An interesting contrast in birth injury lawsuits is emerging: the number of infants injured at birth, as well as the overall infant mortality rate, are both trending lower each year. On the flip side, more birth injury cases are being filed and astronomically high settlements are being reached.
According to the CDC, approximately 3,945,875 live births occurred in the United States in 2016, the most recent year for which variables are available. The number of infant deaths that same year totaled approximately 23,161. These deaths were due primarily to congenital issues, low birth weights or premature delivery, or sudden infant death syndrome. Birth injuries rank fifth on that list of infant death factors, but many more infants who suffered birth injuries survive past their first birthday and are left with potentially lifelong challenges that can be extremely costly both to the child and their families.
The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a focus by the government’s Healthcare Research and Quality Agency, shows that the number of avoidable injuries to mother and child declined by at least 20 percent between 2000 and 2006. However, 157,700 birth injuries affecting both mothers and babies occurred in 2006, the last year of the study. More birth injuries occur in rural areas. People of African-American or Hispanic backgrounds suffer a lower incidence of birth injuries than Caucasian and Asian individuals.
Fortunately, in many of those cases, the injury is minor and addressed immediately at birth. In other cases, significant damage occurs and will need extensive treatment and potentially lifelong care. And that leads into the rise of successful birth injury lawsuits. Here are a few of the most recent birth injury settlements or court victories:
- A Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania family reached a $19.5 million dollar settlement over a child who suffered brain damage as a result of their delivery.
- An obstetrician whose birth delivery technique left a baby with a paralyzed arm was ordered to pay the baby’s family $3 million dollars.
- A Chambersburg, Pennsylvania family won a 2016 lawsuit totaling $41.6 million after their child’s delivery resulted in a severe brain injury.
- The University of Chicago Medical Center was ordered to pay $53 million dollars to a family whose child suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury.
While some birth injury cases hinge on lower settlement amounts, in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 in compensation for specific injuries and their treatments, the number of cases in the multi-million-dollar range is growing each year. According to the website of the Ankin Law Firm negligent conduct and the failure to adhere to generally accepted medical practices may impose liability,” which is reflected in the outcome of the above cases.
One possibility for this increase in settlements or amounts awarded at trial is the fact that plaintiffs and their legal counsel can now more accurately describe not only the losses and treatments and related costs suffered before the filing of suit but also a calculation for the injured party’s entire lifetime of expenses. Those estimates look at cost of care, cost of medical equipment, and cost of professional support to care for the child in ways that extend beyond they typical parent’s expertise. In addition, these lawsuits are including funds for emotional damages suffered by the parents as well as punitive amounts extracted from the various defendants. It is typically the hope of the courts that those punitive amounts sufficiently punish doctors and hospitals so that their future standard of care rises and fewer injuries result.