Wayne County Birth Injury Attorneys
For many parents, the birth of a child is one of the happiest moments of their lives. Unfortunately, thousands of mothers and children suffer preventable injuries during the labor and delivery process each year. These birth errors can have a devastating impact on a family.
Medical errors during labor and delivery are some of the most tragic. Thousands of children are born every year with lifelong injuries due to negligent medical care provided by obstetricians, labor and delivery nurses, and other medical professionals involved in the birth process. At Sommers Schwartz, P.C., our dedicated Wayne County birth injury lawyers proudly help patients pursue medical malpractice claims against negligent medical providers. For more than 45 years, we have helped families pursue claims for compensation after they suffer tragedy during the labor and delivery process.
What You Should Know About Birth Injuries in Michigan
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 107,917 births in 2019. Most new mothers were aged 25-29. Although most deliveries go smoothly, there is always a chance of error. For example:
- A doctor can delay the delivery when a fetus is in distress, causing brain injuries;
- A nurse can fail to report fetal distress, thus delaying delivery;
- A midwife may fail to perform proper delivery procedures, causing trauma to the fetus.
Common Risk Factors During Birth
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31.9 percent of Michigan births are cesarean (“c-section”) deliveries. Additionally, 10.2 percent of births are preterm (delivered before 37 weeks of pregnancy), and 8.8 percent of infants are low birth weight (under 5 ½ pounds). All these conditions increase the risk of complications during the birthing process.
The Michigan Infant Death Statistics 2019 report found that 36 percent of infant fatalities were due to premature-related conditions. Another 16.1 percent died due to congenital disabilities. In 2020, Wayne County reported the most birth-related fatalities in the state: a shocking total of 211 deaths (compared to 21,680 live births).
While many deliveries go smoothly, some are more challenging than others. During problematic deliveries, the chance for birth injuries is the greatest. Certain risk factors will make delivering a baby without complications more difficult. These include:
- Premature birth.
- Low birthweight.
- Large size.
- Multiple births.
- Use of fertility treatment before pregnancy.
- Infections during pregnancy.
- Birth complications.
- Cesarean deliveries.
Of course, these are just risk factors. They do not cause birth injuries, but they increase the likelihood they will occur. For example, a high birth weight baby is at greater risk of injury because a delivery doctor will more likely need to use forceps or a vacuum extractor during the birth. These tools can help facilitate a successful delivery but also potentially cause harm.
The causes of a birth injury often involve medical negligence. The fact that a baby sustained a birth injury indicates that something may not have been done correctly. An experienced Sommers Schwartz attorney well-versed in birth injury cases can help evaluate whether a situation was an unavoidable tragedy or a case of preventable negligence.
Common Labor Situations That Lead to Birth Injuries
At the Wayne County birth injury law firm of Sommers Schwartz, our compassionate advocates work closely with families to help determine the cause of their child’s birth injuries. We work with a nationwide team of expert witnesses who help us prove our client’s cases against negligent medical providers. Some of the most common situations that lead to birth injuries include:
Poor Prenatal Care
The quality of prenatal care provided to a mother during her pregnancy is a significant factor in the health of a newborn baby. Doctors who diligently monitor a mother and her child during pregnancy are more likely to notice any issues early and take appropriate steps to decrease the chance of a severe birth injury or provide immediate care for dangerous conditions.
A mother may experience difficulty during the labor process in various ways. These include abnormally slow dilation of the cervix, wrong positioning of the baby, or difficult pelvis passage. If a doctor or nurse mishandles prolonged labor, it increases the risk for maternal and neonatal injury, neonatal asphyxia, uterine rupture, fetal distress, and postpartum hemorrhage.
Hypoxia (Oxygen Deprivation)
The deprivation of adequate amounts of oxygen, also called hypoxia, is a leading cause of birth injuries. In minor cases, where a baby is deprived of oxygen for a short time, they may be born with a bluish tint. These newborns will usually recover if they receive immediate and proper care. However, even moderate periods without oxygen can cause a baby to develop cerebral palsy. Completely depriving a baby of oxygen (asphyxia) for too long can cause death if a medical professional or medical staff member does not act quickly.
Reduced Blood Flow
A developing fetus receives nutrition and oxygen through the umbilical cord, which connects to the placenta and attaches to the uterine wall. The continued flow of blood is crucial for delivering a healthy child. If the umbilical cord is constricted or the blood flow is reduced to dangerous levels during labor and delivery, the baby may suffer irreversible damage or not survive.
Physical Injuries During Delivery
During difficult deliveries, doctors frequently must use specialized instruments to help deliver a baby. The unskilled or negligent use of these instruments, combined with the trauma of labor, places babies at an increased risk of injury or death. If a doctor is not prepared with the necessary tools or does not act quickly enough to help a baby stuck in the birth canal, the baby may be born with an irreversible birth injury.
In cases of distress, it may be necessary to end labor and perform an emergency c-section. Cesarean delivery is a procedure that cuts an incision in a woman’s uterus and abdomen. It is major surgery with risks, such as wound infection, endometriosis, blood clots, postpartum hemorrhage, and post-surgery injury. The newborn and mother must be closely monitored during recovery.
Birth Injuries Often Linked to Medical Negligence
Natural childbirth and cesarean deliveries both pose serious risk factors to mothers and their babies. While some complications are immediately apparent, other long-term effects appear during recovery or even several months later. Some disorders that often occur because of birth injuries include:
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term that refers to a group of related disorders that affect posture, muscle movement, and balance due to abnormal brain development. This abnormal development can result from damage to a child’s developing brain, which can occur during pregnancy, as a result of birth trauma, or in infancy.
Common symptoms of CP include:
- Delay in motor-skill milestones such as crawling, walking, rolling, and sitting.
- Delay or permanent impairment of speech development.
- Muscle disorders such as ataxia, spasticity, and athetosis.
Speech therapy, occupational therapy, medication, and assistive devices can help improve a child’s capabilities and overall quality of life.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves. It stems from nerve roots in the cervical (neck) and upper trunk (torso) sections of the spinal cord to the nerves in the arm. If complications occur during labor and delivery, the brachial plexus can be compressed, stretched, or torn. The baby can suffer from loss of muscle function, loss of feeling, and paralysis. If serious nerve injuries happen, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Erb’s Palsy is a type of BP injury that causes partial or complete paralysis in the arm. The results are muscle atrophy in the biceps and deltoids. It can occur if an infant is too large or positioned wrong to fit through the birth canal (dystocia). Medical personnel should identify and analyze this situation before labor progresses to prepare for an emergency C-section if necessary.
Klumpke’s Palsy is a rare brachial plexus injury that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. There are four types of injuries: avulsion, rupture, neuroma, and neuropraxia. In best-case scenarios, children can heal within a few months. However, most children with these injuries will need physical therapy or surgery.
How Common Are Birth Injuries?
Experts estimate that six to eight out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born with some type of birth injury. This amounts to over 28,000 birth injuries per year across the country. However, the exact number of birth injuries is difficult to determine. Doctors are primarily responsible for self-reporting any errors that result in patient harm.
Although most data are based on doctors’ self-reporting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 1 in 345 children have cerebral palsy, one of the most common birth injuries. Another medical study indicates that as many as 2.5 in every 1,000 children suffer from some type of brachial plexus injury during the birthing process; about 15 out of every 1,000 children born suffer from clavicular fractures, and 1 in 100 babies suffers facial nerve damage during the delivery process.
Another reason the rate of birth injuries in the United States is hard to assess is that it is often hard to determine the precise cause of an injury or condition. For example, cerebral palsy (CP) has several causes, and sometimes babies develop CP independent of any negligence. However, a baby born with cerebral palsy often indicates that something went wrong during labor and delivery. Unless the parents file a birth injury claim and obtain expert opinions about their child’s condition, they often never know what caused their child’s CP.
Pursuing Medical Negligence and Birth Injury Claims and Recovering Damages
A Wayne County birth injury claim can be brought when the negligence of a medical professional resulted in a baby being born with an injury they would not otherwise have sustained. Typically, birth injuries occur during the labor and delivery process or shortly afterward.
Birth injury lawsuits require time and patience. Medical negligence can be difficult and expensive to prove, so only an experienced lawyer team should handle such cases.
Families who successfully bring a birth injury lawsuit are entitled to compensation based on their child’s injuries. While every case is different, courts often award both economic and non-economic damages in these cases. Economic damages include medical care your child needs for their injury and the cost of ongoing care due to any long-term disability.
Non-economic damages refer to the emotional and psychological damages your family has endured from the injury or condition, such as any pain and suffering you and your child experienced or will experience in the future. The availability and extent of non-economic damages depend on the impact of the birth injury on your life and your child’s life.
Finding the best legal team should be your first step. For over four decades, the parents of children injured at birth have chosen Sommers Schwartz attorneys to fight for their interests. Time after time, we have won their battles and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for the medical care and maintenance of injured children.
Contact an Experienced Detroit Michigan Birth Injury Attorney
If your child suffered severe injuries at birth, reach out to Sommers Schwartz. Since our firm was founded in the 1970s, we have stood out as a pioneer in medical negligence litigation, fighting for the rights of grieving families. Our birth injury litigation team has exceptional legal skills and extensive knowledge in pediatrics, physical medicine, obstetrics, neurology, neuroradiology, rehabilitation, and more. Sommers Schwartz lawyers have authored a textbook on effectively handling birth injury cases and are routinely invited to speak at important birth trauma conferences,
To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on your child’s injuries, call 1-800-783-0989 to schedule a free consultation. Because we work on a contingency basis, we will not bill you for our representation unless we can help you recover the compensation you—and your child—deserve.