Serving Clients in Birth Trauma Claims in Vancouver and Throughout British Columbia
Every parent hopes for a healthy child. Unfortunately, many families throughout British Columbia have their lives turned upside-down each year by injuries their baby sustains before, during, or after birth.
Many birth injuries can be avoided when doctors and other medical professionals are prompt and diligent in protecting mother and baby. However, errors in prenatal care, during delivery, and after the baby is born can result in a lifetime of hardship for the child and his or her family.
If your child suffered birth injury and you suspect negligence on the part of one or more healthcare providers, contact Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free case evaluation. Our medical malpractice lawyers serve clients in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, and other areas of British Columbia.
What Are Common Birth Injuries?
Some birth injuries resolve on their own within weeks or months of birth. Traumatic injuries, however, may result in serious complications as well as long-term or permanent disability.
Babies are at risk for a wide range of birth injuries due to medical errors and negligence. Some of the most serious cases involve the following:
Shoulder Dystocia and Brachial Plexus Injuries
Shoulder dystocia can occur during labour when the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped within the birth canal. A doctor, midwife, or other birthing professional can relieve shoulder dystocia through specialized manoeuvres that reposition the baby for delivery.
Failure to perform these manoeuvres as well as improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor may damage the brachial plexus nerves in the shoulder. These nerves control the motions of the shoulders, arms, and hands. Injury to the brachial plexus may result in Erb’s palsy (weakness, dysfunction, and/or paralysis of the affected arm) or Krumpke’s palsy (weakness, dysfunction, and/or immobility of the affected hand).
Bone Fractures During Labour
Multiple bones are at risk of breaking in the event of a traumatic birth. Some of the most common birth injury fractures include:
- Broken clavicle (the collarbone)
- Broken humerus (the upper arm bone)
- Broken femur (the thigh bone)
- Skull fracture
- Fractured orbital (the eye socket)
With proper care, babies who suffer bone fractures during labour may experience no long-term effects. However, untreated and complex breaks can limit mobility and motor skills and hinder the baby’s development.
Fractures of the skull are not the only injury a baby’s head may sustain. Prolonged labour and misuse of instruments like vacuum extractors and forceps may result in bruising or scratching of the scalp. Depending on the severity of the trauma, the brain may be damaged as well.
Types of birth-related head injuries include:
- Cephalohematoma: Occurs when blood vessels between the skull bone and its outer membrane are ruptured. Localized swelling of the scalp is noticeable. Cephalohematomas typically subside on their own with no long-term effects, although a large accumulation of blood can increase the risk of more serious conditions such as jaundice and anemia.
- Caput succedaneum: A caput succedaneum may form if the head is subject to intense or lengthy periods of pressure during labour. This buildup of fluid beneath the scalp is generally harmless, although medical professionals should monitor the baby for bruising and other issues.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage: A subconjunctival hemorrhage may be observable in one or both of a baby’s eyes after birth. Broken blood vessels may give the eye a red or bloodshot appearance. Although this condition is harmless on its own, subconjunctival hemorrhage may be a sign of trauma to the baby’s head and/or face during labour.
- Subgaleal hemorrhage: Unlike a cephalohematoma, where bleeding is confined to a relatively small space, a subgaleal hemorrhage can result in widespread bleeding between the skull bone and the underlying tissue of the scalp. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
In addition to trauma to the top of the head, injury to a baby’s face during labour and delivery may also carry long-term consequences. For example, if the baby’s facial nerves are damaged, parts of the face may become paralyzed.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxia is the medical term for oxygen deprivation. If a baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen for too long (due to untreated infections, umbilical cord entanglement, prolonged labour, and other issues), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) may occur.
Brain damage caused by HIE can have wide-ranging effects. Children who suffer HIE may experience breathing difficulties, abnormal muscle tone, and seizures. Delays in development may be noticeable later in life.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious birth injuries. Babies who suffer damage to the brain (whether in utero, during labour, or shortly after being born) may develop cerebral palsy.
The condition is characterized by a lack of muscle control, resulting in muscles that are overly stiff or too relaxed. Children with CP may experience lifelong issues affecting their mobility, coordination, balance, posture, speech, sensory perception, cognitive abilities, and more. Some patients with cerebral palsy also suffer from tremors and seizures.
Parents may be unable to recognize the signs of cerebral palsy until their child struggles with development milestones such as rolling over, crawling, walking, and talking. If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, an experienced birth injury lawyer can review medical records to identify potential negligence that may have resulted in trauma to your child’s brain.
What Are the Causes of Birth Injuries?
Some birth injuries are not “predictable,” resulting instead due to errors in the delivery room. However, in other cases the risk factors for birth injury may be known in advance.
Some of the factors that may increase the risk of a birth injury include:
- Maternal obesity: If the mother has a body mass index of 30 or higher, the risk of complications during pregnancy increases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
- Fetal macrosomia: This is the medical term for a baby that is overly large (9 pounds or heavier), making vaginal birth more difficult or inadvisable.
- Gestational diabetes: Some women may develop diabetes in the course of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of preeclampsia (a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by high blood pressure) as well as preterm birth and respiratory distress in babies.
- Breach birth: Birth injuries are more likely if the baby is not positioned to exit the birth canal head-first. A breach birth occurs when the baby is delivered feet-first, which may result in the fetus being deprived of oxygen.
- Cephalopelvic disproportion: Significant disparity between the size of the baby and the mother’s pelvis may result in complicated labour.
- Maternal infection: Undiagnosed and unmanaged infections in the mother may increase the likelihood of birth defects.
- Premature birth: Babies born before they reach full term may require hospitalization in the neonatal intensive care unit to overcome developmental deficits. Even with proper care, babies born prematurely are at risk for a range of birth defects and injuries.
When obstetricians and other practitioners fail to account for these issues, the risk of harm to the mother as well as the baby increases.
Obstetrics is the medical specialty concerned with providing care for expectant mothers and their babies. An obstetrician (OB) or obstetrician-gynaecologist (OBGYN) has a number of responsibilities to the mother and her baby during the course of pregnancy and through labour and delivery.
Unfortunately, negligence on the part of an obstetrician or OBGYN can lead to birth injuries and endanger the mother. Examples of obstetric malpractice include:
- Failure to perform prenatal screenings that could reveal serious birth defects
- Errors in monitoring the development of the fetus
- Failure to diagnose and manage gestational diabetes
- Failure to diagnose and manage maternal infections
- Misuse of fertility drugs
- Errors in the administration of pitocin and other labour-inducing drugs
- Failure to monitor fetal distress
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failure to order a cesarean section
As you can see, obstetric and OBGYN malpractice can occur at any point during pregnancy and birth. If you suspect negligence harmed you and/or your child, it is important to contact a birth injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Errors in Newborn Care
Newborn babies may also suffer birth injuries due to errors in neonatal care. Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common in cases where a birth injury arises from negligence in the precious early stages of a baby’s life.
Conditions that can pose a serious risk to a baby’s health without prompt diagnosis and proper treatment include:
- Jaundice: Jaundice occurs when the blood has too much bilirubin, a byproduct of the body’s breakdown of red blood cells. It is characterized by a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice in babies should always be taken seriously; excess bilirubin can result in kernicterus, a condition that can lead to brain damage.
- Hypoglycemia: Newborns with untreated low blood sugar may have trouble breathing, suffer from seizures, and more.
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN): PPHN occurs when the blood vessels in a baby’s lungs do not get enough oxygen. Insufficient oxygen (hypoxia) can damage the brain and other parts of the body.
- Seizures: Neonatal seizures can have a variety of causes. If your child suffered a birth injury during labour or developed a serious condition after birth, timely diagnosis is crucial.
Many of these conditions may be detectable in the first hours or days after a baby is born. The negligence of medical staff in these crucial moments may lead to serious injuries that can affect children throughout their lives.
Who Is Liable for Birth Injuries?
Depending on the circumstances, one or more medical practitioners may be at fault for the injuries you and/or your child suffered. Our birth injury lawyers will thoroughly investigate your case to identify errors in care and the individuals and/or institutions responsible.
Birth injury claims may be brought against:
- Obstetricians and OBGYNs
- Midwives and doulas
You may also be able to file a claim against the hospital that employs a doctor, nurse, or other member of staff whose negligence harmed you or your baby.
Building a Birth Injury Claim
Birth injury claims are complex. When you and your loved ones are trying to process the ramifications that your child’s birth injury will have on you and your family, the last thing you should have to worry about is handling a legal claim.
The birth injury lawyers at Klein Lawyers can take the following steps on your behalf:
- Reviewing medical records for the mother and child, including prenatal care, labour, delivery, and neonatal care
- Hiring expert witnesses to assess the nature of the birth injury and its long-term or permanent effects on your child’s life
- Identifying the birth errors that may have led to the injury, as well as the practitioner or practitioners who may be at fault
- Calculating the current and future damages in your claim
It is important to understand that not all birth injuries are the result of medical negligence. However, if malpractice was a factor in the harm your child suffered, our team will investigate thoroughly and pursue the compensation you and your family deserve.
What Damages Are Recoverable for a Birth Injury?
One of the most complicated aspects of a birth injury claim is accurately calculating the damages you and your family are facing. Unlike many other injury claims, the majority of the losses extend years or even decades into the future.
Testimony by expert witnesses is crucial for establishing the financial impact of a birth injury as well as the non-economic losses the child and his or her family may suffer. You and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation for the following damages:
- The present and future cost of medical expenses not covered by the Medical Services Plan (therapies, treatments, home-based healthcare, assistive devices, travel for medical appointments, etc.)
- Pain and suffering resulting from physical injuries, cognitive deficiencies, psychological distress, etc.
- Loss of earning capacity
- Lost wages of parents when caring for their child prevents them from working
If your child tragically died as a result of a birth injury, you and other members of your family may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. Damages you may be able to recover through a birth injury wrongful death claim include medical expenses, funeral and burial or cremation expenses, loss of society and companionship, and more.
Contact Our Birth Injury Lawyers Today
Birth injuries can have a devastating impact on families. Children who suffer birth trauma may experience lifelong challenges, and parents may struggle under the financial pressures and emotional difficulties of raising a disabled child.
If you believe your child suffered a birth injury due to the negligence of medical professionals involved in prenatal care, labour, delivery, or caring for your child after he or she was born, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Klein Lawyers has been serving clients throughout British Columbia for over 20 years. Our team has experience handling complex medical malpractice claims, and we will pursue the full compensation you and your family deserve.
Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free case review. Our birth injury lawyers serve clients in and around Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Langley.