Birth injury malpractice lawsuits have the highest potential settlement or verdict value of any type of personal injury tort lawsuit. The median and average verdict and/or settlement in a birth injury lawsuit is around 30% higher than the average value of other medical malpractice claims and three times the average of personal injury cases in general. Maryland birth injury cases are worth even more, with an average payout closer to 50% higher than other medical malpractice cases.
In this post, we will take a closer look at the value of birth injury malpractice cases. We will review some sample settlements and verdicts in various types of birth injury claims and we will discuss some of the factors that drive the value of birth injury lawsuits so high.
Average Value of Birth Injury Malpractice Lawsuits
The average payout in a birth injury malpractice lawsuit that gets settled out of court is between $420,500 to $510,000. The median settlement payment in birth injury cases is about 20-25% lower than the average. The majority of birth injury cases get resolved in a settlement out of court.
When a birth injury lawsuit gets resolved at trial, the average jury verdict is around $1,750,000 to $2,000,200. The median jury verdict in birth injury cases is about 10-15% lower than the average. Less than 10% of all birth injury malpractice lawsuits go to trial and get resolved by a jury.
These averages are based on national settlement and jury verdict data compiled from all across the U.S. The average settlement and verdict amounts for birth injuries and medical malpractice cases generally tend to vary significantly depending on what state the case is in. The average payout in malpractice cases in Maryland (and other states) is much higher than the national average and can be 3 or 4 times higher compared to certain states.
Another thing that is important to note is that the information on settlement amounts in birth injury malpractice cases is always going to be incomplete because it only includes settlements where the amount is publicly reported. Most settlements are kept confidential, so we never find out how much the plaintiffs received. This is particularly true for the bigger, high-value settlements which rarely get publicly reported. This means that the average and median settlement amounts for birth injury cases are probably a major underestimate because they do not include the highest settlements.
Why Do Birth Injury Lawsuits Have Such a High Value?
There are 2 primary factors that work together to push the payout value of birth injury cases higher than all other medical malpractice claims: (1) the severity and nature of the injuries; and (2) the scope of economic damages.
Severity of Injuries
A primary factor driving the payout value of birth injury malpractice cases is that they frequently present some of the most devastating types of injuries and the saddest of all circumstances. Birth injuries involving the brain, such as HIE, can leave a child with permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
Severe cases of cerebral palsy can leave a child unable to walk and dependent on a wheelchair or mobility aid for the remainder of their life. Many children with cerebral palsy are not able to perform even basic functions such as feeding themselves or getting dressed. Children who suffer these types of birth injuries may require daily medical care and assistance from the day they are born and for the remainder of their lives.
Even mild or moderate cases of cerebral palsy will usually require a lifetime of regular medical care and assistance. Physical therapy and occupational therapy, electric wheelchairs, walkers, mobility aids, and special education services are often basic requirements for children with moderate CP. A child who is born into these circumstances can make a very sympathetic plaintiff.
Economic Damages for Birth Injuries
The other factor that gives birth injury malpractice lawsuits such a high potential value is that these cases tend to present major economic damages. Most birth injury cases involve claims for economic damages covering the child’s adult lifespan. Many states put caps on the maximum amount of “non-economic” damages that can be awarded for pain & suffering. Economic damages, however, are NOT subject to these maximum caps so if you have a case where you can claim extensive economic damages it will drive up the value. The 2 main components of economic damages are always (a) future lost income (or loss of future earning capacity), and (b) past and future medical expenses.
In a regular medical malpractice case, the scope of economic damages that the plaintiff can claim is often limited. For example, if you have a 55-year-old plaintiff who can never work again because of their injury, they can only claim 10 years of lost future income. By contrast, the plaintiff in a birth injury case can often claim over 40 years of lost or reduced future earnings. This means lost future earnings capacity alone can add up to several million.
The same holds true for future medical expenses. For a serious birth injury like cerebral palsy, the child may require a lifetime of future medical care. Future medical expenses are economic damages and therefore not subject to maximum caps.
Over the last few decades, many states (including Maryland) have sought to curb excessive medical malpractice awards by enacting laws that put maximum caps on damages that can be awarded in these cases. These caps typically only apply to non-economic damages (i.e., pain & suffering). Economic damages are not subject to maximum caps in Maryland or elsewhere. This makes the potential settlement amounts in a birth injury case much higher because birth injury malpractice claims tend to be very heavy on economic damages.
Sample Verdict and Settlement Amounts in Birth Injury Lawsuits
Looking at prior verdicts and reported settlements in recent birth injury malpractice lawsuits is the best way to get an understanding of the typical payout value in these cases. Below are summaries of birth injury lawsuit settlements and verdicts that were publicly reported. The verdicts and settlements are broken down into categories based on the most common types of birth injuries.
Cerebral Palsy Verdicts and Settlements
Cerebral palsy is a neurologic disorder that is caused when the baby losses oxygen for an extended time period during labor and delivery. Cerebral palsy can be a severe and permanent injury so the value of cerebral palsy cases tends to be very high.
- Missouri (2021) $34,107,628 Verdict: Misuse of Pitocin led to hyperstimulation of contractions causing severe loss oxygen during delivery. The child suffered brain damage and was diagnosed with the most severe type of cerebral palsy, leaving him permanently disabled.
- New York (2021) $13,500 Settlement: Failure to monitor fetal heart rate and respond with emergency c-section allegedly resulted in HIE and severe type of spastic cerebral palsy (spastic quadriplegia).
- Tennessee (2020) $15,153,488 Verdict: Small mother with prior c-section delivery was advised to attempt VBAC delivery for her second child. The child became stuck in the birth canal and suffered brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy.
- New York (2020) $5,891,304 Settlement: Child suffered HIE during delivery resulting in spastic cerebral palsy. Child permanently disabled and requires feeding tube, wheelchair and will never be able to live and work independently.
Erb’s Palsy Verdicts and Settlements
Erb’s palsy is common birth injury resulting from damage to nerves in the baby’s shoulder and neck during delivery causing paralysis in the arm. Erb’s palsy is one of the less serious types of birth injuries compared to things like cerebral palsy and these cases are therefore at the lower end of the value spectrum.
- New York (2020) $3,046,940 Settlement: Child suffered Erb’s Palsy resulting in permanent paralysis and shorter right arm after doctors negligently responded to shoulder dystocia during delivery.
- Pennsylvania (2020) $850,000 Settlement: Child suffered Erb’s Palsy and arm fracture during delivery in which doctors failed to recognize risk factors for shoulder dystocia and failed to perform preventive c-section. Child left with permanent partial paralysis of left arm.
- Utah (2020) $956,504 Verdict: Mismanagement of shoulder dystocia resulted in severe Erb’s Palsy with permanent paralysis. The verdict included $350,00 for pain & suffering and remainder for economic damages (lost wages and medicals).
- California (2019) $300,000 Settlement: Child suffered Erb’s Palsy from negligent performance of obstetric maneuvers during delivery after he became stuck in birth canal.
Brain Damage Verdicts and Settlements
Birth injuries involving the brain, such as HIE, are serious and potentially fatal injuries that often leave a child permanently disabled. Cerebral palsy is often the result of these types of injuries during delivery so they are high value cases.
- California (2021) $5,700,000 Settlement: Negligent administration of pitocin in violation of hospital policy led to hyperstimulation and oxygen deprivation. Child suffered HIE brain injury leaving him disabled for the rest of his life.
- Illinois (2021) $2,000,000 Settlement: Child’s delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia and nuchal cord which were allegedly mishandled by delivery team. Child suffered moderate brain damage form oxygen deprivation during delivery.
- New York (2020) $1,318,182 Settlement: Child suffered meconium aspiration syndrome leading to moderate brain damage and developmental delays allegedly due to the negligent use of Cervidil to ripen cervix.
- Washington (2019) $23,900,000 Verdict: Child reportedly suffered permanent significant brain damage due to HIE brain injury she sustained when fetal distress went undetected during her delivery. The verdict included $13 million in economic damages