You just had a baby, and after the excitement, stress, and worry you probably experienced during your pregnancy, labor and delivery, the last thing you want to hear is that your baby suffered a birth injury. Birth injuries can occur from complications during the labor and delivery process, or result from improper prenatal medical care. FindLaw's Birth Injury section provides in-depth information about birth injuries and the legal rights of those who have suffered harm. In this section, you can also find pregnancy safety resources and links to birth injury resources.
Birth Injury vs. Birth Defect
It can be hard at first to determine if certain complications were caused by a birth defect or a birth injury. For example, cerebral palsy can be caused by a lack of oxygen during labor, which is an avoidable birth injury, or it can be the result of an unavoidable birth defect. It's important to determine if your baby has suffered a birth injury or has been born with a birth defect because you might be able to recover for a birth injury, but not necessarily for a birth defect.
A birth injury is usually defined as an injury that occurs to the baby during labor or delivery. Not all birth injuries will result in a successful legal claim, as sometimes they occur despite a doctor's use of reasonable and competent skill. However, if a birth injury occurred because of a doctor's improper medical technique or improper use of a medical device during labor or delivery, chances are you have a valid legal claim against the doctor.
Although birth injuries are usually defined as an injury occurring during labor or delivery, a birth injury claim might be available if a baby suffers harm as a result of a doctor's prenatal care. If a prescription drug, which was taken under the guidance and care of a doctor or pharmacist, causes injury to a baby, it's possible to have a birth injury claim against the doctor or pharmacist as well as the drug manufacturer.
Birth defects usually occur as a result of harm to a baby during pregnancy. Birth defects can occur for a variety of reasons from genetics to drug or alcohol use during pregnancy. Birth defects can also occur from unknown reasons. Because there are so many factors that could cause birth defects, it's usually hard to have a successful legal claim if a baby is born with a birth defect.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Birth Injury?
Depending on the circumstances, a birth injury claim can include not only the doctor, but also the hospital, nurses, anesthesiologists, and pharmaceutical companies. If a nurse, anesthesiologist, or other medical professional assisted the doctor during the act that caused a birth injury, and they contributed to the injury, it's possible that they will be held liable for the birth injury as well.
In addition to a doctor's support staff, it's possible that a hospital can be held liable as well. Hospitals can be held liable because of their own negligence or "vicariously liable" for their employees' actions. Generally, employers can be held vicariously liable for their employees' actions if the employees' actions occurred within the scope of their employment.
If the birth injury occurred because of a prescription drug, a birth injury claim can be filed against the drug manufacturer. Generally, the pharmaceutical manufacturer's duty to the consumer is to ensure that the drug is reasonably safe when used as intended. If the pharmaceutical manufacturer fails to adequately warn a physician of a drug's dangers, the manufacturer could be held liable under the product liability theory of failure to warn. Because a manufacturer's primary duty is to the doctor, and the doctor is an intermediary between the manufacturer and the patient, it can sometimes be difficult to successfully sue a drug manufacturer for a birth injury.
Hiring a Lawyer
If you are in a situation where a birth injury has occurred, it might be a good idea to consult with a lawyer to evaluate whether or not there is a potential legal claim. Birth injury cases can be complex and involve deadlines for filing a lawsuit, therefore it's in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney as soon as you can after the injury has occurred.