Question

Who is liable when your baby is injured during the birthing process in New Jersey?

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Answer

In the unfortunate event that a baby sustains injuries during birth in New Jersey, determining liability for the injuries will vary on many factors. The liable party could be a caregiver or any number of medical personnel involved throughout each stage of pregnancy – that is, from prenatal care to the actual delivery. Anyone providing information or care to the pregnant woman and family risks liability. If a woman is not properly counseled prior to her delivery, a child may suffer severe birthing injuries due to overlooked circumstances. 

In some cases, the obstetrician is the liable party. Nurses use a fetal heart monitor to tell whether the fetus is in distress and, if it appears so, then they must immediately notify the obstetrician. If they do not notify the obstetrician, or if the obstetrician ignores their observations, the baby can suffer serious injuries during birth. 

The sad truth is, any number of missteps or general negligence can cause a birth injury. There could be other people involved on whom the liability falls. Issues may stem from a simple shift change or lack of communication between the staff. There are also situations where a hospital ignores the incompetence of their staff until it’s too late and the physician or nurse fails to meet medical standards. 

Injuries to an infant are nothing to take lightly and, because these cases are often very complex, a thorough investigation is in order. To establish medical malpractice during the birthing process in New Jersey, a plaintiff must establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship, that the medical professional provided negligent care, that the negligent care directly caused the baby’s injuries and that the plaintiff suffered actual harm. 

The second element – whether the medical professional provided negligent care – is often the most contested element in a medical malpractice case. In New Jersey, the medical standard of care requires that a doctor or medical professional treat a patient with the care and skill that a physician with similar knowledge and expertise would provide under similar circumstances. The applicable standard of care is judged by the standard that was in effect at the time of the alleged malpractice. 

In New Jersey, a medical malpractice plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence to prevail. That is, if the evidence sufficiently proves that a party is greater than 50% at fault for the injury, the plaintiff will likely see a successful verdict in a lawsuit.

Parents can also have individual claims for the child’s injury. Usually, parents will bring a lawsuit on behalf of their baby; i.e., “Jane Doe on behalf of her child as guardian ad litem.” However, parents can also bring an action in their own name seeking additional remedies. 

The closer you are to the date of the injuries, the easier it will be to obtain accurate and effective evidence. Such evidence may include hospital staffing records, medical histories and ultrasound records interviews with nurses and physicians. 

The usual statute of limitations in New Jersey is two years for a general medical malpractice claim. But the statute extends to 13 years if the injury occurred during the birthing process. If you are considering filing a lawsuit against a medical professional or another related entity for any medical-related injury, it is important to seek legal counsel soon.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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