The birth of a child should be a time of joy and excitement, but your happiness can quickly turn to horror if your infant suffers birth-related spinal cord injuries. Severe, long-term consequences can result, and certain medical conditions may even be permanent. Fortunately, you do have rights to seek compensation for your losses. Our spinal cord birth injury lawyers at the Preszler Law Firm can help you navigate the legal process, so please contact us at 1-844-373-8202 to schedule a free consultation right away.
How Birth-Related Spinal Cord Injuries Happen
In general, spinal cord birth injuries occur when some type of trauma or medical issue affects the spine of the infant. There are two scenarios in which a medical mistake can lead to spinal cord injuries:
- Negligent Prenatal Care: A health care provider may either not diagnose or misdiagnose spina bifida during the mother’s pregnancy. In a fetus suffering from this condition, the vertebrae do not completely enclose of the nerves of the spine, leaving them open to trauma. Without a proper diagnosis, the fetus is exposed to injury from the mother’s body. However, the worst injuries can occur during childbirth when medical staff touch or damage the open nerves.
- Mistakes During Childbirth: While in labor and during delivery, spinal cord injuries often occur when a health care provider is negligent in usage of a forceps. A physician should only attempt the procedure under proper conditions, and only when a low forceps delivery is possible. A high forceps delivery is always considered a deviation from the standard of care. In addition, many physicians make the mistake of relying on the forceps instead of making the decision for a cesarean section, when appropriate.
In some difficult births, the infant’s spinal cord is stretched during childbirth, a condition that almost always leads to permanent damage.
Symptoms of Infant Spinal Cord Injuries
When there is trauma to the spinal cord, the nature of the symptoms will depend on which section was affected and the severity of the damage. The signs can be difficult to spot due to young age, but some factors to watch for in your infant include:
- Loss of sensation when applying slight pressure;
- General immobility or inability to move certain parts of the body;
- Abnormal reflexes or spasms;
- Extreme sensitivity around certain sections of the spinal, caused by nerve damage;
- General weakness; and,
- Other symptoms that seem unusual.
Your Child Could Suffer Long-Term Consequences
Some infants never recover from a birth-related spinal cord injury, with permanent implications that may include full or partial paralysis. Your child may also suffer from intellectual, developmental, or cognitive disabilities. For the most part, the long-term effects depend on whether the spinal cord injury was complete or incomplete.
The spinal cord is essentially a message center, enabling the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. With a complete injury, the ability of the brain to send messages is entirely interrupted. There may be a total loss of sensory and motor functions below the point of the spine where the injury occurred. An incomplete spinal cord injury offers a more positive prognosis for your child. The brain can still communicate, though the ability to send messages is affected. Still, it may be possible to restore certain motor functions.
Even if the injury is not complete and will not result in permanent damage, your child may have a long road ahead to recovery. He or she will require surgery, and might potentially need to be immobilized while healing. Your infant may need to use back braces or orthotics, or some other device that promotes recovery in the area affected by the spinal cord damage.
Seeking Compensation for Your Losses
In general, you must prove certain elements in order to recover compensation in a birth injury claim:
- The existence of a patient-provider relationship, which is always the case for a physician providing prenatal care and assisting with delivery;
- Some sort of negligent act that occurred while providing care, in the form of conduct that deviates from the standard of care;
- A causal link between the negligent act and the spinal cord injuries suffered by your infant; and,
- Damages as a result of the injuries.
Challenges of Proving Birth Injury Cases
While these elements may seem straightforward, there can be challenges in meeting the burden of proof. The key in a birth injury claim is showing that the doctor did not provide care in accordance with what another physician would have provided, with similar training and under the same circumstances. If a different doctor would have made the same judgement call, you may not succeed with a spinal cord injury claim.
In addition, you must prove the direct link between the doctor’s conduct and the spinal cord injury. If there is a chance that your infant was hurt through some other cause, this weakens your case.
Limitations on a Spinal Cord Claim
In Ontario, there is statute of limitations on an injury claim based upon medical error. The Limitations Act provides that you have two years from the date of the spinal cord injury to file suit against the responsible parties, which may include:
- The obstetrician;
- Obstetric nurses;
- Delivery room personnel;
- Hospital staff; and,
- Any other party whose negligent conduct lead to your child’s spinal cord injuries.
Plus, there may be a cap on claims based upon medical negligence. In 1978, the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling that limits general damages for non-pecuniary losses like pain and suffering. Though the original decision capped compensation at $100,000, that amount may be up to $300,000 adjusted for inflation. This cap applies unless there are extreme circumstances that would justify a higher amount. Considering the severe, potentially permanent nature of birth-related spinal cord injuries, you may be able to seek a higher amount.
Contact a Knowledgeable Birth Injuries Lawyer to Discuss Spinal Cord Injuries
If you believe your child suffered spinal cord injuries during pregnancy or delivery, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses. However, these cases are much more complicated than a typical personal injury case. You need a lawyer that has specific experience in birth injuries and in-depth knowledge of the laws pertaining to your case. Please contact Preszler Law Firm at 1-844-373-8202 to schedule a free consultation right away. You can also go online to learn more about our legal services in the area of birth-related injuries.