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Understanding Birth Injuries


Although in most cases childbirth proceeds uneventfully, in some cases the infant suffers a severe injury during the birth. These injuries can lead to lifelong complications, for example by causing brain damage or severe damage to a limb. One estimate is that around five out of every 1000 infants will be injured during birth.

Legal recourse

If the birth injury was avoidable due to it being caused by some form of negligence or incorrect medical decisions made during the pregnancy and/or birth, the parents can file a medical malpractice suit against the medical personnel and the facility involved in the incident in order to obtain funds to assist with paying for the child’s medical needs.

Birth defect or birth injury?

However, just because an infant is not born completely healthy doesn’t mean it suffered a birth injury. Birth defects are quite common, affecting around 3% of all live births. Although in some cases it obvious that the baby was born with a birth defect based on the condition affecting the child, such as trisomy 13, in other cases it is not that clear. For example, cerebral palsy can be caused by both birth defects and birth injuries.

Causes of birth injuries

One of the most common causes of birth injuries is improper use of forceps during delivery, causing serious brain damage. Other causes include failing to properly monitor the baby during delivery and thus not noticing that it wasn’t getting enough oxygen or was in distress, and failing to take appropriate immediate steps to correct the situation. A doctor deciding to proceed with vaginal delivery when the birth isn’t going well instead of quickly switching to a cesarean section can also lead to birth injuries. There are also reported cases where the doctor has accidentally cut into the infant during a cesarean section, possibly leading to severed limbs and other permanent disabling injuries.

Elements of a claim

In order to proceed with and win a birth injury claim, it is essential to be able to prove that the doctor or other health professional did not properly follow the established standard of medical care for each particular case. This can be surprisingly difficult. It is also necessary to establish that the infant’s injuries were a direct result of the doctor’s actions in failing to follow the established standard of care, which can in some cases also be difficult to establish.

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