Birth Injuries: Understanding Liability

If your child was injured during birth, during gestation, or while receiving postpartum care, you may be struggling to understand where you can turn for compensation and direction so you can care for your baby. Birth injuries sometimes are not preventable, but other times they occur because of human error, poor decision making, or improper care.How can you know whether someone is liable for your infant’s injuries? Here’s what you need to know about birth-injury liability and responsibility for damages.

Doctor Liability

Usually after an injury occurs, the first place parents will look is at the doctor. Doctors must make quickly decisions in the delivery room, fully aware that the wrong one could cost more than one person their life. However, mistakes do occur. Doctors are most likely to be liable for birth injuries under the following circumstances.

Mistakes During the Birth Process

Liability increases when mistakes lead to the injury or death of the infant or the mother. For example, a doctor may be responsible for injuries if he or she persists in performing a vaginal delivery even when a baby has a slow heartbeat or shows other signs of distress.

Failure to Follow Normal Standards of Care

A simple example of failure to follow standards would be a doctor’s failing to wash hands between maternity patients and giving a patient a deadly infection as a result.

Improperly Administered Medication

A doctor may be liable if they do not correctly dose anesthesia or other approved medications and the incorrect dosage leads to complications during the birth.

These are just a few examples. A doctor’s doing too little follow-up, doing insufficient monitoring, waiting too long to initiate consent for a Caesarean section, or ignoring symptoms of distress in either mother and baby can all be grounds for a lawsuit.

Hospital Liability

Hospitals can also share in the responsibility for birth injuries. Common reasons for hospital liability include but are not limited to the following.

Lack of Training

The hospital’s hiring a doctor, nurse, or other attendant who doesn’t have sufficient training in birthing children and women’s health can make the hospital liable. Doctors without licenses should never be permitted to provide direct patient care. If an inadequate doctor ends up responsible for a birth injury, the hospital shares in the responsibility for not vetting the employee properly.

Hire of a Historically Negligent Doctor

If a doctor has a history of birth injury or patient negligence, the hospital should not hire them. While many doctors face lawsuits for honest mistakes, those with a rich history of poor patient care should not continue to have access to patients.

Understaffed Maternity Ward

There should always be sufficient staff available to handle basic patient care and emergencies. If a mother or baby dies as a result of improper staffing, the hospital shares in the liability for the patient’s injuries.

Employees Who Don’t Follow Orders

A hospital might be liable for contracting with or employing a care provider that does not follow the orders of the supervising or attending physician. A resident, for example, could be sued for acting outside the authority of the doctor they report to when advising or administering to a pregnant mother.

There are other reasons why a hospital can share liability. For pregnancy and birth, the hospital usually shares some liability in any mistakes made by the care provider because these mistakes have such long-lasting and catastrophic consequences.

Drug Company and Pharmacy Liability

There are several instances where the doctor or hospital may not be at fault at all. Mislabeled prescription medications could cause birth defects that otherwise would not be present. If a drug company did not adequately test a drug before declaring it safe for mother and baby, they could be at fault for injuries, even injuries sustained during birth.

Dosing mistakes, improper directions, drug trials without conclusive results, and marketing can all affect drug and pharmacy liability.

For more information on your particular birth injury case, please contact us at Otorowski,  Morrow & Golden P.L.L.C. We can advise you on which direction your case needs to go to get the compensation you need for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of future income.