New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyer

Birth Injury Attorneys in New Jersey

The arrival of a child should bring immense joy to new parents. However, there are a few instances when giving birth turns tragic, especially when there are complications that lead to birth injuries. According to recent reports, birth injuries contribute to approximately 20,000 deaths of infants annually, making it the fourth cause of infant deaths in the US. Many more infants suffer injuries and potentially lasting disabilities.

Unfortunately, some of these injuries occur as a result of medical negligence. When a doctor’s actions or inactions cause injuries during childbirth, they can be held accountable to pay for damages. In this situation, you want the help of a trusted New Jersey birth injury lawyer to help you pursue legal recovery.

At Varcadipane & Pinnisi, P.C., we understand the challenges families experience when dealing with birth injuries. Instead of wondering about what to do next, you need to engage a lawyer to assess your situation to determine the appropriate legal options to pursue. Either way, your attorney will ensure your rights and interests are protected and that you get proper compensation for the resultant loss.

Table Of Content

Some birth injury statistics

According to a 2020 study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.4 babies died per 1,000 live births, with birth injuries being the fourth leading cause of infant mortality.

Birth injuries may stem from head trauma, nerve damage, and vacuum extraction or forceps-assisted complications.

The CDC also reports that birth defects affect one in every 33 babies or about 3% of all children.

Birth defects are also identified as being the leading cause of infant deaths, accounting for 20 percent of infant deaths. The CDC estimates that one in every 4,647 births will involve anencephaly and affect 847 babies, one in every 10,502 births will involve encephalocele and affect 375 children, and one in every 2,758 births will involve spina bifida and affect 1,427 babies.

The CDC also estimates that one in every 5,243 births, or 751 babies, can see defects such as anophthalmia or microphthalmia. See more in this infographic:

Birth Injuries infographic

Common Types of Birth Injuries in New Jersey

Head trauma: any damage taking place to the skull or brain during birth; often, it is the result of direct force on the head; this can result in brain bleeds (hemorrhage) and possible brain damage.

Nerve damage: could include a facial nerve, brachial plexus, phrenic nerve, or spinal cord, as follows:

  • Facial nerve: pressure against this nerve would cause a newborn’s face to appear lopsided
  • Brachial plexus: nerve bundle that includes the nerves between the neck and shoulder. which control the functioning of the arms and hands; during delivery, these nerves may be stretched, causing weakness or paralysis of the infant’s hand and arm.
  • Phrenic nerve: this is the only nerve that controls the function of the diaphragm; damage to the phrenic nerve during delivery may result in the newborn having trouble breathing.
  • Spinal cord injuries: extremely rare, however, damage to the spinal cord is often permanent.

Vacuum extraction complications or forceps-assisted delivery: both tools may be used to assist during a difficult childbirth, such as the baby being in an occiput posterior position (baby’s head is down and baby is descending birth canal “sunny side up”)

  • Physicians may elect to use a vacuum extractor to create suction and use force to pull the baby out of the womb; this can lead to brain bleeding, skull fractures, and shoulder damage
  • The same damage can be caused by using forceps, which are shaped like large tongs that fit around the baby’s head to assist in delivery.

Birth Injury Disorders

There are different types of birth injury disorders. Depending on the type of injury, victims will experience varying degrees of complications and severity. Here are some of the common birth injury disorders that a New Jersey birth injury lawyer can handle:

birth injuries

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy refers to conditions that impact muscle tone or movement. It is mainly caused by brain injury during birth or early infancy.

Effects:

  • Impaired movement and coordination
  • Muscle stiffness or floppiness
  • Delayed motor skills development

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy denotes a kind of brachial plexus palsy where the upper nerves of the shoulder are damaged, leading to weakness and loss of motion. This condition is typically caused by shoulder dystocia during birth or excessive pulling or stretching of the infant’s head and shoulders during delivery.

Effects:

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Loss of sensation in the arm
  • Partial or complete paralysis of the arm

Newborn Cephalohematoma

A newborn cephalohematoma is a blood collection between a baby’s scalp and the skull bone that appears after birth. It is often caused by trauma during vaginal delivery, especially since the child’s head has to pass through a tight space.

Effects:

  • Swelling on the baby’s head
  • Jaundice due as a result of the breakdown of red blood cells in the hematoma
  • Risk of anemia

Brachial Palsy

Brachial palsy involves injury to the brachial plexus, a collection of nerves that signal the spine to the hands, shoulders, and arms. This injury often occurs during a difficult delivery, particularly with shoulder dystocia or breech birth.

Effects:

  • Weakness or paralysis in the arm
  • Lack of sensation and movement in the arm and hand

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is the swelling of a newborn’s scalp soon after delivery. The condition is caused by pressure on the baby’s head during vaginal delivery, especially during prolonged or difficult labor.

Effects:

  • Swelling and bruising on the baby’s head
  • Possible jaundice if severe bruising occurs

Cephalohematoma

Cephalohematoma, similar to newborn cephalohematoma, is a collection of blood under the periosteum of a skull bone. It is typically caused by birth trauma, often from the use of forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery.

Effects: 

  • Localized swelling on the head
  • Potential for jaundice, especially if the condition takes over three months to disappear

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

HIE denotes dysfunction of the brain that occurs due to inadequate oxygen and blood in the brain. It results from complications during labor and delivery or severe fetal distress.

Effects:

  • Cognitive impairments
  • Motor skill deficits
  • Developmental delays

Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

PVL is characterized by the death of the white matter around the brain’s ventricles due to a lack of blood flow or oxygen. This condition is commonly caused by premature birth and infections during pregnancy.

Effects:

  • Motor control issues
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Increased risk of cerebral palsy

Intracranial Hemorrhage

An intracranial hemorrhage involves bleeding within the skull. This condition can be caused by trauma during birth or blood clotting disorders.

Effects:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delays
  • Potential brain damage

Intraventricular Hemorrhage

Intraventricular hemorrhage happens due to bleeding into the brain’s ventricular system. It is often seen in premature births and infants with respiratory distress syndrome.

Effects:

  • Apnea
  • Seizures
  • Long-term developmental issues

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

A subarachnoid hemorrhage involves bleeding in the space between the brain and the surrounding membrane. It can be caused by asphyxia or birth trauma.

Effects:

  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Potential neurological problems

Cerebral Dysgenesis

Cerebral dysgenesis is abnormal brain development. It is often linked to genetic disorders and infections during pregnancy.

Effects:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Motor skill difficulties
  • Seizures

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome. The condition results from abnormal cell division leading to extra genetic material.

Effects:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Distinct facial features
  • Developmental delays

What is Birth Injury?

Birth injury denotes an injury that occurs to a baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or shortly after birth. These injuries may be either minor issues such as bruises or more severe conditions like nerve damage or brain injury. Birth injuries are often due to an adverse event that occurred because of medical negligence.

What are the Main Causes of Birth Injury?

There are many causes that can lead to birth injury. These are basically due to errors by healthcare providers and their institutions, including:

Prolonged Labor

Prolonged labor accounts for approximately 8% of births and contributes to about one-third of all cesarean sections. When labor lasts too long, it can put stress on both the mother and the baby. Negligence may happen when a doctor fails to act on noticing the failure to progress. Prolonged pressure and contractions may lead to injuries such as cephalohematoma or caput succedaneum.

Large Baby Size (Macrosomia)

Babies who are significantly larger than average can have difficulty passing through the birth canal. If doctors don’t take appropriate measures, this can cause shoulder dystocia, which may lead to injuries like Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries.

Use of Assistive Devices

The use of forceps happens in around 5% of all child deliveries and can sometimes result in physical trauma to the baby. While these tools can aid in a difficult delivery, improper use can cause injuries such as skull fractures.

Abnormal Birth Position

If the baby is not in the optimal position for birth, such as a breech position, the delivery process can become complicated, increasing the risk of injury. A doctor should be able to identify the baby’s position, but without conducting scans to confirm it, there’s a risk of conditions like brachial palsy arising from abnormal pressure on the baby’s body.

Premature Birth

Premature babies are more fragile and susceptible to injuries during birth. Their underdeveloped organs and tissues make them more prone to conditions like intraventricular hemorrhage. If negligence causes premature birth and resultant complications, the family can legally sue a negligent doctor or hospital.

Umbilical Cord Complications

Issues such as umbilical cord prolapse or nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck) may cause reduced oxygen supply to the baby, potentially causing brain injuries like HIE or periventricular leukomalacia (PVL).

Do Birth Injuries Apply to Mothers as Well?

While the term “birth injury” is commonly associated with harm to the baby, mothers can also experience injuries during childbirth. Some common maternal birth injuries include:

  • Perineal tears. Approximately 75% of women undergoing vaginal childbirth suffer from perineal trauma. This involves tearing of the area between the vagina and anus during delivery.
  • Pelvic floor injuries. Damage to the muscles and ligaments that help hold the pelvic organs in place can lead to issues like urinary incontinence.
  • Hemorrhage. Over bleeding during or after childbirth, can be life-threatening if not properly managed.
  • Uterine rupture. A rare but severe condition where the uterus tears, often occurring in women with previous cesarean deliveries.
  • Infections. Infections can develop from surgical procedures or prolonged labor when medical malpractices are involved.

When a birth injury affects you as a mother, you can bring a birth injury claim against the responsible doctor or institution. Your New Jersey birth injury attorney comes in handy in proving the negligence and the resulting injuries to ensure the compensation sought addresses the impact the birth injury has had on you.

Medical Negligence

Healthcare providers may be found accountable for birth injuries when they do not provide the standard of care that is expected of them. Medical professionals must be held responsible for their negligence.

NJ birth injury lawyer

Ways health providers exhibit negligence during labor and delivery:

  • Failing to make a medical diagnosis of a mother or infant in a timely fashion
  • Not using birthing tools (forceps and vacuum extractor) correctly
  • Failing to monitor the mother or infant after delivery
  • Failing to elect for cesarean (C-section) in cases where vaginal delivery is too risky
  • Exhibiting too much force when pulling or twisting babies
  • Failure to recognize a high-risk pregnancy, such as a breech position
  • Failure to prevent and control tearing/hemorrhaging in the mother
  • Failure to quickly diagnose and treat preterm labor
  • Failure to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and detect fetal distress
  • Failure to appropriately respond to bleeding
  • Failure to perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section) when necessary
  • Misuse of birthing tools during a vacuum or forceps delivery
  • Failure to appropriately treat umbilical cord entrapment
  • Failure to assess and treat fetal distress during delivery
  • Delay in the ordering of a Caesarian section, i.e. C-section
  • Misuse of vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery
  • Inappropriate administration of labor-inducing drugs

All medical professionals should navigate difficult birthing situations and provide prompt medical treatment. When a mother or child is in some kind of danger, a doctor must act quickly to prevent possible harm or they could be deemed negligent.

Most birth injury cases will be medical malpractice cases, and people only have two years to file these claims with the dates of a person’s injuries or the date they became aware of the injuries being the starting point for the statute of limitations. The National Library of Medicine reported that a survey of specialty arthroplasty surgeons showed that over 70 percent of respondents were sued at least once for medical malpractice during their careers.

Who is responsible for a birth injury in New Jersey?

Childbirth is dangerous in the United States, and a team of medical professionals is in the room to ensure the safety of the mother and newborn. Each member of the team is vital to safe labor and delivery. Since there are so many professionals in the room, if one fails, it can cause injury, and they must be held responsible. Examples of parties who can make an error and harm the mother and newborn are:

  • Doctors
  • Midwives
  • Hospitals
  • Nurses
  • Paramedics/EMTs
  • Anesthesiologist

You will need to prove that the negligent actions of these parties were a breach of the standard of care in their specialty. Our New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyer is here to advocate on your behalf.

Our firm will be able to fully investigate your case and secure all of the evidence that will be necessary to prove your case in a court of law. We understand the increased difficulty involved in proving that medical professionals were negligent, but we also understand the most effective ways to handle these types of claims.

Why you should file a birth injury claim?

Monetary recovery does not erase what happened but provides a financial foundation for the future. For many families filing a birth injury claim also provides justice because the negligent party is paying you for the harm they caused. Your child will require accommodations for the rest of their life, and while you know that raising a child comes with some expenses, these were not in the plan, and you need compensation to circumvent them.

birth injury claim

You can recover damages for:

  • Medical expenses: hospital visits, surgeries, medical treatments, imaging scans, lab tests, medications, physical therapy, and all past and future medical costs.
  • Therapy and counseling: mental health is a significant aspect of a person’s well-being, and living with a congenital disability means you will need counseling. Compensation can cover expenses for psychiatric and counseling visits and cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Special education needs: lifelong disability requires children to have special classes and accommodations.
  • Disability accommodations: transportation and living arrangements must be altered, which can be costly. You need compensation for home and vehicle modifications and other long-term care needs.
  • Pain and suffering: there is physical and emotional pain and suffering the child endures resulting from the birth injury. New Jersey classifies these damages as non-economic, and there are no caps.
  • Punitive damages: in extreme cases of gross negligence, the court can award damages that specifically punish the negligent party for their actions. There are caps to these damages, and the jury has complete discretion whether they award these or not.  Punitive damages in New Jersey cannot exceed $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.

These damages aim to punish the negligent party and compensate the parents so the child can live a meaningful life. There will be some upheaval in the coming years, and the finances should not be a significant concern.

NJ Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury

Congenital disabilities are very complex, and a child is left with a restricted life without ever having the chance to experience some normalcy. When it comes to minors, legal matters are complex. The parents can begin seeking legal recourse immediately after an injury, and they should. The New Jersey statute of limitations for birth injury claims is two years. However, when a minor child is involved, the deadlines extend to two years after they turn 18. You must take action because medical records and other substantial evidence can disappear, especially after nearly two decades. You can also recover compensation sooner which can help with your expenses.

Are You Inside of the Time Frame to File a Lawsuit in NJ?

The statute of limitations for your personal injury case is 2 years. Exceeding it can severely limit or completely invalidate your legal options for seeking compensation. Act swiftly to ensure your rights are preserved and explore your legal recourse before time runs out, otherwise, the likelihood of pursuing your case successfully may diminish considerably. However, if your claim is against a public entity, your timeframe can be significantly shorter.

It is important for all people to understand that each injury action in New Jersey has a specified statute of limitations that effectively limits the time for which people may file claims in their cases. You will need to get an attorney involved in your case as soon as possible so they can have appropriate time to properly investigate your case and prepare all legal paperwork.

Your Birth Injury Lawyer In New Jersey

When a medical mistake occurs, your first thought is how to come to terms with the tragedy. If your child has sustained a birth injury, you will be facing a lifetime of doctor’s visits and continuous medical bills. Allow us to ease the financial burden. Seek legal help from a certified civil trial lawyer. Start by contacting us today to schedule a free consultation.

Our firm will be able to use all of the available evidence to help you with your birth injury case. We know how to secure medical records that involve fetal monitoring strips, interviews with nurses and physicians, prenatal care and delivery, ultrasounds, laboratory testing, evaluations with psychiatrists, reports regarding long-term care needs, and reports estimating the cash value of care required.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partners, Jeffrey W. Varcadipane & Dawn M. Pinnisi, with more than 40 years of combined legal experience as personal injury attorneys.

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