When you’re expecting a baby, you’re usually over the moon with excitement, planning their name, decorating the nursery, buying all the baby items you can think of (even some you don’t really need), and celebrating with your friends and family. Then, it’s time. You head to the hospital, ready to finally hold your little bundle of joy.
You don’t expect something to go wrong during the delivery. You never thought something completely unpreventable might happen to your baby. But it has. Now you’re faced with the unforeseen reality of potentially lifelong medical issues, so many doctors, constant tests, and the chance that your baby may never be how you imagined.
Heartbroken and confused, you’re not sure what to do. You’ve heard that you may have grounds to pursue a birth injury lawsuit against the doctors or other medical staff at the hospital, but you’re not sure where to start.
And, also, is it too late? How much time do you even have to file a claim?
We’ll discuss what qualifies as a birth injury and how much time you have to begin legal action.
What Does Birth Injury Mean?
Falling under the larger umbrella of medical malpractice, a birth injury is defined by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) as “an impairment in body function or structure due to an adverse event that occurred at birth”.
This means that some outside force caused injury or harm to a baby during labor or delivery. It’s most common during assisted or cesarean births.
Birth injuries are different from birth defects in that injuries occur due to an incident during the birth process, whereas defects are medical conditions often seen on ultrasounds while the baby is still developing within the mother’s body.
Birth injury or birth trauma is often attributed to medical negligence during the prenatal or the labor and delivery process and can cause serious harm to babies, such as:
- Head trauma: Fractured skull bones, superficial lesions, extracranial or intracranial hemorrhages
- Spinal cord injury: Excessive traction or rotation of the spinal cord during extraction
- Skeletal injury: Broken or fractured bones, most commonly occurring are clavicle or humerus fractures
- Facial injury: Any injury to the face, most commonly ocular (eye) injuries
- Soft tissue injury: Bruising, lacerations, or other injury to the soft tissue of the body
This is not an exhaustive list. If your child suffered from any of these, or other injuries not listed here, according to Pennsylvania law, you may file a birth injury claim against the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist, or anyone else involved with the labor and delivery of your baby.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations
As with all types of injuries, there is a time limit called the statute of limitations, in place for filing a claim or lawsuit against the responsible individual(s).
In general, medical malpractice claims have a time period of two years from the date the injury occurred. But in the case of birth injury, the two-year statute of limitations doesn’t begin until an injured child reaches the age of eighteen.
This means that a child with a qualifying birth injury has until the age of twenty to file a claim in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, if the injury isn’t found until later in life and can be attributed to trauma suffered at birth, the “discovery rule” may apply. This means the two-year statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the injured person discovers that their injury was due to negligence.
However, if a child has died due to a birth injury or medical malpractice they suffered, the parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In this instance, the parents have the standard two years from the date of the injury or the date of the wrongful death to file their claim.
The Best Next Steps
The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion, an exciting celebration of new life. But when it isn’t, when something goes wrong that shouldn’t have, it can be devastating, and difficult to know what to do next.
You’re faced with mounting medical bills and you want someone to be held responsible for what happened.
It’s in your and your child’s best interest to start your injury claim as soon as possible with the legal assistance of a Philadelphia birth injury lawyer. The sooner you begin the process, the more time your lawyer has to gather all necessary information and documentation to prove medical negligence occurred, to hold those responsible accountable, and to get justice for your child.
At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we understand how traumatizing this kind of situation can be to the whole family and we specialize in cases just like yours. It’s our mission to assist you and your child in getting the most compensation allowable by Pennsylvania law for the unnecessary injury that you’ve suffered.