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If your newborn suffered an injury during birth and you suspect negligence on the part of one or more healthcare providers, fill in the form below or contact Annette Lefebvre Avocats at 514-288-1114 today for a free consultation.
Birth Injury Malpractice Committed by Doctors, Nurses or Midwives
Birth trauma pertains to injuries sustained by newborns during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or the immediate post-delivery period. The condition can be detected soon after birth or may take longer to become apparent. Despite modern obstetric techniques, birth injuries continue to occur throughout Quebec. The lasting effects of this trauma are often life-altering.
Complications during childbirth can endanger the lives of both mother and child. Medical errors, whether through incompetence or negligence, can cause result in serious problems with lifelong implications. Some of the most common issues are fetal distress, birth injuries, maternal injuries, delayed delivery, and misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.
Fetal distress may arise due to mistakes during labor and delivery that cause the baby to suffer from oxygen deprivation, resulting in severe brain damage, or even death. Medical errors during delivery can cause physical injuries to the infant, such as nerve damage, broken bones, or brain damage. Additionally, injury to the mother may result from medical errors during delivery, such as significant tears, hemorrhaging or infections.
Delayed delivery, a dangerous situation for both mother and baby, can arise if medical professionals do not promptly act upon signs of fetal distress or consider assisted birth in a labor which is protracted and not progressing.
If medical negligence occurs during childbirth, the injured party may have the right to seek compensation. Healthcare providers are negligent when they do not abide by the expected standard of care, leading to patient harm. Some examples of medical negligence during childbirth may include insufficient monitoring of the baby’s heart rate, failure to recognize that labor is not progressing, delayed delivery or failure to perform a necessary cesarian section, mismanagement of labor or delivery leading to harm for the mother or baby, or failure to diagnose or treat infections or other medical conditions.
Please consult the following section to know more about the most common birth injuries we handle at our firm.
Common Birth Injuries
Depending on their severity, some birth injuries will disappear on their own within weeks or months. Traumatic injuries, however, may result in serious complications as well as long-term or permanent disability.
Babies are at risk for injuries due to medical errors and obstetrical negligence. Some of the most serious cases involve the following:
Cerebral palsy is one of the most dramatic birth injuries. It is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain.
It may occur before the child is born from a genetic disorder, maternal infection or fetal stroke, it can occur during birth as a result of lack of oxygen from a difficult labor or delivery or in infancy from an infection, brain bleed or traumatic injury.
Children with cerebral palsy may experience lifelong issues affecting their mobility, balance, coordination, sensory perception, speech, cognitive abilities, and more.
A patient with cerebral palsy may also experience seizures and tremors.
Bone Fractures During Labour
A traumatic birth can cause multiple bones to break.
Some of the most common birth injury fractures include:
- Broken collarbone or clavicle
- Broken arm bone or humerus
- Broken thigh bone or femur
- Skull fracture
- Fractured orbital socket
Bone fractures may not have a long-term effect on babies who are properly cared for during labour. However, untreated and complex breaks can limit mobility and motor skills and hinder the baby’s development.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Oxygen deprivation is medically referred to as hypoxia. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy occurs when a baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen for too long (due to untreated infections, umbilical cord entanglement, prolonged labour, and other issues).
The effects of brain damage caused by HIE are wide-ranging. A child who suffers from HIE may have breathing difficulties, abnormal muscle tone, seizures and significant developmental and cognitive delays.
During delivery a baby may sustain injury to the head. Prolonged labour and misuse of instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors may result in fractures, bruising or scratching of the scalp. Brain damage may also occur depending on the severity of the trauma.
In addition to trauma to the top of the head, injury to a baby’s face during labour and delivery may also carry long-term consequences. For example, if the baby’s facial nerves are damaged, parts of the face may become paralyzed.
Shoulder Dystocia and Brachial Plexus Injuries
A baby’s shoulder can become trapped within the birth canal during labour, causing shoulder dystocia. Specialized maneuvers can be performed by a doctor, midwife, or other birth professional to reposition a baby for delivery.
Failure to perform these maneuvers as well as improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor may damage the brachial plexus nerves in the baby’s shoulder. Injury to the brachial plexus may result in Erb’s palsy (weakness, dysfunction, and/or paralysis of the affected arm) or Klumpke’s palsy (loss of sensation and paralysis in the lower arm, wrist, and hand).
During pregnancy, healthcare professionals have a duty to deliver proper prenatal care. The obstetrician’s role is to carefully monitor for any complications that could put mother or baby’s health at risk. Through proper diagnosis and treatment, most pregnancy complications can be avoided.
Examples of negligent prenatal care include:
- Failure to recommend appropriate prenatal screening
- Failure to properly perform prenatal ultrasounds
- Failure to diagnose birth defects
- Failure to follow up on abnormal test results
- Failure to monitor blood pressure
- Failure to test for and treat gestational diabetes
- Failure to diagnose and treat preeclampsia
- Failure to recognize signs of early labor
- Failure to detect fetal destress
- Failure to recommend a timely c-section
In cases where the negligence has resulted in the death of the mother and/or fetus, or where the negligence has deprived the parents of the choice to terminate the pregnancy, there are likely grounds to file a lawsuit.
Midwives can play a critical role in monitoring pregnancies and in the delivery of newborns. Midwives have a legal duty to provide attentive and diligent care. In cases presenting a risk for the mother or baby, midwives have a duty to transfer the patient to a doctor for medical consultation.
Negligent management of pregnancy and labour can cause serious, irreversible harm to mothers and babies, and even death. If your midwife has failed in this duty, you may be able to claim compensation.
Annette Lefebvre Avocats represents victims of birth injury and obstetrical malpractice across Quebec. If you or your baby suffered harm because of medical negligence during childbirth, you may have the right to compensation for various damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In Quebec, medical malpractice claims arising from childbirth negligence are complex and challenging to navigate without the assistance of a knowledgeable legal professional. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case and provide sound advice on the best course of action.
Areas We Serve for Birth Injury
- Montreal Metropolitan Area
- Québec City
- The North Shore: Laval, Terrebonne, Blainville and all surrounding areas
- The South Shore: Longueuil, Brossard, Boucherville, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and all surrounding areas
Our team is equipped to represent clients throughout the province of Quebec. There is no need to come to our office for an appointment and remember, all the Birth Injury cases Annette Lefebvre Avocats handles are on a no-win/no-pay basis, meaning you don’t pay us unless we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.
There are three very specific elements all of which must be present in order to win:
Fault is an act, or failure to act, which falls below the “standard of care’’ for the professional in question. The test in law merely requires that your doctor or nurse act as an average, prudent and diligent professional would act in similar circumstances.
An identifiable injury must have occurred.
If no injury occurred as a result, your lawsuit will not succeed even though a negligent act was committed.
Once fault and injury exist, the question becomes ‘’is the fault the direct cause of the injury?”
Do You Have A Case?
If all of the above elements exist you can claim monetary compensation (also known as “damages”) not only for your physical injury but also for your resulting economic losses, such as loss of past and future income, the cost of medical expenses and cost of care, as well as your resulting psychological damages, namely pain, suffering and inconvenience.
Medical records and expert consultation are essential to determining whether you have a case. Get in touch for a free consultation with one of our lawyers if you or your child have suffered an injury due to medical negligence, misdiagnosis or obstetrical malpractice.
Please find below answers to most frequently asked questions pertaining to victims’ rights and litigation in cases of obstetrical negligence, wrongful birth injury, and pregnancy and delivery-related trauma.
What is considered a birth injury?
A birth injury refers to any harm or injury that occurs to a newborn during the labor and delivery process. It can be caused by various factors, such as medical negligence, improper use of medical equipment and the failure to provide appropriate medical care during pregnancy, labor, or delivery.
What are the common types of birth injuries?
Common types of birth injuries include cerebral palsy, Erb's palsy, brachial plexus injuries, brain damage, fractures, and facial nerve injuries. These injuries can have significant and lasting effects on the child's health, development, and quality of life.
What are birth injuries due to negligence?
Birth injuries due to negligence refer to physical or cognitive harm that a newborn sustains because of mistakes, oversights, or failures by medical professionals during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. When healthcare providers fail to follow accepted medical standards or protocols, their actions or inactions can lead to significant injuries or lifelong disabilities in newborns.
What does wrongful birth mean?
The term "wrongful birth" refers to a legal claim that can be brought by parents against healthcare providers for negligent prenatal care, counseling, or diagnostic services that result in the birth of a child with congenital defects, disabilities, or serious health conditions. This type of claim is typically filed when parents allege that they were not properly informed of the risks of giving birth to a child with such conditions, and that, had they been aware, they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy or avoid conception altogether.
In a wrongful birth lawsuit, parents generally seek compensation for the additional costs of raising a child with special needs, as well as for emotional distress. Damages may include medical expenses, the cost of specialized education, and other expenditures associated with the child's condition.
What is medical negligence during childbirth?
Medical negligence during childbirth refers to the failure of healthcare professionals to provide appropriate and standard care during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, which can result in harm or injury to the mother, baby, or both. It is a subset of medical malpractice that specifically pertains to obstetrical care.
What legal options are available for birth injuries in Quebec?
In Quebec, if a birth injury is caused by medical negligence or malpractice, you may be entitled to seek compensation through a medical malpractice claim. This claim would be filed against the healthcare professional or institution responsible for the injury. It's important to consult with a lawyer experienced in obstetrical injuries to assess the merits of your case.
What is the time limit to file a birth injury claim in Quebec?
In Quebec, the time limit to file a birth injury claim is generally three years from the date of the injury, or three years from the date you became aware of the injury. However, there are exceptions and limitations to this rule, so it's crucial to consult with a lawyer experienced in obstetrical injuries as soon as possible to determine the applicable time limit in your specific case.
Why choose a lawyer with experience in obstetrical negligence?
Lawyers who are experienced in obstetrical negligence can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process. They can assess the strength of your case, gather evidence, consult with medical experts, navigate the complex legal system, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent your interests in court if necessary.
What compensation can I seek for a birth injury in Quebec?
Compensation for a birth injury may include various elements, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. The following are examples of compensation that can be sought for a birth injury:
- Medical Expenses: You can seek compensation for the costs of medical treatment, surgeries, medications, therapy, rehabilitation, and any other necessary healthcare expenses related to the birth injury.
- Future Medical Care: If the birth injury results in the needs for ongoing medical care or treatment, you can seek compensation for the estimated future medical expenses. This can include costs for healthcare specialists, therapy, adaptive equipment, and long-term care.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation can be sought for the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured by the child as a result of the birth injury. This includes both past and future pain and suffering.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If the birth injury significantly impacts the child's ability to enjoy life's activities, hobbies, or normal development, compensation can be sought for the loss of enjoyment of life experienced by the child.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: In cases where the birth injury affects the child's ability to work and earn income in the future, compensation can be sought for the loss of earning capacity.
- Caregiver and Support Services: If the birth injury requires additional care or support services, such as in-home nursing care or specialized educational support, you can seek compensation for these expenses. If a parent must stay home with the child they too can be entitled to caregiver compensation.
- Special Needs and Accommodations: If the child requires special accommodations, modifications to the home, or specialized equipment due to the birth injury, compensation can be sought for these costs.
- Loss of Income For the Parents: If a parent must give up his or her career to provide extraordinary care to their child, they can receive compensation for their salary loss.
It's important to note that the specific compensation awarded will depend on the facts and evidence presented in the case. Consulting with a lawyer experienced in birth injuries in Quebec will help you understand the potential compensation you may be entitled to based on your unique circumstances.
What evidence is needed to support a birth injury claim in Quebec?
To support a birth injury claim in Quebec, it's important to gather medical records, expert opinions, and any other relevant documentation that demonstrates medical negligence or malpractice. This evidence can help establish a link between the healthcare professional's actions or omissions and the birth injury.
Can I still file a birth injury claim if the injury occurred several years ago?
Yes, it may still be possible to file a birth injury claim even if the injury occurred several years ago. In Quebec, the time limit for filing a claim is generally three years from the date you became aware (or should have become aware) of the injury. However, there are exceptions to this rule, so it's best to consult with a birth injury lawyer to assess your specific situation.
Can both the healthcare professional and the healthcare institution be held liable for a birth injury?
Yes, both the healthcare professional and the healthcare institution can be held liable for a birth injury in Quebec. If the healthcare professional acted negligently or breached their duty of care, they can be personally held accountable. Additionally, the healthcare institution may also bear responsibility for failing to provide proper supervision, training, or protocols.
How long does it take to resolve a birth injury case in Quebec?
The duration of a birth injury case can vary depending on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and the court's schedule. Some cases may settle through negotiations, while others may require more extensive litigation and go to trial. A better estimate can be provided based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Can I afford legal representation for a birth injury case?
Yes, legal representation for a birth injury case in Quebec is often accessible. Most birth injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don't have to pay any upfront fees. Instead, the lawyer will receive a percentage of the compensation awarded if your case is successful. This is how it works at Annette Lefebvre Avocats as well - we only get paid if we recover compensation for you.
Can I change my current lawyer if I'm not satisfied with their representation?
Yes, if you're not satisfied with your current lawyer's representation in a birth injury case, you have the right to change lawyers. However, it's recommended to carefully consider your decision and to ensure that the new lawyer is able to effectively represent your interests in the case.