Birth Injury Attorneys Serving Illinois & Standing Up for Families
Birth should be a joyous moment for a family welcoming a new member, but it’s also potentially dangerous for both mother and baby. That’s why hospitals, obstetricians, delivery nurses, and other medical providers are held to high legal standards. Because a newborn’s brain and body are still so early in development, the smallest mistake can lead to serious and permanent medical problems.
We handle all types of medical malpractice cases, and we take particular pride in representing birth injury victims and their families. Recovering financial compensation not only helps cover the true cost of a birth injury, but also sends a clear message to doctors and hospitals: reckless behavior that puts children in danger will not be tolerated. If your child suffered a birth injury, we would be honored to listen to your story. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Chicago birth injury lawyer from Coplan & Crane.
Our winning track record in birth injury cases
- We won a $13 million settlement for a child who sustained a shoulder dystocia injury during childbirth. Our investigation found that the medical providers failed to recognize numerous warning signs before and during delivery.
- We recovered a $12 million settlement for a baby who suffered cerebral palsy, paralysis, and permanent brain damage because the labor and delivery staff did not act quickly when it became clear his brain was not getting enough oxygen. This was the largest personal injury settlement or verdict in the history of Winnebago County (Rockford), Illinois.
- We recovered $1.3 million for a child born in Decatur, IL who suffered permanent damage to the brachial plexus (the bundle of nerves leading to the arm) due to errors made by the obstetrician and delivery nurse.
The role of negligence in birth injuries
Medical professionals have specific responsibilities during prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postnatal care. During prenatal care, doctors need to perform certain tests and monitor for the possibility of complications, especially if the pregnancy is known to be high-risk – for instance, if the mother is under 17 or over 35, has a history of pregnancy complications, or develops gestational diabetes. Failure to diagnose complications, such as fetal macrosomia (abnormally large baby), preeclampsia, or maternal infection, can put the baby’s health at risk during delivery.
During and immediately after delivery, medical providers have numerous responsibilities, including:
- Monitoring the baby’s heart rate. Throughout delivery, medical professionals must diligently monitor the fetal heart rate and intervene promptly if it goes outside the normal range. A low heart rate can indicate the baby’s brain is not getting enough oxygen (hypoxia), which can cause permanent damage.
- Provide appropriate dosage of medication. Sometimes it is necessary to induce or augment labor using a drug called Pitocin, to administer painkillers via epidural, or to use other medications during labor and delivery. Any such medications need to be given in the correct dosage by the correct route, as an incorrect dosage can cause serious complications.
- Correctly use forceps and vacuum extractors. When used skillfully by a medical professional, forceps and extractors can be a safe and effective way to deliver a baby. However, if they are used incorrectly, the baby can sustain injuries to the head or skull.
- Perform a C-section promptly, if medically indicated. Under certain circumstances, the best option for the baby is to perform a caesarean section as soon as possible. Failure to perform a timely caesarean section can cause permanent damage as the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen.
- Address breech birth complications. If the baby is in the breech position (feet first), the risk of injury during a vaginal delivery is dramatically higher. Usually, a breech baby needs to be delivered by C-section.
- Perform appropriate tests after birth. Once a baby is born, medical professionals need to perform the Apgar test, an overall check of the baby’s health usually given one minute and five minutes after birth. They also need to check for jaundice and hypoglycemia, among other medical conditions. Failure to conduct these diagnostic tests or respond appropriately to the results can lead to serious health issues.
Why birth injuries happen
Doctors and other medical professionals need to follow the established standards of care because the risk of complications during birth is real. Some of the ways birth injuries can occur include:
- Hypoxia: if the baby’s brain doesn’t get enough oxygen during birth, brain cells can essentially suffocate and die, causing permanent damage. Prompt intervention is needed to restore the flow of oxygen to the brain and prevent serious damage. Hypoxia can cause cerebral palsy, cognitive disorders, and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a serious brain injury.
- Jaundice: it’s quite common for newborns to experience jaundice, a medical condition produced by an excess of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance that causes the baby’s skin and eyes to take on a yellow hue. In most cases, infant jaundice just needs to be monitored to ensure that the baby’s body is processing bilirubin appropriately. However, if it does not progress appropriately, doctors may need to intervene to prevent bilirubin from spreading to the brain. Untreated jaundice can cause kernicterus, a rare but serious type of brain damage.
- Hypoglycemia: commonly known as “low blood sugar,” hypoglycemia is a shortage of glucose, which is needed for normal brain function. If spotted with proper monitoring of symptoms, risk factors such as low birth weight, and blood tests if necessary, hypoglycemia is a perfectly treatable condition that shouldn’t lead to long-term complications. However, if hypoglycemia is not properly treated, it can lead to permanent brain damage.
- Infection: certain types of infection during pregnancy, if not properly treated, can lead to brain damage in the baby. If an infection reaches the fetal membranes, it can disrupt the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the baby’s body, harming development. Newborns can also develop infections due to meconium aspiration – that is, breathing in a mixture of meconium (the baby’s first bowel movement) and amniotic fluid during labor. Doctors need to monitor for signs of infection both before and during pregnancy and take immediate steps to treat any infections that emerge.
- Physical birth trauma: if the baby is not delivered properly, physical injury can occur. Birth trauma can happen due to the size or shape of the mother’s pelvis, awkward positioning during delivery, or prolonged labor, as well as especially large babies, premature births, and misuse of tools, such as forceps and extractors. Physical injury during delivery can cause brain damage, shoulder injuries, broken bones, and soft tissue injuries.
Birth is complex, and we don’t expect medical providers to be perfect. We do expect them to follow the professional standards of care. When those standards aren’t met, serious birth injuries follow. We hold them accountable.
We represent victims of all types of birth injury
Any injury to an infant can have effects for the rest of their life. We understand the legal implications of all types of birth injuries, and we are committed to seeking full compensation for your child.
Cerebral palsy is a term for a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous system, making it more difficult to move and maintain balance and posture. There are several types of cerebral palsy: ataxic, dyskinetic, hypotonic, spastic, and mixed. The brain damage that causes cerebral palsy may be a result of hypoxia, untreated jaundice, infection, or birth trauma – all of which are often preventable if medical professionals follow standards of care during labor and delivery.
Depending on the type and severity of cerebral palsy, children with this condition may need medication, medical treatment, such as surgery, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and assistive devices. Their long-term independence may be threatened, and they may need treatment for the rest of our lives. Our Chicago cerebral palsy attorneys know how to hold negligent medical providers accountable and pursue the full compensation your child needs.
Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is a medical term for paralysis of the arm due to an injury to the upper arm’s main nerves, called the brachial plexus. Typically, this occurs because of shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder is trapped by the mother’s pelvis after the baby’s head has exited the mother. Signs of birth injuries like Erb’s palsy can include loss of feeling in the arm, weakness in one arm, and partial or total paralysis.
Erb’s palsy can be caused by pulling too hard on the head and neck as the shoulders pass through the birth canal, or by misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors. The long-term cost of Erb’s palsy can be substantial, as the child will grow up with limited use of the arm.
Klumpke’s palsy or Klumpke paralysis is a related medical condition where the brachial plexus injury affects the forearm and hand, sometimes causing a “claw hand” appearance. Depending on the severity of the injury, the child may need occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and even surgery.
Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis
Neonatal spinal cord injury is a rare condition that can be caused by improperly pulling and twisting the baby during a rushed delivery. Misuse of forceps and vacuum extractors to pull a baby from the birth canal can also damage the spinal cord by stretching nerves in the back and neck. The risk of spinal cord injury is elevated if the baby weighs more than eight pounds, is in a breech position, or there is a risk of bleeding in the brain from a maternal infection or preeclampsia. Doctors also need to screen the baby for spina bifida, a birth defect that makes the spinal cord more vulnerable, prior to delivery to avoid causing further damage.
Depending on the extent of the injury, a baby whose spinal cord is damaged may be partially or completely paralyzed. An entire team of medical professionals will be needed to work with the child to give them the best possible quality of life. With the proper care, treatment, and resources, babies can learn to adapt to their limitations and live happy, meaningful lives.
Bone Fractures and Soft Tissue Injuries
Depending on how the delivery progresses, fractures (broken bones) and soft tissue injuries sometimes occur. Fortunately, most of these injuries heal in time, but depending on the extent of the treatment and quality of follow-up care, they can have more serious complications. Medical professionals are responsible for providing high-quality care and minimizing damage.
Your legal rights and options after a birth injury
When preventable birth injuries occur, victims have legal recourse against the medical providers responsible for those injuries. Depending on the circumstances, some of the medical facilities and providers responsible may include:
- Birthing center
- Labor and delivery nurse
- Nurse practitioner (NP)
- Nurse midwife (CNM)
The long-term cost of a birth injury can be substantial, especially if it causes a permanent disability. Your child may need medical treatment, assistive devices, physical or occupational therapy, in-home care, and other services for the rest of their life. Their eventual ability to work and earn an income may also be limited. Modifications to your home or vehicle may be needed to accommodate a disability. To the malpractice insurance company, this means a large potential cost to their bottom line, so they won’t make it easy for you to get fully compensated. That’s where we come in.
We know Illinois law, and we understand the true cost of a birth injury. We will launch a full investigation to get to the bottom of your child’s injury: what happened, why it happened, and who was responsible. Our goal is to get you answers and to advocate for the full compensation you need to maximize your child’s quality of life. We will handle negotiations with the insurance company, and if necessary, we will file a birth injury lawsuit and take your case to trial.
How much time do you have to file a birth injury case in Illinois?
In Illinois, the statute of limitations (legal time limit) for most medical malpractice claims is two years from the date of the incident. In cases involving injury or wrongful death of the mother, this is the time limit that generally applies. However, different rules apply when the victim is a newborn. In general, you can seek compensation for a birth injury at any point in the child’s first eight years of life. If the child is disabled due to the injury, the statute of limitations is tolled (paused) until two years after the disability ends – which means if the disability is permanent, there is no time limit on legal action.
Another exception applies if a medical provider is found to purposely withhold information in order to conceal malpractice. In such a situation, the statute of limitations is extended for five years from the date the injury is discovered.
In cases involving the wrongful death of a baby, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.
However, even if you have some time before the deadline to actually file a lawsuit, it’s still in your interest to talk to a birth injury attorney about your options as soon as possible. Building a strong birth injury case takes time, and our investigation needs to start promptly. The sooner we get involved, the more options you will have to pursue accountability and financial support for your child.
Put Your Trust In Our Chicago Birth Injury Attorneys
Birth injury cases can be very difficult, even if your case seems clear-cut. Winning a malpractice claim requires strong evidence that the medical provider made a mistake that led to your child’s injuries, and gathering this kind of evidence takes a lot of time and work. Hospital charts, medical records, and other important data must be reviewed carefully. Every piece of evidence matters. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case.
We’ve walked through this process with many families, and we know how heart-wrenchingly difficult it can be. While we can’t promise a fast or easy resolution, we can promise to be your strongest advocate from start to finish. We will handle the legal matters and keep you informed while you focus on your child and your family. We will also connect you with resources and providers who can help you find your path forward.
We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing if you don’t win. Our firm will advance the costs to move your child’s case forward, investing our own time and resources as we fight for the best possible resolution. If we win, our fee is a percentage of the recovery; if we lose, there is no fee. It’s that simple.
If your child has been hurt, we would be honored to listen to your story and explain how we may be able to help. There is no cost and no pressure to hire us, just answers about your child’s legal rights and options. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Chicago birth injury lawyer from Coplan & Crane.
Birth Injury Frequently Asked Questions
How To Recognize Signs of a Birth Injury
Although there are many symptoms of birth injury in newborns, the more common signs include:
- Poor or lacking reflexes
- Light sensitivity
- The child’s muscles feel like they’re excessively stiff or loose (floppy baby syndrome)
- Lacking facial expressions caused by injury to the facial nerves
- Baby’s hand is curled and seems shaped like a claw
- The child develops hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy caused by inadequate oxygen levels
- Excessive grunting, fussiness, or high-pitched crying
- Weak heartbeat or pulse rate
- Fractured skull
- The child struggles to eat, suckle, or swallow
- The child drools a lot
Children who show one or more of the symptoms above may have suffered some form of injury during birth and should get medical help immediately.
How to Know if Your Child’s Birth Injury Could Have Been Prevented
Birth injuries are largely preventable. Unfortunately for the unpracticed eye, it is easy to miss the signs indicating that your child’s injuries resulted from negligence, mistakes, or errors during birth.
Some conditions that point to possible birth injuries include:
- Shoulder dystocia — This is caused by injury to the baby’s shoulder ligaments, tendons, or nerves during birth. Babies with this injury typically have limited arm movement, which may or may not resolve by itself.
- Slow or developmental issues — Although all babies are unique, there are general milestones that babies should attain at certain ages. For instance, babies should typically begin crawling between 9 and 18 months. If your baby doesn’t, chances are there may be a developmental problem caused by a birth injury.
- Microcephaly or smaller-sized head — Babies with unusually small head sizes may suffer from microcephaly. While there are other congenital causes, oxygen deprivation after birth may also cause the condition. Children with this health issue may have learning difficulties and suffer from spasticity and seizures.
- Cognitive impairment — Children with birth injuries may have cognition issues such as hearing impairment, and inability to read or interpret verbal cues.
- Brain damage — Mild or severe brain damage in babies is usually caused by inadequate oxygen and can lead to health conditions such as cerebral palsy.
How to Proceed if Your Child Experiences a Birth Injury
If your child is showing one or more of these symptoms, chances are the healthcare professionals who could have quickly identified the symptoms of these conditions before or right when they were happening missed them. So, start by getting medical help immediately.
Sometimes, early detection and quick intervention can stop the condition’s deterioration in its tracks. Thus, leaving the child with minimal damages and possibly opening up the child to faster recovery. After getting medical attention for your child, you can pursue a malpractice suit against the liable parties if you’re so inclined.
Ultimately, you have to decide on the best course of action for you and your child. This is where you may have to seek the counsel and guidance of experienced birth injury lawyers who will evaluate your case and see if moving forward with a malpractice suit is a good idea.
How To Document a Birth Injury for a Potential Case
Documentation is a crucial part of a birth injury lawsuit. Some of the documentation that you will need to successfully file a malpractice claim against a healthcare practitioner responsible for your child’s birth injury include:
- Any information, evidence, recording, picture, video, or document showing that the standard of care you and your child received was inferior to what you could have received from another healthcare professional under similar circumstances. This information should show a breach of care to lay the groundwork for a medical negligence case.
- To the best of your knowledge and recollection, create a timeline and history of events before, during, and after the birth of your child. Note and write down everything you can remember throughout the entire process. The more accurate your information, the better your chances of building a solid case with your attorney.
- Details of all the medical facilities that were involved in the birthing process.
- Names and contact information of all the healthcare professionals who were involved in the birth of your child.
- Vital information about the medical procedures and treatments you underwent or are currently undergoing at the medical facilities in question.
- Information about prescription drugs and the condition(s) for which they were prescribed.
Having the required information or documentation can help your medical malpractice attorney decide if you have a case and can serve as the foundation for your birth injury lawsuit against all liable parties.
How to Ensure a Birth Injury Lawsuit is Filed on Time
Ideally, a parent should file a birth injury claim once they observe that their child was injured at birth. However, because of the nature of many birth injuries, the effects may not show up until years after the incident.
Thankfully, the statute of limitations for birth injuries in Illinois states that birth injury claims can be filed up to 8 years after the injury or up to the child’s age of 22 years. So, if you’re unsure about the exact date of the child’s birth injury, it’s always better to speak to an experienced lawyer about it.
Your lawyer will assess the case and expedite the claim filing if you have a legitimate case.
How To Choose a Birth Injury Attorney
Even with substantial evidence, birth injury malpractice suits can be complex and stressful. If you want to win the compensation that you or your child deserve, you need to choose a birth injury attorney with significant birth injury case experience.
So, look for years of experience, won cases and settlements, an impressive track record, and personal attention to individual cases. You also want a lawyer with significant trial law experience to protect your rights or that of your injured child if you have to go to court.
How to Prove Negligence in a Birth Injury Claim
There are four elements of negligence that your medical malpractice lawyer must prove in a birth injury claim. These are:
- The healthcare professional or facility owed you and/or your child a reasonable duty of care
- The medical professional or entity acted in a manner that breached that duty
- Your child suffered injuries that would not have ordinarily occurred if the duty was not breached
- You or your child suffered damages and losses as a result of the injury they caused
Once these can be proven, you may be able to recover compensation for the damages and losses.
How To Determine If You Have a Valid Birth Injury Claim
As the plaintiff, you have to show that the healthcare professional or facility that you’re filing a medical malpractice claim against acted negligently when your baby was under their care. And that their errors led to your baby’s injuries.
To do this successfully, you’ll need the help of an experienced birth injury lawyer who will evaluate your case to see if you can file and win a birth injury claim. Also, the lawyer can provide some sorely needed legal guidance and representation.
If you prefer, the birth injury lawyer may also help you develop a quality-of-life plan for your injured baby.