Lawsuits and Legal Action for Georgia Birth Injuries
Not every birth injury is preventable, but many are. Georgia children who are injured because of a medical provider's negligence can be held accountable under the law. In many cases, taking legal action can provide funding for your child's life care plan and take care of his or her long-term care needs. In addition, lawsuits help to prevent other children from being harmed in the future.
Understanding standards of care and medical malpractice
A "standard of care" is a legal (not medical) term that refers to the baseline level of care that doctors are supposed to meet. A doctor who fails to meet the standard of care can be held liable (legally responsible) if a patient is injured due to that failure.
Under Georgia law, medical professionals are required to use a "reasonable degree of care and skill" [O.C.G.A. § 51-1-27] when caring for patients, including mothers and newborn babies. Courts generally interpret this standard as meaning that a doctor must provide at least the level of care that an average doctor in the same specialty would have provided with the same amount of available information.
Here are some examples of negligence during prenatal care:
- Failure to evaluate the mother for risk factors such as hypertension and infections
- Failure to properly follow up on risk factors with appropriate treatment or a referral to a specialist
- Failure to adequately warn the patient of the risks of certain medical options such as vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC)
Here are some examples of negligence during labor and delivery:
- Failure to adequately monitor the baby's heart rate
- Giving the mother the wrong dose of a medication
- Failure to adequately manage the risk of infection
- Failure to intervene if there is a problem with the baby's heart rate
- Not performing a c-section when it is medically indicated
- Misusing tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors, causing traumatic injury to the baby
Here are some examples of negligence during neonatal care:
- Misinterpreting the results of an Apgar test
- Failure to intervene and treat a baby born in distress
- Failure to immediately treat conditions such as jaundice, hypoglycemia or infection
- Not immediately performing treatments to reduce the risk of brain damage, such as head cooling or whole-body cooling, when medically indicated
Legal options for families affected by negligence
In order to claim damages (financial compensation) for a birth injury, you need to prove that a doctor's or other medical professional's negligence caused your child's injury, or caused it to be worse than it otherwise may have been. A Georgia birth injury attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding the birth and reconstruct what should have happened.
In addition, an attorney can build a case for the full long-term cost of an injury, which is often in the millions or tens of millions of dollars. Often, attorneys have to retain a medical expert to testify that the standard of care was not met. An attorney can also structure the funds recovered as a special needs trust or other legal vehicle that helps to preserve the child's eligibility for Medicaid and Social Security.
Most attorneys who handle these cases do so on a contingency fee basis. That means there is no cost to the family as the case moves forward; the attorney advances the costs of litigation with an understanding that the attorney's fee and costs will be paid when the case is resolved. If there is no recovery, there is also no fee.
In short, it costs nothing to meet with a Georgia attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. If you aren't sure what happened to your baby, or if you believe negligence was the cause, we encourage you to use Help For Your Baby's free consultation service to find an attorney in your area who can help.