The birth of a child should be one of the most exciting and memorable times of a parent's life. But sometimes things go wrong during the process. Approximately 7 out of every 1,000 infants in the United States are born with a birth injury. What's worse, studies show that nearly 50% of all birth injuries are potentially avoidable.
So what happened if your infant was injured during birth?
This article examines the difference between birth injuries and birth defects, the causes of both, and the legal options available to parents in Arizona.
A birth defect is a problem that occurs when a baby is developing in the womb. Most birth defects are caused by a complex mix of genetics, behavior, and environmental conditions.
In some cases, there may be legal recourse for a birth defect.
For example, if you take a medication while pregnant that causes a birth defect and there was no warning on the label, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the medication. However, for the majority of birth defects, there's no party at "fault" to sue.
Birth injuries are different than birth defects. A birth injury is an injury sustained during labor and delivery. If the birth injury is the result of some action (or inaction) by your doctor or some other healthcare provider, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
There are all sorts of potential birth injuries, but the 7 most common birth injuries in the United States are:
The birth injuries listed above can be serious, but generally result in only minor, temporary harm. Unfortunately, there are less-common birth injuries that are often considerably more serious. These include:
It's important to understand that not all birth injuries are caused by the negligence of a doctor or healthcare professional. Some injuries sustained by newborns are simply due to the natural forces of labor and delivery.
Nevertheless, doctors and healthcare professionals are human and can make mistakes. Common causes of negligence-related birth injuries include:
It's very possible that your doctor did something—or failed to do something—during the childbirth process, and that conduct amounted to medical malpractice. In Arizona, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be brought against any licensed health care provider.
In order to establish a medical malpractice claim in Arizona, you must prove the following elements:
In a medical malpractice case, the main focus of the lawsuit is often on what the healthcare provider should have done in a specific set of circumstances. The standard by which the medical professional is judged is called the "medical standard of care."
Both the plaintiff and the defendant will attempt to persuade the judge or jury by presenting testimony from experts in the field.
A childbirth injury that results in death may give rise to a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by the surviving family members of the deceased. In a wrongful death claim, the family members must prove the same medical malpractice elements listed above.
There are 2 types of damages available in a birth-related medical malpractice case:
Arizona is one of the few states in the country that doesn't place damage caps on medical malpractice claims. However, a ratio of punitive damages to actual damages that exceeds 9:1 will generally be deemed unconstitutional.
In Arizona, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of the injury (or, of the date the injury is discovered).
For wrongful death claims, the lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of the death.
Arizona has a unique procedural rule that requires any plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit to file (along with the complaint) a preliminary expert opinion explaining the factual basis for each claim against the licensed healthcare professional, as well as the acts, errors, or omissions that the expert considers to be a violation of the applicable standard of care.
The requirement is intended to reduce the amount of baseless claims (which raise medical malpractice insurance premiums).
A birth injury can be an extremely traumatic experience. We recommend using our free online directory to locate an experienced Arizona attorney so that you can focus on your family while your attorney works to obtain the compensation you and your infant deserve.