According to the Center for Disease Control, about 3 percent of babies born in America every year are affected by a birth defect. Many times, these defects are caused by natural abnormalities that arise during the development process. Sometimes, though, they can be the result of a healthcare provider's medical mistake. The question some new parents have is whether a birth defect that is caused by a doctor's negligence would be considered a birth injury. The answer is no and here's why.
Birth Injury vs. Birth Defect
A birth injury has a very specific meaning in the law. It is defined as any injury a child sustains during or shortly before birth. This encompasses a variety of issues that may occur during childbirth, such as inappropriate use of forceps or forcing a mother to undergo an unnecessary C-section. Injuries sustained at this time can lead to lifelong conditions, such as Erb's palsy and cerebral palsy.
A birth defect, on the other hand, is typically defined as anything that manifests during the fetal development process. For instance, cleft lip and spinal bifida are two common defects children are born with.
The reason why it's important to avoid mixing the two conditions is because the burden of proof is different in each situation. To win a medical malpractice case against a healthcare provider for a birth injury, you should need to show the person's actions or lack of action during the birthing process contributed to your child's injury. Whereas, with a birth defect, you would need to show the healthcare provider's negligence during prenatal treatment caused or contributed to your child's abnormality.
Getting Compensation for Birth Defects
Of the two, it can be harder to prove the healthcare provider contributed to a child's birth defect than it can be to show he or she caused a child's birth injury. As noted previously, there are many things that can cause birth defects, including a family history of defects, exposure to harmful environmental elements, smoking, drinking alcohol, and disease. With so many potential sources, it can be challenging to connect a healthcare provider's actions to the outcome.
However, that doesn't mean it is impossible. You would have to eliminate the other causes as much as possible. For instance, if a medication caused your child's defect, you could show the doctor knew or should have known birth defects was a possible side effect and didn't properly warn you of the risks.
Getting compensated for medical mistakes that harmed your baby often involves a lot of legal legwork. Contact a personal injury attorney or birth injury lawyer for assistance with your case.