This page will look at Georgia medical malpractice cases involving birth injuries or negligence by the labor and delivery team. We will discuss some of the relevant laws in Georgia and look at the settlement value of Georgia birth injury lawsuits.
About Birth Injuries
The term “birth injury” refers to injuries that a baby suffers as a result of something that occurs during the process of labor and childbirth. Birth injuries differ from birth defects in that birth injuries are not genetically inherited. Birth injuries are commonly the direct result of medical negligence the health care professionals involved in the labor and delivery.
Common Types of Medical Negligence in Birth Injury Cases
Professional negligence by the doctors, nurses and/or hospital staff during labor and delivery is the most common cause of all birth injuries. Medical negligence during childbirth usually falls into one of several common categories that are most frequently alleged in birth injury cases.
Electronic fetal heart monitoring devices give the delivery team a tool to watch out for signs of fetal distress by tracking the baby’s heart rhythms during labor. The singular purpose of these devices is to warn the delivery team when the baby is under stress so that the doctor has time to intervene with an emergency C-section and avoid birth injuries. For this warning system to function properly, however, the delivery team must diligently monitor the fetal heart tracings and the doctor must properly interpret potential warnings. Many birth injury cases involve allegations that the delivery team failed to monitor the fetal heart rate or ignored warning indicators.
An emergency C-section, instead, is often the most effective tool that doctors have to avoid harm to the baby and prevent birth injuries when things start to go wrong during labor. As a result, the type of medical negligence most frequently alleged in birth injury malpractice cases is that the doctor is negligent in failing to pull the trigger on a C-section delivery (either a scheduled C-section or an emergency C-section).
Delivery assistance tools such as vacuum extractors and obstetrical forceps are instruments that doctors will sometimes use to grip a baby’s head and help maneuver it through the birth canal. These tools are only utilized in difficult vaginal deliveries in which the baby is stuck or not progressing through the birth canal normally. These instruments require a high degree of technical skill and technique. If the doctor does not use them carefully and correctly, these tools can easily cause serious injuries to the baby.
Failure to Diagnose and Manage Complications
When doctors fail to diagnose obstetric complications or mishandle them, it can result in birth injuries. Complications that can result in birth injuries if not properly diagnosed and managed include prolapsed umbilical cord, fetal macrosomia, and preeclampsia.
Common Birth Injuries in Georgia
- Erb’s Palsy: – Paralysis of the arm resulting from trauma the brachial plexus nerve junction at the base of the neck which allows the brain to control the movement of the arms and hands.
- Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy is a physical disability in which the brain is not able to control the normal movement of muscles in the body. Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious types of birth injuries, and it is caused by damage to the baby’s brain from oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery.
- Brain Injuries – If the supply of oxygen to the baby is cut off or interrupted for even a short period of time during delivery, cells in the brain will die, resulting in permanent brain damage.
- Caput Succedaneum – Swelling of the soft tissue of the baby’s scalp caused by pressure on the head as it passes through the birth canal. This can occur when a physician improperly uses a vacuum extraction tool.
- Cephalohematoma – bleeding just outside the baby’s skull, which often appears as a raised bump several hours after birth. This can occur when physicians improperly use birth assisting tools.
Statute of Limitations for Georgia Birth Injury Claims (Minor Plaintiffs)
In Georgia, the two-year statute of limitations on a birth injury lawsuit filed on behalf of the injured child does not begin to run until the child turns 5. Therefore, the child’s birth injury claims must be filed before the child’s 7th birthday.
Georgia Statute of Limitations for Malpractice Lawsuits (Parent Claims)
The claims of the parents in a birth injury case are subject to Georgia’s general 2-year statute of limitations that is applicable to all medical malpractice cases. Ga. Code § 9-3-73.
Experts in Georgia Birth Injury Claims
Expert witnesses play a critical role in birth injury lawsuits in Georgia, as they provide invaluable insights and testimony to help establish liability and prove the elements of a medical malpractice claim.
Proving liability in a birth injury case requires demonstrating that the medical professional breached the standard of care and that this breach directly caused the injury. Expert witnesses play a critical role in establishing liability, as they can provide testimony on the accepted standard of care and how the medical professional deviated from this standard.
Our law firm has spent years developing expert witnesses who have the background and credibility to earn trust from hospitals and insurance companies for settlement purposes and from juries if the case goes all the way to a verdict.
Damages for Birth Injuries in Georgia
Under Georgia law, both the injured child and the parents can seek compensation for a birth injury in the form of damages. Georgia law does not have any maximum limits or caps on the damages that can be recovered in birth injury medical malpractice cases. The categories of recoverable damages in a Georgia birth injury lawsuit include:
- Economic Damages: economic damages include all past and future medical expenses related to the birth injury, as well as lost future earnings or reduced earnings capacity if the injury leaves the child unable to maintain normal employment as an adult. This can be a big category of damage in birth injury cases involving serious, lifelong injuries like cerebral palsy.
- Non-economic Damages: non-economic damages basically refer to damages for mental pain & suffering caused by the birth injury. Both the child and the parents can get damages for pain and suffering.
How to Project Georgia Birth Injury Settlement Amounts
One of the harder things a Georgia birth injury lawyer must do is project settlement amounts for a family’s lawsuit. But you need to know what a settlement amount should be to advise the client on their settlement options. Determining the settlement amount in a birth injury lawsuit can be a challenging task for attorneys, as many factors can affect the final settlement amount. Birth injury cases can be particularly complex, and the amount of damages awarded can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Another challenge in projecting settlement amounts in birth injury cases is the complex legal and medical issues involved. Birth injury cases often require extensive medical testimony and expert analysis, and determining liability and the extent of damages can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Additionally, the laws and regulations governing birth injury cases can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction, making it difficult for attorneys to accurately predict the outcome of a case.
Finally, the emotional toll of birth injury cases can make it difficult to accurately project settlement amounts. Birth injury cases can be emotionally charged and highly stressful, and the impact of the injury on the child and their family can be significant. This emotional impact can make it difficult for attorneys to maintain objectivity and accurately project the amount of compensation that will be needed to provide for the child’s long-term needs.
In summary, projecting settlement amounts in birth injury cases can be a complex and challenging task for attorneys. The long-term nature of the injuries, complex legal and medical issues, and emotional toll of these cases can all make it difficult to accurately predict the outcome of a case and the amount of compensation that will be needed to provide for the child’s long-term needs.
Several factors may be considered when determining the settlement amount in a Georgia birth injury lawsuit. Some of the key factors include:
- The severity of the injury: The extent and severity of the injury suffered by the child will be a major factor in determining the settlement amount. In general, more severe injuries that require ongoing medical care and treatment are likely to result in higher settlement amounts.
- The long-term prognosis: The long-term prognosis for the child will also be considered. If the child is likely to require ongoing medical care and treatment for years to come, the settlement amount may be higher. This is the main challenge in projecting settlement amounts in birth injury cases: the long-term nature of the injuries suffered by the child. In many cases, the child may require ongoing medical care and treatment for years to come, and the full extent of the financial and emotional impact of the injury may not be known for some time. This can make it difficult to accurately project the amount of compensation that will be needed to provide for the child’s long-term needs, which is why you need to carefully drill down with the economic cost experts to get the number correct. You need to figure out what to ask a jury for… and what a jury is most likely to ultimately find.
- The defendant’s liability: You need liability to get any payout at trial. But if liability is established, the defendant’s liability and degree of both culpability and “dislikeability” before the jury impact jury payouts, which informs expected settlement compensation.
- Economic damages: Economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the cost of ongoing medical care and treatment will also be considered in determining the settlement amount.
- Non-economic damages: Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life will also be considered in determining the settlement amount.
- Punitive damages: In cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded, which can significantly increase the overall settlement amount. This is not the usual situation. Our birth injury lawyers usually encounter well-intentioned doctors who made a devastating but honest mistake. But there are also cases where the doctor simply did not care enough and juries push this with or without the vehicle of punitive damages.
Georgia Birth Injury Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of jury verdicts and publicly reported settlements from recent Georgia birth injury malpractice cases.
- $30,000,000 Verdict (Fulton County): A pregnant woman experienced a poorly managed amniotic fluid embolism during delivery. The court determined that the medical team did not adequately monitor the baby and procrastinated in performing an emergency cesarean section and hysterectomy. The delay resulted in the baby suffering from oxygen deprivation and subsequent permanent brain damage. The jury’s decision led to a total award of $30 million, allocating $29 million for the baby’s damages and $1 million for the mother.
- $3,500,000 Settlement (GA Federal Court): Child suffered prolonged oxygen loss during labor and delivery and was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy with cognitive impairment. The lawsuit alleged that the staff at a federally funded hospital were negligent in failing to closely monitor the fetal hear tracings and failing to properly respond to what should have be signs of fetal distress. As a result, the emergency C-section came too late to prevent injuries to the child.
- $3,546,883 Verdict (Fulton County): A newborn female suffered severe brain damage, quadriplegia, total blindness, and partial hearing loss during childbirth at the defendant hospital. The plaintiff contended that the fetal monitor indicated fetal distress and that the defendant’s nurses were negligent in failing to notify a physician. The defendant contended that the infant’s brain damage and injuries occurred prior to delivery.
- $1,800,000 Verdict (Fulton County): Newborn baby was kept in hospital due to complications during delivery. A day later he died from bacterial sepsis that he allegedly developed due to negligent care at the hospital following his birth. The plaintiffs contended that the defendants failed to properly evaluate the infant, and failed to treat the infant in a timely manner.
- $2,750,000 Settlement (Gwinnett County): Infant delivered at 38 and 6/7 weeks gestation reportedly suffered a hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy due to inadequate oxygenation in utero and a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, which resulted in cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and speech and motor impairments, during his birth at defendant Houston Medical Center. The lawsuit alleged that the delivery team failed to notify the doctor of fetal monitoring warnings.
- $30,545,655 Verdict (Gwinnett County): An infant reportedly suffered severe, permanent brain damage at birth, resulting in spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, seizures, and developmental delay and requiring 24-hour lifetime medical care. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to order appropriate consults and ensure they were carried out and failing to timely perform an emergency cesarean section in the face of non-reassuring fetal stats.
- $3,500,000 Settlement (Dist. of Ga.): A baby suffered permanent brain damage and developmental delays from loss of oxygen caused by the prolapsed umbilical cord. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to intervene with an emergency C-section at the earliest signs of fetal distress.
Recent Georgia Birth Injury Appellate Opinions
2023: Sampson v. Medical Center, Inc.: This case is not technically a birth injury lawsuit because the injuries occurred just after birth, but the same principles apply. The child was born in a regional health medical center on September 9, 2016, and was taken home two days later. Due to the hospital’s alleged failure to educate on newborn safety, especially warnings against co-sleeping, and not providing a bassinet, the caregiver co-slept with the newborn. The mother awoke to find the baby struggling to breathe. After medical evaluations, the infant was diagnosed with numerous health issues, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy leading to cerebral palsy and developmental delays. The caregiver later filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical providers, alleging that their negligence in not instructing about infant sleep safety led to the baby’s injuries. Expert testimonies differed on the exact cause of the infant’s injuries, but some experts attributed them to co-sleeping. The trial court’s decision, based on an incorrect legal standard, was reversed, emphasizing that expert opinions need not be “absolute” but must be based on a reliable foundation.
Contact Miller & Zois About Georgia Birth Injury Cases
Contact Miller & Zois today for a free consultation about potential birth injury malpractice cases in Georgia. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.