The birth of a baby is an exciting and joyful time for parents, but birth injuries can ruin the experience and lead to a lifetime of complications. When birth injuries occur due to negligence, it’s crucial for parents to act quickly to protect their rights and improve their chances of securing compensation for their children’s injuries. The attorneys at Murphy Falcon Murphy have a great deal of experience handling birth injury and medical malpractice cases, and we want residents of the Baltimore area to understand what to expect from these types of legal claims.
Shoulder dystocia is a common birth injury that occurs when a baby’s shoulders become stuck in the birth canal and the baby cannot pass without assistance. In these situations, the doctor or medical professional supervising the delivery will need to assist the baby’s delivery, and it is vital to do so carefully. Pressure on the baby’s shoulder, neck, arm, and collarbone can cause shoulder dystocia, which entails nerve damage to the upper arm and shoulder.
Over time, the symptoms of mild shoulder dystocia may fade. However, there are several risks involved when shoulder dystocia becomes a problem. Shoulder dystocia is common among births with larger-than-average babies, so the mother may sustain significant tearing or heavy bleeding. The baby will likely suffer nerve damage to the upper arm and shoulder region, but oxygen deprivation may also occur, resulting in brain damage or even death.
When shoulder dystocia only affects the arm and shoulder area, the baby may experience tremors or paralysis in the affected arm. As long as the nerves in the affected area are damaged but intact, these symptoms typically fade within 6 to 12 months.
If you or a loved one recently had a baby who suffered shoulder dystocia at birth, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. If the physician or other medical professional performing the delivery used excessive or improper force when helping the baby through the birth canal, or did not perform a cesarean section procedure when appropriate, these actions may constitute medical malpractice.
Suing for medical malpractice is similar to filing a personal injury lawsuit with a few notable differences. First, the plaintiff must prove an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and defendant. Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to meet an acceptable standard of care for the situation in question. “Standard of care” refers to the methods and level of treatment deemed acceptable for a given medical situation, according to the consensus of the medical community. The plaintiff will then need to show the court how the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused shoulder dystocia.
A plaintiff who succeeds in a lawsuit for shoulder dystocia can expect many possible types of compensation, including coverage for any medical expenses resulting from the incident, pain and suffering (for the baby and the parents), and lost income (in case the situation caused the parents to miss time at work). A defendant may also face punitive damages for gross negligence or egregious disregard for a patient’s wellbeing. As the name suggests, punitive damages exist to punish defendants for intentionally dangerous behaviors, and the amount depends on the defendant’s financial situation. Wealthier defendants pay more in punitive damages, and some states place caps on how much plaintiffs may receive in punitive damages.
If you or a loved one recently experienced a shoulder dystocia incident during childbirth, reach out to the team at Murphy Falcon Murphy for a consultation. We’ve helped clients in the Baltimore area collect more than $700 million in compensation for their damages, and our team’s diverse background in various aspects of the law will go to work for you in your case.