The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a $6.5 million settlement reached between Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, a physician and Denise Cisneros, a former Chicago resident. Cisneros’ newborn daughter suffered extensive brain damage after the hospital allegedly failed to perform a timely cesarean on her. The daughter, now ten, lives with cerebral palsy and mental retardation, has a history of seizures and needs assistance walking, getting dressed, bathing and using the washroom. Cisneros’ attorney said the money will be used for lifetime care of the child, who needs 24-hour care and will never be able to live independently.
Parents and families of babies who suffer from birth injuries may face expensive and ongoing medical bills. Children who suffer from Cerebral Palsy or Brachial Plexus Injuries such as Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy as a result of a birth injury may require medication and rehabilitation, single or multiple surgeries, and temporary or permanent treatment and care. If the birth injury is the result of the doctor or health care provider’s negligence during the birthing process, the family may be entitled to damages that can help offset medical expenses.
Birth injury malpractice may involve a failure to recognize fetal distress, failure to recognize umbilical cord entrapment or other potential hazards, delay in ordering a medically necessary cesarean section, or improper use of forceps. Additionally, the use of some antidepressants during pregnancy has been linked in studies to congenital heart defects and other birth defects.
Adverse Effects of Vaccination
Adverse effects from vaccinations may also have long term effects on babies. Children may suffer brain injury, anaphylaxis, paralytic polio, encephalopathy or serious allergic reactions to vaccination. Though surrounded by debate, some studies have linked certain thimerosal vaccines to an increased risk of autism.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) collects self-, family- and provider-reported information on adverse effects of vaccination. VAERS indicates there were over 37,000 reports in 2009. Of the 6,997 life-threatening reports gathered since 1990, 2,575 related to children under the age of three.
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was created by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and went into effect in 1988. It was designed, among other things, to establish and maintain a forum for those injured by certain vaccines. The VICP is a federal no-fault alternative to traditional courtroom litigation for resolving vaccine injury claims and providing compensation certain victims of vaccine injury.
The program allows parents, legal guardians, or trustees of the injured child to file a claim when an injury to or death of a child is thought to be a result of a covered vaccine. There is no limitation on the amount of an award in a vaccine-related injury claim, but awards to the estate in a vaccine-related death are limited to $250,000 plus attorney’s fees and costs.
The United State Court of Federal Claims determines who will be paid and the program is distinct from the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which administers compensation under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act).
Deadlines for Filing a Claim
Barring additions or changes to the VICP injury table, most claims must be brought within three years of the date the first symptom or manifestation of the onset or significant aggravation of the injury. In the first three years of a child’s life, it may be difficult to determine the full extent of the injury and the amount of treatment or care the child will require into the future. If the child has died, the claim must be filed within two years of the death and four years of the onset of the vaccine-related injury.
Parents of babies who have suffered a birth injury or adverse effect of vaccination should contact a malpractice attorney immediately to discuss their options. Most medical malpractice and VICP claims are governed by a strict three-year statute of limitations. An experienced birth injury lawyer can refer parents to a specialist who can help with the requisite early diagnosis and prognosis for future care and rehabilitation. Additionally, a lawyer can seek compensation to secure the finances to provide the required treatment and care for the child.