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Which birth injuries can lead to medical negligence claims?

While many Australians use the services of trained medical professionals, the wide range of variables that impact the success of operations and other procedures means things don’t always go to plan.

This is particularly true during childbirth, and any incidents which impact the health of a child or its mother can result in medical negligence claims. In these instances, it’s important that people contact the experts to ensure their birth injury claim is pursued correctly.

Types of birth injuries

Birth injuries are physical injuries to mother, child or both during the birthing process, whether it’s a vaginal or C-section delivery. Birth injury malpractice should be considered if the baby or mother suffers serious injury during delivery.

A C-section can easily lead to medical negligence claims

A C-section is a delicate procedure that carries a number of risks for the people involved. Even minor cases where stitches aren’t performed properly can result in excess scarring that could lead to medical negligence claims, and more serious negligence can result in a birth defect that can follow your child their entire life.

For example, if a practitioner misjudges the size of the child and does not adjust accordingly, it can add significant complications to the procedure and result in a birth injury to the mother or child. Delays in delivering the child can cause oxygen deprivation, leading to a brain injury or a disorder such as cerebral palsy. Carelessness with the incision can cause extreme bleeding for the mother.

Poor placenta management can create serious health concerns

Following the birth of a child, it’s important that doctors follow all necessary procedures to ensure patient safety. However, even standard processes such as removing the placenta can create issues.

In some cases, part of the placenta may be retained, which can cause a range of health issues such as infection or internal haemorrhaging if left undiagnosed. While not all of these conditions are necessarily life-threatening, any example of malpractice that has negatively impacted someone’s health could be the basis for a medical negligence claim.

Failure to diagnose placenta previa, or ignoring signs of placental abruption can endanger both mother and child’s life. Severe bleeding that is ignored or passed off as simply heavy during a birth but which actually signifies placental distress can be cause for a medical negligence claim.

Mistakes with the umbilical cord can lead to strangulation or infection

Even routine practices still carry the risk of medical negligence. Mismanaging the umbilical cord can cause infection making its way into the baby’s body. Premature detachment can also pose risk of infection, or deformity of the navel.

During birth, the position of the umbilical cord can even strangle the unborn child. If doctors don’t diagnose the issue or respond effectively, lack of oxygen can result in permanent brain damage, long-term disability or even death.

Forceps use during a vaginal delivery can cause permanent damage.

If a baby’s head gets stuck, some doctors still use tools to try and draw the infant from the birth canal. This can have extreme risks, so you should always ask about forceps use before the labor starts.

One common cause of a stalled labor is shoulder dystocia, which is when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pubic bone. Trying to pull the baby out can cause a brachial plexus injury, which is damage to the network of nerves running through the shoulder and neck. Nerve damage can cause a host of issues for the baby later in life.

Proving medical malpractice

Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that any other professional in the same position would exercise. Malpractice, also known as professional negligence, is a failure to provide the accepted standard of care causing harm to the plaintiff, whether intentional or not. To prove medical malpractice in a birth injury lawsuit you must cover four points in your case:

  • That the doctor had a clear duty of care
  • That the duty of care was breached
  • That the breach caused harm
  • That the harm requires compensation

Wrongful life v. wrongful birth

A specialized area of medical negligence law deals with a wrongful life or a wrongful birth injury case.

Wrongful birth is a medical negligence claim made against a doctor who failed to prevent the birth of a child that was unwanted or unintended, such as a botched sterilization leading to conception.

Wrongful life is the failure of a doctor to prevent a child from being born with a serious disability, such as a failure to inform parents of a hereditary genetic condition leading to the birth of a child who would have been better off not being born, such as a child with no brain or skull. This can be a serious medical malpractice claim.

The negligence claims process

First, you will need to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer, and start collecting all medical records associated with the birth, going all the way back to preconception care, if applicable.

In most cases, you have three years from the date of the negligence to file a claim. Your birth injury lawyer will find an expert witness who can speak to any failure to carry out the duty of care.

Settlement amounts for birth injury caused by medical negligence can vary widely, and may include the following:

  • Special damages, which are directly related to costs arising from the harm caused including immediate and long-term care for mother and/or child
  • General (pain and suffering) damages, related to the emotional impact of the medical malpractice
  • Punitive damages, typically an additional lump sum awarded by a court in rare circumstances if negligence was extreme or purposeful

 

A brain injury lawsuit can result in a rather large award, since it is presumed the child may need specialised, long-term care for the remainder of their life, including care after the parents have passed away.

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Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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