What should be a joyful situation can quickly turn to one of grief when a baby suffers a fatal injury because of a doctor’s negligent actions. Unfortunately, this is something that happens far more often than it should, leaving families to determine what they can do moving forward.
Infant wrongful death is a legal term. Like any legal matter, wrongful death refers to any situation in which a person dies because of someone else’s actions. When this happens to an infant, it’s most often the actions of a medical professional that are the cause.
While the negligence is not deliberate, doctors must ensure they’re providing the utmost care to mothers and babies during pregnancy or labor. When they fail in their responsibility, those who suffer harm—and their families—can take legal action to pursue justice.
Understanding the Causes of Infant Wrongful Death
Infant wrongful death can occur in multiple ways. In most situations, it’s a doctor’s oversight that causes harm. However, parents must fully recognize what the underlying factors are when it comes to infant wrongful death and what legal options are available.
Lower Blood Flow
Some negligent actions can cause babies to lose blood flow. A baby’s blood flow is vital to function and helping their brain, heart, and other bodily organs. However, when negligence restricts this lifeline and a baby’s blood flow no longer functions properly, the infant can suffer significant harm.
If the doctor detects the reduced blood flow quickly, the baby may suffer minimal damage. However, the longer the reduced blood flow exists, the more life-altering problems may occur. For long-term low blood flow, fatal injuries can happen and result in an infant wrongful death.
Hypoxia is a condition in which the baby suffers from loss of oxygen. In terms of birth injuries, oxygen deprivation is a common cause of cerebral palsy. However, when it remains a problem for a long time, hypoxia can also cause fatal injuries as oxygen is vital to a baby’s survival.
Doctors and nurses must ensure that they are monitoring a baby properly during pregnancy and labor. Any sign of fetal distress can be a sign of oxygen deprivation, such as when there are issues involving the placenta or when the baby’s umbilical cord sustains damage.
Doctors must quickly act when they detect oxygen deprivation. Emergency cesarean sections can help, but there is still a risk of birth injuries occurring. However, if the doctor allows oxygen deprivation to persist, they are responsible if the baby suffers fatal injuries.
The moments leading up to labor and delivery can be stressful for the mother, father, and baby. There is a lot to consider, including how the doctor will deliver the baby. When trauma occurs during labor and delivery, it not only increases the risk of birth injuries, it can also lead to wrongful death.
Some of the birth injuries that can occur include the following:
- Infant distress in the birth canal leading to the doctor forcefully pulling to help deliver the baby
- Improper use of birth-aiding tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors
- Inexperience resulting in doctors and other physicians making improper decisions
- Inappropriate actions leading to a difficult delivery, lacerations, or skull trauma
Trauma can lead to other types of birth injuries, which can eventually result in wrongful death. Some of these birth injuries include spinal cord damage, placental abruption, placenta previa, eclampsia, hemorrhaging, uterine rupture, and kernicterus. Even jaundice, when untreated, can result in infant wrongful death.
Liability in Infant Wrongful Deaths
When pursuing legal action following an infant wrongful death, it’s critical to recognize who holds liability. There are multiple parties involved during a mother’s pregnancy and delivery. Knowing the actions of all parties and how an oversight may occur can help aid in an infant wrongful death lawsuit.
- Obstetrician: The obstetrician is the doctor responsible for monitoring the pregnancy and delivering the baby. This doctor must ensure that the baby and mother are healthy throughout the entire process. If they don’t check for problems or perform emergency procedures to deliver a baby in distress, they hold responsibility for all injuries.
- Nurses: Immediately after birth, the baby goes with the nurses for any necessary measurements, treatments, and more. One condition they baby may experience is jaundice, and nurses must treat it as quickly as they can. Untreated jaundice can be fatal, and the nurse is responsible for providing treatment when detecting the condition.
- Pediatricians: After birth, the baby’s new doctor is the pediatrician. Like a nurse, the pediatrician is responsible for identifying any conditions the baby may suffer from pregnancy or delivery. The pediatrician must treat any conditions promptly. Failure to do so can result in lifelong or fatal damages.
Understanding liability is crucial as it allows families to recognize who they can file a lawsuit against for compensation.
One situation that can challenge the ability to file an infant wrongful death lawsuit is a stillborn birth. During this situation, the baby’s death may not fall on a medical professional; instead, it could be a result of a car accident or other trauma to the mother.
However, not all stillborn births result from outside forces. Some doctor’s actions can still result in a stillborn birth, such as failing to perform a medical intervention or prescribing medications that led to death.
Not all states recognize stillborn births as wrongful death, so it’s imperative to speak with an attorney about what may legal action may be available.
Medication Errors and Infant Wrongful Death
Medication errors impact countless patients throughout the United States each year. Some of the individuals who suffer harm because of a medication error include pregnant mothers. Unfortunately, some of the medications prescribed can be dangerous for the baby, as well.
If a medication error results in an infant wrongful death, the doctor who prescribed the medication, the pharmacist, or other medical professionals hold liability.
Moving Forward with Legal Action
At Beam Legal Team, we recognize how challenging it can be for families to focus on legal situations in the aftermath of an infant wrongful death. It’s during such a difficult time that families should be grieving and focused on what’s at hand. However, taking legal action accomplishes many things for the family.
First, by taking legal action, a family can pursue justice and closure. They can hold the negligent party accountable that resulted in the infant wrongful death. Second, they get to pursue compensation that can help cover some of the unforeseen expenses associated with the loss.
For any mother and father, getting answers and holding medical professionals accountable is essential to moving forward. There must be a standard by which doctors operate when caring for a patient. When they break that standard and negligence exists, those who suffer harm should hold medical professionals accountable.
Our Chicago birth injury attorneys work hard to help our clients in some of life’s most difficult moments. We prepare families for the complex legal matters that lie ahead and help them move forward. We aim to give families the answers they need to have peace of mind and get justice.
We stand ready to protect the rights of parents who suffer because of an infant wrongful death. Let us be the advocates and voice to hold negligent parties accountable. Call our firm today at (866) 766-3806 for a free consultation.