In the United States, giving birth is typically an uncomplicated event. Mother and child will soon head home without any need to visit the doctor again until the child is scheduled for immunization shots. But sometimes medical negligence can lead to injury—for either the baby or mother, or both. In these situations, the law might entitle you to financial compensation. At Abels & Annes, we help families get the compensation they deserve when medical negligence causes harm.
What Is Medical Negligence?
A doctor or other medical professional who treats you owes you a duty to use reasonable care. In particular, the law requires that medical professionals possess and use the skill, knowledge, and care that other careful medical professionals would use. When they fail to do so, they might face legal responsibility if their negligence causes injuries.
To make a case for medical negligence, you’ll need to prove four things:
- The doctor owed you a duty of care. If you are a patient, this is usually easy to prove.
- The doctor’s conduct fell below that standard of care (which is called a “breach”).
- You or your baby suffered an injury.
- The doctor’s breach of duty of care caused the injury.
- You must prove all of these elements. If even one is missing, then you won’t win your case for medical negligence.
At Abels & Annes, our attorneys know how to present evidence to a jury using simple, clear language that lay people can understand.
Not every injury is a result of medical negligence. If your child has a birth defect, then nothing your doctor could have done during delivery would have made a difference. Also, you may have experienced one of a very small percentage of pregnancies that were difficult for one reason or another. For example, your baby’s position in the womb might make delivery extremely difficult, resulting in injury.
Nevertheless, doctors can make some common mistakes during delivery:
- Misusing forceps
- Improperly using vacuum devices
- Prolonging a necessary cesarean
- Wrongfully administering labor-inducing drugs
- Failing to respond to signs the baby is in distress
- Failing to respond to an umbilical cord problem (for example, when the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck)
- Failing to treat an infection after delivery
The key is to point to some decision the doctor made that another competent doctor in the same situation would find unreasonable. Sometimes doctors face a range of options, several of which are acceptable, so an injury to your baby does not prove, by itself, the doctor’s negligence.
Common Injuries to Babies
If your child was injured during delivery, you might hold a negligent doctor financially responsible. Some of the more common birth injuries babies sustain include:
- Disrupted brain functioning. For example, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) results when the baby’s blood receives insufficient oxygen, resulting in brain damage and seizures.
- Bleeding in the brain. Trauma and a lack of oxygen can cause your baby’s brain to bleed, which is called intraventricular hemorrhage. As a result, the brain might not develop properly.
- Cerebral palsy. Your child might experience muscle dysfunction that impedes standing, talking, feeding, or controlling the bladder.
- Erb’s palsy (also called shoulder dystocia or brachial plexus injury). Your baby might suffer arm weakness or paralysis because of damage to shoulder nerves.
- Paralysis. When doctors use too much force during delivery, your child might suffer an injury to the spinal cord that can result in lifeless limbs.
- Death. In extreme cases, a baby may die during delivery because of mistakes a doctor made.
A baby who experiences delayed motor or language development might have suffered a birth injury. At Abels & Annes, our lawyers will carefully review medical records and gather witness testimony to identify whether medical negligence contributed to your baby’s injury.
Injuries to Mothers
Medical negligence can also harm mothers. Although maternal death rates in the United States are low compared to most of the world, about 700 women die each year in delivery and thousands more suffer injuries. Common injuries to birth mothers include:
- Vaginal tears
- Improper suturing after a C-section
- Seizures as a result of preeclampsia
- Ruptured uterus
- Nerve damage
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Many women hesitate to discuss any pain they experience after childbirth, wrongly believing that the pain was a necessary part of delivery. But if you have difficulty going to the bathroom, or if your pain doesn’t subside, speak to a doctor promptly. You might have suffered an injury caused by a doctor’s medical negligence.
Compensation Is Available
If you can prove that a doctor or other medical professional is responsible for the injury, then you might receive financial compensation. For example, you can receive a sum of money (called “damages”) for:
- Past and future medical care
- Past and future at-home or nursing home care
- Therapy (speech, therapy, or counseling)
- Lost wages, if one parent must stay home with the child
- Pain and suffering
Every situation is different, and not every family will qualify for all of these damages. However, only a personal injury lawyer can identify the amount of compensation you can receive and develop a plan to maximize it.
Don’t Delay in Calling a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Today
You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. In Illinois, injured victims only have two years to bring a lawsuit, and the clocks starts from the date you knew or should have known about the medical negligence. If you wait too long, you might lose your right to sue. Fortunately, the rules are laxer if your baby suffered the injury, but you still shouldn’t delay since evidence will grow harder to collect as time passes.
At Abels & Annes, our team will carefully review medical records and interview witnesses to identify whether you have a possible legal case for medical negligence. Contact us or call us today at (312) 924-7575 for a free consultation.