Pennsylvania Birth Injury Lawyer
If you or your newborn suffered injuries during the birthing process, the birth injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti could help your family obtain the necessary support to care for your child with developmental delays, permanent brain damage, and other common injuries caused by the negligence of a health care provider in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Birth Injury Statistics
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their own National Vital Statistics Report, a birth injury is any impairment of the infant’s body that occurred during the delivery process. For an impairment to constitute a birth injury, the baby had to be born without known birth defects but developed immediate or delayed health complications due to the health care provider’s negligent actions.
Moreover, the CDC states that birth injuries affect between six and eight of every 1,000 newborns. Additionally, approximately 20% of all infant deaths trace back to negligent actions by health care providers during the birthing process.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations For Birth Injuries Due to Medical Malpractice
Pennsylvania Statute 42, Section 5524 provides parents with two years from the date of discovering the birth injury to file a personal injury lawsuit against the medical provider. The precedent for this time limit to initiate a birth injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania can be found at Fine vs. Checcio, 870 A.2d 850, 858 (Pa. 2005), cited in a memorandum for Work v. Olsen.
An exception to the rule depends on who files the lawsuit. The statute of limitations for parental birth injury claims differs significantly from when the person who suffered a birth injury opts to pursue a lawsuit later in life. Minors have until age 20 to file a medical malpractice case against the negligent doctor or other health care provider who assisted in their birth process. State law further stipulates that no party may file a personal injury lawsuit based on birth injury more than seven years after discovering the event.
It’s best to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer to determine if you still have time to seek compensation from the health care professional who caused you or your child harm.
Pennsylvania Birth Injury Expert Witness And Affidavit of Merit Requirements
Birth injury is a form of medical malpractice, and winning your case requires the testimony of expert medical witnesses. Pennsylvania law outlines the criteria that expert witnesses must meet to establish credibility or expertise in their field of study. Any expert testifying about standards of medical care, causes of birth injuries, and the nature and extent of the injury must possess the following qualifications:
- A current medical license valid nationwide
- Presently working as a medical provider or have retired within the last five years
Pennsylvania courts retain the discretion to allow an expert medical witness if the proposed witness does not meet both requirements. The judge must consider the witness competent due to training, experience, or education.
This flexibility does not apply to situations where an expert medical witness testifies regarding the standard of care. Witnesses must meet the following criteria when speaking on this matter:
- The witness must have substantial familiarity with prevailing standards of care regarding the birth process when the alleged medical error took place.
- The witness must practice medicine in a similar specialty as the doctor on trial. If the physician facing medical malpractice has obtained board certification, Pennsylvania requires the expert medical witness to have the same credentials or achievements.
Additionally, per Pennsylvania law, your attorney must file a certificate of merit within 60 days after filing the complaint. The certificate is necessary if one alleges that a healthcare team member acted in a manner that deviated from professional expectations and resulted in your child’s birth injury.
How Much Is My Pennsylvania Birth Injury Claim Worth?
All birth injury cases are different, and even though our birth injury attorneys cannot determine a specific amount in advance that you should expect to receive, we can review the unique factors pertaining to your specific case to decide on a rough value that we will use when negotiating a settlement. For example, we might consider the following questions when calculating an estimate of your case’s worth:
- What are the nature and extent of your child’s injury (i.e., Is the damage permanent? Does it significantly impair their life and the life of their caregiver? Did it result in chronic pain or disfigurement?)
- Does your child have lifelong complications requiring lifelong care due to physician negligence?
- How much compensation does your family require to provide appropriate and immediate care for your child with a birth injury?
- Will your child need future surgeries, procedures, or treatment that carry substantial costs?
- Were the health care provider’s actions egregious? Were they intentionally reckless or grossly negligent?
The doctor or other health care provider at fault might also be subject to punitive damages under the provisions of Pennsylvania Statute 1303.505. However, a showing of gross negligence is not enough to receive punitive damages in a Pennsylvania lawsuit. Instead, the jury must determine that the medical professional acted in an especially reckless and willful manner without regard for the safety and well-being of you and your infant. Punitive damages intend to punish the negligent party and deter future wrongdoing rather than compensate the injured individual.
Other damages you might be eligible to receive in a Pennsylvania birth injury lawsuit include economic and non-economic damages. Economic on monetary damages refer to your actual financial losses and anticipated future costs associated with your child’s increased medical and therapeutic needs. These damages could also include loss of income if one parent has to give up their career to provide full-time care for their special needs child.
Non-economic or non-monetary damages refer to a person’s physical pain and suffering, mental anguish stemming from the injury, and a loss of opportunities due to long-term disability.
Unlike some states, Pennsylvania doesn’t cap the amount of compensation juries can award for economic and non-economic damages. However, if you qualify for punitive damages, the state limits recovery to three times the amount of economic damages.
Pennsylvania allows plaintiffs who initiate a personal injury lawsuit to seek additional damages for delays in the case proceeding. You may receive damages for delay for a period covering one year after the date you initiated your birth injury claim.
Pennsylvania law describes the types of past and future damages common to most personal injury cases. The court expresses each of the losses falling under the two categories as a lump sum.
Examples of past damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Non-economic losses
Examples of future damages include:
- Annual medical expenses
- Loss of income or earning capacity
- Non-economic losses
What are the most common birth injuries?
Birth injuries vary in severity and symptoms. Some may be mild or temporary, while others can be permanent and even life-threatening. Common birth injuries affecting newborns include:
- Asphyxia and hypoxia: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes asphyxia and hypoxia as brain injuries caused by prematurity or lack of oxygen at birth.
- Cephalohematoma: According to the Cleveland Clinic, cephalohematoma occurs when blood pools under a newborn’s scalp after a difficult birth. The condition can cause anemia, infections, and jaundice.
- Cerebral palsy: The Mayo Clinic describes cerebral palsy as a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and posture. Spasticity, difficulty walking, and mobility impediments are common symptoms.
- Erb’s palsy and other brachial plexus injuries: The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that a brachial plexus is a group of nerves near the neck that facilitates movement of arms, fingers, and hands. Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy that can develop when a physician stretches a newborn’s neck to the side during a difficult birth.
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy as a serious condition affecting full-term infants. Up to 60 percent of newborns with this birth injury die by age two, and the remaining children suffer severe disabilities. This brain disorder can occur due to improper use of forceps during the delivery process or oxygen deprivation during birth.
- Prenatal infections and sepsis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe sepsis as the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. Sepsis and the conditions causing it usually occur due to poor prenatal care.
Possible Negligent Actions Leading To Birth Injuries
Sometimes, it can be challenging to pinpoint an exact action or inaction of a health care provider that may have caused a birth injury. Other times, it’s apparent that a health care provider’s negligence (i.e., failure to act or improper actions) led to your child’s harm. The following negligent behaviors of your doctor or other medical professional caring for you and your baby could lead to birth injuries impacting your newborn’s short- and long-term health and well-being:
- Failing to monitor the baby or respond to fetal distress
- Failing to control high blood pressure, eclampsia, or seizures in the mother
- Failing to treat an infection or administer antibiotics
- Using excessive force during the delivery of the baby
- Administering too much Pitocin or Oxytocin
- Failing to recognize or treat a placental abruption
- Delaying or incorrectly performing a C-section
How can a birth injury lawyer in Pennsylvania help?
As a subset of medical malpractice, birth injury cases can be among the most difficult to prove and win. The burden lies entirely on you as the plaintiff to prove that your child would not have suffered symptoms or a permanent disability if not for the negligent actions of the medical team. Our birth injury attorneys can assist with your claim in the following ways:
- Determine if you have a legitimate basis for a lawsuit
- Help you understand your rights and provide legal advice so that you can make well-informed decisions
- Review the specific facts of your case, applying relevant laws to establish your case
- Collect evidence and medical records to support your claim
- Hire expert witnesses
- File a formal birth injury complaint due to medical negligence
- Negotiate a financial compensation settlement or advocate on your behalf in court
This list is not exhaustive. How we can support you through this difficult time is largely dependent on the facts and circumstances of your case.
About Our Birth Injury Lawyers
Dov Apfel and Seth Cardeli are two of the leading birth injury attorneys in the nation. They have litigated cases throughout the United States and at the federal level, and are passionate advocates for the families they represent. Dov Apfel is nationally known for his high level of medical knowledge, and acts as a resource for attorneys, judges, and healthcare providers throughout the country. He has been practicing in the field of birth injury for over 40 years and was the recipient of the Dan Cullan Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the AAJ Birth Injury Trauma Litigation Group in 2011. Apfel and Cardeli have presented at dozens of educational events and written for numerous publications. In 2020, they secured one of the top five highest medical malpractice settlements in the nation.
Contact Levin & Perconti to Handle Your Pennsylvania Birth Injury Case
Levin & Perconti Law has successfully settled many birth injury claims, including:
$20 million verdict for a child who suffered a brain injury due to the negligence of nurses and residents during labor.
$16 million settlement for a child who suffered a brain injury due to negligent nursing and medical care during labor and cesarean section.
$14 million verdict for a child who suffered a brain injury due to lack of oxygen during birth.
We understand how important it is for your family to obtain the compensation needed to provide the best ongoing medical care for your injured child and gain some semblance of justice throughout this challenging time. Contact our birth injury lawyers today for a free consultation to receive more information on how we can help you.
Not only were they so professional but also so caring and thoughtful. It was very difficult going over the facts in our mother's case but they were so compassionate and understanding and allowed us to be with them every step of the way. We were able to sit in on the depositions and we were really able to see how hard they worked on our behalf.