It is during the most delicate processes in life that people must take the greatest care. Childbirth is perhaps the most delicate of them all, which is why medical professionals, be they doctors, nurses, or midwives, have an extremely high standard of care to maintain throughout labor and delivery.
Unfortunately, the statistics clearly demonstrate that professionals sometimes fall below this standard, resulting in often irreparable and devastating birth injuries.
Birth injuries strike six to seven of every 1,000 babies in the U.S. The injured child may live a compromised life with overwhelming expenses and suffering for them and their families. Contact a Tampa medical malpractice lawyer for legal help.
After the Injury
At some point after the delivery, parents take their new children home to raise them and teach them how to thrive in the world. It is a difficult task made exponentially more difficult and more expensive by a birth injury.
Depending on the type of birth injury a child suffers, the child’s parents could be looking at time, care, and financial requirements that far outpace their incomes. It would be patently unfair to require these parents to shoulder these burdens alone when they did nothing but place their trust in the hands of medical professionals.
Florida law allows parents to take action against those professionals who have failed them and their children. Through representation from a skilled birth injury attorney, they can recover valuable compensation that will help them weather an uncertain future.
Justice Through Compensation
Mechanisms are in place to help parents and their injured children get justice for birthing errors and medical negligence. The process begins when a child’s parent or parents meet with a birth injury attorney to discuss their case.
During this initial consultation, which is typically free of charge, the attorney will review the facts and circumstances of the injury and make an evaluation. The more experienced the birth injury attorney, the better adept they will be at giving you a realistic appraisal of your case.
Experience also demonstrates a medical negligence attorney’s ability to recover valuable compensation. In other words, parents who are considering hiring a medical negligence attorney should pay close attention to the attorney’s or firm’s track record of wins for their clients.
Compensation for Economic Losses
Economic losses associated with a birth injury are compensable in Florida and refer to those losses that have a direct and demonstrable impact on your finances.
- Medical treatment and care
- Lost future wages
- Homecare expenses
Regarding medical treatment, parents can expect to experience significant medical expenses if their child was injured during birth. The extent and type of injury play a major role in how much care a child needs. However, more often than not, the need for years of medical treatment is the norm and can bankrupt a family.
Types of medical expenses typically involved in birth injury cases include:
- Pharmaceutical expenses
- Treatment appointments
- Ambulance and other medical transportation costs
- Diagnostic testing
- Costs related to blood transfusions
- Neonatal intensive care unit expenses
Keep in mind that compensable medical expenses also include future medical expenses, meaning parents can pursue a lifeline for the future. The same holds true for lost future wages.
Lost future income are those your child would have earned if they had not experienced a birth injury. It is impossible to truly know what profession a child would have chosen and how much they might have earned. However, this does not prevent a calculation from being made.
Although not as simple as calculating medical expenses, which is done using account balances, costs-of-service lists, and other readily available materials, calculating lost future wages occurs regularly.
Throughout this calculation process, you must have an experienced birth injury attorney who knows how to calculate lost future wages and fight for them, or you may get far less than you deserve.
Compensation for Non-Economic Losses
The law recognizes that not all losses are economic. Because of this, the compensation process for birth injury cases also involves non-economic losses. Non-economic losses are losses that do not have a price tag already built in and generally do not directly lead to out-of-pocket expenses.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a body part
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Although not directly related to your pocketbook, these losses can impact your life just as much as economic damages.
The question is, how do attorneys determine something like pain and suffering? How is it possible to know how much a child suffered due to their birth injury? For guidance, attorneys, insurance companies, and the courts look at the injury itself.
Some of the questions posed during pain and suffering calculations include:
- How extensive is the injury?
- How permanent is the injury
- How debilitating is the injury?
- How has the lifespan of the child been affected?
Regarding the other types of non-economic damages, similar questions will be asked to try to determine the extent of a child’s suffering and assign a dollar value. For parents who want the highest compensation awarded for each damage, seeking the services of an experienced medical negligence attorney is necessary.
One of the main tasks your birth injury attorney must complete is demonstrating liability. Without liability, there can be no compensation payment. But in the medical realm, medical professionals fight hard against allegations from outsiders and vigorously defend their actions.
For this reason, parents who need justice should seek representation from attorneys with successful track records of recovering compensation for their clients in medical negligence cases. An attorney or firm with this type of record is one that can understand and navigate the medical jargon that characterizes these types of cases.
Negligent Healthcare Professionals
If your child was injured, your attorney will work diligently to determine who the negligent party or parties are. During labor and delivery, any number of healthcare professionals may be responsible for a negligent act that harms a baby.
- Physician’s assistants
- Lab and testing technicians
- The hospital or birthing center
In many cases, more than one professional is at fault. When this occurs, your medical negligence attorney will make sure to identify every negligent professional and hold them to answer for the damage they have done.
Due to the complexity of medical issues, determining liability in any medical case is challenging. In order to be successful, a medical negligence lawyer must not only understand a bit about medicine themselves but must also work with premiere medical professionals in the industry.
Your case will require medical experts. To start, a medical affidavit completed by a qualified medical expert must accompany any medical negligence case filed in Florida. Within this affidavit must be language to the effect that there indeed exists an actionable injury and that the claim has a reasonable chance of prevailing.
Additionally, medical experts are necessary to give continuing weight to the claim that negligent acts occurred. During settlement negotiations, your birth injury attorney will use the testimony of medical experts to push your position. The same thing will occur at trial if negotiations fall apart.
Hospitals and Birthing Centers
Hospitals and birthing centers employ various healthcare professionals to work labor and delivery.
Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, these workplaces can be held liable vicariously for the negligent acts of their employees. This vicarious liability means that your attorney need not prove that a hospital or birthing center was negligent, simply that their employee was.
However, some healthcare professionals are independent contractors and not employees. Hence, the hospital birthing center that contracts them will not be subject to the terms of vicarious liability unless an attorney can show that an independent contractor received apparent authority to act on behalf of the hospital or birthing center.
The Importance of Swift Legal Action
When it comes to seeking justice for a birth injury or any other type of harm, parents must know that swift legal action is always recommended.
In spite of how difficult a situation might be in the present, it can become much more unbearable in the future if parents wait too long to seek justice. Hence, parents should act fast or face significantly negative effects on their claims.
Statute of Limitations
First and foremost, there is a time limit for practically all legal actions in Florida. Without these limits, the judicial system would be overloaded with cases from years and decades past, many of which would be impossible to adjudicate due to the passage of time.
For this and other reasons, the legislature institutes statutes of limitations that give a specific time period within which legal actions must be brought. Failing to meet these time limits results in the claim becoming invalid.
Sadly, many parents wait too long to take action and are locked out of the compensation they desperately need to deal with their losses.
In birth injury claims, the statute of limitations generally gives you a two year deadline.
However, in some cases, the actual effects of an injury may not manifest for some time after the injury occurred. Hence, the law will not start the clock at the time of the injury if no symptoms occur until later.
Therefore, the law also gives parents two years from the day they have or should have discovered the injury. For instance, if the effects of a birth injury manifest a year after the injury occurred, the statute of limitations will begin running on the day the symptoms manifest themselves and not on the day of the birth.
Florida also gives parents until their child’s eighth birthday to file a lawsuit for birth injuries under Tony’s Law, which was passed to address those birth injuries that manifest themselves after four years from the injury, which is the window in which all medical negligence claims must be filed, regardless of when they are discovered.
Keep in mind, however, that Tony’s Law does not automatically grant eight years for the filing of a case. If a birth injury has been or should have been discovered during the child’s second year, for example, then that is when the clock will start.
Because of these timing concerns, it is important for parents to at least meet with a medical negligence attorney as soon as possible when contemplating legal action. The attorney will know precisely what to do to preserve the claim and the family’s right to compensation. However, if it is too late, there may be nothing they can do.
Building a Strong Case
Swift legal action will also help your birth injury attorney build a solid case for compensation. However, waiting too long to act can substantially prejudice a solid case for compensation for many reasons.
For one, every compensation claim and lawsuit needs evidence to back up its assertions. But as time goes on, crucial evidence tends to disappear, degrade, or become unavailable. Whether it’s because the people involved move or records are lost, evidence becomes extremely difficult to obtain as time goes on.
For example, witness testimony for a birth injury case might come from employees at a hospital or birthing center. However, if many years have passed since the injury, these workers may no longer work at the location of the birth, may have even moved out of the state or country, or perhaps even passed away.
Other evidentiary problems also exist but swift legal action from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can overcome them. Parents who even suspect they are dealing with a birth injury help preserve their family’s future by first meeting with a medical negligence attorney and learning what they need to do to move forward.
Birth injuries due to medical negligence are tragic occurrences. As a parent, you have the right to seek justice for the harm done to your child. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover resources your family needs to build a better life for your child.