The birth of a new baby should be one of the happiest moments in a family’s life. Sadly, at times that joy can turn to heartbreak if a baby is not born healthy or if things go wrong in the hours or days following a birth.
Things can and do go wrong whether in a hospital delivery room, in a hospital nursery or at home during a midwife attended birth. At times, an injury to a baby cannot be avoided even with the best of care. Other times, the baby’s injury is the avoidable result of negligent conduct by a physician, nurse, or midwife. Doctors, nurses, and registered midwives all have insurance that can be made available to help care for a child who has suffered an injury through a breach of their expected standard of care.
Injuries can occur in many ways. Injuries caused by a lack of oxygen are too common and often preventable. A baby who does not get enough oxygen during the labour and delivery process will usually demonstrate fetal distress. Though appropriate monitoring, whether by electronic fetal monitoring or through auscultation, fetal distress can often be picked up at an early stage, and steps can be taken to have the baby delivered quickly in order to avoid any injury.
A lack of oxygen may cause an injury in different ways. It may be the result of a lack of blood flow to the tissues (ischemia) or a lack of oxygen within the blood (hypoxia) and a combination of the two.
After birth, a baby that has sustained a brain injury may show low apgar scores. He may have poor tone, poor colour and require resuscitation before he is able to breathe on his own. Some babies show a poor cry, poor suck, have a need for tube feeding, have persistent abnormal tone, or seizures. Some require medications like Phenobarbital for seizures or antibiotics like Ampicillin and Gentamicin.
Babies who have suffered a brain injury may undergo extensive testing after birth. Abnormal blood gasses, x-rays, CT scans and MRIs may each be indicators of a brain injury.
Some babies with brain injury may have blindness or other vision deficits, epilepsy, quadriplegia or developmental delays. Some have more subtle injuries, which may not be as outwardly obvious but may still be very serious or disabling.
The costs of providing the life-long care and rehabilitation that a child with a brain injury needs can be huge. In addition, that child may not be able to grow up to be independent, or to earn a living in the future. A legal action may provide the funding needed to ensure that an injured child is properly taken care of in the future.
Did you know that the limitation period for a birth injury in BC is 21 years from the date of the baby’s birth and may be even longer? If your baby may have suffered a birth injury, competent legal advice should be obtained at the earliest opportunity to be sure you know when a legal action must be commenced.
In addition to a baby’s claim for birth injury, parents may have a separate claim (called an “in trust claim” ). The limitation period for this claim may be as short as two years from the date of the infant’s birth. It usually costs nothing to talk to a knowledgeable lawyer to find out what limitation periods apply in your situation.
In our practice we have been retained to act for families with injured children even ten or twenty years after their injuries first occurred. Although delays may mean that the injury and the negligence that caused it are more difficult to prove, the claim can still be successful and insurance funding is probably still available.