There are four elements to birth injury claims: (1) the duty of care, (2) the breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) the injury. Unfortunately, babies may suffer trauma or other harm just before, during, or just after their births that may have lasting effects. When babies suffer injuries because of the actions or negligence of health care professionals, parents may choose to take legal action to recover compensation on behalf of their harmed children.
Proving Birth Injury Claims
Pursuant to Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, before a party may file suit in state court, birth injury cases must undergo review by a medical review panel. The medical review panel examines the care and the merits of the case and renders a non-binding opinion as to whether the healthcare providers deviated from the standard of care and whether that deviation was a cause of the baby’s injuries.
The Duty of Care
To hold medical providers liable for birth injuries, the plaintiff(s) must establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed, and thus, the physician owed the baby a duty of care. When a doctor-patient relationship is established, medical providers must treat their patients with the same skill and care that another reasonable doctor would in the same or similar circumstances. By examining mothers during prenatal visits, running tests on mothers or their unborn babies, or participating in mothers’ labor and delivery, physicians create the doctor-patient relationship and bind themselves to the duty of care.
To show that a healthcare provider breached the duty of care, plaintiffs must show the healthcare provider was negligent. Generally, negligence occurs when someone fails to take reasonable care to prevent causing property damage or harm to another person or people. The actions of the treating physicians at the time birth injuries occurred are compared with the field’s accepted safety and treatment standards.
To succeed in on a birth injury claim, plaintiffs must present a link between a healthcare provider’s negligence and the baby’s injuries. It is not enough that a physician acted negligently and an injury occurred. The negligent acts and/or omissions must have caused the trauma or harm.
Proving that the baby suffered an injury is key in obtaining compensation for birth injuries. To help support their claims, parents may provide medical records, imaging results, studies, or enlist the help of expert witnesses to indicate the existence of some type of birth trauma or harm. Physicians cannot be held liable for harm that might have happened but did not, even if they acted negligently or recklessly.