Military Malpractice Birth Injuries
Pregnancy and the birth process are not without risks, as any expectant mother knows. That just makes it all the more important for women to get proper care throughout the entirety of their pregnancy.
Unfortunately, many women — whether they’re serving in the military or not — get substandard care when they’re pregnant. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nationwide 1,371 infants died from maternal complications of pregnancy and 1,169 infants died from unintentional injuries in a single recent year.
While the infant mortality rate of the Military Health System is lower than the U.S. infant mortality rate, babies born at military hospitals are, according to a New York Times report, twice as likely as other U.S. newborns to be injured during delivery.
According to a MilitaryTimes article, military hospitals are performing worse than other U.S. hospitals in a number of areas, such as neonatal trauma, postpartum hemorrhage, and readmission to the hospital after birth.
If your child suffered a birth injury while you were in the care of the military medical system, you should speak to a lawyer immediately. Birth injuries can leave a child with lifelong health and developmental problems. Treating these injuries can be extremely costly over the long term.
A military medical malpractice attorney from Bertram Law Group can help you pursue any compensation you deserve for your child’s injuries. Our firm only handles medical malpractice cases, giving us experience and skills that many other personal injury firms don’t have. Our lawyers also have worked in the healthcare field prior to joining our firm, and we have a former critical care nurse on staff to help you.
With our resources, we can help you hold the people and institutions responsible for your child’s birth injury accountable for their negligent actions. Get your free and confidential initial case review with a Washington, D.C. military hospital birth injury lawyer today by calling us or visiting our contact page.
Can I Sue a Military Hospital or Military Doctor for a Birth Injury?
Military veterans, their families, and their dependents have two ways to file a lawsuit against the federal government for a birth injury, depending on where the injury occurred.
- If the injury occurred within the United States, they can use the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) to file a malpractice claim against the person or facility who caused the birth injury.
- If the injury occurred at a facility outside of the U.S. (at a military base in a foreign country, for example), the Military Claims Act (MCA) allows these individuals to file a medical malpractice claim against the government.
Navigating either the FTCA or MCA claims process can be a challenge, so we recommend hiring an experienced military medical malpractice lawyer.
The situation is slightly different for active-duty military personnel. Under a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1950 known as the Feres Doctrine, active-duty military personnel were generally barred from filing any lawsuits against the federal government for injuries arising from their service. In effect, this decision made it impossible for active-duty service members to sue the government for medical malpractice.
Fortunately, this grave injustice has recently been corrected. While the Feres Doctrine technically remains in place, an amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made it so that active-duty personnel can now sue the federal government for medical malpractice injuries. This includes the surviving families of those who have died from medical malpractice at military facilities.
Congress has allocated $400 million over the next 10 years to cover military medical malpractice claims. There is currently no cap on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover.
Identifying Malpractice During Baby Delivery and Prenatal Care
It’s not always easy to tell if a birth injury was the result of malpractice. Finding enough evidence to prove your case can be a challenge, and there’s a high standard of proof required in all medical malpractice cases.
Here are the four things you will need to show if you want to prove a birth injury was the result of malpractice:
- There was an existing doctor-patient relationship, indicating that the doctor or healthcare facility owed a duty of care to you and your child.
- The doctor or healthcare facility failed to uphold their duty of care. You will need to prove that their actions fell below what is known as the “medical standard of care,” meaning that their treatment did not fall in line with what another doctor with similar training or experience would have done in a similar situation.
- Your child suffered an injury.
- Your child’s injuries were the direct result of the doctor or facility’s actions or inaction.
If you’re not sure if your child’s injuries meet this tough legal standard, here are a few questions to ask yourself that may indicate whether you have a malpractice case:
- Did your doctor order appropriate tests during your pregnancy to make sure there were no hidden complications?
- Did your doctor and their support staff adequately monitor you during the birthing process?
- Did your doctor consult with any specialists before delivery to make sure no unforeseen complications arose?
- Did the healthcare facility provide a safe, clean environment for your delivery?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” there’s a possibility you may have been the victim of medical malpractice.
Types of Birth Injuries
Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy – Often caused by a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or birth, cerebral palsy leads to weakened muscles, poor coordination, and other issues with movement and development. Cerebral palsy can happen if a doctor fails to order an emergency c-section when required or if they’re not adequately monitoring for signs of fetal distress.
- Erb’s palsy/brachial plexus palsy – The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near your shoulder that sends signals from your spinal cord to your arms and hands. If it’s damaged in birth, it can severely impact a child’s ability to use their arm. Common causes of Erb’s palsy include being too rough with an infant during the process and improper use of equipment like forceps.
- Klumpke’s palsy – Klumpke’s palsy is another type of arm injury that can occur during birth. It’s often the result of the baby’s arms or shoulders becoming lodged in the mother’s pelvis during birth. If the doctor fails to order a c-section or mishandles the baby to get them unstuck, it can cause permanent damage to the child’s arms.
- Broken bones – Infants are very fragile, so it’s very important that they be handled with care during the birthing process. Improper use of implements like forceps, or just generally being too rough with an infant, can cause severe fractures that may result in lifelong health problems.
- Brain damage – Brain damage can severely impact a child’s development, and the damage often lasts for the rest of the child’s life. Common causes of brain damage include a lack of oxygen to the brain and physical trauma such as improper use of birthing tools.
How to Prove a Birth Injury Was Caused by a Military Hospital
Proving a birth injury was caused by a medical professional’s negligence isn’t easy. There’s a high legal standard to meet in these cases, and doctors will fight any allegation of negligence with all the tools at their disposal.
However, a knowledgeable birth injury lawyer can help you find the evidence necessary to prove your case. Some potential evidence in a military malpractice case could include:
- Your medical records – Your doctor should have records of the treatment you received during your pregnancy, which may indicate if they failed to order proper tests to make sure there were no complications during gestation.
- Your child’s medical records – Your doctor or the facility where you gave birth should have records of the birthing process. These documents may indicate mistakes made during delivery, such as the failure to order a timely c-section if complications arose during birth.
- Employment records for the doctors and other support staff – These records may show that the doctor or someone else who assisted with the delivery has made mistakes in the past, or did not have the proper training to help with the birthing process.
- Eyewitness testimony – The statements from doctors, nurses, and others who assisted with your delivery may reveal errors that were made while you were giving birth.
- Expert witnesses – We have a network of medical professionals who can review the records and testify about whether or not the treatment you received was in line with medical standards of care.
Compensation Available for Military Birth Injury
If you can prove your child’s birth injuries were the result of malpractice, you could be compensated for:
- The past and future costs of your child’s medical care
- The value of any lost wages due to you or your child being in the hospital
- Pain and suffering you and your child experienced
- Mental anguish suffered by you and your child
- Punitive damages to deter other healthcare providers from making similar errors
Do I Need a Military Birth Injury Lawyer?
Any medical malpractice lawsuit is a difficult endeavor. There are extra complications when it comes to dealing with the military healthcare system. That’s why we strongly recommend you hire a military birth injury lawyer before filing a lawsuit.
Our lawyers at Bertram Law Group, PLLC can help you navigate this process and give you the best chance at recovering the maximum amount of compensation possible. Get your free and confidential initial consultation today by calling us or visiting our contact page.