What Is a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Birth injury lawsuits are a type of legal action that may help families — those affected by cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, or other conditions — receive financial compensation. These lawsuits are filed against the doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel who may be responsible for a child’s injuries.
During a birth injury lawsuit, lawyers representing both sides build cases and then try to come to an agreement to end the case.
Many families work with skilled lawyers who have taken on similar cases in the past. These birth injury lawyers file cases and work to get families an appropriate amount of money to cover their expenses — and their pain and suffering.
While each birth injury lawsuit is different, some suits have awarded millions to cover medical expenses like surgery, medications, therapy, and other birth injury care costs.
Birth Injuries Caused by a Breach of Duty of Care
Doctors have a responsibility to keep their patients safe. This is known as their duty of care. Yet, some doctors cause harm during the birthing process through mistakes or poor medical decisions. Many preventable birth injuries have occurred due to a breach of duty of care.
Failing to uphold the duty of care may involve:
- Not performing an emergency C-section
- Misdiagnosing a medical condition that causes harm to patients
- Providing improper medications before, during, or after childbirth
Though easily preventable, breaches in the duty of care cause birth injuries that may leave your child disabled for the rest of their life. Other birth injuries can lead to death.
Doctors who breach their duty of care must be held accountable for their actions — for this reason, many families have filed birth injury lawsuits.
Why File a Birth Injury Lawsuit
If your child has suffered from a birth injury, consider filing a lawsuit. It may be your only way to take action against this often-preventable tragedy.
Through a birth injury lawsuit, you may:
- Cover your expenses: Care costs for severe birth injuries can drive families into bankruptcy. For example, health care costs for children with cerebral palsy were 10-26 times greater than those without the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Get justice: Successful birth injury lawsuits hold the doctors who delivered your child financially responsible for the harm done. In this sense, birth injury lawsuits may help provide closure and justice.
- Help others: Through a lawsuit, more families can learn the dangers of birth injuries and the doctors who cause them, keeping other at-risk mothers and fetuses safe.
Above all else, birth injury lawsuits can help your family regain a sense of control that incompetent doctors took away from you.
How Can a Birth Injury Lawsuit Help?
Birth injury lawsuits can help families affected by medical negligence before, during, or shortly after childbirth.
Successful lawsuits award families financial compensation to pay for:
- Adaptive equipment and home modifications
- Emotional damages (such as pain, suffering, or loss of companionship)
- Medical costs (including past and future expenses)
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Other health care-related expenses
These financial benefits can help your family gain a sense of structure after a birth injury diagnosis and improve your child’s overall quality of life. Birth injury medical treatments are usually very costly, and compensation can help to ease the financial burden.
Life Care Planning
Some birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy, will remain with a child for the rest of their lives.
During a birth injury lawsuit, your legal can map out the projected costs of your child’s care through what’s called a life care plan. If your case is successful, you may be awarded compensation to cover these expenses.
Most life care plans take the form of a legal document that estimates future care costs using current data and research. In some cases, you and your lawyer may work with a life care planner to estimate these costs.
When Should You File a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, the sooner you file a birth injury lawsuit, the better. The best time to file a lawsuit depends on when your child is diagnosed with a birth injury and if you think a doctor’s incompetence caused it.
Other factors also affect when to file a birth injury lawsuit. For example, some states require an affidavit — a statement confirmed by oath — from a medical professional before taking legal action. You may also need evidence that shows how a doctor was responsible for your child’s injuries.
Birth Injury Statute of Limitations
One of the biggest factors in filing a birth injury lawsuit is the statute of limitations, laws that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
The statute of limitations varies for each state, with most limiting lawsuits to a couple of years after you link the birth injury to poor medical care.
Once the statute of limitations runs out, you can never file a lawsuit, even if you have a valid case otherwise.
To file a birth injury lawsuit within the statute of limitations, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Experienced birth injury lawyers understand the statutes of limitations for each state, and without a lawyer’s help, it may be difficult to properly file a suit within these limits.
Types of Birth Injury Lawsuits
Birth injury lawsuits typically fall under two categories. If the baby suffered significant injuries that affect their quality of life, lawyers file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors in question.
On the other hand, some birth injuries lead to a baby’s death. If this is the case, lawyers will file a wrongful death lawsuit. Learn more about the types of birth injury lawsuits below.
Medical Malpractice Birth Injury Lawsuits
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or nurse makes a decision that goes against the care provider’s professional standards and, ultimately, harms a patient.
Doctors and nurses underwent rigorous medical schooling and likely have years (if not decades) of experience caring for mothers and newborns. They should know the consequences of medical malpractice, but some still make poor decisions with lasting consequences.
For example, in 2019, a jury awarded a mother $50 Million after her son was born with severe brain damage. Doctors did not perform an emergency C-section, even though it could have been safer than normal childbirth. As a result, the boy cannot walk, speak, or eat on his own.
Wrongful Death Birth Injury Lawsuits
While it can be hard to imagine childbirth leading to a baby’s death, it still happens every year, and some of these deaths could have been prevented. Wrongful death birth injury lawsuits can occur if a doctor makes a fatal mistake before, during, or shortly after delivery.
For example, a pregnant woman died after doctors failed to treat her for extremely high blood pressure and swelling, according to a lawsuit filed in August 2019. Her child was born without brain function and was taken off life support. The woman’s mother and fiance are now seeking unspecified financial compensation through legal action.
What to Expect in a Birth Injury Lawsuit
When you file a birth injury lawsuit, you can expect your lawyers to build a case against the doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals who delivered your child. Skilled birth injury lawyers will do their best to get you the compensation needed to cover your child’s expenses.
From there, you can expect your lawyers and the lawyers representing those at fault to try to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties. If this does not happen, the case will go to trial.
Birth Injury Lawsuit Process
Most lawsuits generally follow the same process. After getting in contact with a birth injury lawyer, the lawsuit process typically consists of building a case and working toward financial compensation.
That being said, each case is different. Depending on the circumstances, some lawsuits will not reach every step in the overall process. Get an in-depth look at the lawsuit process below.
1. Send a Demand Letter
You and your lawyer may try to see if the doctors in question will provide compensation before formally filing a lawsuit. In these cases, your lawyer will send a demand letter to the doctor and their lawyers or insurance company.
Demand letters explain why you believe the doctor caused a birth injury and how much compensation your child will need as a result.
Demand letters are helpful because, if a doctor agrees to the terms, you can receive compensation without having to file the lawsuit at all — saving you and the doctor time.
However, if your child needs extremely expensive medical care, a doctor may refuse to pay without a lawsuit.
2. Build Your Case
If a doctor rejects your demand letter — or you decide not to file one — your lawyer will prepare to file a formal lawsuit.
To start, lawyers will need to gather any and all information you have that could help your case. This will allow your lawyer to establish the basic facts, and it will give them a way to estimate the value of your case.
3. File a Lawsuit
Once the basic facts have been established, your lawyer will file the case in its appropriate court of law. When a lawsuit is filed, you and your family become the plaintiffs (those taking legal action). The doctor, nurses, or other medical staff who may have caused the injury become the defendants (those being sued).
A court will process the lawsuit and then send a copy to the defendants, who have a specified number of days to respond. If they do not reply, you win the case automatically.
4. Discovery Phase
Once the defendants submit a response, your team will gather more evidence to support the claims of medical negligence or malpractice. In this step, your legal team takes an in-depth look at the case from all angles to make the argument as strong as possible.
Your lawyers will gather more evidence, including:
- Depositions (testimonials from you, your loved ones, and medical experts)
- Medical documents that specifically note the child’s injuries
- Hospital bills and other expense reports
- Other related evidence
Likewise, lawyers for the defendants will collect their own evidence to disprove your claims.
5. Negotiating a Settlement
Once both sides prepare their case, they will meet to discuss a possible conclusion through a settlement. A settlement is an official agreement that resolves a dispute.
If the lawsuit reaches a settlement, no side is declared a winner or loser. Instead, the defendants agree to pay a lump sum of money to you, and all legal action stops.
Most lawyers tend to favor birth injury lawsuit settlements since they allow the case to reach a quicker conclusion. This means you receive vital compensation for your child’s injuries sooner.
Not every case will end with a settlement, though. These lawsuits then proceed to trial.
6. Trial and Appeal
During a trial, a judge and jury hear arguments from both legal teams and make a decision on the case.
Trials present a double-edged sword for your case. While trials may award your side with more compensation than a settlement, you get no money at all if you lose.
Sometimes the losing side can appeal a trial decision, meaning the case will be reviewed again by a higher court at a later date. This can help you if you lose — but it can also hurt you if you win since the other side might try to appeal.
The trial and appeals process may add months or years to your case, meaning that life-changing compensation for your child could be delayed.
Recent Medical Malpractice Case Amounts
While there is no way to guarantee what compensation — if any — a birth injury lawsuit may award you, some birth injury malpractice cases have earned other families millions of dollars.
Recent medical malpractice lawsuits awarded:
- $229.6 Million through a July 2019 jury decision
- $7.7 Million through an October 2019 settlement
- $101 Million in a November 2019 jury decision
The amount of money you may receive through a medical malpractice lawsuit depends on the extent of your child’s injuries, how the case concludes (trial vs settlement), and other factors specific to your case.
Brain Injury Lawsuit Settlements
Birth injuries can vary greatly with each case. For example, children who develop Erb’s palsy may suffer from a paralyzed or weakened arm, but many can fully (or partially) recover.
On the other hand, brain injuries may leave children with mental and physical handicaps that never heal. Some brain injuries prevent children from caring for themselves in any way.
Because these injuries can severely impact a baby’s future, brain injury lawsuit settlements may award your family with millions of dollars.
Recent brain injury settlements awarded:
- $22.5 Million in April 2019
- $15 Million in November 2019
- $50 Million in November 2019
Like all birth injury lawsuits, brain injury settlements can vary depending on the extent of the child’s injuries and other factors related to their case.
Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Settlements
When medical malpractice results in the wrongful death of an innocent newborn, you should take legal action. No family ever deserves to suffer from the preventable death of their child.
Recent wrongful death settlements have included:
- $11.5 Million in 2011
- $1 Million in 2016
- $4 Million in 2017
While wrongful death lawsuits can’t make up for the loss of life, they can help your family pay for funeral expenses and medical bills you received before the child’s time of death.
Common Questions About Birth Injury Lawsuits
If you are looking to file a birth injury lawsuit, you might still have questions about the process. Get important answers to common questions below.
How Long Does a Birth Injury Lawsuit Take?
Every birth injury lawsuit is different, so the amount of time can vary with each case. Some birth injury lawsuits take a few months, while others can take a couple of years.
Factors that affect how long a birth injury lawsuit takes include:
- Whether the case reaches a settlement or goes to trial
- If the case gets appealed after a trial decision
- How long it takes to gather evidence and build the case
- How many cases are ahead of yours in the court circuit
In 2019, the mother of a child with severe brain damage won a $101-Million-dollar verdict from a jury, five years after the lawsuit was first filed. Though this may seem like a long time to some, the mother felt nothing but relief that justice had finally been served.
How Time-Consuming Is a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
While birth injury lawsuits may take several months or years, how much time you may personally invest in them will depend on the demands of the case. Provided you work with a skilled birth injury lawyer, a lawsuit does not have to control your life.
Birth injury lawyers will do most of the complex legal work and coordinate when to meet with you based on your schedule. The best birth injury lawyers want you to focus on healing, not the additional stress of a lawsuit.
Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis?
Yes, in some cases you can sue your doctor for misdiagnosis. Underlying health conditions or illnesses can cause birth injuries without proper diagnosis and treatment.
Birth injuries may stem from misdiagnosing the following conditions:
- Infant Hematoma: when a baby’s brain bleeds and causes damage
- Hypoxia: a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain during delivery
- Newborn Jaundice: when the buildup of cell waste poisons the baby’s brain
A simple misdiagnosis on the part of doctors can cause long-term or permanent damage to a baby’s health. If doctors fail to avoid life-threatening mistakes, you may be able to hold them accountable through a birth injury lawsuit.
What Factors May Determine Your Birth Injury Case Value?
Never assume you know the value of a potential lawsuit until you work with a lawyer, as certain factors may greatly impact the value of your case.
Factors that could affect your case value include:
- The baby’s overall health outlook after the injury
- Limits on case values in the state where the incident took place
- Medical costs to manage and treat the injury
- Type and severity of the injury
As a lawsuit moves forward, a case value could change over time. Your lawyer should keep you updated on the overall value of your case as they work toward a conclusion.
Still have questions? Visit our Legal FAQ page to learn more.
Get Help Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit
Simple mistakes or bad medical decisions by doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals could cause your child to suffer for the rest of their life.
Birth injuries can also put great stress on your entire family, who must now adjust to a new sense of normalcy. Even worse, these permanent birth injuries can often be prevented with proper medical care and may cost thousands (or millions) of dollars to properly manage.
You shouldn’t have to pay for the high costs of care for a condition that a doctor could — and should — have avoided with proper medical care. To hold these negligent doctors financially responsible, your best option is a birth injury lawsuit.
To learn more about filing a birth injury lawsuit, get a free case review today. See all the ways that a lawsuit may improve your child’s life.