Childbirth can be a complicated and delicate process. While many births occur without any complications, some can result in injuries to the baby. One such injury that does not get a lot of attention from birth injury lawyers are bone fracture, which can happen during the delivery process as the result of the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare provider. When a baby suffers a bone fracture during birth, it can be a traumatic experience for both the baby and the parents.
When these fractures are the result of medical negligence, parents may seek compensation for the injury through a birth injury lawsuit to compensate both the parent and the child. This article will explore bone fracture birth injuries, the legal process for pursuing compensation, and the factors that can impact the outcome of a lawsuit.
Types of Bone Fracture Birth Injuries
Several types of bone fractures can occur during childbirth, with some of the most common ones being:
- Clavicle (collarbone) fractures: These are the most common type of birth-related bone fractures, often resulting from a difficult delivery, such as a breech presentation or shoulder dystocia. In most cases, clavicle fractures heal without any long-term complications, but they can cause pain and discomfort for the baby.
- Skull fractures: These fractures are less common but can be more severe. The skull of a newborn is designed to be flexible during delivery, as it is made up of several separate bones. This flexibility helps to prevent fractures. But skull fractures can still occur during birth if complications arise during the delivery process. They can occur due to the use of forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery or if excessive pressure is applied to the baby’s head. Skull fractures can lead to brain damage, developmental delays, and other long-term complications. These are the most serious bone fracture during birth and these claims generally have the highest settlement payouts.
- Long bone fractures: Fractures of the humerus (upper arm), femur (thigh), or other long bones can also occur during childbirth, particularly if there is a difficult or assisted delivery. These fractures among neonates are often diagnosed as non-accidental because as long bone and rib fractures are often associated with medical mistakes.
Causes of Bone Fracture Birth Injuries
Bone fractures during birth can result from various factors, including:
- Medical negligence: If a healthcare provider fails to adhere to the standard of care during delivery, such as by using excessive force or improperly using delivery instruments, they may be held liable for the baby’s bone fracture injuries.
- Prolonged or difficult labor: A long and difficult labor can increase the risk of birth injuries, including bone fractures, as the baby may be subjected to increased pressure and stress during the delivery process. Why was the labor difficult? Often there is nothing a doctor can do. But in many cases, the failure to order a C-section or mistakes made trying to get the baby out cause head fractures.
- Large birth weight: Babies with a higher birth weight are at an increased risk of bone fractures during delivery, as their size can make the process more challenging for both the baby and the delivering physician. Another instance where malpractice, such as failure to monitor gestational diabestes, can be the cause.
- Breech or other abnormal presentations: If the baby is in a breech or another abnormal position during delivery, it can increase the risk of bone fractures as the baby may need to be manipulated or extracted using forceps or vacuum devices.
Pursuing a Bone Fracture Birth Injury Lawsuit
If your baby has suffered a bone fracture during birth and you believe medical negligence may have contributed to the injury, you may consider pursuing a birth injury lawsuit. Here are the key steps involved in the process:
- Consult with an experienced birth injury attorney: It is crucial to work with the best birth injury attorney you can find who has experience handling birth injury cases. Good lawyers make all of the difference in these cases.
- Investigate the cause of the injury: Your attorney will gather evidence to determine whether medical negligence contributed to your baby’s bone fracture. This may involve reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, and consulting with medical experts.
- Establishing negligence: To prevail in a birth injury lawsuit, you must prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence directly caused the baby’s bone fracture. Your attorney will need to show that the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard of care, and their actions or inactions led to the injury.
- Calculate damages: Your attorney will help you determine the damages you may be entitled to in your case, which can include medical expenses, future medical care, pain and suffering, and other losses related to the injury. In some cases, punitive damages may also be sought if the healthcare provider’s actions were particularly egregious.
- Negotiate a settlement: Many birth injury lawsuits are resolved through settlement negotiations, where both parties come to an agreement on the compensation amount. Your attorney will negotiate with the defendant’s legal team to reach a settlement that is fair and adequately compensates you for your losses.
- Go to trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, your case may proceed to trial. At trial, your attorney will present evidence and argue your case before a judge and jury. The jury will then decide whether the healthcare provider was negligent and, if so, the amount of compensation you should be awarded.
Factors Affecting the Settlement of a Bone Fracture Birth Injury Lawsuit
Several factors can impact the outcome of a bone fracture birth injury lawsuit, including:
- The severity of the injury: The more severe the baby’s injury, the greater the potential compensation. Cases involving long-term complications, such as brain damage or developmental delays, may result in higher damages awards.
- The strength of the evidence: The success of a birth injury lawsuit largely depends on the strength of the evidence showing that medical negligence caused the baby’s bone fracture. Strong medical expert testimony and clear documentation of the healthcare provider’s actions can increase the chances of a favorable outcome.
- The defendant’s willingness to settle: Some defendants may be more willing to settle a case out of court to avoid the uncertainty and expense of a trial. If the defendant is open to negotiating a settlement, you may be able to resolve your case more quickly and efficiently. Few birth injury lawsuits have settlement payouts before extensive pretrial discovery. But if there is a type of birth injury claim that has the most opportunity for a pre-lawsuit settlement, it is a bone fracture claim.
To calculate damages,you have to look at the component parts of the claim. Damages in a birth injury broken bone lawsuit can include:
- Medical expenses: Calculate the cost of past and future medical treatments, surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation expenses related to the injury. The future medical expense projections often drive settlement amount in these lawsuits.
- Pain and suffering: Consider the physical pain and emotional distress experienced by the child and family due to the injury. The amounts here can be in the millions so the question is whether your juridiction caps pain and suffering damages.
- Lost wages: If the injury affects the parents’ ability to work, calculate the loss of income for the parent’s side of the claim.
- Loss of earning capacity: If the injury will have a long-term impact on the child’s ability to work in the future, estimate the loss of earning capacity. In some cases, this number can be millions.
- Home modifications and assistive devices: Calculate the cost of any necessary home modifications and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or specialized equipment, to accommodate the child’s needs.
Example Settlement Payouts and Jury Awards in Bone Fracture During Childbirth Lawsuits
- California (2018) $9,950,000 Settlement: Lawsuit alleged that negligent and excessive use of vacuum pump extraction during difficult delivery resulted in various birth injuries including a clavicle fracture and brachial plexus damage. The delay in delivery caused by the negligent vacuum extraction also cause oxygen deprivation and resulted in cerebral palsy with profound mental delays. The case settled for $9.9 million, although only a small portion of this was compensation related to the clavicle fracture. This case underscores that birth injury bone fracture cases often travel with other serious birth injuries.
- Pennsylvania (2017) $17,967,086 Verdict: The infant plaintiff suffered two skull fractures, left cerebellar contusion, ventricular compression, and hydrocephalus. The lawsuit alleged that the injuries were caused by forceps negligence in that the OB/GYN improperly placed the forceps and used excessive traction on the baby’s head without a clear indicated need. The skull fracture injuries caused brain damage leaving the infant permanently disabled.
- Pennsylvania (2017) $1,000,000 Settlement: The infant suffered Erb’s Palsy and a fractured right arm when the defendant OB/GYN allegedly used excessive force and lateral traction during vaginal delivery that was complicated by shoulder dystocia. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant failed to properly manage and respond to the shoulder dystocia complication.
- Wisconsin (2011) $360,000 Settlement: The infant in this case suffered a fracture clavicle and some brachial plexus damage. The lawsuit alleged that the OB/GYN used excessive manual force and traction to bring the baby through the birth canal during a long and difficult vaginal delivery.
Hiring a Lawyer for Your Child Bone Fracture Claim
Bone fracture birth injuries can be a traumatic experience for both the child and their parents. If you believe that medical negligence contributed to your baby’s injury, pursuing a birth injury lawsuit may provide compensation for your losses and help ensure that your child receives the care they need. Working with an experienced birth injury attorney is essential in navigating the legal process and achieving the best possible outcome for your case. While every case is unique, understanding the causes, legal process, and factors affecting the outcome can help you make informed decisions and advocate for your child’s well-being.