Birth Injury: Is Your Doctor At Fault?

If your child suffered permanent or expensive injuries because of birth trauma, or if they are born with a birth defect, one of the first things you might think is that your caregiver-- the obstetrician or other supervising doctor-- is to blame. While this is sometimes the case, there are instances where doctors are not liable for damages. Because proving fault in birth injury cases in very complex, there are a few things you should know about them in order to determine whether or not your doctor will be the defendant in your lawsuit, if there is actually another responsible party, or if the injury was unavoidable or unpreventable in nature.

When Your Doctor Is Not At Fault

It is almost easier in some ways to prove that your doctor is not at fault than to prove guilt on their part. The following scenarios would be examples of when your doctor, while involved in your treatment and the delivery of your child, cannot be at fault for the birth injury:

  1. The injury was caused by a drug and the doctor was unaware of the risks. Doctors prescribe medications based on studies and federal approvals of safety. Pharmaceutical companies are required to produce studies and tests to show the safety and risks of all prescription medications. However, if the drug company did not communicate these risks or covered up the possibility for potential injuries, then the injuries are the fault of the manufacturers and not the fault of your physician.
  2. The risks of medications and birth procedures were fully explained to you when they were recommended. Your doctor should provide you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision. Often, hospitals will have you sign papers that show that you were informed of the common risks associated with specific procedures. For example, lack of oxygen during delivery is a common cause of birth injury. If your caregiver was aware that the umbilical cord presented this complication and recommended a c-section to avoid possibility of depravation, but you refused the procedure after being informed, your doctor could be absolved of responsibility. 
  3. The hospital was not fully staffed or properly equipped. Hospitals should have nurses and on-call professionals available to treat all patients that are admitted to the facility. If there were not enough medical personnel on staff to handle emergencies, you could have suffered injury as a result. Hospitals are also required to run background checks, check credentials, and make sure that every staff member is licensed. With a lack of equipment or trained staff, your doctor may have done as best as was possible under the circumstances. The fault for birth injury would then move to the hospital itself, as they would be guilty of corporate negligence

When Your Doctor Is At Fault

The doctor is directly at fault when their specific actions could have prevented injury, or if their specific actions caused the injury. Doctors may be liable if they

  • perform a delivery while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • do not follow standard care practices during delivery. This would be proven by introducing other doctors to your case to testify on the "normal" way to handle emergency or high-risk pregnancy and birth situations.
  • prescribe a drug that they know could cause birth defects or birth trauma.
  • do not act promptly to screen for and treat common conditions, like infant jaundice, that are known to cause lasting damage in babies. 
  • persist in vaginal delivery options when either the mother or the baby is in great danger. Cesarean sections are riskier overall, but they can prevent birth injuries in emergency situations. 

Talk to your medical malpractice lawyers about your specific case. Finding the guilty party, whether or not that person was your physician, can be tricky. With the damages from your lawsuit, you should be able to provide the care your infant needs. 

For more information, you can visit sites like or talk to an experienced lawyer.