When Negligence Becomes Malpractice
Not all negligent actions constitute malpractice, but all cases of malpractice involve negligence. Negligence becomes malpractice when the negligent action directly leads to an injury.
General Requirements For Claims
In order to file a medical malpractice suit, your family needs to prove the following criteria:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship - There must be a documented doctor-patient relationship, meaning you officially hired the doctor to treat you. If you received medical advice in a social setting, for example, you would not be permitted to sue if you suffered health problems as a result of following it.
- The doctor was negligent - The doctor provided treatment in a way that another competent doctor would not have.
- Negligence caused the injury - It must be proved that the doctor's negligence directly caused the injury. It is possible that the patient could have already be injured prior to the treatment. Even if the doctor still acted negligently, a malpractice suit would be denied unless the injury was a direct result of that negligence.
- The injury caused specific damages - The patient must have suffered tangible harm as a result of the negligence. Examples include physical and/or mental pain and suffering, additional medical bills, and lost wages and/or earning potential.
Pennsylvania's Expert Testimony Requirements
In medical malpractice cases, PA law requires the testimony of a medical expert. Within 60 days of the complaint, this medical expert must file a certificate of merit. The certificate must contain a written statement verifying that standards of reasonable care were breached and that this breach directly lead to the injury. If you're a Pennsylvania resident considering a medical malpractice suit for birth injury, make sure to look for a firm with reliable medical expert contacts.
Common Birth Injuries
Even when it goes right, birth can often be traumatic for both the mother and the child. There are a variety of serious complications which could arise from negligent birthing methods.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
HIE is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. If this oxygen deprivation lasts for too long, brain tissue will be destroyed. HIE can also lead to cerebral palsy.
Head trauma inside of the womb or physical trauma during birth can cause infant brain damage. Examples of such trauma include oxygen deprivation, jaundice, and infections in the mother's body. Brain damage can lead to serious lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy develops from prenatal brain injuries or abnormal brain development. This disorder impairs muscle movement, coordination, and motor skills. There is no cure and it requires expensive long-term treatments, including; medication, physical and speech therapy, and surgery in some cases.
Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication which can lead to a variety of injuries, including Cerebral Palsy and Erb's Palsy. It occurs when after delivering the head, the doctor or obstrecian has difficulty delivering the anterior shoulder as a result of an obstruction. This is an extremely dangerous situation which can lead to fetal demise if not handled properly.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves which sends signals between your spinal cord and your arms, shoulders, and hands. This network may be damaged by excessive stretching, such as in a childbirth involving shoulder dystocia. Brachial plexus injuries often lead to further complications, such as Erb's Palsy.
Erb's Palsy is a paralysis of the arm commonly caused by birth complications, such as shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injuries. It arises from damage done to the nerve networks in the upper arm. This condition often requires extensive treatment, including nerve transfers and physical therapy.
Hypoxia is oxygen deprivation to the infant's brain before, during, or after being delivered. This is the cause of many birth injuries and disorders, including Cerebral Palsy and HIE. Some babies are able to recover from mild cases of hypoxia, but moderate to severe cases often result in life-long disabilities.
Spastic quadriplegia is a form of spastic cerebral palsy, also commonly caused by brain damage or brain development problems prior to birth. Symptoms include involuntary muscle contractions and tremors. This condition is usually discovered when parents notice that their child's motor skills are not developing properly. Symptoms usually surface before 2 years of age.
Common Forms Of Negligence
Some birth injuries are the result of unavoidable complications. However, many severe injuries are preventable and the result of medical malpractice. Even experienced doctors are capable of making mistakes which could affect a family for the duration of their child's life. Some common mistakes include:
- Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failure to call for a cesarean section which could have prevented complications
- Failure to diagnose health conditions in mother or infant
- Prescribing harmful medications to the mother
- Failure to diagnose labor complications
These mistakes can lead to a lifetime of hardships for both the parents and the child. Serious conditions often require extensive and costly medical treatments. If your child has suffered a birth injury as a result of a doctor's mistake, know that you have rights. No family should be forced to endure these hardships alone. An experienced birth injury lawyer can help you earn the financial compensation you need in order to provide the best standard of living for your child.
Justice For Victims
Serious birth injuries can cause lifelong complications, which in turn require lifelong treatment. Most families will have difficulty financing these treatments on their own. It's important to hold medical professionals accountable in cases where the injury was caused by negligence.
If your family has recently given birth to a disabled child, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is two years after the injury was discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help you recover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Lost wages and earning potential
Each birth injury case is different and requires the expertise of both legal and medical professionals. Raising a child with special needs can be stressful and time-consuming.
If you think your child's injury could have been avoided, get in touch with an experienced birth injury law firm which has the resources to analyze your case. At Monheit Law, our team of lawyers and medical consultants are ready to hold negligent medical professionals responsible for the difficulties they've caused.
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