A birth injury is any infant injury that occurred due to medical negligence either in the delivery room or before hospital discharge. While some injuries (like broken bones) are apparent immediately after birth, others may take years to recognize.
It’s crucial for all parents to understand latent birth injuries and their signs. The sooner affected children can get aid and therapy, the better their chances of living a happy life.
Latent Birth Injuries
A large number of birth injuries impact a baby’s brain or spinal cord. These injuries may not be apparent for months or even years, depending on the extent of the injury. These are known as latent birth injuries.
Latent birth injuries can result from either error in the delivery room or infection within six weeks of birth. Certain delivery methods make the risk of injury more common, especially forceps. Latent birth injuries caused by forceps have steadily risen as their use in the delivery room has decreased, making them one of the most dangerous delivery options available.
Signs of a Birth Injury
A latent birth injury is usually unnoticeable in the months after the initial injury. They only become apparent when children delay or altogether miss critical developmental milestones. While every child develops differently, brain injuries are unpredictable. Parents should consider medical and legal assistance if their child misses more than one of the following milestones.
No Smiling (Immediately): Babies are naturally playful and curious. If a baby does not smile or laugh in the weeks immediately after birth, it could signal a serious problem. If a baby seems constantly unhappy or does not stop crying, parents should seek immediate medical treatment.
No Reactions (2-4 months): As babies grow and develop, they will react to loud noises, bright lights, and games of peekaboo. If they don’t, it might signal a birth injury or physical conditions such as vision or hearing impairment. In either case, parents should seek a doctor immediately.
Poor Motor Skills (3-6 months): Most babies learn to grasp and manipulate objects at around three months. A baby who consistently struggles to grab objects may have experienced a more serious birth injury. If a baby’s arm seems stiff and contracted, it could even signal cerebral palsy.
Non-Verbal (6-10 months): Most babies babble by around 4-months-old. By 6-months-old, they may be able to say single words (like mama or dada). Delayed babbling may be nothing to worry about, but if a child is unable to speak single words by 8-10 months, it might signal a serious underlying issue.
Struggles to Walk (12-14 months): Babies normally take their first steps in 10-12 months, and master walking by 12-14 months. If a baby struggles to walk, stand, or even crawl, parents should call their pediatrician immediately.
The Statute of Limitations
In law, there is a set amount of time allowed to file a claim with the court. If that time limit expires, so too does the victim’s ability to seek justice. This is known as the statute of limitations.
Every state has a different statute of limitations for birth injuries. That can be unfortunate when it comes to latent birth injuries as (aside from the symptoms above), other injuries may not fully manifest until the child reaches school-age. A brain injury may be almost invisible until the child is able to speak complete sentences, read, write, and perform basic math.
Thankfully, New Mexico has great provisions in place for victims of latent birth injuries. In New Mexico, parents have until their child’s 9th birthday to file a medical malpractice claim. This gives parents plenty of time to watch their child grow and identify potential disorders.
If you believe your baby suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced Albuquerque medical malpractice attorney from James Wood Law to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (505) 906-6774.