Birth injury malpractice lawsuits have the highest potential settlement or verdict value of any 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.
This post 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 discuss some factors that drive the value of birth injury lawsuits so high.
Average Compensation Payouts for a Birth Injury Malpractice Lawsuit
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. Most 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 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 will always be incomplete because it only includes settlements where the amount is publicly reported. Most payments are kept confidential, so we never determine how much the plaintiffs received. This is particularly true for the more significant, high-value settlements, which rarely get publicly reported. This means that the average and median settlement amounts for birth injury cases are underestimated because they do not include the highest settlements.
Why Do Birth Injury Lawsuits Have Such a High Value?
Two primary factors 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 cannot 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 birth to the rest of their lives.
Even mild or moderate cases of cerebral palsy 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 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 significant 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 two 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 typical 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 for future medical expenses. For a severe 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 increases the potential settlement amounts in a birth injury case 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 understand the typical payout value in these cases. Below are summaries of birth injury lawsuit settlements and publicly reported verdicts. The verdicts and settlements are divided into categories based on the most common birth injuries.
Cerebral Palsy Verdicts and Settlements
Cerebral palsy is a neurologic disorder caused when the baby loses oxygen for an extended period during labor and delivery. Cerebral palsy can be a severe and permanent injury, so the settlement value of cerebral palsy lawsuits tends to be very high.
- Maryland (2023) $13,300,000 Verdict: A woman went to the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center to deliver her child. She was administered Pitocin despite her high blood pressure. This drug is known to potentially exacerbate issues in patients with high blood pressure. After 17 hours of labor and fetal heart monitor indications that the baby was in trouble. the child suffered brain injuries from lack of oxygen. Following a two-week trial, a Harford County jury awarded the mother and child over $13 million, designated for future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost earning potential. The trial underscored the staff’s negligence related to the administration of Pitocin and labor handling.
- Pennsylvania (2023) $182,700,000 Verdict: A child was born with critical neurological injuries. Her mother procured the services of a birth injury attorney in Philadelphia who instituted a lawsuit against Penn Hospital. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital did not carry out a cesarean section in a timely manner, despite being aware of her chorioamnionitis, an infection affecting the amniotic fluid and fetal membranes. Verdict inlcuded $101 million for lifetime care expenses, $1.7 million for future loss of earnings, and $80 million for pain and suffering damages.
- Nevada (2022) $5,000,000 Settlement: Child suffered two oxygen deprivation-related injuries at birth. The family’s cerebral palsy lawsuit alleged the delivery team failed to diagnose multiple chorioangiomas and anemia in utero. Their suit also alleged that the doctors and nurses missed clear signs of fetal distress that necessitated delivery.
- Missouri (2021) $34,107,628 Verdict: Misuse of Pitocin led to hyperstimulation of contractions, causing severe loss of 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 is permanently disabled and requires a feeding tube, and wheelchair and will never be able to live and work independently.
Erb’s Palsy Verdicts and Settlements
Erb’s palsy is a 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 severe 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 (2022) $1,000,000 Settlement: Child suffered shoulder dystocia/Erb’s Palsy and HIE. The family’s Erb’s Palsy lawsuit alleged the healthcare providers missed the signs of fetal distress distress that required an immediate C-section. The parties agreed to s settlement payout of $1 million.
- New York (2020) $3,046,940 Settlement: Child suffered Erb’s Palsy resulting in permanent paralysis and a 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 was left with permanent partial paralysis of the 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 and suffering and the 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 the birth canal.
Brain Damage Verdicts and Settlements
Birth injuries involving the brain, such as HIE, are severe 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.
- Maryland (2023) $13,915,000 Verdict: A 23-week pregnant woman approached the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson with complaints of lower abdominal and back pain. Despite testing results that showed no indications of labor or placental abruption, and the patient experiencing no further contractions after being admitted, the hospital and the attending physician insisted that an emergency C-section was imperative. Following the premature birth, the baby exhibited signs of brain damage, leading to a lifetime reliance on others for care.
- Maryland (2022) $13,300,000 Verdict: Mother was started on Pitocin yet her labor went on for more than 17 hours. She had elevated blood pressure and and the fetal heart rate monitor showed signs of distress. Plaintiffs birth injury lawsuit alleged the University of Maryland Medical Center (Upper Chesapeake) was negligent by failing to give a C-section.
- California (2021) $5,700,000 Settlement: Negligent administration of Pitocin in violation of hospital policy led to hyperstimulation and oxygen deprivation. Child suffered an 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 the delivery team. Child suffered moderate brain damage from 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 the 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 jury’s payout included $13 million in economic damages.
Birth Injury Lawsuits In Your State
The general laws underlying birth injury medical malpractice lawsuits are basically the same in all states. However, each state has its own unique procedural rules and laws that may impact your birth injury malpractice lawsuit. Also, the settlement value of birth injury cases tends to vary by state due to laws capping the maximum amount of damages and other factors. For more information about the birth injury lawsuits in your specific state, see our state birth injury pages below.
Hiring a Birth Injury Lawyer
We can help you. Our law firm handles birth injury claims throughout the country, often teaming up with lawyers in your area. You get two lawyers for the prices of one. We will treat you with the caring and compassion you deserve after all your child and your family has been through. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or connect with us online for a free and immediate case evaluation. We will never ask you for money – we are only compensated if you get a jury payout or settlement.