Birth Injury FAQs

Finding out your child has a birth injury can be incredibly distressing as a mother or father. You did not prepare for a child with a serious injury such as temporary paralysis or cerebral palsy, but you must now deal with considerations such as medical care, special education, disability modifications, and rehabilitation or treatments. Asking a birth injury attorney a few questions about your child’s birth injuries and your family’s potential right to file a claim could help you feel more in control of your child’s life and future.

Is a Birth Injury a Defect?

Birth injuries and birth defects are two different things. A birth defect occurs during an infant’s development while in the womb, either due to congenital causes or influences such as environmental toxins. A child born with a birth defect may be the victim of a defective product but is generally not the victim of a birth injury. A birth injury, on the other hand, occurs during or right after a child’s delivery. A birth injury can cause temporary or permanent damage to a child who is otherwise healthy and free from birth defects.

Are All Birth Injuries Preventable?

In theory, birth injuries should always be preventable with proper prenatal care and a competent physician. Proper medical care during labor and delivery should prevent issues such as lack of oxygen supply from causing permanent damage. However, not all complications are predictable and not all treatments work. Just because your child suffered a birth injury does not mean you have a malpractice claim. If your doctor did everything he or she reasonably could have to prevent the injury but it occurred anyway, the doctor might not be liable. Your injury lawyer must prove that the doctor was negligent and that this caused the injury, for you to have a valid claim.

What Are Some Common Birth Injuries?

Families throughout the U.S. have fought and won birth injury claims involving a wide range of injury types. Virtually any injury to a child before, during or after birth could result in a lawsuit if a reasonable and prudent party would have prevented the injury in similar conditions. Some of the most common birth injuries that result in lawsuits include cerebral palsy, shoulder dystocia, brachial plexus injuries, broken bones, paralysis, brain damage, oxygen deprivation, skull fractures and nerve damage.

Who Is Responsible?

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be difficult to navigate in terms of assigning liability and fault for the victim’s damages. Many hospitals and birthing centers in California engage the services of physicians and surgeons who are independent contractors rather than employees. If an independent contractor caused your child’s injuries, you may have a liability case against the individual, but not the hospital. This could limit your ability to recover compensation.

If, however, the person that caused the injury was an employee of the facility, the hospital or center could be vicariously liable for your child’s injuries. The center could also be liable if it contributed to your child’s injuries through negligence such as failing to properly train its physicians or lack of proper premises safety. Holding a hospital responsible for a birth injury increases the odds of securing fair and full compensation for your family’s damages.

How Long Do Parents Have To File Claims?

California imposes a strict statute of limitations on birth injury and medical malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations gives parents a deadline by which they must file their damage claims, or else risk the courts refusing to hear their cases. The statute of limitations on a birth injury claim in California is either three years or until the child’s eighth birthday – whichever is longer. This deadline differs from other medical malpractice claims in California because it applies only to minors under the age of six. Speak to an attorney to make sure you do not miss your specific deadline to file.