Did Your Child Suffer a Birth Injury Due to Malpractice?

Birth injuries caused by medical negligence may occur when the delivering doctor, nurses, or other healthcare professionals fail to meet the proper standard of care before, during, or immediately after delivery, leading to complications that adversely affect the mother or newborn baby.

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birth injury

Birth injuries caused by medical negligence may occur when the delivering doctor, nurses, or other healthcare professionals fail to meet the proper standard of care before, during, or immediately after delivery, leading to complications that adversely affect the mother or newborn baby.

Birth injuries are alarmingly common in the United States. According to the CDC, birth injuries affect one in every 33 babies (3%) every year and are the leading cause of infant mortality, accounting for 20% of all infant deaths. The most tragic thing about birth injuries is that many are easily preventable if delivering doctors, nurses, and hospital staff make the right medical decisions before, during, and immediately after delivery. Unfortunately, when they do happen, birth injuries can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars to care for, which is why it is important to be aware of your legal options following a birth injury diagnosis. A birth injury lawsuit can compensate affected children and families for past and future medical expenses, physical therapy and rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and other related damages. If your child has suffered a preventable birth injury, a lawsuit may be the best way for you to improve your child’s quality of life and ease the financial burden of birth injury care. Contact our consumer advocates at Consumer Justice Foundation right away to discuss pursuing financial compensation through a birth injury lawsuit.

Types of Birth Injuries

Childbirth is a unique and complex process where unexpected complications can arise, and sometimes snap decisions are made by doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff that can put the baby’s health or safety at risk. Sadly, these decisions can alter a family’s life forever, in the course of just a few moments, and can leave affected babies with disabilities that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. In other cases, they can tragically lead to death. The following are some examples of birth injuries that can occur as a result of preventable medical errors made by doctors or nurses during the childbirth process:

  • Cerebral palsy – The most commonly diagnosed motor disability in children is cerebral palsy, a neurological condition caused by an insufficient flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain during childbirth. Children with cerebral palsy typically experience difficulty with motor skills, movement, and muscle tone, which may be accompanied by cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, limited vision, and other problems. 

  • Erb’s palsy – Erb’s palsy is a birth injury characterized by partial or complete paralysis of the arm resulting from damage to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves during birth. This type of birth injury is typically caused by shoulder dystocia, occurring when, after vaginal delivery of the head, one or both of the baby’s shoulders become stuck inside the mother’s pelvis. Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury.
  • Brachial plexus injury – Another possible complication of shoulder dystocia is damage to the brachial plexus nerves, the complex network of nerves responsible for sending signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. If a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck inside the mother’s pelvis during delivery and the delivering doctor uses excessive force to extract the baby, the brachial plexus nerves can become stretched, compressed or torn. A brachial plexus injury occurring during birth can result in a loss of muscle function or complete or partial paralysis of the affected arm. 
  • Facial paralysis – Some babies suffer facial paralysis, also known as facial nerve palsy, at birth, characterized by the loss of voluntary muscle movement in the baby’s face. This type of birth trauma can occur as a result of excessive pressure on the baby’s facial nerve by the mother’s pelvis or by the use of forceps during delivery.

  • Skull fracture – Another type of birth trauma that may result from the use of forceps or other instruments during delivery is a skull fracture. A newborn baby’s skull is soft and flexible, which allows the head to travel through the birth canal more easily. However, it also means the brain is more exposed and vulnerable to injuries caused by excessive force applied by the delivering doctor. A skull fracture can also occur as a result of a difficult labor, if the doctor fails to order a C-section. In serious cases, a skull fracture can cause brain damage and other complications. 
  • Brain injury – Damage to a newborn baby’s brain is the most common cause of physical disability and mortality among infants. There are two main causes of traumatic brain injury that may occur as a result of medical negligence: oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or childbirth, and trauma to the baby’s head during delivery. Depending on the extent of the brain damage, affected babies may exhibit physical abnormalities and/or experience feeding problems, seizures, developmental delays, and other difficulties.

  • Wrongful death – There are some types of birth injuries that, if they are severe enough, can lead to death. For instance, bleeding in the brain, significant damage to the spinal cord, a serious skull fracture, or brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain can all be fatal under certain circumstances. A wrongful death is when the doctors’ or nurses’ actions (or lack of action) directly or indirectly led to the baby’s death.

Long-Term Consequences of Birth Injuries

There are some birth injuries occurring in newborn babies that are relatively minor and may even resolve on their own, while others are far more severe and long-lasting. Cerebral palsy, for instance, is a lifelong disorder requiring long-term medical care and support services, which can be extremely costly. In fact, the lifetime healthcare costs associated with caring for a child with cerebral palsy amount to more than 10 times the cost of caring for a child without a disability. That is one of many reasons why it is imperative that parents who suspect that their baby has suffered a birth injury conduct a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the baby’s birth, to determine whether the actions of the doctors, nurses or hospital staff involved in the delivery caused or contributed to the baby’s injuries. Too often, an otherwise normal pregnancy and delivery turns into a family’s nightmare because of a medical professional’s negligence. 

Possible Causes of Birth Injuries

Some medical conditions babies are diagnosed with at birth or shortly after are birth defects that could not have been prevented due to genetics, and some birth injuries occur despite the best efforts of the delivering doctor and nurses. However, other birth injuries are preventable injuries caused by medical or nursing negligence. Just like there are many different kinds of birth injuries a baby can suffer during labor and delivery, there are a number of possible causes of birth injuries resulting from healthcare provider negligence. If a baby is born with a birth injury that could have been prevented with better medical care, the child’s parents may have a legal claim against the doctors or nurses whose substandard care brought on the trauma, as well as the hospital that employs them. 

Breach of Duty of Care

Doctors have a duty to keep their patients safe and that includes delivery doctors doing everything in their power to prevent babies from suffering preventable injuries during the labor and delivery process. Sadly, some doctors make mistakes or poor medical decisions during this process and end up causing irreparable harm to the babies they deliver. Some common medical mistakes that may result in permanent birth injuries include:

  • Failure to perform or recommend an emergency C-section when appropriate
  • Administering inappropriate medications before, during, or after childbirth
  • Misdiagnosis of a medical condition 
  • Failing to induce labor
  • Failure to recognize fetal distress
  • Lack of communication or miscommunication between doctors and nurses
  • Use of excessive force to remove the baby
  • Improperly applying forceps or a vacuum to the head to assist the birth
  • Failure to detect an infection in the mother

Birth Injury Prevention

Who is Liable for a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries caused by improper prenatal care or care administered by a doctor or nurse during labor and delivery can have permanent physical, psychological, cognitive, and social consequences for affected children. The key to recovering fair and timely compensation for your child’s birth injuries lies in determining who is liable, or legally responsible, for the harm your child has suffered. In order to win a birth injury lawsuit, the suing party (plaintiff) must show that the responsible party or parties (defendants) owed a duty of care to the affected child, failed to fulfill that duty, and, as a result of that failure, caused the child’s injuries. Pinpointing the responsible party or parties in a birth injury lawsuit can be complicated, which is why we recommend consulting a reputable birth injury attorney to represent your case. The following are some examples of possible defendants that may be named in birth injury lawsuits. 

Doctors, Nurses, and Hospital Staff

Delivering doctors and nurses have a legal duty to care for patients in a way that meets the acceptable standard of care expected of reasonably competent medical professionals, meaning they are expected to act in a manner that is consistent with the way in which a “reasonable” healthcare provider would act in a similar situation. Any time a doctor or nurse makes a mistake or deviates from this standard of care in caring for a pregnant mother or delivering a baby, and the baby suffers an injury as a result, that doctor or nurse may be liable for damages. The average delivery team for a hospital birth consists of several different medical professionals, any of whom may be responsible for injuries occurring before, during, or after a baby’s birth. The following are some examples of healthcare providers and others that may be implicated in your child’s birth injury:

  • Obstetrician gynecologist (OB/GYN)
  • Labor and delivery nurse
  • Midwife
  • Registered nurse
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Pediatrician
  • Pharmacist
  • Neonatologist
  • Maternal fetal doctor
  • Medical resident or student
  • Hospital staff


As you can see, birth injuries aren’t always attributable to a single person. In some cases, even the hospital where a child was delivered can be held accountable for any injuries sustained by the child during birth. After all, hospitals, just like doctors, have a duty to provide patients with a safe treatment environment and competent staff, and if a doctor or nurse employed by the hospital in which an injured baby was delivered is responsible for injuries sustained by the baby during birth, the hospital may also be liable for the doctor’s or nurse’s negligence.

Pursuing Compensation for a Birth Injury

What is a Birth Injury Lawsuit?

Many children who suffer injuries at or around the time of birth require a lifetime of care and the medical bills can add up quickly. You and your loved ones should not be forced to pay thousands or even millions of dollars to manage a birth injury that a medical professional could – and should – have avoided with proper medical care. To hold the responsible person or party financially responsible for your child’s birth injuries, your best option may be to file a birth injury lawsuit. A birth injury lawsuit is a type of legal action that gives the families of babies born with cerebral palsy, brain damage, Erb’s palsy, and other birth injuries a means of holding negligent medical professionals accountable for their actions and pursuing financial compensation for their losses. Birth injury lawsuits can be filed against the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, or any other person or entity who may be liable for a child’s birth injuries. 

What Damages Can I Recover?

Every birth injury case is different, and there is no way to know precisely how much your claim is worth, although a knowledgeable attorney can give you an idea of how much you can expect to receive via settlement or jury verdict. Having a qualified birth injury attorney on your side can also significantly improve your chances of recovering the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to for your child’s birth injuries. Some families who have filed claims in recent years have been awarded millions of dollars in damages to cover the costs related to birth injury care, such as:

  • Surgeries
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy
  • Medical monitoring
  • Neonatal care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income
  • Medications
  • In-patient hospital visits
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Appointments with specialists
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Home modifications
  • In-home medical care
  • Handicapped-accessible transportation

The full amount of compensation you can recover through a birth injury lawsuit depends on a number of factors specific to your case, including the type and severity of your child’s injuries, the manner in which the case concludes (settlement vs trial), and the expertise of your legal representation. Some birth injuries are immediately evident at birth while others can take longer to emerge and only become obvious when the baby fails to meet certain developmental milestones, such as feeding, movement, or speech and language development. Keep in mind that each state has a limit on the amount of time parents have to file a lawsuit after a birth injury, which is why it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away, to avoid relinquishing your right to seek compensation for your child’s injuries.

We understand that no amount of money will undo your child’s birth injury. We also know that birth injuries can put a great deal of stress on your family as you make every effort to adapt to your new sense of normal. That is why we work so hard to put families affected by birth injuries in touch with experienced attorneys who can help them on their path to justice. 

What are the Legal Claims for Birth Injuries?

Medical Malpractice

Doctors, nurses, and any other person or entity responsible for a child’s care before, during, or after delivery have a duty to protect the safety of that child and avoid making poor decisions that could injure the child. If at any point during the birthing process, a medical professional makes a decision in caring for your child that breaches this duty of care and causes your child harm, you may be able to hold that person accountable for the resulting birth injuries by filing a medical malpractice claim. 

Wrongful Death

Simple mistakes or poor decisions made by delivering doctors can cause permanent damage and leave affected children with long-term injuries. Sadly, some of these birth injuries are severe enough that they may lead to a baby’s death. Wrongful death is a specific type of medical malpractice in which the negligence or wrongdoing of a medical professional causes a fatal injury. If you find yourself in this tragic situation, your attorney may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor or hospital responsible for your child’s death.

Do I Qualify for a Birth Injury Lawsuit?

If your child suffered a birth injury like cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injury, or brain damage as a result of mistakes made before, during or shortly after delivery, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit. By taking legal action against the doctor or hospital responsible for your child’s birth injuries, you have the opportunity to recover the compensation you need to provide your child with the best possible care now and in the future. After all, the healthcare costs associated with birth injuries like cerebral palsy are exorbitant and can put a considerable financial burden on affected families. There are also other benefits to filing a birth injury lawsuit beyond pursuing financial compensation. For one, a lawsuit provides affected families with a path to justice by holding the delivery doctors and others accountable for the harm their actions caused. Taking legal action against negligent doctors and hospitals after a birth injury can also caution other families about the risk of birth injuries and help keep at-risk mothers and their babies safe. 

Medical Malpractice Cases and Settlements

The following are some examples of recent birth injury settlements and verdicts from across the country:

2020 – A baby boy suffers severe brain damage, spastic quadriplegia, and significant developmental delays after the staff at an Army hospital allegedly fails to properly monitor the baby’s heart rate and order a timely C-section in response to indications of fetal distress. A federal court awards the family $15 million in damages.

2018 – A New York jury delivers a $34.8 million verdict in a birth injury lawsuit filed by the family of a baby who was delivered at 24 weeks and sustained serious brain injuries resulting in spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. The family claimed that the delivery doctors and hospital staff breached the standard of care by failing to treat the pregnancy as high risk and by failing to offer the mother a procedure that may have prevented the baby’s premature delivery.

2018 – The family of a baby who suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), developmental delays, seizures, and other problems during a difficult vaginal delivery files a birth injury lawsuit against the OB/GYN and obstetrical nurse, who they claimed failed to recognize and properly respond to signs of fetal distress. The parties reach a settlement prior to trial in the amount of $4.2 million.

2015 – A medical malpractice lawsuit is filed against a mother’s obstetrician and the relief doctor at a New Jersey hospital, both of whom allegedly failed to respond to an abnormally low and declining fetal heart rate during labor. According to the claim, the baby was born with HIE, resulting in cerebral palsy, because of the doctors’ failure to perform a timely C-section. The birth injury lawsuit is settled for $8 million. 

2015 – A $3 million verdict is delivered in a birth injury lawsuit filed by the family of a baby who suffered shoulder dystocia after becoming caught behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. The nerve root was torn from the baby’s spinal cord, resulting in a brachial plexus birth injury and permanent paralysis of the affected arm. The delivery took place at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore. 

2014 – A Maryland family is awarded $1.7 million in damages for their child’s Erb’s palsy birth injury. According to the claim, the birth injury occurred when the baby’s left shoulder became stuck during delivery, allegedly as a result of the delivering doctor’s failure to conduct proper birthing techniques. 

2013 – A family in Pennsylvania is awarded $55 million in damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem and the doctors responsible for the delivery of their son. According to the claim, the doctors ignored signs that the baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen during the birthing process and failed to perform an emergency C-section. As a result of their failure to act, the child now suffers from cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

Finding the Right Birth Injury Attorney

For families whose lives have been torn apart by an unexpected birth injury, a skilled personal injury attorney is an invaluable legal resource and your most trusted advocate. A good birth injury attorney knows how to evaluate every aspect of a birth injury case and maximize the chances of an affected family receiving full and fair compensation for their expenses and the pain and suffering they have endured. The regrettable truth is that many birth injuries are entirely preventable. If your child has suffered a birth injury like Erb’s palsy or cerebral palsy, a lawsuit may be the best way for you to take control and move past the tragedy. Our consumer advocates at Consumer Justice Foundation know how devastating birth injuries can be for affected children and their loved ones, and we can help put you in touch with an experienced attorney who specializes in birth injury claims. You may be limited in the amount of time you have to take legal action, so contact CJF today to learn more about how to go about filing a birth injury lawsuit.

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By submitting this form, you confirm that you have read and agreed to Select Justice, LLC, LeadClient, Inc., or a law firm may contact you about their services at your above phone number even if it is on a National or State Do Not Call List. Calls / texts may employ automated dialing technology and prerecorded / artificial voice messages and email. I understand my consent is not a condition of any purchase.

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