Who To Blame for Your Child’s Birth Defect, Injury, or Trauma

Hundreds of healthy babies are born every day in Virginia; so it’s understandable if you want to blame your doctor when your baby was born with an injury or medical problem. To better understand if anything—or anyone—is to blame for your child’s ailments, you must first know the difference between a birth defect, a birth injury and birth trauma.

Birth Defects

Birth defects are present at birth but are generally caused during the fetus’ development within the womb, by environmental, chromosomal or genetic factors.

Environmental factors that cause birth defects include:

  • Consumption of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Exposure to bacteria or viruses that cause disease (such as measles)
  • External injury to the mother, preventing normal fetus development

Genetic and chromosomal factors will either deny a necessary gene or chromosome to the fetus causing an irregularity in development.

Defects present at birth can vary from physical abnormalities such as a cleft palate, club foot, or misshapen limbs to functional problems such as mental disorders, sensory problems, and even death. Although some of these defects can be detected through medical means before birth, the cause of the defects occur during pregnancy not during labor.

Birth Injuries and Trauma

Birth injuries and trauma, by contrast, occur during and after labor and can easily be a result of medical malpractice. The difference between an injury and trauma is fairly straightforward. Birth injuries are systemic and affect the body as a direct result of something acting upon it, such as the baby being cut during a caesarean section, denied oxygen, or having too much pressure exerted on it during delivery. These injuries can also affect the mother if the delivery is abnormal and the physician doesn’t act quickly.

Birth injuries can include:

  • Dislocated shoulders or joints
  • Hypoxia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Abnormal bleeding, tearing, or hemorrhaging (mother as well as infant)

Birth traumas affect the child’s vital organs, bone structure, and nerve centers and are long-term consequences of birth injuries. For example, the injury that caused the hypoxia could then turn into the trauma of brain damage, since the brain was denied oxygen.

Both birth injuries and birth trauma can be a direct result of negligence or malpractice by your physician or hospital. If your doctor failed to see warning signs of fetal distress, failed to recognize the signs that a problem was occurring, or caused other harm to you or your child during delivery, he is liable for those actions. However, if your child was born with a defect that occurred during your pregnancy and not as a result of medication or medical advice given to you by your doctor, medical negligence cannot be inferred and your physician should not be blamed.

If you believe that you or your child suffered from birth injuries or is currently suffering from trauma related to your delivery, contact our Virginia birth injury lawyers at Shevlin Smith for a free consultation. We know how scary and frustrating it is to deal with hospitals and how painful it is to see your child suffer. We also know that you don’t have to go through this alone. Call us at (703) 721-4233. We’re here to help.


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