Pregnant woman looking at sonogram of baby with birth defect | The Haynes Firm Tennessee personal injury lawyers

Key Differences Between Birth Injuries and Birth Defects

April 6, 2023

A birth injury is a devastating event for any family. Far too often, doctors and other health care providers fail to exercise the necessary care when a baby is being born. The results can be catastrophic not only for the newborn child but for parents, siblings, grandparents, and more.

Birth defects can be similarly devastating. However, they are not the same as birth injuries, and the distinction is key when considering a family’s legal options.

If you and your family are reeling from the aftermath of a birth injury, The Haynes Firm can help. Call 423-928-0165 today for a FREE evaluation of your case.

What Is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is an anomaly or disorder that affects a baby’s development in the womb. They can affect a baby’s appearance, cognitive and/or physical functions, or internal processes.

Examples of birth defects include:

  • Congenital Heart Defects
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate
  • Spina Bifida
  • Clubfoot
  • Hemangiomas
  • Partial or Complete Blockage of the Esophagus or Bowel
  • Malformation of the Limbs
  • Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Hernia
  • Defects of the Baby’s Brain

Birth defects may be genetic (i.e., they occur due to mutations in the baby’s genes). They may also occur as a result of maternal health issues (e.g., infections during pregnancy, untreated diabetes, etc.) or exposure to certain toxins.

Research by the CDC shows that 1 out of 33 babies will have some type of birth defect. This represents 3% of the babies born each year in the United States.

Can I Sue If My Baby Has a Birth Defect?

Doctors have a duty to prescribe medications that are safe for mother and baby. They are also responsible for assessing the expectant mother’s overall health and current medications and advising her of any risks to the fetus. When doctors fail in these duties and a baby is born with a birth defect, they may be sued for negligence.

Similarly, errors in prenatal care resulting in birth defects may expose doctors to liability. For example, taking folic acid vitamins during pregnancy is essential for preventing spina bifida. This fact is well-established in the medical community. A doctor who fails to advise the mother of the importance of taking folic acid supplements could potentially be held liable if the child is born with spina bifida or another neural tube defect.

Finally, doctors must promptly treat infections and other health issues that endanger the baby. If a doctor’s negligence in diagnosing an infection and/or treating it properly results in a birth defect, this may be sufficient grounds for a lawsuit.

What Is a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries are caused by trauma sustained during labor and delivery. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries occur as the baby is being brought into the world. Multiple factors can increase the risk of a birth injury, from prolonged labor to errors during the delivery (such as negligence in the use of forceps or vacuum extraction devices).

Examples of birth injuries include:

  • Caput Succedaneum
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Bleeding Around the Brain
  • Skull Fractures
  • Broken Bones in the Face
  • Facial Nerve Injuries & Paralysis
  • Brachial Plexus Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Fractures of the Collarbone & Other Bones
  • Asphyxia

Some birth injuries resolve on their own with little to no treatment. Others, however, can lead to long-term and even permanent challenges. Perhaps the most prominent example of a major complication of birth injuries is cerebral palsy.

Nearly 765,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy. The estimated lifetime cost of caring for a child with cerebral palsy is more than $1 million.

Cerebral palsy can be caused by injury to the baby’s brain during delivery. If it can be established that the negligence of doctors and other medical professionals involved in the birth caused the baby to sustain a brain injury, the family may have a viable medical malpractice claim.

Can I Sue If My Baby Suffers a Birth Injury?

A birth injury can alter the course of a child’s life from the day they are born. It can also take a major toll on the child’s family. You and your loved ones should not be forced to deal with the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of a birth injury on your own if a health care provider’s negligence was the cause.

Read More: Can You Sue a Doctor for Malpractice in Tennessee?

The following elements must be satisfied for a birth injury claim to proceed:

  • First, the health care provider(s) in question owed the mother and her baby a duty of care; this establishes the responsibilities of the provider.
  • Second, the duty of care was violated through negligence; a breach of duty is established by examining the applicable standard of care (i.e., the standards generally accepted within the medical profession in a given situation) and presenting evidence of deviation.
  • Third, the negligence of one or more health care providers caused the baby’s injuries.
  • Finally, the birth injury resulted in compensable damages.

Each of these elements is challenging to prove on your own. If your baby suffered a birth injury and you believe malpractice was a factor, it is important to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. You and your family may be entitled to compensation through a health care liability action.

Birth Injury: Know Your Rights

As a parent, having your child diagnosed with a birth defect or a birth injury can turn your world upside down. You are likely facing a number of serious questions about your child’s medical care and how your family as a whole will be affected.

Filing a lawsuit is likely the furthest thing from your mind right now. However, if medical negligence led to the birth injury or defect, you owe it to yourself to fully explore your legal options.

The Haynes Firm is a family firm. Our attorneys are a father-son team with more than 70 years of combined experience handling birth injury cases and other forms of medical malpractice litigation. We provide compassionate, qualified legal guidance and aggressively pursue the maximum compensation you and your family deserve.

Contact The Haynes Firm for a FREE evaluation. Our birth injury lawyers serve clients in Johnson City and other areas of Tennessee.

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