This Chicago birth injury lawsuit guide and post will help you to better understand birth injury cases in Chicago.
If Rose Kennedy had given birth today instead of 1918, she likely would have filed a birth injury lawsuit following her daughter Rosemary’s birth. Rosemary, whose story is detailed in the book “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter,” was born with developmental delays after a nurse delayed her birth by forcing Rose’s legs closed for two hours, forcing her baby to remain in the birth canal for two hours, causing her to lose vital oxygen, all because the doctor was with other patients and the nurse didn’t want to deliver the baby herself.
Birth injuries mar what would otherwise be one of life’s happiest moments, and they are particularly devastating when they occur as a result of negligence on the part of someone else.
What Qualifies for Birth Injury in Chicago, Illinois? Do I Have a Lawsuit?
A birth injury occurs as a result of physical damage an infant sustains during birth. Birth injuries are not that common – approximately 29 out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States suffer some kind of birth trauma – and are most often caused when doctors or other medical staff make mistakes.
Birth injuries can range from broken bones and oxygen deprivation, causing physical disabilities, developmental delays or wrongful death.
The most frequent kinds of birth injuries that are preventable are caused by:
- Twisting or pulling the infant improperly during the delivery period.
- Improper use of assisted birthing devices including forceps or vacuum extraction tools
- Administering the wrong type of medication or the wrong amount to mothers during pregnancy or during labor.
- Failing to properly monitor the infant for signs of distress, such as failure to regularly monitor fetal heartbeat, which would reveal oxygen deprivation and other problems.
- Failure to perform a cesarean section in cases where an infant is too large for a safe vaginal birth or shows signs of distress during the birthing process.
If your child suffered injuries during birth, you may be wondering if your doctor or other hospital staff can be held liable for those injuries.
To better understand whether or not you might have a case, you should know that the plaintiff in a Chicago birth injury case has a certain burden of proof that must be met in order to prevail in court.
They must not only prove what the appropriate standard of care is for an average doctor under similar circumstances, but also that the medical professional failed to meet that appropriate standard of care, that a birth injury occurred and that the birth injury would not have occurred if the doctor had not failed to meet the standard of care.
How Do I Choose an Attorney for My Birth Injury Lawsuit?
There are several things that are important to look for when choosing a birth injury attorney in Chicago.
- Experience. Medical malpractice lawsuits including birth injury cases are complex, but an experienced attorney won’t be intimidated. If an attorney has already handled cases like yours, you can feel more secure about the breadth of knowledge he or she will have when it comes to your case. Experienced birth injury attorneys will also have access to the best medical experts to help determine the causes and extent of birth injuries and the prognoses of victims to better prove medical negligence.
- Communication. The attorney you hire should communicate well with you, and finding one who does is probably the most important factor in selecting an attorney. The right attorney will return calls and emails in a timely fashion and will keep you updated on any new developments in your case. Ask at the outset for your attorney’s preferred method of contact so you will be less likely to be frustrated with a lack of communication later on.
- Realistic expectations. While birth injury settlements are impossible to predict, your attorney should have an idea of the potential outcome of your case, and should honestly convey the strengths and weaknesses and how that may impact your ability to win a settlement in court.
- Full disclosure of fee structure. Your attorney should be honest about fees. While Illinois has capped medical malpractice contingency fees at 33 percent, court costs and other expenses do not fall under that cap.
- Adequate funding. Medical malpractice cases can be costly, especially so when lining up medical experts to help back your claims. While a small practice might seem attractive due to the attention they can give your case, a larger firm will have the resources necessary to cover any costs associated with your case, improving your chances of prevailing in court.
A birth injury attorney can be an invaluable asset if your child was injured and you are hoping to secure compensation to cover the costs associated with caring for those injuries. Knowing how to choose the right attorney can be the most important part of the process.
What are the Most Common Birth Injury Lawsuits?
Some common Chicago birth injuries include:
- Brachial Plexus Injuries. Brachial plexus injuries can range in severity and occur when the brachial plexus – the nerve bundle that controls movement of the shoulder, arm and hand – becomes stretched or torn during birth. They are most often caused by rough handling on the part of medical professionals if a baby is too large to comfortably exit the birth canal or is positioned in such a way that complicates delivery. While most brachial plexus injuries heal on their own within months, in the most severe cases, such injuries can lead to complete paralysis of the arm.
- Bone Fractures. Some common bone fractures associated with birth injuries include skull fractures, caused by the improper use of forceps or a vacuum extraction during an assisted birth, or collarbone fractures, which are typically caused by shoulder dystocia or are the result of breech births.
- Injuries that involve bleeding or bruising either beneath the scalp or beneath the skull. Scalp-related bleeding, swelling or bruising is one of the more common neonatal injuries. Some include caput succedaneum (swelling of the scalp due to pressure from the birthing process or the use of assisted birthing devices), cephalohematoma (bleeding beneath the protective membrane covering a baby’s skull), usually recedes on its own, but bleeding of the skull can lead to brain damage due to pressure that cuts off oxygen to the brain or can trigger seizures.
- Facial Paralysis. Damage to facial nerves can occur during complicated or assisted births. While damage can be temporary, it can also lead to permanent loss of control over facial muscles.
- Spinal Cord Injuries. Spinal cord injuries are often the result of a traumatic birth, and can be caused by the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. Spinal injuries can lead to complete paralysis or cause neurological problems including lack of muscle control.
- Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s palsy occurs when a baby’s facial nerve is damaged during birth, either due to the use of forceps during delivery or from pressure put on the nerve while the infant passes through the birth canal. It often leads to facial paralysis, which may heal on its own. In cases where the facial nerve sustains tears, surgery may be required to restore function.
- Oxygen Deprivation. When oxygen is slowed or completely cut off during birth, brain cells are deprived of nutrients and die, causing motor function issues (cerebral palsy is a common birth injury associated with oxygen deprivation), cognitive disabilities, hearing and visual impairments or death.
- Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral palsy is a birth injury marked by weak or spastic muscles, diminished motor skills and in some but not all cases, cognitive disabilities.
If your baby suffered any of these injuries as a result of negligence on the part of your doctor or medical professional, you may have a potential lawsuit.
How Long Do I Have to File a Birth Injury lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois?
While medical malpractice cases have a two-year window for filing a lawsuit, birth injuries are different, despite falling under the category of medical malpractice.
Because some disabilities are not immediately detectable at birth, lawsuits are handled differently.
Because birth injuries occur before development, the extent of related damages may not be known until the child is old enough for physical and cognitive impairments to be properly evaluated. As a child ages, cognitive, sensory and motor skill problems will become more apparent, which will help shape your case.
Still, because documents, witnesses and other information that’s important to a medical malpractice lawsuit can potentially be lost over time, it is important to file a lawsuit as soon as possible.
In cases where a child recovers from a disability, the two-year statute of limitations does not go into effect until after the recovery. If no recovery is possible, the window to file a lawsuit remains open indefinitely, although they must be filed by the time the child reaches the age of 21.
If your child was injured at birth due to negligence on the part of medical professionals, call our experienced team of birth injury attorneys today.
The initial birth injury consultation is completely free.