This page will review Utah medical malpractice cases involving birth injuries. We will explain some of the relevant Utah law and look at the settlement value of birth injury lawsuits in Utah.
About Birth Injuries
What does the term “birth injury” mean? Birth injury refers to some type of physical injury, harm or damage that a baby suffers during the labor and delivery process (or earlier in pregnancy). Birth injuries are different from birth defects because a birth injury is not something that is genetic. A birth injury is something that happens to an otherwise healthy baby.
Negligence in Utah Birth Injury Cases
Most birth injuries are the result of negligence on the part of the doctor or hospital delivery team. This negligence can come in almost any shape or size, but there are certain types of categories of medical negligence that we see most often in birth injury cases. The most common types of negligence involved in birth injury cases are described below.
Failure to Perform a C-Section: Whenever complications arise during labor and delivery, opting for a C-section instead of a vaginal delivery is frequently considered the most efficient approach for doctors to avert harm to the baby and prevent birth injuries. Consequently, the predominant type of medical negligence claimed in birth injury cases revolves around the doctor’s alleged failure in executing a C-section delivery, whether it’s a scheduled procedure or an emergency C-section.
Vacuum and Forceps Negligence: Obstetrical forceps and vacuum extractors are devices occasionally employed by doctors to grasp a baby’s head and assist in guiding it through the birth canal. These instruments are exclusively utilized during challenging vaginal deliveries when the baby encounters an obstruction or isn’t progressing normally through the birth canal. Their application demands a considerable level of technical expertise and precision. Improper or careless usage of these tools by the doctor can easily result in severe injuries to the baby.
Fetal Monitoring Negligence: Fetal monitoring devices enable the delivery team to continuously monitor the baby’s heart rhythm during the entire process of labor and delivery. These monitoring systems serve the critical purpose of signaling the medical team when the baby’s well-being is compromised. By detecting sudden abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate, the device alerts the delivery team, prompting the doctor to take swift action such as performing an emergency C-section to prevent birth injuries. However, for these devices to function effectively, diligent monitoring by the delivery team is necessary, and the doctor must accurately interpret warning signals. Numerous birth injury cases involve allegations that the delivery team either neglected to monitor the fetal heart rate or disregarded warning signs.
Failure to Diagnose and Manage Complications: Birth injuries can also occur when doctors fail to timely or accurately diagnose obstetric complications; or mishandle these complications when the occur. Complications that can result in birth injuries if not properly diagnosed and managed include fetal macrosomia, prolapsed umbilical cord, and preeclampsia.
Common Birth Injuries in Utah
Below are some of the most common types of birth injuries that we see in Utah.
- Erb’s Palsy: – Paralysis of the arm which is caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerve junction at the base of the baby’s neck. These nerves enable the brain to control movement of the arms and hands, so when they are damaged it leaves the arm paralyzed to varying degrees.
- Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy is muscle movement disability that occurs when the brain is not able send correct signals to body for movement. CP is a birth injury because it is usually caused by damage to the baby’s brain from lack of oxygen during childbirth. Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious birth injuries and can result in permanent disability.
- Brain Injuries – When the oxygen supply to the baby is interrupted for even a short period of time during delivery cells in the brain will die, resulting in permanent brain damage.
- 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.
- Caput Succedaneum – This is minor swelling under the scalp usually caused by pressure on the head as it passes through the birth canal.
Statute of Limitations for Utah Birth Injury Cases
The statute of limitations for birth injury and other medical malpractice cases in Utah is 2-years. Utah imposes a specific statute of limitations governing medical malpractice lawsuits. This regulation is detailed in Utah Code section 78B-3-404, which states that any “malpractice action” against a health care provider must be initiated within two years after the plaintiff or patient becomes aware of, or should have reasonably become aware of, the injury, whichever occurs first.” Therefore, if the malpractice isn’t immediately known, the lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date when the plaintiff actually (or reasonably could have) discovered it.
Utah birth injury lawsuits are also subject to a 4-year statute of repose. This means that regardless of when the birth injury is “discovered” …. The lawsuit must be filed within 4-years of when the injury occurred, which means 4-years from the date of birth.
Required Proof in a Utah Birth Injury Case
The plaintiff in a Utah birth injury malpractice case must prove 3 basic elements to establish a successful case:
- Standard of Care: the plaintiff has to establish what the applicable standard of medical care was under the circumstances.
- Negligence: the plaintiff has to establish negligence by showing that the doctor (or other healthcare providers) did not meet the applicable standard of care.
- Damages: finally, the plaintiff needs to prove that the negligence or breach of the standard of care was the direct and proximate cause of the birth injury.
Expert Witnesses in Utah Birth Injury Cases
In birth injury lawsuits in Utah, expert witnesses are necessary for establishing liability and substantiating the components of a medical malpractice claim. Establishing liability in such cases necessitates demonstrating that the medical practitioner breached the standard of care, directly resulting in the injury. Expert witnesses serve a pivotal role in this process by providing testimony regarding the recognized standard of care and delineating how the medical professional departed from this established standard.
Over the years, our law firm has diligently cultivated a roster of expert witnesses renowned for their background and credibility. This effort is aimed at earning trust from hospitals and insurance companies for settlement negotiations, as well as garnering credibility with juries in case the lawsuit proceeds to a verdict.
Damages in Utah Birth Injury Cases
Under Utah law, both the injured child and the parents hold the right to pursue compensation for a birth injury in the form of damages. The various categories of compensable damages in an Utah birth injury cases include:
Economic Damages: These encompass all past and anticipated future medical expenses linked to the birth injury. Additionally, they cover lost or diminished future earnings potential if the injury incapacitates the child from maintaining regular employment as an adult. In cases involving severe and lifelong injuries like cerebral palsy, economic damages can be substantial.
Non-economic Damages: Non-economic damages refer to compensation for mental anguish and suffering caused by the birth injury. Both the child and the parents are eligible to receive damages for pain and suffering endured.
Utah Birth Injury Settlements and Verdicts
Below are summaries of settlements and verdicts from Utah birth injury malpractice cases. The average verdict in Utah birth injury cases is $7,608,000 and the median verdict award is $963,000. For cases resolved in settlements, the average is $3,617,000 and the median is $320,000.
$9,711,000 Verdict: A female infant suffered quadriplegia and cerebral palsy when, during the time of her birth, the amniotic fluid was low which caused the oxygen to be cut off to the infant after the defendant hospital failed to provide staff trained in high risk pregnancies. The plaintiff contended that the defendant hospital failed to provide the accepted standard of care. The defendant hospital denied liability and contended that the standard of care was provided and that the attending physicians were contributorily negligent.
$1,000,000 Settlement: The plaintiff infant suffered brain damage and cerebral palsy resulting from an alleged negligent delivery. The plaintiff mother contended that the defendant doctor had been in charge of her delivery, but left the actual delivery to others and was therefore liable for the negligence of others.
$1,141,215 Verdict: A male infant died as a result of negligent treatment during childbirth. The plaintiff alleged that during the time of birth, there was only one nurse in the room to offer her assistance and that the defendant doctor was not present. The subsequent delivery of the child by the defendant doctor was negligent in that the doctor had difficulty and was forced to use forceps to aid the delivery. The child passed away 102 day following birth due to medical complications.
$2,300,000 Settlement: A male infant suffered blindness and mental retardation, requiring 24-hour care for the remainder of his life, when he was deprived of oxygen during delivery at the defendant government’s Air Force base hospital. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s medical staff failed to insert an oral airway following the birth. The settlement was structured with a lump sum cash payment and an annuity to pay $7,500 monthly for medical expenses.
$92,500 Settlement: A female infant suffered Erb’s palsy and a traumatic brain injury with cognitive impairments during her delivery assisted by the male defendant physician at the codefendant hospital. The plaintiff contended that the defendant used excessive force during the delivery, failed to perform an emergency cesarean section, and failed to provide the proper standard of care.
$956,250 Verdict: The infant suffered Erb’s palsy with permanent paralysis in the right arm. Lawsuit alleged that defendants’ mishandled shoulder dystocia when it occurred during delivery causing damage to the brachial plexus nerves. The plaintiff also contended that because her baby weighed 12 pounds, he should have been delivered via C-Section, and had a C-Section been done, the injury would never have occurred.
Contact Miller & Zois About Utah Birth Injury Cases
Contact Miller & Zois today for a free consultation about potential birth injury malpractice cases in Illinois. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.