This page will explore medical malpractice cases involving birth injuries in Washington D.C. Our lawyers examine key aspects of Washington D.C. malpractice law and evaluate the settlement amounts and jury payouts of District of Columbia birth injury lawsuits based on reported settlements and trial verdicts.
What Is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury refers to physical harm, damage, or injury inflicted on a baby due to events during pregnancy or childbirth. Birth injuries differ from birth defects as they are not genetically inherited. They can happen without medical malpractice. But, too often, they result from complications during delivery, often due to medical negligence.
Birth Injury Malpractice Lawsuits
Our lawyers see the same injuries over and over in birth injury cases. These are the type of claims we commonly see:
- Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development. Cerebral palsy primarily affects body movement and muscle coordination and can occur when a baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen during labor and delivery. If there is a larger birth injury settlement or verdict, more likely than not it involves a child with cerebral palsy. (More on Cerebral Palsy Cases in DC.)
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE): HIE is a type of brain damage that occurs when a baby’s brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen and blood. This condition can lead to permanent brain damage and developmental issues. HIE and cerebral palsy often travel together.
- Perinatal Asphyxia: This condition occurs when a baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen before, during, or just after birth. It can lead to severe and permanent complications such as developmental disorders, organ damage, and neurological disorders like cerebral palsy. HIE, cerebral palsy, and perinatal asphyxia are all related t birth injury complications.
- Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Injury): This is an injury not to the brain but to a group of nerves that supply the arms and hands. It often happens when a baby’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery – usually from excessive traction – which can cause nerve damage and, consequently, weakness or paralysis in the arm.
- Facial Paralysis: If pressure is put on a baby’s face during birth or if forceps are used for delivery, it can cause damage to the facial nerves, leading to facial paralysis. Most cases improve over time, but severe cases can cause permanent damage.
- Fractures: The clavicle or collarbone is the most common bone to be fractured during birth, especially in difficult deliveries or breech births. Our birth injury lawyers do not see this injury very often.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage/Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: This is bleeding under the two innermost layers of the brain’s covering. It’s often caused by a traumatic delivery or the use of forceps. Symptoms can include seizures, lethargy, apnea, and a decrease in heart rate.
- Caput Succedaneum: This condition is characterized by significant swelling of the soft tissues of the baby’s scalp that develops as the baby travels through the birth canal. Some babies with this condition may develop jaundice. Caput succedaneum is rarely a long-term problem but it often accompanies more significant birth traumas
- Cephalohematoma: This condition occurs when there is bleeding between the bone and its fibrous covering. It often appears several hours after birth as a raised lump on the baby’s head. It is caused by trauma during birth, often from a vacuum extraction or forceps delivery. Like caput succedaneum, this injury is usually not a long-term problem itself but comes from birth trauma that can cause other more serious injuries.
Washington D.C. Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Lawsuits
In Washington D.C., medical malpractice claims must be filed within 3-years of the alleged malpractice, or within 3 years of when the injury is “discovered” or reasonably should have been discovered, but no more than 7 years from when the malpractice occurred as per DC Code § 12–301(8).
The application of the statute of limitations in D.C. may vary depending on whether the claims are brought by the parents or the child. For claims brought by or on behalf of the injured child, the 3-year statute of limitations period is tolled until the child reaches the age of 18. This means that the child has until their 21st birthday to file a claim.
Proving a Washington D.C. Birth Injury Case
To succeed in a birth injury malpractice lawsuit a plaintiff will need to establish proof of 2 basic elements. First, plaintiff will need to show that the defendants were negligent which requires establishing what the applicable standard of medical care was under the circumstances. Second, the plaintiff must show that the negligent medical care was the direct cause of the birth injury.
Proving both of these elements is complicated because it requires the plaintiff to present testimony from expert witnesses. Expert witnesses in a birth injury case are going to be other doctors, nurses or other health professionals. Retaining these experts as witnesses can be hard and very expensive. That is on of the many reasons why getting an experienced birth injury lawyer is essential to the success of your case.
Damages for Birth Injuries in Washington D.C.
Under District of Columbia law, both the injured child and the parents or legal guardians can seek compensation for a birth injury in the form of damages. Washington D.C. law does not have any maximum limits or caps on the damages that can be recovered in birth injury medical malpractice lawsuits. This has a real impact on settlement amounts because juries are empowered to fully compensate victims for their pain and suffering which should be the largest element of damages in any birth injury claim.
Calculating Birth Injury Settlement Amounts in Washington D.C.
When determining the settlement amounts in birth injury lawsuits in Washington D.C., various factors are taken into consideration:
- Strength of the Evidence: To get a large settlement or verdict in any lawsuit, you need to win the case. So the strength of the medical evidence linking the healthcare provider’s actions to the child’s injuries plays a crucial role in determining the settlement amount. Stronger evidence of malpractice generally leads to higher settlements.
- Severity of the Injury: The extent and severity of the injury plays an outsized role in determining the settlement amount of a birth injury lawsuit in Washington, D.C. More severe injuries – all things being equal – result in higher settlement amounts because they often require more extensive medical care, long-term treatment, and can significantly impact the quality of life of the child and the costs of caring for that child.
- Likability: If the jury likes that family or does not like the healthcare providers, this drives settlement values.
- Future Care Needs: If the child will need ongoing treatment or care, such as physical therapy, surgery, medication, or other medical needs, these future costs are factored into the settlement amount. This could also include the need for special education or assistance with daily activities.
- Pain and Suffering: This is often harder to quantify, but if the child has endured substantial physical pain or will suffer in the future, and if the injury has caused emotional distress, these factors will contribute to a higher settlement amount.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: If the birth injury will impact the child’s ability to earn a living when they become an adult, this future loss of income is a huge driver when calculating a settlement payout.
- Impact on the Family: The effect of the child’s injury on the family’s quality of life and finances is also considered. For instance, if a parent must quit their job to care for the child, this financial loss could be factored into the settlement.
- Your Birth Injury Lawyer: There is no doubt that the best birth injury lawyers best the best settlement amounts and jury payouts.
Washington D.C. Birth Injury Verdicts and Settlements
$250,000 Verdict: Infant suffered Erb’s palsy from a right brachial plexus injury during his delivery. Lawsuit was brought against defendant OB/GYNs who allegedly were negligent in using excessive force during the vaginal delivery, which caused the nerve injury.
$3,155,600 Verdict: A newborn male suffered severe lung disease and moderate cerebral palsy when the plaintiff mother’s pre-eclampsia went undiagnosed and untreated by the defendant clinic. The plaintiff mother developed swelling, headaches, and signs of pre-eclampsia and called the defendant but was not told to come in to be examined until she became severely ill. When she presented to the defendant she was 28 weeks into her pregnancy and underwent an emergency delivery.
$700,000 Verdict: A female newborn baby suffered brachial plexus palsy after the defendant doctor exerted traction to the baby’s head during the delivery. The defendant contended that the mother was experiencing a difficult labor and he followed standard medical procedures.
Contact Miller & Zois About Washington D.C. Birth Injury Cases
Contact Miller & Zois today for a free consultation about potential birth injury malpractice cases in Washington D.C. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.