What Happens during a Birth Injury Investigation
Coming home from the hospital with a new bundle should be a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, many families do not leave with their newborns because they need continued care to survive or heal from an injury. Birth injuries may result from many causes, but the most tragic are those injuries that are preventable. Mistakes during pregnancy or birth can leave newborns with cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, shoulder dystocia, or other debilitating conditions, both temporary and permanent.
When a medical professional causes a birth injury, parents turn to birth injury lawyers for legal advice and assistance in recovering their losses and financing the recurring costs of treatment and care. Though birth injury lawsuits can be complicated, an experienced attorney knows that diligent and thorough investigation is crucial to the success of a claim. Here, you will find out more about the critical steps in the process of investigating a potential birth injury lawsuit, as well as how an experienced birth injury team can assist with gathering, uncovering, and assembling all of the necessary elements to successfully prove your claim.
Steps in the Process of a Birth Injury Investigation
#1 Ask the Right Questions and Review the Records
After consulting with you and getting as much information about your doctor, hospital, nurses, midwife, or anyone else involved in your pregnancy care and delivery, your attorney will obtain and review your medical records, including your doctor’s notes. Documents tell the story about the patient’s symptoms and the doctor’s care. For example, the records will show the pregnant woman’s age, weight, medical conditions, history, medications, procedures, prenatal tests, and pregnancy details. An attorney can assess the medical decisions, care, and treatment from the first visit to the last based on the mother’s condition, whether she was pregnant with her first or subsequent child, whether she developed gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infection, or other pregnancy complications.
#2 Know what to Look for in the Medical Documentation
The medical records reveal whether the medical providers cared for you appropriately during pregnancy. For instance, if you had gestational diabetes, the attorney wants to know if the doctor kept your blood sugar under control, regularly tested your blood sugar, and prepared for delivering a large baby, a common outcome of gestational diabetes. If you are an older mother, the attorney wants to know if your provider offered genetic testing and advised you of potential congenital disabilities based on your age or genetic markers. Your attorney wants to know whether and how your medical team performed amniocentesis or another genetic test.
Medical records also show which tests the doctor ordered and the test results. Continuing with the example of gestational diabetes, the records show when your glucose testing occurred and how often, exposing how well the doctor monitored your condition. They may also indicate which tests the doctor ran to monitor the growth rate and size of the baby. Large babies cause several birth injuries. For example, a large baby can induce a prolonged labor that can injure the mother and baby. Baby’s too large for their mother’s pelvis may become stuck, damaging their shoulder, neck, nerves, or brain.
#3 Review Minute-by-Minute Decisions during Labor
Your attorney looks for specific actions that doctors, nurses, and the medical staff took during delivery when the labor did not progress or ran into trouble. For example, inexperienced doctors may cause injury when forcing the baby out while their shoulder jams in the mother’s pelvis. This condition, known as shoulder dystocia, may result in brachial plexus injury when it is improperly addressed.
A knowledgeable attorney also looks into fetal monitoring, including when it occurred and for how long, as well as how often the staff checked the baby’s fetal monitor and related results. Fetal distress also causes many birth injuries when a baby suffers oxygen deprivation or other pain due to contractions, position, or size. Fetal monitoring records show the history of fetal heart rate (showing distress) and mother’s contractions. Thus, your attorney may ask you how often staff monitored you and the baby or if any issues arose that warranted a quick delivery or C-section.
#4 Determine How Long it Took to Deliver the Baby
Too many powerful contractions can affect the fetus’s health and sap the mother’s strength needed to push the baby out. Labor that goes on too long can cause the mother and baby injuries. When an obstetrician waits too long to perform a cesarean section, they can cause genital damage, uterine rupture, and hemorrhaging. It may also cause brain damage for the baby and Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) due to oxygen deprivation while the baby remains in the uterus or birth canal. The length of labor and delivery are essential facts that may reveal when and what went wrong, and who was responsible.
#5 Assess what Happened Immediately After Birth
A seasoned birth injury team also looks into the baby’s care and treatment post-delivery, as well as the mother’s. After-birth care is especially critical for vaginal and cesarean birth, as mothers can bleed excessively or contract dangerous infections. Likewise, a child may need to be resuscitated if they are not breathing or may need specialized care in the NICU to revive and recover. Again, records show what follow-up care occurred and importantly, what should have been done that wasn’t.
#6 Consult Medical Experts who can Confirm Insufficient Care
Though attorneys experienced in medical malpractice law know medical terminology contained in medical records, and the complexities of reviewing and researching specific conditions and medical care pertaining to their clients’ cases, they still hire medical experts to review them.
A medical expert’s knowledge, training, and expertise can help an attorney further interpret documents. In addition, expert opinions are a significant component of medical malpractice lawsuits in New Jersey. When medical experts with impressive and appropriate backgrounds testify that they believe a doctor did not follow accepted practices in treating a patient, a jury takes note. It needs to take that opinion into account when reaching a verdict. A defendant may also be more willing to negotiate if your expert and your attorney has assembled a compelling claim demonstrating negligence.
Furthermore, medical experts are essential in the process of filing a birth injury medical malpractice lawsuit, as they provide certification of the claim’s validity through the necessary Affidavit of Merit, without which the process cannot proceed through the courts.
#7 Determine if Your Case is Actually Wrongful Birth
Finally, an attorney must determine through investigation whether your case involves birth injury or wrongful birth. Genetic factors may cause congenital disabilities that doctors can test for, inform parents about, and further advise on during pregnancy. When reviewing records and discussing genetic prenatal tests with you, your attorney needs to know if you and your doctor discussed what testing could be done, whether critical tests were conducted, and whether you were fully informed and educated about the results.
If tests that would have revealed the baby’s congenital condition are missing, test results went unread, or genetic testing findings were improperly interpreted, then it is more likely that wrongful birth occurred through medical negligence. A skilled attorney can file a lawsuit in these matters as well, employing all of their investigative and legal tactics to prove your right to compensation for wrongful birth.
Navigate the Investigation Process for Your Baby Injuries with our Birth Injury Team
Through an attorney’s skilled investigation, your medical malpractice claim unfolds with evidence of who is responsible for your own or your baby’s birth injury and what caused it. Without proof of liability and pinpointing fault, you are not likely to succeed in proving your claim in court or negotiating a fruitful settlement.
With a legal team that informs you each step of the way, you can feel assured, knowing the strengths and essential evidence used to support your claim, and understanding the life of a medical malpractice lawsuit in the judicial system. Take action today and contact an accomplished birth injury team to help you make a solid case for your or your child’s physical, emotional, and financial recovery.
Fronzuto Law Group can help you navigate through the birth injury investigation process with ease and confidence. You do not have to do it alone, as our dedicated team of birth injury attorneys has years of experience concentrating on pediatric and birth malpractice litigation. Call 973-435-4551, toll-free at 888-409-0816, or contact us online for a free consultation and review of your case.