As a Orlando birth injury lawyer, I know that pregnancy and childbirth are both exciting and scary times for a new mother, or expectant couple. Before birth, many couples have never heard of common birth injuries such as Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), and many others. Unfortunately, these are common terms to Florida childbirth injury attorneys. Birth injury lawyers understand all of the emotions and fear that come with such a diagnosis, along with the high costs that will be involved, often throughout your new baby’s life.
This article, written by former law professor & Florida childbearing injury lawyer, Tina Willis, will help you understand all of your legal options.
Florida’s Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA) Program: Many Downsides
NICA is a Florida program designed to help cover medical care for infants who suffered severe birth injuries. But NICA benefits are very limiting, and pay nothing for pain and suffering. In short, NICA prevents desperate parents from pursuing sometimes multi-million dollar recoveries against negligent doctors and hospitals. This is often money they really need for more than just medical care, and deserve because of their child’s suffering.
We will evaluate your claim carefully, to determine whether there is any way around the NICA requirements, which would allow you to proceed with a lawsuit without limits or caps. No one should ever seek NICA benefits without FIRST exploring whether there is any possible way around the NICA statute.
The bottom line is that, as Florida newborn injury lawyers, we can help you recover the absolute maximum amount of money needed to care for your child over his or her life.
Before Birth, An Injury Was Probably The Last Thing On Your Mind
Before your baby was born, you waited months with a mixture of excitement and fear. At the same time, you knew that your whole life would change with the birth of your new child. You probably made extensive preparations. You probably spent countless hours thinking about how you want to raise your new little one, what he might be like, what she might become, and how you planned to help him accomplish his goals and live a happy, healthy life. No matter what, after nine months of anticipation and preparation, you probably felt 100% ready for anything that might happen next.
However, despite countless hours of thought and preparation, most people never expect to have a baby that has a serious disability. But sometimes that happens — and all of the preparation and anticipation changes into a hyper-focus on how to help a baby who has much more extensive needs than expected.
How Will Your Baby’s Injuries Affect Your Life, And His Or Hers?
Despite your careful preparation, nothing can prepare any couple for a devastating childbirth injury diagnosis. You might not even be sure what this will mean for you. What will your new life be like? How will your baby develop? And what will treatment and care cost? Can you afford the treatments? How will you work and care for a baby that will need much more care than a normal child? As Florida birth injury lawyers, we can help you understand what to expect, including exactly what costs will likely be involved, and how you can pay for everything — so that you will only need to focus on loving and raising your new baby.
Fears About Birth Injuries
Birth injuries happen far more often than they should, and are understandably devastating to a new mother or family. After the birth of your precious little baby, if you realize that he or she has a personal injury, perhaps a very serious one, you start going down a much more terrifying road than you ever imagined possible. Suddenly the happy memories from the baby shower, and ambitious hopes and dreams, turn into fears about the future, and how to care for a seriously injured child.
You might start wondering why your baby isn’t moving or developing properly. Or the doctors might have immediately explained that there was a problem during childbirth that was “unavoidable,” so you knew from the first days that your baby had a serious birth injury. However you learned the new reality, many new mothers feel helpless when faced with this new world of complicated medical terms, and a new baby that may have lifelong serious medical complications, possibly requiring a lifetime of care.
What Expenses Are Involved In Treating Birth Injuries?
You might be trying to calculate all of the possible expenses — suggested treatments, special medical equipment, caregivers to help you, special educational needs, equipping your home properly, and on and on. We can help calculate and recover birth injury treatment and lifetime care costs, along with possibly a substantial amount of money for pain and suffering. We hire experts who have experience knowing exactly what costs will be involved, in very specific details, for a lifetime. So they can give us estimates regarding exactly what care will be needed, and have databases with information about costs for every conceivable need you might have related to your new baby, and growing child.
What Happens After A Birth Injury Diagnosis? Is Your Doctor Being Honest?
Typically parents’ first reaction is to listen to the doctors and nurses, hearing complicated explanations of medical terms they’ve never heard before, like “birth injury,” “cerebral palsy,” “Erb’s palsy,” and quite a few other common birth injuries. Obstetricians and gynecologists often say that nothing could have been done to prevent the birth injuries, or that they are genetic. Sometimes that is the truth. But sometimes it isn’t.
At some point new mothers or couples may start to correctly wonder whether the doctors, nurses, or hospitals made any mistakes before or during childbirth, which caused their new baby’s devastating injuries. They may be faced with soaring medical bills, yet they can’t go back to work to pay for those bills. They often have nowhere to turn because they feel frightened and overwhelmed. The truth is that many of these mothers or couples WILL face astronomical medical and life care bills, ranging from hundreds of thousands to even millions of dollars over a lifetime. And the doctor may have caused those injuries due to 100% preventable negligence.
Additionally, there are many experimental treatments for birth injuries. Those are usually expensive. And not covered by health insurance. Yet, you might want to try them. And they might help your baby. As birth injury lawyers, we can help recover money that will help with experimental treatments — including those available now, or that might become available in the future. Birth injury lawyers do this indirectly, since those costs can’t be directly recovered. But, if you get enough money for pain and suffering, you can use some of that money if you want to try experimental treatments for birth injuries.
When you have expenses that you can’t imagine ever paying, that is where Florida birth injury lawyers enter the picture. We can help.
We Are Florida Birth Injury Lawyers Who Will Care, Listen & Fight For You
We often hear from clients who complain that many other Florida birth injury lawyers would not listen. IF you have the type of case that we think might have resulted from doctor negligence, then we will spend whatever time is needed to hear your story. We will help you fully understand the likely expenses you will face. And we will get you the most money possible to pay for a lifetime of treatment, along with your and your baby’s pain and suffering.
Before you call any other Orlando birth injury lawyer, call us. We will explain exactly how we can help, as well as our experience, background, and game plan. We feel sure that you will feel 100% comfortable after you hear your legal options, and the reasons for whatever we might recommend.
What Happens During A Florida Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Pursuing legal action often requires a team of exceptional, highly experienced birth injury lawyers AND medical experts (doctor witnesses) in a range of practice areas. We are experienced with putting that team together, and fighting to maximize every penny you will need to care for your young child over his or her lifetime.
During any Florida birth injury lawsuit, the first step is requesting medical records. If a Florida birth injury lawyer believes that your doctor made a mistake that caused your babies injuries, after reviewing your medical records, then we will have a doctor expert review them, and render an opinion. This doctor opinion allows us to file a lawsuit.
During the lawsuit, a birth injury lawyer carefully examines exactly what your doctor did before and during child birth. We also have doctor experts do the same thing. A birth injury lawyer usually deposes the treating doctor (which means taking his or her testimony under oath, before any trial), to learn what their defenses might be. We also request and review all relevant documents. And we hire highly experienced experts to testify about all anticipated lifetime treatment, care, and educational costs.
After gathering all evidence, your birth injury lawyer might recommend that we attend a negotiation process called “mediation” — to determine whether the doctor or hospital is interested in offering money (and what amount) to settle your case. A Florida birth injury lawyer can tell you whether any offered amount is reasonable and fair — or not. If the offer is not reasonable, then we might have to take your case to a jury trial, where both sides present evidence of doctor negligence, the extent of your baby’s injuries, the life restrictions your baby will face, and the anticipated costs of lifetime care and treatment. After hearing that evidence, and testifying witnesses (including you and your experiences), the jury decides what amount of money you will need to care for your child over his or her lifetime.
Usually this involves a TEAM of both birth injury lawyers and experts — not just one person. That becomes YOUR TEAM, fighting for you, to recover the most money possible for you. We put that birth injury lawyer & expert team together on your behalf.
That is the overview. If you call, we will explain, in much greater detail, our exact plan of action, and what you can expect along the way. (There are no obligations when you call to learn your legal options, and how we can help.)
When Should You Suspect Your New Baby Might Have A Birth Injury?
Some new parents become aware that their new baby has serious injuries right away. Usually, this happens when the condition is very obvious, and the doctor or nurses tell the new parents. (Please do not believe the doctor’s explanation for WHY a birth injury happened; they have great financial and professional incentive not to blame themselves, or their hospital staff.)
However, in other cases, childbirth injuries may not be immediately obvious. So you should look for symptoms of birth injuries, which might include:
- red circles around the eyes
- poor balance
- one or both arms retracted
- bad balance or coordination
- muscle spasms
- lack of movement or paralysis
- slow motor development
- signs that your child cannot see or hear you
This is very important. If you suspect that your child MIGHT have a birth injury, call your doctor immediately for evaluation. Call us if your child has a serious birth injury, and you believe any medical provider may have done something wrong.
Calling a birth injury lawyer is urgent both because your child may need immediate surgery or therapy to try to help. And there are strict (and short) time limits for filing birth injury lawsuits.
Even if you aren’t sure, if you suspect that your child may have a SERIOUS birth injury, then call us immediately. Do not delay or you may lose your ability to pursue important legal protections and compensation due to your delay.
Most Common Causes Of Birth Injuries
Below are some of the most common causes of birth injuries, which are often related to doctor negligence. If you experienced any of these, please give us a call. We would like to discuss whether your doctor could have prevented your new baby’s injuries.
- Pre-existing medical conditions in the mother. Or, the mother’s advanced age or higher weight than ideal for childbirth. In these cases, your doctor should have warned you about the dangers associated with a risky birth.
- Breech position. This means the baby was born with his bottom first. Your medical provider should have tested manually and with special x-rays and ultrasounds very shortly before childbirth. This would make sure the baby’s position was proper. If the breeched position could not be reversed, Caesarean section might have been needed. This would have been due to the many risks associated with vaginal delivery.
- Placental abruption. This is where the placenta separates from the uterine wall. Even a minor separation can cause serious harm to your baby. The reason is that the placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the little one. If you presented with common symptoms, and your doctor ignored those, or failed to treat properly, then you may have a case of medical malpractice for birth injuries against your doctor. If you were very near your due date, then your baby should have been delivered.
- Obstetrician not recognizing and responding in a timely manner to fetal distress signs.
- Doctors or nurses not properly reading fetal monitoring devices.
- Obstetrician failing to perform a C-section when indicated; and
- Doctors or nurses administering too much Pitocin, or fails to properly monitor treatment once Pitocin administration has begun.
Most Common Types Of Birth Injuries
Cerebral Palsy can be one of the most devastating birth injuries. Cerebral Palsy often affects movement, and muscle coordination, in a variety of different ways. Each case is unique to the individual. That means there are wide ranges of disability that can result from Cerebral Palsy. On a very basic level, Cerebral Palsy affects the muscles, and the body’s ability to control them. But the cause is actually brain damage. And sometimes the doctor did something avoidable during the labor and delivery process that caused the damage.
As Florida birth injury lawyers, can help you determine whether your doctor might have caused your baby’s Cerebral Palsy. This often involves a meticulous review of all relevant medical records, followed by having medical experts review those records.
Erb’s Palsy (or Brachial Plexus Palsy)
Erb’s Palsy is a birth injury that causes paralysis in the arms, due to a severing of the upper trunk nerves. Improper technique or treatment during childbirth absolutely can cause this very serious birth injury. For example, if the doctor uses too much force on the upper shoulders during a vaginal delivery, which stretches the baby’s neck too far to the side, the baby’s shoulder and arm nerves can be severed. This injury can arise due to shoulder dystocia during childbirth (which is where the shoulders do not quickly follow the head during birth).
Like Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy can cause a wide range of conditions. Every case is different, which means that treatment and care options vary a lot. The extent of the treatment and care needs will determine the value of any birth injury lawsuit.
From the Florida birth injury lawyer’s perspective, the question is whether your doctor did something wrong during childbirth that caused the Erb’s Palsy. To make that determination, we carefully review every single page of your medical records. If we believe there probably was medical malpractice, then we also have exceptional medical experts (in other words, doctors with outstanding credentials) review your medical records. (In Florida, having an expert provide an affidavit saying that your doctor committed medical malpractice is a requirement of filing the lawsuit.) Those doctor experts are also very helpful in estimating lifetime medical care costs. When needed, we also hire life care experts, and economists, who provide extremely detailed analysis of exactly what life care and ongoing treatment costs will be needed.
This is similar to Erb’s Palsy (similar causes), except the lower arm & hand are affected. (Similar legal issues are involved in all of these birth injuries.)
Forceps Or Vacuum Extraction Complications
Sometimes during childbirth, the doctor is required to use either forceps (which are similar to tongs) or a vacuum device (which places two cups on the baby’s head) to gently assist the baby down the vaginal canal. However, unless the doctor is extremely careful, many different serious and permanent injuries can result from too much force used during either of these methods. The doctor is also required to choose the BEST of these two options, which can vary depending on the situation. The doctor also has to begin using the tools at the proper time. Plus, the doctor was required to make sure that vaginal birth is the best option for you, given your age, weight, medical condition, and the baby’s unique development in our womb. If he doesn’t do all of those things correctly, your baby can be left with permanent, serious injuries, which the doctor’s negligence actually caused.
These injuries can result when forceps or vacuum devices are used improperly or carelessly:
- Brain or nerve damage
- Skull fractures
- Bruising and swelling of the head
- Tears or lacerations in the lower genital tract of the mother
- Bladder and urethra injuries in the mother
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Fetal stroke
- Retinal hemorrhages
Newborns can suffer asphyxia injuries whenever there is a lack or reduction of oxygen going to the fetus. Essentially, at some point before, during, or after delivery, your baby didn’t have enough oxygen.
Sometimes medical negligence causes asphyxia injuries.
For example, with a nuchal cord, which is where the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s head, the doctor must recognize the situation, and respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Asphyxia injuries can also result from a breech presentation, problems with the mother’s placenta, or other medical complications. This oxygen deprivation can lead to permanent, extremely disabling injuries to the new child, such as cerebral palsy, brain damage, or even death. If your child suffered asphyxia injuries, we urge you to call us immediately for a free evaluation regarding whether your doctor might have caused these serious injuries.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
HIE, or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, is an injury to a newborn’s brain that is caused by a lack of oxygen. Therefore, HIE is one of many asphyxia injuries. HIE often causes severe developmental or cognitive delays. Motor impairments may also become more obvious over time. So the degree of the impairment may not be clear until the child is three or four years old. The severity of the impairment is determined by the degree and length of the oxygen deprivation.
Your doctor or other medical providers may be totally or partly responsible if your newborn suffers from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). As explained above regarding asphyxia injuries, all medical staff must respond promptly and appropriately to various conditions during childbirth that could cause oxygen deprivation in the fetus. The only way for us to know whether the doctor (or nurses, or anyone else on the medical team) might have caused HIE is to review your medical records, and then have a doctor review. The entire process can take months, and the deadline for filing a birth injury lawsuit is relatively quick. So please do not hesitate contacting us today if your child suffered from HIE.
Brachial Plexus Palsy
Brachial Plexus Palsy is a loss or reduction in the child’s ability to move her arm, hand, fingers, or shoulder. This is caused by damages to the nerves near the clavicle, called the brachial plexus. Very often this injury results when the baby is torqued or stretched too far during delivery. There can also be medical malpractice before the delivery that leads to brachial plexus palsy. If your baby has brachial plexus palsy, please give us a call, so that we can evaluate whether you might have a legal case against your doctor or other medical providers.
Caesarean Section (C-Section) Injuries or Death
If your doctor failed to timely and appropriately order or perform a c-section, then you or your baby may have suffered significant injuries. This includes a doctor’s failure to recommend a C-Section before delivery, when complications such as nuchal cord, or other risk factors, exist. If you experienced birth injury complications, whether or not you had a caesarean section, a Florida birth injury lawyer will need to evaluate your medical records, to learn whether your doctor should have done something differently.
What Do Orlando Birth Injury Lawyers Have To Prove?
To recover money against your doctor, your Florida birth injury lawyer will have to prove that your doctor’s treatment fell below the standard of care, and caused your child’s birth injuries. That basically means that your doctor did something that most other doctors wouldn’t do. We also have to prove that your child suffered serious injuries, and the lifetime cost of caring for those injuries.
We prove most of those things by using medical and economic experts — who carefully review medical records, and have many sophisticated methods for calculating care over a lifetime.
How Much Money in Damages Can A Florida Birth Injury Lawyer Recover?
Your money damages are determined by a combination of three very important factors: (1) the degree of the doctor’s negligence (meaning: how bad was the doctor’s error, in the opinion of other doctor experts?); (2) the extent of your baby’s injuries (and estimated lifetime care costs, in the opinion of expert economists); and (3) sometimes — the amount of insurance coverage held by the doctor (this is usually a non-issue when a hospital is involved).
Overall, birth injury claims can be very substantial, and run in the millions of dollars for the most egregious injuries, combined with the most extreme doctor negligence. We can give you many more specific details and estimates after speaking with you.
Orlando Birth Injury Lawyers Who Can Help, Anywhere In Florida (And Sometimes Other States)
If your new baby has a serious birth injury, we are Orlando birth injury lawyers who can determine whether medical malpractice might have been involved. We would then make sure you recovered the most money possible. That will ensure that you have the financial resources to guarantee that your new baby has the care he or she needs and deserves. That money will also pay your family for the pain and suffering that you and your child have experienced.