Labor and delivery are by far the most dangerous part of pregnancy for both mothers and babies. Many things can go wrong, and it is the responsibility of the medical team to identify and address these potential issues.
The problem is that not every medical team does its job well. When OBGYN professionals are negligent, they can cause serious birth injuries. In fact, mothers may be able to file medical malpractice claims for themselves and their children if they are harmed by neglectful healthcare workers during labor and delivery.
Who Has Grounds for Medical Malpractice Claims?
Medical malpractice refers to injuries caused by medical professionals who fail to follow standards of care while caring for patients. In most cases, only one person has the right to file a medical malpractice claim for a given incident: the victim.
The person harmed can file a claim to seek damages for the losses they suffered because of their injury. However, the personal nature of malpractice means that there is rarely more than one person affected by a specific act of negligence.
Birth injuries are the exception. Certain types of neglect by the OBGYN team can harm the mother and the infant. It is possible to file two claims for the same incident when this happens. The mother can file one claim on her own behalf and a second to cover the harm suffered by her child.
While they are obviously related, these claims may be addressed separately. The claimant must prove the following for both claims:
- The healthcare worker or facility was responsible for the claimant’s care
- The responsible party failed to follow appropriate standards of care
- This failure caused the claimant harm
- That harm led to specific losses
Simply facing complications during labor is not enough for a malpractice claim. That is considered an unfortunate but normal risk of delivering a child. You need to show that the OBGYN team failed to meet the standards of their field and that it harmed you or your child to file a successful claim. Even if one claim does not succeed, the other may, allowing you to recoup some of the medical costs your injuries incurred.
What Constitutes Labor and Delivery Malpractice?
OBGYN care providers are expected to meet basic standards of care for every expecting mother during labor and delivery. These standards include expectations and requirements like:
- Providing a clean environment to reduce the risk of infection for mothers and newborns
- Monitoring patients carefully to identify serious conditions like preeclampsia
- Testing patients for risk factors for complex labor
- Prioritizing less-invasive birth methods when possible to reduce trauma, pain, and recovery times
- Providing clear and accurate information for expecting patients so they understand their birth options
- Addressing emergencies like excessive bleeding, seizures, and shock quickly and effectively to reduce their impact on mothers and children
It is possible for a patient to face complications during and after delivery even when everyone involved meets these standards. However, failing to meet these standards makes long-term harm much more likely.
When a medical team doesn’t meet these standards, they are considered negligent and have committed malpractice. They may be liable for any harm their patients suffer. This includes injuries their neglect causes to the mother and her child.
When a healthcare worker or facility is found liable for medical malpractice, they must compensate the victims for their economic and non-economic losses. These can include:
- Costs of ongoing medical care for the injuries, such as in-patient hospital stays, physical therapy, or even long-term home care.
- Lost income from time spent recovering
- Future income lost because the victim can no longer go to work
- Compensation for pain and suffering caused by the injuries and their impact on quality of life
While California has caps on non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims, it does not cap economic damages. You may be able to receive full compensation for the care you and your child need after being injured during labor and delivery.
Examples of Birth Injuries to Mothers and Infants
There are many ways both babies and mothers can be harmed by negligence during labor and delivery. Some of the most common injuries mothers suffer include:
- Seizures caused by untreated preeclampsia
- Infections caused by inadequate sterilization procedures
- Surgical errors like leaving medical supplies inside the abdominal cavity after a C-section
- Involuntary sterilizations by reckless, malicious, or negligent surgeons during a C-section
- Ruptured uteri after delaying a C-section too long
- Nerve damage from incorrectly administered epidurals
- Excessive blood loss
Infants are just as vulnerable during and after delivery. Some of the most frequent injuries children suffer due to medical malpractice by OBGYN professionals include:
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, also known as hypoxic brain injuries
- Cerebral palsy caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain during delivery
- Brachial Plexus Palsy, or damage to the nerves that control the arms and hands
These conditions can be identified and potentially prevented by carefully monitoring the patient for signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery. Failing to identify signs of distress or ignoring the signs and delaying potentially life-saving C-sections can cause infants life-changing, permanent brain or nerve damage.
Furthermore, many types of medical neglect can harm mothers and babies alike. Untreated preeclampsia is dangerous to both, as are unidentified fetal distress and improperly administered anesthesia. One moment of carelessness can cause permanent injuries or even death for the laboring patient and their fetus.
L.A. Birth Injury Attorneys for Mothers and Children
If you believe you and your baby were harmed by medical malpractice during delivery, you should get help. Get in touch with the experts at the Law Offices of Michael Oran, APC. Our skilled medical malpractice attorneys can help you identify if you or your baby has a claim and how to hold the negligent medical professionals accountable for the harm they caused.