The birth of a child is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After you’ve spent nine months of anticipation and sleepless nights wondering who your child will be and whether you’ll be a good mother or father, the doctor finally places that perfect baby in your arms.
Tragically, some families’ joy turns to sorrow within months of their babies’ births. As their children fail to reach critical growth milestones, they discover that their precious little ones suffered brain injury during the delivery. They now face the prospect that their children may be physically and cognitively impaired for the rest of their lives.
How Do Infant Brain Injuries Happen?
Infant brain injuries happen during labor and delivery. The most common injuries are anoxic, which means the child loses oxygen for a period of time. Some injuries are caused by blunt force trauma to the head, but the vast majority involves oxygen loss.
The severity of an infant’s injuries depends on how long they were without oxygen. In the most extreme cases, doctors will recognize the crisis immediately. They’ll put the child on cooling machines and run a series of tests to determine whether the baby can survive on its own.
Sometimes the damage is milder and takes longer to diagnose. Parents often suspect that delivery took longer than it should have, and they may fear that the baby suffered in some way. But if there are no outward signs of distress, and if their medical teams don’t raise the possibility of a problem, most go home without asking questions. They trust that their doctors will tell them if something is wrong.
Signs of Infant Brain Injuries
Parents start seeing signs of infant brain injuries as their children begin to grow. Their babies may miss development milestones, causing the parents to call their doctors in concern. That’s often the first time a doctor will tell them they suspect the child suffered brain trauma at birth.
We’ve met with parents whose children were severely impaired from birth and those whose babies didn’t show signs of injury until months after they were born. No matter what the circumstances, the parents are always overwhelmed with guilt, fear, anger, and sadness.
If you believe your child might have suffered a brain injury at birth, let us reassure you that this is not your fault. Many mothers and fathers wonder whether they should have seen the signs sooner or whether they could have done something differently. But that line of thinking will only cause you more grief. No parent wants to think the worst when their child is struggling. Some babies develop at different paces, so you’re naturally going to give your child the benefit of the doubt if they’re slightly behind other kids their age.
Not all doctors will rush to judgement either. One of the common diagnoses following an anoxic brain injury is cerebral palsy (CP). But most pediatric physicians won’t formally diagnose the condition until the child is at least two years old. Before that point, they can’t be certain the symptoms aren’t caused by other factors.
Early milestones are generally good indicators of future development, but they’re not 100% accurate. There may be other explanations, which is why doctors will sometimes take a wait-and-see approach.
However, if you are concerned about your child’s development, we recommend you see their doctor right away. We understand that it’s agonizing to acknowledge that your child might have a problem. But you’ll help them most by facing the possibility head-on and seeking medical advice as soon as possible. A delay in treatment and diagnosis could worsen their symptoms, leading to increased pain and impairment throughout their life.
What to Do If You Think Your Baby Has a Brain Injury
We know that contacting a lawyer is the last thing you want to think about after learning your baby has a brain injury. But, we encourage you to reach out to us immediately after you find out your child may have been hurt.
You don’t need to wait for a formal diagnosis. You can call us as soon as your physician expresses concerns about a potential brain injury or developmental challenges. The earlier we get involved, the sooner we can begin documenting and preserving evidence for a potential case.
Sometimes complications happen during delivery and it’s no one’s fault. It’s tragic, but problems happen even when the doctors, nurses, and parents do everything right. However, we can’t know whether negligence was a factor in your child’s injury until we look into your circumstances. If negligence did cause your child’s injury, you’ll want to pursue the full range of damages available to you.
Some people worry that it’s distasteful to take legal action when their child is suffering. But we believe the child’s pain is exactly why you should sue negligent physicians. Depending on the severity of the brain injury, your son or daughter may require a lifetime of medical care. At the very least, they’ll likely need speech and physical therapy in early childhood. Those who suffer from severe CP and spastic quadriplegia will need round-the-clock medical assistance, the costs of which are astronomical.
In their shock and devastation, some parents forego legal action because they assume their insurance policies will cover their child’s needs. However, there’s a limit to how much insurance companies will pay out, and you may eventually lose coverage. Government assistance is available in those circumstances, but it’s extremely limited in scope. Instead of being able to see the best specialists and to ensure your child has the best care, its possible you’ll have to see insurance- or government-mandated doctors of varying quality.
If you believe your child suffered a brain injury due to medical negligence, we strongly advise meeting with a lawyer. We will work with you to determine whether you have a case and to secure enough damages to cover your child’s lifetime medical expenses, including specialist visits, therapies, surgeries, and assistive services.
Recovering financial damages will never make up for your child’s pain or the trauma your family has endured. But it will allow you to give your child as many opportunities as possible, and it will ease the financial burden associated with infant brain injury conditions. Rather than worrying about how you will pay for their care, you can focus on giving them the best quality of life and on spending time with your precious child.