Top 7 Questions about C-Section Negligence Claims

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Cesarean birth typically occurs in an emergency when conditions require an expedited delivery to protect the lives of the mother and baby. Many other circumstances may require c-sections, particularly when the profile or conditions of the mom or baby necessitate a scheduled cesarean delivery. In either case, a c-section is a procedure demanding skill and critical timing. When that timing is off or medical errors occur in the course of the procedure, mothers and babies can be seriously hurt, and lawsuits may result. Here are answers to some of the most common questions that our birth injury attorneys are asked about cesarean section malpractice and related lawsuits.

1. Who usually gets a cesarean section?

C-sections are often necessary in response to fetal distress. The most pressing issue is oxygen deprivation, so when a fetal monitor shows an abnormal heart rate, it is usually a sign of distress. If this occurs and a doctor hesitates to perform an emergency c-section, it may be considered malpractice.

Other emergencies requiring quick C-sections include placental and uterine problems. A low-lying baby may block the cervix in a condition called placenta previa. Premature placenta detachment, uterine rupture, and prolapsed umbilical cords also endanger the baby’s oxygen supply, necessitating an urgent surgical delivery. 

Frequently, the conditions for a C-section appear before labor. For example, doctors check the growing baby’s size, especially during the largest growth period in the last few weeks of pregnancy. A large or breech baby may be apparent before labor so that a doctor can be prepared to perform a C-section when labor stops, continues too long, or the baby is stuck.

Sometimes, the mother’s condition is the reason for a c-section, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. A mother may not be able to endure labor and delivery. Likewise, maternal bleeding or infection may also be reasons to perform surgery to deliver a newborn, avoiding a risky vaginal birth. Hesitation when presented with a distressed fetus, stalled labor, bleeding, or infection may constitute medical negligence.

2. When you go to court, how do they decide if you should have had a C-section or if something went wrong?

Doctors make decisions based on each patient’s pregnancy and labor circumstances. The standard of care for cesareans, and when a doctor should perform one, is a matter of expert opinion. After reviewing what occurred in a specific case from complete patient medical records, including fetal monitor readings, an expert for the injured plaintiff may conclude that the doctor should have performed a cesarean section delivery, or should have completed one earlier. To contest the plaintiff’s expert, the defense generally has an expert witness to claim that the doctor followed the appropriate standard of care. It is then up to the jury to decide whose expert is more believable and whether the plaintiff and their attorney have the facts on their side.

Before testifying at a trial, medical experts review the patient records to examine whether the healthcare team acted or failed to act the way they should have, measured against the professional standards of obstetricians, nurses, and other similarly trained, educated, and experienced healthcare providers. The type of experts necessary in a given case hinges on the medical professionals involved at the time of a c-section gone wrong, who erred in the process of labor and delivery, and what professionals with the same qualifications would have done under the same conditions. 

3. Can the mother decide whether to undergo a cesarean?

The mother’s wishes are critical to a c-section decision when there is a choice. In other words, a mother who wants a c-section after prolonged labor with little progress should have one if it is an option, and the doctor should consult with her. Otherwise, the patient may be able to sue the doctor for malpractice based on a lack of informed consent.  

4. What are the key issues in surgical delivery claims?

Cesarean births are still surgery and come with clear maternal risks and lengthier hospital stays. As such, vaginal births are typically considered the best route. Malpractice is an issue only when C-sections are necessary to avoid injuries to the mother and baby. The issue is not whether c-sections are always the preferred delivery method, but whether a surgical delivery should have been done, when it should have been done, and if it was done properly. 

5. Can a hospital be held responsible for medical negligence with cesarean birth?

Hospital employees who do not follow hospital or medical protocol may extend liability to the hospital for a botched c-section. In addition, hospitals that admit patients without having the right equipment, facility, or personnel for an emergency cesarean may be liable to the patient harmed by such negligence. The hospital’s negligence usually means a larger insurance policy to pay for a settlement or jury award for damages when compared to a lone doctor’s malpractice insurance policy. In many cases, both the hospital and the doctor are held partially liable for the victim’s injuries.

6. I feel reluctant to file a claim against my doctor, what should I do?

Understandably, you may have a relationship with a doctor and may be hesitant to sue. However, consider that the doctor’s insurance company handles medical malpractice claims, and the insurance company may settle your c-section claim before it ever reaches court. Even if your case goes to litigation, consider the much-needed financial resources that you and your family would be forced to go without if you did not pursue a lawsuit for medical malpractice.

7. Does it matter if the mother or the baby was the one injured?

In C-section malpractice cases, either the mother, the baby, or both may be injured. You are entitled to bring a lawsuit for compensatory damages on behalf of your baby, yourself, or both. 

What if I have more questions?

If you have additional questions regarding your legal rights and the avenues that may be available to you, contact Fronzuto Law Group for a cost-free consultation. Our seasoned medical malpractice lawyers are ready to assist with your concerns. Call us anytime at 973-435-4551 or fill out our online form to request that we get in touch with you.  

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