Parenting can be extremely stressful. Unfortunately for some parents, this stress begins at birth.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), roughly 2 out of every 1,000 children suffer an injury at birth (sometimes called a "birth trauma").
Parents of children who suffer birth injuries have legal options. But before you file a lawsuit, it's important to understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect, the proof necessary to establish a successful claim, and the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
Let's take a closer look at birth injuries in Pennsylvania.
A birth injury is an injury that occurs during labor and delivery. A birth injury can be sustained by a mother or a child, but the term is generally used to describe an injury to a child.
In order to fully understand birth injuries, it's important to know the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect.
Common birth injuries include:
A birth injury claim is a type of medical malpractice claim. Accordingly, to establish that a healthcare professional is liable for a birth injury, you need to prove that:
To put it another way:
It's not enough to prove that your child was injured during labor and delivery (after all, some injuries are inevitable or necessary to prevent more serious injuries). To establish liability, you need to prove that your healthcare provider did something that a reasonable healthcare professional would not have done.
The main focus of birth injury cases is generally on what the healthcare provider should have done in a specific set of circumstances.
Because jurors don't usually have medical degrees, plaintiffs in Pennsylvania birth injury cases are required by law to present testimony from at least 1 expert witness to establish the applicable standard of care, the deviation from that standard, causation, and the extent of the birth injury.
Birth injury lawsuits are generally filed by the parent on behalf of the injured child. As a result, when damages are awarded, they're typically placed in a trust to prevent the parent from spending the money on someone other than the child.
The Pennsylvania Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (MCARE) allows plaintiffs in birth injury lawsuits to recover both economic and non-economic damages:
Economic damages are established by medical bills and expert witnesses who testify as to future expenses.
Non-economic damages are more subjective and harder to calculate. In determining the appropriate amount of non-economic damages to award, Pennsylvania jurors are required to consider:
There's a limit to the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. This time limit (called the statute of limitations) varies by state and type of case.
There are 2 primary reasons for limiting the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit:
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is 2 years. However, if the injured person is under the age of 18 at the time of the incident that causes the injury, the 2-year clock won't start running until the person turns 18.
In other words:
If the lawsuit is not filed before the child turns 20, the court will refuse to hear the case and the right to compensation will be lost forever.
The moments following a birth injury can be chaotic and overwhelming, but there are some simple steps you should take: