The birth of a child is a celebratory event. In most situations, the family can head home after a few days to begin an exciting new chapter. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. When a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional is negligent during the labor and delivery process, there’s the chance the baby could sustain injuries. When that happens, families can seek legal representation from a Chicago birth injury lawyer.
At Thomas Law Offices, we represent clients at times in their lives when they need support the most. Learning your child was injured because of a doctor’s decisions can be devastating, but there are legal options that can help a family recover. When you choose to file a birth injury claim, you’ll be on the path to getting your life back in order and moving forward.
Chicago’s Birth Statistics
In 2018, 144,828 babies were born in Illinois. Nearly 35,000 of those babies were born in Chicago. According to the Illinois Department of Health, birth rates are on the decline and have been for some time.
While Illinois does not track birth injuries and defects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do. According to their research, birth injuries happen in 0.675 percent of births. While that percentage seems low, this means that across the country, 27,000 infants out of the four million born annually will suffer from a birth injury. In regard to congenital disabilities, it’s estimated that three percent of babies are born with birth defects and birth defects cause more than 20% of all infant deaths.
Learning a child was born with an injury or condition is a scary time for new parents. Often, they’re left to deal with the situation and everything it entails on their own. While some birth injuries heal over time and have no lasting effects, others can result in lifelong complications.
When a baby was injured as a result of negligence, families need to understand their legal rights and options. A birth injury lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help families recover their losses after an incident and ensure they have what they need to offer their child a high-quality life.
The Difference Between Birth Injuries and Birth Defects
Understanding the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect is important when you’re looking into options to help your baby. In terms of legal action, you’ll most likely only be able to file a medical malpractice claim if your baby sustained a birth injury.
A congenital disability is something that occurs during pregnancy and affects the fetus while it’s still in utero. In most cases, birth defects are genetic and are not preventable. Common birth defects include congenital heart defects, spina bifida, cleft lip, clubfoot, and sickle-cell disease. While there are surgeries and treatments for some birth injuries, they have long-lasting effects on a child’s physical and mental capabilities.
Birth injuries most typically happen during the labor and delivery process. They are often the result of a medical mistake. Birth injuries happen in a number of situations like when oxygen is cut off to the baby’s brain or when doctors fail to notice infant distress. Problems also occur when doctors order C-sections too late or when delivery equipment is misused.
If you believe your baby was wrongfully injured, you have the right to file a claim against the person or entity that caused the injuries. To do so, you’ll need to be able to prove that negligence played a role in what happened.
How To Know if Your Child Was Injured Due To Medical Malpractice
Birth injuries can be caused by a number of different and sometimes unavoidable factors. Because of that, your best bet at determining what happened to your child and why it happened is to consult a legal professional.
If you know prior to your child’s birth that they’ve been diagnosed with a birth defect that’s not preventable or treatable in vitro, it’s unlikely you’ll have grounds for a personal injury claim. If, however, your pregnancy progresses normally and it’s only after you’ve given birth that your child has been diagnosed with an injury or condition, it’s possible malpractice could have played a role.
Birth Injuries Related to Negligence
While there are situations where complications arise that are not the physician or medical team’s fault in delivery, it’s essential to understand which injuries are often the result of negligence. It’s also important to understand the consequences of an injury and how it could affect a child’s future, so the best care can be provided.
Head and Brain Injuries
Head injuries are the most common because of the nature of labor and delivery. While issues like swelling and bruising of the scalp and scalp scratches are injuries that heal with little to no issues, other injuries have the potential to cause serious complications.
When injuries result in a cephalohematoma, it means that blood is accumulating below the periosteum. Cephalohematomas feel soft and can increase in size. While they can shrink on their own, a pediatrician may need to drain the fluid if it continues to grow or becomes red.
Another injury is a subgaleal hemorrhage. This is when there’s bleeding directly under the scalp. Unlike a cephalohematoma, the blood is not confined to one area and has the potential to spread. If it does, it can result in significant blood loss and shock.
Anytime a newborn experiences bleeding on or around the brain, they’ll be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for monitoring and supportive care. Treatments take place in an attempt to maintain body function and aid in recovery.
A birth-related nerve injury can result in lopsided facial expression, arm or hand weakness, difficulty breathing, or paralysis.
Facial nerve injuries are typically not treated, as the muscle weakness usually resolves by two to three months of age. When a baby favors one side of their body over the other, it’s possible the brachial plexus was injured. This large group of nerves allows motion in arms and hands. There’s also the potential for Erb’s palsy to develop, which is a weakness in the shoulder and elbow. To treat the issue, doctors recommend limiting extreme movements at the shoulder to allow the nerves to heal. If there is no improvement after one or two months, a pediatric neurologist or orthopedist will need to evaluate the situation.
When the phrenic nerve is damaged, a newborn could have difficulty breathing and sometimes require assistance. This injury typically resolves within a few weeks. Injuries to the spinal cord often have more consequences. In some cases, paralysis is possible below the injury site.
The most common fracture during birth is a broken collarbone or clavicle—especially when medical devices are used to aid in delivery. There’s also a chance the upper arm bone or upper leg bone could be broken depending on the direction a baby is born. Doctors usually apply a loose splint to limit movement. Fortunately, most broken bones in babies heal with no further complications.
Soft Tissue Injuries
It’s not uncommon for a newborn’s skin to have minor injuries after delivery. Pressure from contractions can cause swelling and bruising around the eyes or on the face. Fortunately, no treatment is needed for those injuries. However, when instruments are used incorrectly, stress on the newborn can injure the fat under the skin. This can make the skin look red, firm, and raised on areas like the arms, thighs, and trunk.
Maternal or Infant Death
Some birth injuries are so severe they result in the death of the mother or child. For the mother, hemorrhaging and blood loss is a concern if she isn’t properly monitored after birth. Babies are at risk when they’re deprived of oxygen for too long or when instruments like forceps cause serious damage to the skull or brain.
When a new mother or infant’s death is found to have been preventable, the surviving family members can take legal action and file a wrongful death claim to seek recovery for their losses. The attorneys at Thomas Law Offices are prepared to handle situations like that.
Determining the Cause of Birth Injuries
In most cases, families are not aware of the presence of a birth injury until well after the baby has been born. While birth injuries can happen while a woman is pregnant, it’s more likely for a problem to develop slightly before, during, or after labor and delivery. There’s also the fact that some birth injuries do not show instant physical symptoms.
If your child was diagnosed with a condition you believe is related to a birth injury, you’ll need to determine why the injury happened in the first place. This can be challenging, which is why it’s best to work with a Chicago birth injury attorney who can investigate the incident and consult a medical expert. Some of the most common causes of birth injuries we see include:
- Delayed Birth. An infant’s brain is designed to withstand the compression in the birth canal, and it expands again after delivery. The spinal cord and lower central nervous system function in the same way. But babies can experience trauma if they’re in the birth canal for too long. Injuries are typically neurological but can result in physical complications as well.
- Oxygen Deprivation. Lack of oxygen at birth may be related to problems with the placenta, umbilical cord prolapse, preeclampsia or eclampsia, or excessive medication to the other. The long-term effects of oxygen deprivation in a newborn include the development of conditions like cerebral palsy, seizures, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Medical Malpractice. Doctors, nurses, and other members of a patient’s care team are supposed to be on the same page when it comes to delivering a baby and ensuring the baby and mother get the care they need to be as healthy as possible. Miscommunication, inexperience, and general neglect contribute to birth injuries.
To ensure you receive the compensation you need after a birth injury, your claim will need to prove you were wronged. First, we’ll establish the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. Then we’ll explain your injuries and prove how they were caused by negligence with a medical expert’s help. After that, we’ll be able to show what you’re owed and ensure that is what you are awarded.
Understanding the Claims Process
The claims process can be challenging for anyone to understand, but it can seem all the more overwhelming when you’re focused on taking care of your child. The filing and litigation process is complex, but our Chicago attorneys have a strong handle on everything involved. When you meet with us, we’ll explain the process to you, which is likely to include the following:
- Interview. When you reach out to us for a consultation, we’ll complete an intake interview and collect information about your claim to determine if we can help you.
- Medical Record Collection. With any birth injury claim, we’ll request your medical records for review. It’s important to note that this process alone can take anywhere from one to three months.
- Investigation. After we’ve obtained all the relevant records, we can begin our investigation. If we believe the standard of care was violated, we’ll get in touch with medical experts to obtain their opinion as to whether the care you received was inadequate.
- Service of a Notice or Demand. Once we have a statement from a medical expert, we can compile everything we have a serve a demand letter or Notice of Intent to File Suit. The hospital or doctor can elect to discuss a potential resolution before the suit is filed in court. If that happens, it’s possible you could receive a settlement offer and your legal matters would conclude.
While many claims settle outside of court through negotiations, that’s not always possible. If we feel you will not be awarded what you deserve through a settlement, we can pursue a birth injury lawsuit, which will progress as such:
- Filing a case. When you file a case in court, it’s referred to as a complaint. As the injured party, you’ll be seeking recovery and referred to as the plaintiff. The allegedly negligent party is considered the defendant. Along with your complaint, you’ll have to provide the information from the medical experts. Once you’ve filed your complaint, the opposing party will file what is called an answer.
- Discovery. During the discovery, both sides exchange information, documents, and records. This is also when the depositions take place.
- Facilitation or Mediation. Once the discovery phase concludes, the case may go to a facilitator or mediator. Their job is to negotiate between the parties and place a monetary value on the case. Settlement occurs if the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff and the plaintiff accepts.
- Trial. In the event settlement is not possible, the plaintiff has the right to a trial. If it’s a jury trial, both attorneys will pick a jury, and each will give opening arguments. If it’s a bench trial, the judge will sit in place of the jury. After opening arguments, both sides have the opportunity to present their case. Then, closing arguments happen and the judge or jury deliberate to reach a verdict.
No matter how your case progresses, our lawyers will be by your side the entire time. Whether you reach a settlement agreement or pursue a lawsuit, there are certain types of compensation you could be eligible for.
Recovering Compensation for Birth Injuries in Illinois
Filing a birth injury claim allows your family to recover the money you’ve lost as a result of your child’s injury. We’ll conduct a thorough investigation to determine what you’ve lost, so when we seek compensation it will give you what you need to move forward.
There are a number of factors that impact the amount of compensation a plaintiff receives for a birth injury. Some of those factors include the nature and extent of the injury, preexisting ailments or conditions, increased risk of future harm, disfigurement, and disability, or the loss of a normal life.
We’ll take your economic and noneconomic expenses into consideration. This will involve any relevant medical bills, the future cost of care, any lost wages from time you had to take off work because of your child’s injuries, and pain and suffering.
It’s important to note that your claim will need to be filed within the statute of limitations. While most medical malpractice claims in Illinois are limited to being filed within two years of the incident date, a plaintiff has eight years to file in the event of a birth injury. This is because anytime a minor is injured by a doctor, they have eight years to file suit—so long as they do not surpass their 22nd birthday. In the event of a disability, like cerebral palsy, the limitation period does not begin until the disability has been removed. Your lawyer will determine the time limit for your case, so you don’t have to worry about being rendered ineligible for compensation.
The Importance of Working With an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney
If you’re looking for a birth injury lawyer in Chicago, it’s crucial to find one who has successfully helped other clients receive compensation—as well as someone who will be dedicated to your claim and guide through the complicated legal process.
We recognize, that while we’re well versed in both the legal and medical aspects of birth injury cases, we are not medical professionals. Because of that, we have connections to those who have that medical experience—particularly those who are familiar with obstetrics.
Birth injuries claims are different than other areas of personal injury law. It’s wise to a choose lawyer that understands the unique legal and medical factors of your case. Thomas Law Offices specializes in helping clients with medical malpractice claims, so we’re prepared to take on your case next.
Get Help From Thomas Law Offices
When you work with a Chicago birth injury lawyer from Thomas Law Offices, you’ll be able to focus on your family while we handle your legal matter. We understand how hard it can be to face a birth injury’s challenges—especially when life-long complications are involved. To ease those difficulties, we’ll fight to ensure you receive the compensation you need to provide your child with the care that lets them lead as normal a life as possible.
Whether you’re ready to file a claim or you have questions about your options, we’re here to help. Contact our firm to schedule a case evaluation. We’ll go over what you’ve been through and help you determine how best to proceed to secure your future.