Birth Injury Attorneys

Do I have a birth injury case? How long do I have to file a birth injury case?

When something goes wrong with your pregnancy or the birth of your child, the emotions go beyond “sadness” and “upset.” It hits you almost like a physical assault. It stops you in your tracks.  And in the aftermath, you may feel like you’re not yourself. Everyone else moves on, and people say well-intentioned things, like “you can have another,” or “everything happens for a reason.”  Depression can set in, from mild to severe, and it can be months before you have the energy to think about whether what happened was right.  You might get a doctor or hospital bill that jars you into action.  Or maybe you’ll see or hear a baby that makes you think: “It isn’t right. What happened to me isn’t right.”

A birth injury case is a type of medical malpractice. In Maine, you have a birth injury case if mother or child suffered an injury because an obstetrician, anesthesiologist, midwife, or nurse departed from a known standard of care either during the pregnancy or during the delivery of the baby. If the hospital didn’t staff the labor and delivery department properly, or didn’t supervise nurses appropriately, or didn’t have proper equipment, the hospital may be responsible, too.

In the case of most obstetricians, and most hospitals, a mother has three (3) years from the date of the negligence to file a Notice of Claim under Maine’s Health Security Act.  In the case of most infants injured through an obstetrician’s (or hospital’s) negligence, an infant has 6 years from the date of the negligence to have the parents file a Notice of Claim under Maine’s Health Security Act.

The Maine Health Security Act requires that, before a plaintiff may file a lawsuit in the Superior Court against a medical provider, the plaintiff must present the claim to a prelitigation screening panel and receive a decision. Going through the prelitigation screening panel blocks court access initially, but once the prescreening litigation panel gives the decision – regardless of what that decision is – a lawsuit can be filed.

Pregnancy and delivery usually results in a healthy baby. Complications that once killed mothers and babies, or that caused severe injury, such as cerebral palsy, are usually avoidable. But some doctors don’t listen to mothers when they tell the obstetrician that something seems wrong with the baby. Some doctors ignore their medical school training and let mothers labor too long, causing fetal distress. Some obstetricians give the mother too much Pitocin, leading to fetal distress. Some babies show fetal distress during labor, but the nurses of the doctors wait too long to bring the mother to the operating room for a cesarean section, and the baby is born with brain damage.

Even in these times, obstetricians and nurses may be overworked, overtired and/or understaffed.  Even with all the modern technology and medical science to protect mother and baby, nurses and doctors are still human and make mistakes.  This is negligence, plain and simple. It’s no different from a distracted driver crashing into someone.

Examples of malpractice leading to birth injuries include:

  • A stillborn baby
  • The death of a mother
  • Fetal distress/ Brain damage
  • Erb’s palsy (nerve damage affecting an arm and hand)
  • Nerve damage
  • Cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen
  • Facial paralysis from the use of forceps
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Intracranial bleeding
  • Hematoma, hemorrhage of the mother
  • Forceps or vacuum scars
  • Fractures during a cesarean section delivery
  • Untreated infection

Irreversible birth injuries can affect a child and a family for life. Lack of preparation and failure to take appropriate action are often the cause of birth injury. Doctors often take too long to order a “C-section” or respond to fetal distress.  Doctors are sometimes too anxious to administer Pitocin, causing contractions to come too close together or are too forceful, which can result in fetal injury or death. It is malpractice to be too aggressive in the use of forceps or vacuum extractors.  And some standards mention that vacuum extractors are only supposed to be tried two or three times before considering a C-section.  Forceps and vacuum extractors may pull the arm too hard, injuring nerves that cause paralysis of the arm.

Like other states, Maine holds obstetricians, midwives, and delivery room nurses to a professional specialty standard of care. Negligent parties who depart from the standard of care may include the careless doctor, an unsupervised nurse, and the hospital where the injury occurred.  Because the hospital employs the staff, it may be liable for the negligent conduct of its workers. Medical records, which often reveal errors by healthcare providers, are sometimes altered by negligent providers.  Electronic medical records have to be examined to detect alterations as well.

An injured mother may have large medical bills, lost wages and permanent injury.  If a mother dies, the case becomes a combination of wrongful death and medical malpractice.

An injured baby has both a financial and emotional cost to the parents. The costs to resuscitate the infant and keep the baby in the hospital are bills the negligent party is responsible for.  Even more burdensome are the costs associated with permanent injury such as cerebral palsy, nerve damage to one arm, cognitive dysfunction, or developmental delay from brain damage. Permanent injuries to a baby can result in medical bills beyond infancy, the need for specialized education, the need for in-home nursing care for life and the reconfiguration of the home environment to make it safe for an impaired child.

Briggs & Wholey has a long record of representing women and children injured during pregnancy and childbirth.  At Briggs & Wholey we have access to maternal/child injury experts and stay current with changes in birth injury medicine and law. For a free consultation, call our law firm at (888) 596-1099, or contact us online.