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Birth injury or defect may be a distinction without difference

There are few things in life that are more special than welcoming a new baby into the world. But that sense of joy can wind up being dashed in short order if the infant is born with or develops a condition that leaves him or her disabled.

Many different things can cause problems over the course of a pregnancy and delivery. Some of the most common issues include cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy or other damage to the nervous system. After birth, ailments that might be missed and go untreated can lead to difficulties. During the months before the birth, the treatment that the mother gets can influence fetal development, sometimes negatively, resulting in birth defects.

Whether the condition has been caused by injury during birth or because of prenatal treatment, the key issue that may determine whether there is cause to seek compensation may come down to just one question. Could it have been prevented?

Where birth injury is concerned, determination may not be that difficult. It’s estimated that five children in 1,000 suffer some injury at birth. Some may be serious, others less so. If they are caused by a doctor’s improper use of equipment or technique, a child can suffer a lack of oxygen, head injuries or broken bones.

At the same time, it’s estimated that about 7 percent of all babies are born with defects ranging from very minor to severe. Genetics can be a contributing factor, which generally isn’t something that is preventable. But some drugs that have been prescribed to mothers during their pregnancies have been found to be teratogens. That is, they contain chemicals that may cause birth defects.

Regardless of the cause of the problem, recovery in such cases is likely to depend on showing that issues could have been avoided with the exercise of the accepted standard of care.

Source: FindLaw, “Birth Injury Overview,” accessed June 26, 2015