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The tragic aspects of birth injuries are that they occur and that most are preventable. The common cause is medical malpractice. It is the patients and the families who fall victim to the consequences of the errors of the care providers and the facilities. All family members endure the resulting birth injuries throughout their lifetime.

The purpose of this blog is to set out the eligibility of a birth injury claim in Pennsylvania and to explain the damages and the process for relief.

Birth Injury Claims

Under Pennsylvania law, a birth injury claim may exist if your child suffered injuries of a neurological or a physical nature during labor and/or delivery. There are some situations where the term “birth injury” can be extended to pre- or postnatal care if such care is deemed improper, to rough handling or to the misuse of medical tools. There are some instances when a birth injury results from the care given to the mother.

It must be noted that, often, birth injuries are not immediately noticeable. During the first year after a difficult labor and/or delivery, it will be important to observe your child for impaired motor skills and coordination or difficulties when eating. As time passes, the inability to speak or to understand full sentences may be signs of a birth injury.

The Responsibility

Childbirth involves the skills of many healthcare professionals; therefore, there are many risks. Under Pennsylvania law, the entire medical team involved in delivering and caring for a newborn and the mother is responsible, and any one of the team members could be held liable. Also, medical facilities like hospitals and clinics, pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies could be held either directly or vicariously liable in a birth injury claim.

Unfortunately, it is beneficial to name all readily-identifiable parties in a lawsuit and then work through the degrees of responsibility.

There are times, though, when a birth injury occurs without a responsible party. Injuries do happen under the best of care.

Proving Liability

In a claim for medical malpractice, there are four elements that are needed for liability. They are:

  1. proof of the relationship between the provider and the patient;
  2. evidence that the level of care breached the standard of care;
  3. evidence that the breached standard of care resulted in the injury; and
  4. proof that the birth injury resulted in damages of a physical, financial and/or emotional nature.

The Damages

The costs of caring for a birth injury throughout a lifetime will be considerable, and a settlement with the responsible parties that is reasonable and fair will bring relief to this financial burden.

The costs for care, special education and therapy in the future, along with the medical expenses and the lost wages currently experienced, are examples of economic damages. This damage is proven by receipts for paid expenses and a projection into the future for treatment, education and care. These are tangible damages.

In addition to the provable damages are the non-economic damages. Although these damages are intangible, like pain and suffering and emotional stress, they are very real. The value placed upon these non-economic damages will be a multiple of the awarded economic damage.

The damages suffered by both the child and the parents are considered when value is awarded.

In Pennsylvania, there is no cap or limit on a damage award, both economic and non-economic, in a birth injury claim.

The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is different for a birth injury claim filed on behalf of the child and the parents.

For the parents, a claim for the recovery of damages must be filed within two years from the date of the injury or wrongful death. For a claim filed on behalf of the child, the two-year limit does not begin until the child reaches the age of 18. Therefore, a birth injury claim can be filed on behalf of the child at any time between birth and the age of 20.

Unfortunately, in civil cases like a birth injury claim, the only way to provide relief is through financial compensation. It is known there is no true way to compensate for these injuries but, under the laws of civil procedure, this is all society can offer.

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