Welcoming a new child is always a good thing. However, some families are devastated to learn that their newborn suffered brain damage in the womb or during delivery.
These injuries can cause serious, long-lasting problems for children as they grow and develop. Brain damage is not always readily apparent after birth, and the symptoms can be difficult to identify. Concerned parents are often left wondering how to tell if their newborn has suffered brain damage. Sometimes, the signs of brain damage are immediately visible after birth, with physical signs of trauma or birth defects. Other times, the signs do not appear until the baby grows and develops. Over time, you may notice things like abnormal speech patterns, physical impairments, or cognitive disabilities. Remember, brain damage may affect every newborn differently, so it is important to seek a doctor’s advice as soon as you suspect there may be brain damage.
Contact our birth injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by calling (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free review of your case.
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Damage in Infants
The symptoms of brain damage in a newborn can be unpredictable. Some newborns show signs of brain damage very soon after birth. Other times, the signs of brain damage do not show up until the child is a little older. It could be months or years before some parents notice something is wrong.
Brain damage is sometimes caused by trauma in the womb, during delivery, or shortly after birth. If there is some sort of trauma, your doctor should tell you about it as soon as they notice. However, doctors could miss the signs of trauma and continue your delivery as normal, leaving you to spot the signs of brain damage on your own.
Trauma can sometimes leave physical damage or marks but can also be invisible. If your child does not appear harmed shortly after birth, brain damage could be indicated through their behavior. Talk to your doctor if your newborn’s movement or behavior seems abnormal. Remember that newborns can develop differently, and strange behavior after birth may be a normal part of your child’s development.
If you believe something is wrong with your baby, speak to a doctor immediately. Documenting your child’s early development through doctor visits can be very helpful later on if you end up filing a lawsuit. Our Baltimore birth injury attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve to take care of your child.
Possible Factors Contributing to Brain Damage in Newborns
Brain damage is a somewhat broad term encompassing a wide variety of injuries and conditions that affect the brain. In newborns, brain damage might stem from numerous possible causes or factors. Some of the most common causes of brain damage in newborns include asphyxiation during birth, trauma during or after birth, and infections.
Asphyxiation occurs when a newborn suffers from a lack of oxygen. There might be numerous causes of asphyxiation, and the longer it lasts, the more likely injuries or brain damage will occur. Asphyxiation during birth can affect the entire body. If a fetus does not get enough oxygen, it may experience hypoxic ischemia, which involves a lack of oxygen and decreased blood flow to organs. Because of the decreased blood flow and reduction in oxygen, numerous organs and body parts get less oxygen. As a result, the body often tries to compensate by redistributing cardiac output to more vital organs, such as the brain, at the expense of less vital organs, like the gastrointestinal system. If asphyxiation is too severe or lasts too long, the brain may experience irreversible damage.
Another cause of brain damage in newborns is infection. While we do not often associate infection-related illnesses with medical negligence, the situation is a bit different during pregnancy. While certain infections might occur in utero, infections that happen shortly after birth are also extremely dangerous.
Infections can cause a huge autoimmune response in the body. One such response is inflammation. In some cases, newborns suffering from certain infections may experience inflammation that affects the brain. Sepsis is an extreme bodily response to infections that might occur in newborns if they experience infections after birth. Studies have shown that infants experiencing sepsis are more likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. 
When people think of brain damage, the first thing they associate with it is probably some sort of physical or mechanical trauma. Whether in utero or shortly after birth, newborns are very susceptible to any form of physical trauma, and the head is extremely vulnerable. While some infants recover from head and brain trauma without incident, others are not so fortunate.
One very serious form of trauma that can cause severe brain damage in newborns is a skull fracture. Newborns tend to have very soft skulls at birth, making them difficult to injure during birth. However, skull fractures are possible if a doctor misuses medical equipment like forceps during delivery. This kind of injury is relatively rare, with about 2 to 3.7 incidents reported per 100,000 live births. The risk of skull fractures and brain damage may be higher if delivery is difficult.
What Causes Brain Damage in Infants?
Brain damage has many different causes and does not look the same in every child. As stated previously, some children show symptoms of brain damage very early, while others do not show signs until they are a bit older. While brain damage and birth injuries have many causes, there are a few common causes:
- Lack of oxygen at birth
- Physical injury or trauma
- Prolonged labor
- Umbilical cords problems
- Problems with the placenta
- Mother’s health issues, such as high blood pressure
Your doctor will have likely evaluated your risk for birth complications during your pregnancy and hopefully taken precautionary and preventative measures. If this is not the case, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Our Baltimore brain injury lawyers for newborns could help you if your doctor negligently failed to pick up on serious risk factors during your pregnancy.
Doctors can also be the cause of brain damage and injuries to newborns. Delivering a baby is incredibly difficult and requires medical professionals to use various tools. Misusing medical instruments during birth can injure a newborn’s skull and lead to serious brain damage. If the doctor unnecessarily prolonged your labor, the pressure from the birth canal on the baby’s skull could also cause injury. You should seek medical attention for your child as soon as you suspect they may have suffered brain damage.
Suing for Brain Damage to Your Newborn
If you believe your newborn suffered brain damage because of your doctor’s negligence, there is information and evidence that must be gathered to begin your lawsuit. First, we should consult with other medical experts to determine precisely how the brain damage occurred. A doctor or nurse could very well have caused your newborn’s brain damage during or shortly after birth. However, sometimes brain damage is due to pregnancy complications that are beyond anybody’s control.
If we determine that your baby’s injuries were indeed caused by negligence during birth, we can begin identifying defendants. You can sue the doctor who delivered your baby and any other doctors or nurses who played a role in the delivery. You can also sue the hospital where you gave birth.
Brain damage is complicated and requires extensive medical knowledge to understand it fully. Medical experts and their testimony will be crucial to your case. Our brain damage attorneys for newborns can help you get advice from medical experts to assist your case.
How to File a Lawsuit for Brain Damage in Newborns
Starting a lawsuit for the injuries and brain damage inflicted upon your newborn is a difficult process, and it would be wise to speak with a lawyer about your case as soon as possible. The first step is to speak with new doctors about your child’s condition. Newborns with brain damage sometimes respond well to treatment, but many might live with permanent disabilities. A new doctor can treat your child’s injuries and evaluate whether medical negligence caused those injuries.
Once you decide to file a lawsuit, you and your attorney should take the necessary steps to meet with qualified medical experts. Legal requirements tend to vary by state, but many states require some sort of showing from an expert backing up your claims of medical negligence. In some states, plaintiffs must have a qualified medical expert provide a statement or affidavit explaining how medical negligence caused the injuries in question. In other states, plaintiffs must submit their claims to a medical review panel, and the panel will render a written opinion on whether medical negligence is involved.
Once your claims are ready to be filed with the appropriate court, you must serve notice on all defendants. This is a crucial step in the filing process. If proper procedures are not followed you’re your case might be rejected. Proper notice should inform the defendant of the lawsuit, the claims against them, and when and how to file their answer. All defendants must each be served notice. If you are suing several doctors, nurses, or medical institutions, each one must be notified.
Proving Your Doctor Negligently Caused Your Newborn’s Brain Damage
Once you commence the lawsuit, our Maryland birth injury attorneys can begin working on how to prove the defendant’s negligence caused your newborn’s injuries. This may be difficult as many medical mistakes or errors do not necessarily rise to the level of negligence.
Standards of Care
The key phrase you will hear throughout your case is “standards of care.” This term is somewhat vague but generally refers to what kind of treatment is necessary for a patient’s medical care. To summarize, standards of care are usually based on how the average doctor would treat a patient. The standard may be how a competent doctor under the same or similar circumstances would provide treatment to the same or a similar patient.
The tricky thing about determining the standard of care is that it may change based on the circumstances. Patients might present to doctors under various circumstances. For example, a patient might have numerous other health conditions in addition to the one they are seeking treatment for. The patient might be mentally ill, elderly, or very young. Patients might also arrive at the hospital under emergency circumstances or with no urgent needs at all. In each scenario, the standard of care might be different.
Proving standards of care almost always requires help from a medical expert. In many cases of birth injuries, plaintiffs seek help from doctors who work in related medical fields. These doctors are intimately familiar with standards of care and can explain how the defendant failed to meet those standards.
To prove your claims in court, we need evidence. In medical malpractice cases for birth injuries, medical records are perhaps the most crucial piece of evidence in the case. In some cases, medical records and witness testimony are the only evidence presented to the jury.
The records we need for your case depend on how we believe the negligence occurred and the nature of your child’s injuries. In some cases, brain damage occurs during delivery or shortly after. In such cases, records from your delivery are vital to your claims. In other cases, brain damage happens in utero. If that is the case, we likely need records from throughout the pregnancy to help prove when and how the negligence took place.
Compensation for Newborn Brain Damage
Damages can be difficult to calculate because putting a price tag on the life of your newborn can be both difficult and upsetting. The effects of brain damage can lead to expenses related to treatment and care for the rest of their lives. In severe cases, children may be unable to ever care for themselves; they might never hold a job, and their parents must financially support them and all their needs.
There is also the issue of pain and suffering. Dealing with any injuries to a newborn is traumatic and upsetting. When those injuries are life-long and life-altering, you could be entitled to greater compensation. The costs of current and future medical care and the emotional trauma and suffering you have had to endure all deserve to be compensated. Our birth injury lawyers can help you.
Call Our Lawyers for Newborn Injuries
Schedule a private case review free of charge with our birth injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by calling (410) 694-7291.
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 Mallard C, Wang X. Infection-induced vulnerability of perinatal brain injury. Neurol Res Int. 2012;2012:102153. doi: 10.1155/2012/102153. Epub 2011 Nov 2. PMID: 22135745; PMCID: PMC3216257.