We often think of childbirth as a miracle. While this is true, it is also extremely dangerous. When complications arise, newborns might be seriously injured.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the upper arm, shoulder, and neck that provide feeling and muscle control to those areas. When a newborn or unborn child experiences a brachial plexus injury, they may have lifelong injuries or disabilities. Possible brachial plexus injuries include limited movement or even total paralysis of the affected areas, weakness, numbness, and pain, among other symptoms. If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during childbirth, you might be able to sue the doctor and hospital that delivered your baby. It is important to explore your legal options as soon as possible, as your child might have lifelong injuries.
For a free case review with our Baltimore birth injury lawyers call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.
What is a Brachial Plexus Injury from Childbirth in Maryland?
As mentioned before, the brachial plexus is a nerve network in your upper shoulder and neck. The nerve network is rooted in the spinal cord in the neck and extends all the way down to the armpit. If the brachial plexus nerve network is damaged during childbirth, nerves might stretch or tear, causing severe injuries to your child.
Brachial plexus injuries might happen in several different ways. In some cases, a pre-birth injury is the cause of the brachial plexus injuries. For example, a pregnant person in a car accident might give birth to a child with brachial plexus injuries. It is also possible that the injuries happen during the birthing process and are caused by a doctor’s negligence.
A brachial plexus injury might leave your child with limited mobility in their arm, hands, and fingers. A weakened grip or difficulty moving might be a sign of a brachial plexus injury. In severe cases, full paralysis of the affected limb might occur. Our Maryland birth injury attorneys can help you explore your legal options if your child experienced a brachial plexus injury. These injuries are often lifelong and require very expensive medical treatment.
Possible Causes of Brachial Plexus Injuries from Childbirth in Maryland
There are multiple possible ways in which a child might experience a brachial plexus injury. Injuries often occur during birth because of a doctor’s negligence in the delivery room. It is important to determine how your child was injured because this may determine their overall prognosis. Speak to our Maryland birth injury lawyers about your child as soon as possible to begin exploring legal options.
A brachial plexus injury can occur during childbirth if the nerves are stretched and damaged. This is sometimes seen in breech deliveries where the baby is delivered feet-first. If the child’s body is moved one way or another before their head is out, their brachial plexus nerves might be stretched and damaged.
This is one of the most common brachial plexus injuries. Fortunately, some newborns are able to fully recover within a few months. However, not all babies are so lucky. If the nerve is permanently damaged, your child might experience problems like limited mobility or weakness for the rest of their life.
A rupture occurs when the nerves are torn. A rupture does not occur where the nerve attaches to the spine but somewhere else within the brachial plexus nerve network. This is also a relatively common brachial plexus injury, and recovery is possible. Recovery typically requires surgical intervention, which is very expensive and presents many possible complications. Our Towson personal injury lawyers can help you get compensation from the negligent hospital and doctor to pay for your child’s future medical needs.
An avulsion is similar to a ruptured nerve, but the avulsion occurs at the roots of the nerve, where it attaches to the spine. This is more severe and less common than other brachial plexus injuries, but it is still very possible and can leave lifelong injuries.
An avulsion cannot be surgically repaired. Instead, doctors may try to graft nerves or muscle tissue from other areas of the body to the affected areas. There is no guaranteed outcome of grafting, and your child might still be left with permanent injuries and scarring. Avulsions are also associated with more severe medical conditions, like Horner’s Syndrome, which affects the eyes and face.
Legal Options for Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries in Maryland
If your child experienced a brachial plexus injury during birth, you might be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor and hospital responsible for the injuries. Before beginning a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is important to take note of the various laws and rules surrounding this kind of case. Our Maryland personal injury lawyers have experience in this field and can help you navigate the complex legal processes.
The statute of limitations for lawsuits against health care providers can be found under Md. Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-109(a) and provides 5 years from the date of the injury or 3 years from the date the injury was discovered. If these deadlines expire before you file your lawsuit, you might lose your right to sue.
The next section of the statute applies to claimants younger than 11 years old when the injuries occurred. The law states that the statute of limitations commences when the claimant turns 11. However, the Maryland Appellate Court ruled in 2002 that the statute of limitations for children should not commence until they’re turning turn 18.
To start a medical malpractice case, you need a certificate of a qualified expert. Under Md. Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-2A-04(b), you must have a qualified expert review your case and attest that the doctor deviated from standards of care. If this certificate is not filed, your case might be dismissed, and you will have to file all over again.
How to Prove a Lawsuit for Brachial Plexus Injuries from Childbirth in Maryland
To successfully litigate a brachial plexus injury case in Maryland, four key elements must be proven. It must first be established that the healthcare provider owed a duty of care to both mother and child. In childbirth cases, this duty exists inherently due to the nature of the healthcare provider-patient relationship.
Next, it must be shown that the healthcare provider breached their duty of care. This breach often involves an action or omission that deviates from the accepted standard of care in the medical community. For instance, excessive force used during delivery, failure to order a necessary cesarean section, or not responding appropriately to complications could all constitute a breach.
You must also prove that the breach of duty directly resulted in the brachial plexus injury. This is commonly known as the “causation” element. Expert testimony from another childbirth medical professional is typically required to establish this connection. Finally, you must demonstrate that they suffered actual damages because of the injury. These damages can be physical, emotional, or financial.
Determining Liability for a Brachial Plexus Injury in Maryland
Identifying who is liable in a brachial plexus injury case can be complex. Typically, the delivering physician will be held responsible if their negligence caused the injury. However, other parties may also share liability. For example, if the hospital’s policies contributed to the injury, the hospital itself could be held accountable. In some cases, a nurse or other medical professional involved in the delivery might also bear some responsibility.
Other healthcare providers are involved in delivering a child than doctors who could be responsible for an infant’s injuries. If a nurse involved in the delivery failed to monitor the mother and baby adequately, did not communicate concerns to the doctor, or committed other errors, they might be held liable. If other medical professionals involved in the care of the mother and baby were negligent, they could also be held accountable. For instance, an anesthesiologist who made errors in administering medication, or a specialist who failed to correctly interpret an ultrasound, may share responsibility.
Damages You Could Recover in a Lawsuit for Brachial Plexus Injuries in Maryland
The impact of a brachial plexus injury extends beyond the immediate physical harm. It can lead to substantial financial burdens, emotional trauma, and significant lifestyle changes. Understanding the full range of damages you might be entitled to is a critical step in pursuing a lawsuit. The following are the most common damages sought in a brachial plexus injury lawsuit in Maryland:
Medical expenses form a substantial part of the damages in brachial plexus injury cases. They cover immediate costs such as hospital bills, surgeries, and medication. For instance, if a child requires surgery to repair a torn nerve, the cost of the operation, anesthesiology, and post-operative care would fall under this category. Long-term medical expenses are also covered. These could include ongoing physical therapy, occupational therapy, or any future surgeries the child might need due to the injury.
Lost wages are another crucial component of damages. While it might seem premature to consider a newborn’s earning capacity, the law takes a long-term view. If a brachial plexus injury causes permanent disability that could impact the child’s ability to work in adulthood, compensation for lost wages may be awarded. For example, if the child’s injury results in a significant physical disability preventing them from pursuing certain occupations in the future, the estimated loss of income from those opportunities would be calculated and included in the damages.
Of course, the mother could also claim lost wages if the fallout from their child’s birth injuries prevents them from returning to work. They might have to claim lost wages if they need to take time off or get special consideration from their employer to give them the time to care for their child’s needs.
Children with brachial plexus injuries may require specialized care. These costs can involve hiring caregivers, making necessary home modifications to accommodate the child’s needs, and providing special education services. For instance, if a child’s injury results in a loss of hand function, modifications like installing handrails or customizing a vehicle for one-handed driving could be included in these damages. Costs associated with special educational needs or therapeutic services to help the child adapt to their disability are also recoverable.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to the physical pain and emotional distress the child and family experience due to the injury. Physical discomfort, anxiety, depression, and a decrease in enjoyment of life are all considered in this category. For instance, if the child or mother experiences chronic pain because of the injury or if they develop anxiety related to their physical limitations, these factors could contribute to the amount awarded for pain and suffering.
Loss of Companionship, Humiliation, and Other Non-Economic Damages
Loss of companionship damages compensates for the impact of the injury on the child’s relationships and lifestyle. For example, if the child’s injury prevents them from participating in social activities or forming relationships in the way they would have without the injury, this loss could be quantified and included in the damages. Similarly, compensation for humiliation or embarrassment due to physical disabilities or disfigurements caused by the injury can also be claimed. In most cases, the parents can also claim these damages as their child’s injury can certainly affect their lives in the ways just described.
Our Maryland Birth Injury Attorneys Can Help
Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 to receive your free case consultation with our Maryland birth injury lawyers.