In the United States, nearly 4 million children are born each year. Most of these are occasions of significant excitement and joy. Overall, many doctors and other medical professionals are capable of handling obstetric emergencies that may arise at any time during pregnancy, labor or delivery. However, some medical practitioners, for whatever reason, fail to keep their most vulnerable patients safe, which at times can have tragic and even fatal consequences.
For more than three decades the legal professionals at Stern Law, PLLC have proudly helped thousands of families like yours affected by medical malpractice, including the wrongful death of a mother or her child. If your family has suffered a tragic loss and you believe insufficient medical care is responsible, please call (800)462-5772 for personal guidance in your claim.
What is a wrongful death action and what are survivors entitled to receive?
A wrongful death action is a civil lawsuit that is brought by survivors of a person who has passed due to the unintentional or intentional acts of others. Specifically, wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the losses incurred by a deceased person’s loved ones. Those entitled to sue on behalf of a deceased relative are usually enumerated by state statute. However, they are often limited to the spouse, parent(s), or child of the person that has died.
The law of each state may also govern the amount of damages that statutory beneficiaries may recover in wrongful death actions. Compensatory damages are those intended to provide restitution to survivors for the amount of money lost, including:
- Lost wages from the deceased
- Lost companionship
- Loss of services
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses incurred by the deceased
- Pain and suffering endured by a decedent’s surviving family members
In certain circumstances and in certain states, punitive damages may also be awarded if a defendant’s actions were particularly egregious or reckless. These types of damages are intended to punish a defendant for his or her wrongful actions and are usually awarded at the discretion of a jury. Any damages that are ultimately recovered may be distributed among the decedent’s survivors as dictated by state statute.
In terms of a wrongful death action regarding an unborn child, in many states a child must actually be born alive for its death to be the subject of a wrongful death action. However, this is not always the case. In some states, the child must have been viable (able to live outside the mother’s womb) even though it was never born; in other states, viability is not an issue. Due to the fact that the law varies widely from state to state, it is important to speak with an attorney about your family’s rights in this regard.
Birth injuries and wrongful death actions
Although the term “birth injury” implies an injury that occurs during labor and delivery, some can originate before a child is even born. While birth injuries that ultimately end in the death of a mother or her child are not always attributable to medical negligence, oftentimes this unfortunately is the underlying cause. In general, serious risks to a mother and her child’s health are often foreshadowed by signs and symptoms indicating that there may be a serious underlying problem. Competent medical professionals should always be prepared to address these issues and catch them before any harm is inflicted to a mother or her child. However, this unfortunately is not always the case, as medical mistakes can and do happen.
The following is a list of the most common types of pregnancy-related medical issues that, if left undiagnosed or untreated, may cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries:
- Blood incompatibility, such as Rh incompatibility
- Cervical risks
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Gestational diabetes/low blood sugar
- Gestational hypertension
- High risk pregnancy
- Intrauterine growth restriction
- Maternal health conditions
- Maternal infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Post-term pregnancy
- Premature labor
- Teratogens/Exposure to teratogens during pregnancy
- Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, over-the-counter medications, & prescription drugs during pregnancy
- Gynecological complications, such as uterine/cervical/ovarian/vaginal cancer, polyps and fibroid tumors
- Oxygen deprivation, including Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
- Cesarean delivery
- Delayed emergency cesarean section
- Delayed delivery
- Prolonged labor
- Fetal distress
- Fetal monitoring errors
- Meconium/meconium aspiration
- Umbilical cord abnormalities, including prolapse and compression
- Labor inducing drugs, such as Cytotec and Pitocin
- Traumatic birth injuries
- Abnormal presentation/breech birth
- Cephalopelvic disproportion/prolonged or extended labor
- Failure to progress/prolonged traumatic delivery
- Fetal macrosomia (an overly large infant)
- Forceps/vacuum extractor injuries
- Shoulder dystocia
- Traumatic birth delivery
- Placenta abnormalities, including placenta previa and placental abruption
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Multiple births
- Uterine anomaly or rupture
- Vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC
- Maternal hemorrhaging or maternal shock
- Abnormal (low) Apgar score
- Hypothermia (brain cooling) treatment errors
- Neonatal hypoglycemia
- Newborn health conditions
- Seizures/untreated seizures
- Maternal cardiac arrest
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns
- Birth defects such as spina bifida
- Respiratory distress
If your child sustained severe injury or passed away due to medical negligence at birth, it's critical to know that you have legal rights. Stern Law, PLLC can protect those rights and provide you with the resources you need to move forward after a traumatic event. Please call us for free at (800)462-5772 today.