Having a new baby is a happy time for most families, but this joyous occasion can quickly turn to tragedy when a birth injury occurs. Birth injuries can range from bruising and broken bones to death. They are also linked to serious lifelong issues such as cerebral palsy that can cost families millions of dollars in treatment costs, daycare expenses, and lost wages. If you believe your child is a victim of a birth injury, you should contact a birth injury lawyer. Here’s what you need to know first.
Birth Injury Statistics
The March of Dimes has noted that “there are thousands of different birth defects” and about 120,000 babies are born with one each year in this country. There are also approximately 5.82 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in the United States.
Of these infant deaths, 2% are reported to be linked to a fatal birth injury. However, the real number may be a lot higher. When it comes to medical malpractice in general, a lot of injuries are never reported. In fact, medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Estimates put the number at over 250,000 deaths per year.
Causes of Birth Injury
Birth injuries can have a lot of different causes, and certain infants are more likely to become victims of birth trauma than other infants. Birth injuries are caused by a variety of factors, including but not limited to:
- Prolonged labor
- Breech presentation
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (when the baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis)
- Cesarean delivery
- Failure to recommend cesarean when the baby is distressed
- Using tools to assist in delivery, such as forceps or vacuums
- Internal fetal monitoring
Types of Birth Injuries
According to reports from Stanford Children’s Health, the most common birth injuries are as follows:
- Caput Succedaneum — The swelling of a newborn’s scalp.
- Cephalohematoma — Bleeding under the cranial bones.
- Bruising or Forceps Marks — Birth injuries related to the use of forceps.
- Scalp Laceration from Vacuums — Cuts in the scalp caused by vacuum extractions.
- Subconjunctival Hemorrhage — Breakdown in eye blood vessels.
- Shoulder Dystocia — When the baby’s shoulders cannot pass and get stuck behind the mother’s pubic bones.
- Brachial Palsy — Nerve damage in the shoulder area after a baby has experienced shoulder dystocia.
- Fracture of the Clavicle — Collarbone breaks during delivery.
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy — Loss of oxygen that can lead to cerebral palsy.
- Cerebral Palsy — Brain damage caused before, during, or after labor and delivery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood.” Roughly 5-10% of cerebral palsy cases are due to birth trauma that occurs during labor and delivery, according to the March of Dimes. This birth injury is linked to infections, loss of oxygen, high maternal blood pressure, placental issues, blood clotting, and inadequate medical care.
Signs of a Birth Injury
The signs of a birth injury can be different depending on the type of injury. While some symptoms manifest immediately after birth, others take weeks or even months or years to surface.
Seizures, vomiting, light sensitivity, and excessive lethargy are all potential signs of a birth injury. Additional symptoms include but are not limited to anemia, fevers, hearing loss, inability to move arms, low heart rate, low oxygen levels in the blood, inability to gain weight, constipation, jaundice, and unexplained paleness.
As children get older, you may notice delays in motor skill development. If your child suffers from any of these issues, you may want to consult with a birth injury lawyer in addition to talking with your healthcare provider.
How to Prevent Birth Injuries
Not every birth injury is preventable – such as those related to genetic factors or physical abnormalities – but a few steps can be taken to prevent many birth injuries. The following steps are essential:
- Maternal testing
- Identifying high-risk pregnancies
- Educating mothers about risks
- Providing complete and accurate details on proper prenatal care to expectant mothers
- Diagnosing and treating medical issues accurately and timely
- Using careful and skillful medical intervention in crisis pregnancy and delivery
As many birth injuries are related to the improper use of medical intervention, the last point is extremely important. If obstetricians or midwives are using these tools incorrectly or unnecessarily, that can lead to serious birth injury or trauma.
Creating a Care Plan After a Birth Injury
After a birth injury, it’s important to create a care plan. The exact plan varies based on the type of the injury and the child’s unique needs, but there are many similarities between care plans. You should consult with your child’s pediatrician to start with, who may refer you to one or more specialists.
This intense process can be extremely time consuming and expensive, which is one of the reasons many people consult with a birth injury lawyer.
What’s the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?
Christopher Mellino’s Birth Injury Lawsuit Settlements
While helping clients who have been affected by birth injuries or maternal injuries, Chris Mellino has helped his clients win the following settlements.
$3.99 million for Neurological Damage During Delivery
On July 1, 1993, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that a jury awarded $3.99 million to a child who suffered neurological damage during delivery. This was the very first medical malpractice case that Mellino tried on his own as a young lawyer, and the defense lawyer had a national reputation for defending birth injury cases and at one point had won more than 30 cases in row.
After the case, Mellino told reporters, “The doctor used forceps to bring Zachary out of the birth canal, but the infant’s shoulder became stuck and it crimped the umbilical cord, cutting off blood and oxygen to him for six minutes until he could be freed.” These injuries racked up multiple healthcare bills and caused intense stress to the family. The baby’s mother could not work, because her child needed round-the-clock care.
$8 Million for Wrongful Death Related to Failure-to-Diagnose Preeclampsia
In April 15, 1999, a 34-year-old woman died of preeclampsia while carrying her second child. Despite suffering symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, swelling, and protein in her urine, “she received no laboratory evaluation and no treatment,” Verdicts, Settlements & Tactics reported. When she called her doctor a day before her death to say she was having problems breathing, he simply prescribed an antibiotic. To help her family, Chris and his former partner settled the failure-to-diagnose-preeclampsia lawsuit for $8 million.
$2.4 Million for Brachial Plexus Injury During Delivery
In April 2000, Chris Mellino settled a brachial plexus injury claim for $2.4 million. During the birth of a baby girl nearly 10 years earlier, the defendant used fundal pressure during shoulder dystocia complications. “There was a 12-minute delay between delivery of the baby’s head and the rest of her body,” Verdicts, Settlements & Tactics reported. “After delivery, the baby was not resuscitated properly, [because] the obstetrical nurses failed to follow the hospital’s code pink protocol.”
$28.7 Million for Oxygen Deprivation During Birth, Leading to Cerebral Palsy
On December 31st, 2014, Chris obtained a $28.7 million verdict for birth injury on behalf of a young family. Their child was born with cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation during birth. Despite the use of a fetal heart monitor, the signs and symptoms of fetal distress were not recognized or addressed by medical professionals. Matters were made worse by the inappropriate use of the drug pitocin. The family was awarded $28.7 million to provide for future care to their child.
When you contact our office for a free consultation with a birth injury lawyer, we can give you more information on recent settlements and help you figure out what type of settlement may be expected in your situation.
Why Should I Hire Chris Mellino to Handle My Birth Injury Lawsuit?
As a birth injury lawyer, Chris Mellino is respected throughout Northeast Ohio for his ability to dig below the surface and make sure nothing is overlooked. In fact, Chris has worked on several landmark cases, including Moskovitz v. Mt. Sinai Medical Center (1994) and Watkins v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation (1998). Because of that, The Mellino Law Firm does not need to advertise. Attorneys and satisfied clients send us the majority of our cases.
Personalized Attention for Your Case
Larger firms take every case that walks in the door. They typically leave clients in the hands of “case managers” who usually settle those cases for the first amount the defense offers. Then, they use that money to pay for their next commercial and the cycle repeats itself endlessly.
At The Mellino Law Firm, LLC, we don’t believe in pushing clients through a revolving door like the big firms often do. We understand that medical malpractice and birth injury claims are time consuming and labor intensive. Because of that, we only accept a few cases at a time, and that enables us to give each case and every client the unique attention they deserve. When you call us, you’ll speak to us, not a “case manager”.
Integrity You Can Trust
Last but not least, we are the only medical malpractice law firm in Northeast Ohio to be accepted into Primerus, a society of boutique law firms. The organization only extends membership to the best firms, and currently only 200 law firms in 40 countries have been granted membership. Primerus screens potential members by speaking to judges, other lawyers, bar associations, clients, and insurance carriers about a firm’s integrity, work product, fee structure, education, civility, and community service.
Birth injury lawyer Chris Mellino invites you to contact our Cleveland office if you believe a birth trauma or medical negligence caused a birth injury like cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy (brachial plexus injury), shoulder dystocia, hypoglycemia, brain damage, or maternal complications such as preeclampsia. We invite you to contact us with any questions you may have. You may also download or request birth injury lawyer Chris Mellino’s free guide to filing a medical malpractice claim in Ohio.