What's the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury?
Birth injuries, in the context of personal injury lawsuits, are injuries which occur during labor, delivery, or shortly after childbirth. Birth defects, however, are congenital, meaning they are present at birth.
If a mother or baby suffer injuries, their right to pursue legal action will depend on proving the injuries could and should have been prevented had medical professionals upheld their duty to meet the accepted standard of care.
A failure to meet this “duty of care” is negligence, and it can be grounds for legal action. By contrast, birth defects are typically caused by genetic mutations and unknown factors, rather than medical negligence. In some cases, families of children with birth defects may have grounds for claims against other liable parties, such as landowners or product manufactures responsible for toxic exposure, defective products, or unsafe medications.
How do I know if a doctor is responsible for my child’s birth injury?
Generally, medical providers can be held responsible for birth injuries caused by negligence. However, not every situation involving an injury to mother or child means negligence occurred, as doctors are obligated only to act in a manner a reasonably skilled medical professional would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
Because birth injury cases involve highly technical concepts of medicine and law, determining liability requires thorough investigation and collaboration with medical experts. Edwards Kirby works with expert witnesses who help define the standard of care in a particular situation, assess whether a doctor or another provider failed to meet that standard when treating mothers and newborns, and explain how different steps taken by providers would have avoided injuries and damages suffered by victims.
How long do I have to file a birth injury lawsuit in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, birth injury cases are subject to a statute of limitations – essentially, a time window during which you can file a claim and seek compensation for your damages. If a statute of limitations expires, you may not be able to file a claim or recover damages.
Though cases vary, the statute of limitations in birth injury cases is generally three years from the date of injury. Because some birth injuries are not apparent (or “discovered”) until a child gets older or parents realize they are missing developmental milestones, the statute of limitations may be extended an additional year. However, no claims can be filed beyond four years, even if injuries are not discovered until a later time.
What are some of the most common causes of birth injury?
Birth injury cases can vary widely, and involve a range of injuries, disabilities, and life-long limitations caused by substandard medical care. Though negligence takes many forms, some of the most common causes of preventable birth injuries include:
- Oxygen deprivation / failures to monitor and identify signs of fetal distress, which can result in permanent brain damage and conditions like cerebral palsy or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.
- Excessive force or manipulation, including injuries caused by forceps or vacuum extractors.
- Failures to diagnose and / or adequately treat risk factors that can lead to complications, including maternal high blood pressure (preeclampsia) and infections.
- Failures to appropriately or timely treat mothers or newborns, including failures to perform C-sections or therapeutic head cooling.