When you are preparing for childbirth in Oklahoma, something that you may not think much about—but that is very important—is the scope of your legal rights in the event that something goes wrong. While most babies are born without major complications in the United States, on occasion medical malpractice during gestation or during delivery can lead to devastating birth injuries.
The following provides an overview regarding what you need to know about birth injuries and medical malpractice laws in Oklahoma, and the benefits of hiring an knowledgeable Oklahoma City birth injury lawyer if something goes wrong.
While it may not be something that expectant parents want to think about while preparing for a new baby in Oklahoma, familiarizing yourself with the most common birth injuries is important. The most common birth injuries include:
Also referred to as intrauterine hypoxia, fetal hypoxia is a condition where the oxygen supply to the baby is cut off. The severity of oxygen deprivation will affect the severity of the resulting injury. According to an article published in Clinics in Perinatology, mild to moderate reductions in oxygen are not usually serious for the fetus, and the fetus can adapt without injury. However, a profound lack of oxygen is associated with severe brain injury and high mortality.
BRACHIAL PLEXUS INJURY:
The brachial plexus refers to a collection of nerves located near the shoulder. When a baby’s shoulder or arm is twisted or pulled with force during a difficult childbirth, an injury to the brachial plexus may occur. Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy are two types of brachial plexus injury; the former affects the upper arm, whereas the latter affects the hand. Both types of injury can range in severity, causing weakness of the affected area or complete paralysis.
FACIAL NERVE INJURY:
A baby’s facial nerves can be damaged during the birthing process. When this happens, the baby may lose lack of control over his or her facial muscles. In many cases, a facial nerve injury will correct itself on its own with time.
A newborn baby’s bones are incredibly fragile. When a baby is handled with too much force during the birthing process, a bone fracture may occur. Fractures of the clavicle are the most common.
Other birth injuries might include brain damage, spinal cord injury, hemorrhaging, and cephalohematoma. According to Medscape, significant birth injuries account for less than two percent of neonatal deaths in the U.S., and occur at a rate of approximately six to eight birth injuries per 1,000 live births.
There are a number of factors that increase the risk of a birth injury. A baby may be at a higher risk of experiencing a birth injury when:
– The baby is breech;
– Shoulder dystocia (the baby’s shoulder becoming wedged behind the mother’s pelvis during birth) occurs;
– The baby is of a larger than normal birth weight;
– The use of forceps or/and a vacuum extractor are employed.
The above risk factors are exactly that – risk factors – and are not enough to cause a birth injury. Most of the time, birth injuries are completely preventable, and occur because a doctor does not act quickly enough to remedy a dangerous situation (such as performing an emergency cesarean section to remove an infant suffering from hypoxia), or does not act in a reasonable and careful manner (such as tugging too hard on a baby’s shoulder, leading to a brachial plexus injury).
A birth injury may also occur because an obstetrician fails to notice important changes in the fetus (such as a change in heart rate) or does not properly monitor the mother.
Most of the time, birth injuries occur because of OB negligence. When negligence is the cause of your baby’s birth injury, then you may have a medical malpractice cause of action. A medical malpractice suit alleges that the doctor responsible for your baby’s birth injury failed to exercise the proper care during the birthing process, and that your baby’s injuries were caused as a direct result.
To hold a doctor liable for medical malpractice, you will have to prove the OB’s negligence. This means that you will have to prove that the doctor failed to provide the type of treatment that another healthcare professional in the same situation would have acted. This will require the testimony of at least one medical professional, if not more.
Filing a medical malpractice claim can help your family pay for your baby’s medications, treatment, and rehabilitation moving forward.
It is also important that you know Oklahoma’s statute of limitations for filing your medical malpractice claim. This refers to the amount of time that you have, from the date that your baby’s injury occurred, to file a civil action against the doctor/hospital. This means filing both the initial complaint and filing an affidavit asserting that there is good cause for the lawsuit and that a medical expert believes that the defendant acted negligently. The time limit for bringing forth your claim is two years in Oklahoma, per Oklahoma Statutes section 76-18.
As you are preparing for childbirth in Oklahoma, knowing your rights if something goes wrong is important. While we hope that you never have to worry about a birth injury, if you do, we want you to know that our attorneys will represent you and your child to the best of our abilities. If your child sustains a birth injury as a result of medical malpractice, our experienced Oklahoma City birth injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Burch, George, & Germany, PC have what it takes to advocate on your behalf. To learn more about common birth injuries, negligence, medical malpractice, and the statute of limitations for filing a claim, request a free consultation online now. Contact us today by calling our offices.