When a child is injured at birth in the state of California because a healthcare provider was negligent, the parents are legally entitled to monetary compensation.

If you are a parent of a child injured at birth, you’ll learn how to obtain the legal help, the financial compensation, and the justice your family needs.

Even in the 21st century, birth injuries are still too common. Every year, about 25,000 children born in the U.S. suffer birth-related injuries.

A child’s birth should be a joyous occasion, and it usually is, but a birth may turn tragic if complications cause a birth injury.

Many birth injuries are permanent, disabling – and preventable.

WHO CAN BE HELD LIABLE FOR BIRTH INJURIES IN CALIFORNIA?

When a birth injury in California is the result of medical negligence, the parents are entitled to full monetary compensation for their child’s ongoing treatment and care.

And a birth injury medical malpractice claim is not necessarily limited to the obstetrician who delivered the child.

If hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, nurses, anesthesiologists, or others providing healthcare services at the time of the birth were also negligent, they may also be targeted with a medical malpractice lawsuit.

CAN YOU SUE A HOSPITAL FOR A BIRTH INJURY?

Hospitals can be held directly liable for negligence in many medical malpractice cases. Hospitals may also in some cases be held “vicariously” liable for employee negligence.

When it hires medical professionals, a hospital must check into the applicant’s education, licensing, and training. A hospital might otherwise be found liable for negligent hiring or negligent supervision.

Hospitals must investigate even a doctor’s credentials before granting that doctor hospital privileges. A potentially incompetent physician cannot be permitted to work with patients.

Hospitals must also ensure that enough registered nurses and support personnel are on hand to maintain quality care to all patients at all times.

HOW CAN A LAWYER HELP THE PARENTS OF AN INJURED CHILD?

In the case of a birth injury, a medical malpractice lawyer can review the details of the incident to determine if the obstetrician, other individuals, or the hospital itself – or all of those parties – can or should be sued for medical malpractice.

In southern California, it is imperative for parents with a birth injury claim to seek legal advice and representation at once from an experienced Orange County medical malpractice attorney.

Most medical malpractice lawyers offer a free initial consultation and legal evaluation, so it costs parents nothing to learn where they stand legally and how California medical malpractice law applies in their family’s own case.

WHAT LEGAL PRINCIPLE COVERS “VICARIOUS” LIABILITY FOR INJURIES?

When a hospital staffer’s negligence injures any patient, the hospital may be considered “vicariously” liable under the legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior.”

Respondeat superior means employers may be liable for the negligence of their employees if an employee was acting “within the scope” of his or her job duties when the negligence took place.

In most birth injury cases, respondeat superior allows parents to sue the hospital where the birth injury occurred as well as the individual obstetrician and other delivery room personnel.

Because some physicians are independent contractors – not hospital employees – respondeat superior won’t apply to those doctors.

Nevertheless, a hospital may still be held accountable for its own negligence, for example, in granting hospital privileges to an incompetent doctor.

CAN A PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY BE HELD LIABLE FOR A BIRTH INJURY?

If a drug’s manufacturer has fully informed a doctor of the risks associated with a drug, that manufacturer generally will not be held liable for a patient’s drug-related injuries. Liability in such cases is assigned directly to the physician.

A pharmaceutical company has a duty to make sure that any drug it manufactures is reasonably safe if used as intended. The doctor’s duty is to ensure that the drug is prescribed and used safely.

However, if a drug company fails to warn a doctor adequately about a drug’s possible dangers, the company could be held liable for that failure.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE BIRTH INJURIES?

Negligence in the delivery room, however, is the most common cause of preventable birth injuries like cerebral palsy, brachial plexus damage, Erb’s palsy, and mental retardation.

What negligence causes these types of birth injuries? It may include but is not limited to:

1. excessive force by the obstetrician
2. the wrong use of forceps
3. depriving the child of oxygen
4. failing to perform a cesarean section if it’s necessary

When forceps are used, it is imperative for the obstetrician to place the forceps properly around the child’s head without using excessive force. A doctor must have informed consent before using forceps.

Receiving insufficient oxygen during the birth process can cause HIE, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which damages a child’s heart, lungs, and kidneys. When it isn’t fatal, HIE can cause cerebral palsy.

A cesarean section should, of course, be performed if it’s necessary, but unnecessary cesarean sections substantially increase the risk of birth injuries.

WHAT IS EXPECTED OF OBSTETRICIANS AND DELIVERY ROOM PERSONNEL?

Throughout the labor and birth process, obstetricians and delivery room personnel should monitor both mother and child and be ready for any complication.

When obstetricians and delivery room personnel fail to act to prevent a preventable birth injury, it’s medical malpractice.

However, birth-related injuries happen for a number of reasons, and not all birth injuries are caused by medical negligence.

That is another reason why, as a parent, you must have the advice of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer if your newborn has been injured at birth.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO PREVAIL WITH A BIRTH INJURY CLAIM?

A medical malpractice lawsuit in a birth injury case will prevail only if you and your attorney can prove that someone’s negligence led directly to the birth injury.

In southern California, an experienced Orange County medical malpractice attorney can explain your family’s legal rights and options and recommend the best way to move forward.

A good medical malpractice lawyer will examine the medical records and consult with medical experts to determine if – and exactly how – medical malpractice played a role in your child’s birth injury.

Catastrophic birth injuries may require a lifetime of medical care and medical costs. Some states like Pennsylvania have different laws, so in those instances it is best to consult with Luzerne County Personal Injury Lawyers.

Parents must be represented by an attorney who will fight aggressively for the maximum amount of compensation from every party with liability for a birth injury.

Every birth injury is tragic, but when a tragedy was preventable, seeking justice is the right thing for a parent to do. Nothing is more important than your child – and your family’s future.

By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.