Pregnancy and Medical Malpractice
Expecting a baby is often a time of joy for many. However, the added medical needs of an expecting mother can come with challenges. Poor medical care and doctors’ negligence can negatively impact women and babies before or during childbirth, with harmful and potentially fatal consequences. If you, your child, or a loved one were a victim of birth-related medical malpractice, it can be an added stressor in addition to an already challenging time. The best thing to do is get informed and speak with an experienced malpractice attorney. Here, the experts at Peter Angelos Law provide an overview of what you’ll need to know when beginning the process.
A Discussion With Our Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Baltimore: What is pregnancy medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice, or medical negligence, occurs when a doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider fails to provide the standard duty of care to a patient that another similarly skilled, educated, and prudent professional would have under similar circumstances. Medical malpractice can occur within any specialty or practice.
In obstetrics, medical malpractice applies to both care given to the pregnant patient as well as to the baby during pregnancy and birth. Birth-related medical malpractice can be extremely dangerous and have long-term impacts on the quality of life of both the mother and the child. Medical malpractice during childbirth may include:
- Injury to the mother or child during pregnancy or delivery
- Wrongful birth when the parent would have ended or avoided a pregnancy if they had known about birth defects, or
- Wrongful pregnancy when the parents’ attempt to avoid or end a pregnancy fails
What are birth injuries to the mother or infant?
Of every 1,000 infants born in the United States, 6 to 8 of them are born with a birth injury. Nearly 50% of all birth injuries are potentially avoidable through identification of obstetrical and childbirth risk factors and adapting care as needed.
The term birth injury is used as a blanket term to describe a myriad of different physical and cognitive injuries that are suffered during childbirth. Common preventable birth-related injuries include:
- Brachial plexus injuries: Nerve damage that occurs when the baby’s shoulder is stretched as a result of too much force being used to pull the baby through the birth canal.
- Shoulder dystocia: Inappropriate use of a vacuum extractor during delivery.
- Fractured clavicle: Broken collarbone caused by the careless use of forceps, pulling on the baby, or other “rough” delivery techniques.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord: A condition that causes oxygen deprivation to the baby, which can result in brain damage.
- Cerebral palsy: Failure to identify and correct conditions that interrupt the supply of oxygen to the baby’s brain during childbirth.
- Fetal distress: A catch-all term that covers a variety of labor complications often caused by waiting too long to induce labor.
- Excessive maternal blood loss: A post-delivery issue which a doctor negligently fails to monitor.
- Insufficient oxygen intake: Lack of oxygen to the baby pre-and-post-delivery which a doctor negligently fails to monitor.
- Postpartum hemorrhage: Excessive bleeding from the uterus, and the most common cause of maternal death.
- Premature rupture of membranes: Amniotic fluid leaks before labor starts which cause infections in both the mother and the child.
What is wrongful birth?
In a wrongful birth lawsuit, the parent(s) of a child born with severe ailments or birthing complications utilize a medical malpractice lawyer in Baltimore, MD to sue the medical professionals or hospitals. The plaintiffs claim that the defendant either misdiagnosed the fetus’ condition or provided inadequate and negligent genetic counseling about the fetus’ development.
As a result of the negligence, the infant is born with major congenital defects that will require extensive and costly treatment. In these cases, the plaintiffs argue that the healthcare professional failed to notify their patients about known risks or complications with a pregnancy. As a result, they believe they did not have the necessary medical information to determine whether to carry the fetus to term. In these instances, the plaintiff’s attorney needs to prove that had the plaintiff been made aware of the missing medical information, they would likely have not chosen to carry the fetus to term.
What is wrongful pregnancy?
While wrongful birth lawsuits contest the duration of pregnancy and birth with severe congenital defects or disorders, wrongful pregnancy lawsuits are brought when pregnancy results from a negligently-performed sterilization procedure. In these cases, the plaintiff submitted to a medical procedure that would have prevented any future pregnancies, but did not, as it was performed incorrectly. These cases are not medical malpractice suits, but a tort action, which depends on proving the duty owed, the duty that was breached, and factual and proximate causes.
How do I know if I have a birth-related injury malpractice case?
In most instances, victims don’t immediately know whether a sustained injury was caused by medical negligence, as medical professionals will most likely avoid admitting negligence. Because of this, it is imperative you seek legal counsel with a personal injury lawyer in Baltimore, MD if you or your child suffered a birth injury. A team of experienced attorneys will be able to review your unique case and determine if you have a viable medical malpractice claim.
What are the elements of a pregnancy malpractice claim?
A medical malpractice claim against your obstetrician, other caregivers, and/or medical facility must exhibit the standard components of medical malpractice. For a successful lawsuit, your Baltimore medical malpractice attorney will need to prove that:
- The defendant owed a legal duty of care to you and your baby. The defendant can be an obstetrician, physician, nurse, medical facility, pharmaceutical company, and/or medical dress manufacturer,
- The defendant breached that legal duty or standard of care by acting or failing to act in a manner in which a competent, similarly-skilled professional would have, under the circumstances, and
- The defendant’s breach of the duty caused harm to you or your baby.
To establish that birth injuries were caused by the defendant, your medical malpractice lawyer in Baltimore will call expert witnesses to offer input and interpret complex medical procedures and case issues. The extensive network of witnesses that an experienced medical malpractice attorney has access to is just one of the many benefits that come from seeking legal counsel. These witnesses can weigh in on many topics or aspects of the case, including:
- What to expect during a typical pregnancy and delivery,
- What could have been expected in your pregnancy,
- What actually occurred during your pregnancy, including specific descriptions of complications,
- Physical and medical evidence of harm to the baby, and
- Opinion as to whether any harm resulted as a consequence from complications during pregnancy or delivery.
Regardless of the particular circumstances of your case, to recover compensation for a birth injury, it is imperative to demonstrate that the medical providers failed to provide you or your baby with adequate care or advice during pregnancy or delivery. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to advise on how to prove negligence occurred and find the right witnesses to help your case.
What damages can I recover for pregnancy malpractice?
In an instance where a child suffered as a result of an avoidable birth injury, any damages awarded are typically awarded to the child, occasionally in the form of a trust. Two types of damages can be awarded, and are classified as economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to the actual financial costs of the child’s birth injury. Economic compensation includes:
- Medical costs necessary to treat the child for the rest of their life,
- Rehabilitation costs for all types of necessary therapy,
- Lost earnings if the child will not be able to work at all, or if they can only perform certain duties,
- Cost of specialized medical equipment for the child, and
- Lost wages for parents that have to stop working to act as caretakers.
Noneconomic damages are compensation that pays for the experience that the child will endure throughout their life. This encompasses pain and suffering, mental anguish, and psychological trauma for both the child and the parents.
The types and quantity of damages will depend on the unique elements of each case. Consulting with an experienced birth injury lawyer in Baltimore will ensure that you’re receiving the maximum amount of compensation for your claim.
Contact Peter Angelos Law
Suffering from a birth injury can be traumatic to the mother and child, and may have life-long consequences and seeking justice from a large health institution or an experienced doctor may seem intimidating. At Peter Angelos Law, we believe that victims of birth injuries deserve to be heard and that those at fault should be held accountable. If you or someone you love is suffering as the result of a birth-related injury, contact our team today to learn more about your avenues for compensation.