lifelong care.
More severe cases of cerebral palsy also cause permanent brain damage. Intellectual problems, seizures, and changes in the spine are not uncommon. Our Chicago birth injury attorneys have also worked with families whose children have developed hearing, speech, and vision problems alongside their cerebral palsy.
When one or both of a baby’s shoulders becomes stuck in their mother’s pelvis during labor, it is called shoulder dystocia. This is a type of birth injury that can cause serious harm to both the child and the mother.
While stuck, the baby’s umbilical cord is often squeezed, cutting off oxygen supplies which may cause permanent brain damage and neurological disorders. In addition to brain injuries, babies who suffer shoulder dystocia during birth may also experience:
- Fractured collarbone
- Fractured upper arm
- Speech problems
- Nerve damage to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers
Shoulder dystocia is far from an uncommon birth injury and occurs in as many as 3% of pregnancies. That’s about 3 out of every 100 births.
Hypoxia occurs any time that a baby’s oxygen is either limited or cut off during labor. Any lack of oxygen to a newborn’s brain can cause fetal distress and serious brain damage. Hypoxia is also a factor in many of the most common birth injuries, including hypoxic brain injuries and cerebral palsy.
Other Common Birth Injuries
At Thomas Law Offices, we have helped families file birth injury lawsuits to recover compensation for medical bills and expenses. We know that in many cases, all it would have taken was one doctor to notice something was wrong and to provide proper medical care to prevent a serious birth injury.
Our Chicago birth injury attorneys are experienced in filing medical malpractice claims for the above and other types of birth injuries, including:
- Forceps injuries
- Caput succedaneum (swelling of soft tissue in the scalp)
- Cephalohematoma (bleeding on the skull that appears as a raised lump on the head)
- Facial paralysis
- Spinal cord injuries
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage (small blood vessel breakage in the eyes)
An injured child who was harmed due to the negligence of a doctor deserves to be fairly compensated for their injuries. When you contact our law firm to file a medical malpractice case, we can help you hold medical professionals responsible for their actions. We know what it takes to prove that an injury occurred and how it was the result of a doctor’s negligence.
The loss of a child is a truly unimaginable loss. The mental pain that many parents suffer when fatal birth injuries occur can easily overtake everything else in life. The birth injury attorneys at Thomas Law Offices know how sensitive this matter can be, and how important it is to work with the correct lawyer. If you are searching for the right fit, we offer a free consultation to families who want to file a wrongful death lawsuit after their child suffered birth injuries.
Risk Factors for Birth Injuries
The success of birth injury cases hinges on showing that an obstetrician’s or other health care professional’s negligence caused a child’s birth injury. Negligence may involve failing to identify risk factors that put some women and babies at an elevated risk for suffering serious injuries during labor. Birth injury attorneys will work to show that the risk factors were not the only cause of the birth injury, but instead that a doctor’s failure to notice or intervene with the risk factor led to harm.
Risk factors that our law firm frequently sees in birth injury cases include:
- Babies with high birth weights
- Babies who are breech (meaning they are positioned feet first rather than head first)
- Premature labor
- The shape or size of the mother’s pelvis or birth canal
- Long labor or weak contractions
- Use of certain devices, including forceps and vacuum
The presence of any of the above risk factors does not mean that it is not possible to file birth injury lawsuits. Medical professionals are supposed to identify any possible risk factors for pregnant women and make interventions necessary.
How Do Chicago Birth Injury Lawyers Help?
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is complex. There are many steps involved, and the average person might find it difficult to handle all the complexity and nuances that are required for a successful birth injury claim. There are three main things that must be established:
- There was a client-patient relationship, meaning that the doctor owed a duty of care to the mother and her baby.
- The doctor failed to meet that duty of care and did not act in a way that any other health care provider would have reasonably acted in a similar situation.
- That failure caused the birth injury.
A birth injury attorney at Thomas Law Offices can demonstrate the above in your birth injury case. We understand the types of serious injuries that newborns who have been harmed by doctors often suffer, including the future harm that is so often inflicted.
Not all birth injuries are immediately apparent, though. For example, if your child suffered a brain injury, it is possible that symptoms will not surface until they begin to miss common milestones, like babbling or rolling over.
Many parents also go on a lengthy journey to find their child’s diagnosis. When working with birth injury claims, it is not uncommon for us to speak with families who spent years going to different doctors before finally receiving the correct diagnosis.
According to Illinois law, you have up to eight years from the date of the injury to file a birth injury claim. This is longer than the two-year statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim. In some situations, the statute of limitations may extend until the child’s 22nd birthday, as some injuries are not apparent until they are older.
Eight years might seem like a long period of time, but it can pass by much quicker than you realize. Do not let this time pass you by; contact Thomas Law Offices to schedule your free consultation.
Compensation You Can Recover in a Birth Injury Lawsuit
Accurately valuing a birth injury claim can be complicated. Birth injury victims often require lifelong care, including specialists, full-time caregivers, and specialized equipment. You have the right to seek compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are the financial and economic costs incurred by a personal injury like a birth injury. Economic damages might include:
- Medical bills for doctors’ appointments
- The cost of mobility aids, like walkers and wheelchairs
- Travel expenses to appointments
- Lost income if you have to leave your job to care for your child
Noneconomic damages cover things like emotional trauma, anguish, and physical pain and suffering. This type of compensation is meant to compensate victims of birth injuries and their families for damages that do not necessarily have a financial and economic component.
Properly valuing noneconomic damages is not easy, and it is not uncommon for insurance companies to try to downplay how much victims are truly owed for their injuries. Our lawyers will dedicate their time and expertise to truly understanding your situation and how it has affected your life in order to determine how much you are owed in noneconomic damages.
We’re Experienced Chicago Birth Injury Attorneys
The birth injury lawyers at Thomas Law Offices have decades of experience representing victims and their families who have been harmed by medical professionals. We also know how important it is to have an attorney-client relationship that is built on trust and respect. When you choose to work with our law firm, you are making the choice to align yourself with attorneys who will work tirelessly to prove that a doctor’s negligence caused your child’s birth injury.
Your child’s life matters. If they were harmed as the result of a doctor’s or other health care professional’s negligent actions, contact Thomas Law Offices today to schedule your free evaluation. We serve Chicago, Cook County, and other areas in Illinois.