The birth of a child should be a beautiful, joyful experience. Throughout the process, it is the doctors and nurses’ duty to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and child. Unfortunately, a single moment or series of poor decisions can lead to improper medical care and a birth injury for the child or mother.
If you suspect you have been a victim of serious medical malpractice, especially you are a parent of a newborn child, you need to understand your legal options. Below, the experienced birth injury lawyers at Phelan Petty explain one type of recourse: the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act (BRNICA).
Birth Injuries Are More Common Than You Think
While the birth of a child is an amazing and momentous event, it is often associated with physical trauma. Even though modern medicine has improved infant and maternal fatality rates, an estimated 76 children suffer birth injuries every day. Just as importantly, the majority of mothers experience birth trauma.
For the child, these injuries can include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy
- Erb’s Palsy
- Brain Hemorrhage
And for mothers:
- Post-partum Hemorrhage
- Ruptured Uterus
- Unidentified Vaginal Tears
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
These are not comprehensive lists of possible birth injuries, but they are examples of complications that can have profound long-term effects on the well-being of a newborn, mother, or both.
RELATED ARTICLE: Everything You Need to Know About Birth Injuries
Virginia’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Birth-Compensation Program
Virginia created the BRNICA Program in 1987. It offers a no-fault compensation remedy for birth injuries while also providing legal protection for doctors and hospitals who elect to participate in the compensation fund. The program covers children with a birth-related neurological injury or disability that is not otherwise covered by the government or private insurance. Parents weighing the options provided through the BRNICA program should consider all of its requirements and benefits.
Am I Eligible for BRNICA Compensation?
Under Virginia law, you can apply for BRNICA compensation if your child was delivered by a participating doctor or hospital and experienced a birth-related neurological injury. The act carefully defines these injuries.
First, a mechanical injury or oxygen deprivation during labor, delivery, or immediately post-delivery must have caused your child’s injury. Second, your child must have permanent motor, developmental, or cognitive disabilities. Finally, they must need assistance with all their daily activities.
What Benefits Does BRNICA Offer?
Virginia’s birth injury compensation program covers many of an eligible child’s services and expenses. The BRNICA Program may reimburse the following losses:
- Medical expenses
- Hospital bills
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs
- Residential and custodial care
- Caregiver compensation
- The child’s lost earnings, from age 18 to 65
- Special equipment or medical facilities costs
- Reasonable claim filing costs (including attorney’s fees)
- Necessary travel for medical needs
While not required, we strongly encourage filing a BRNICA application with legal representation. Your related legal fees are often covered by BRNICA. Parents considering applying should speak with an experienced lawyer.
Jonathan Petty has extensive knowledge of Virginia’s birth injury laws. He is a leading advocate for families living with birth injuries and can help you understand all of your legal options.
How Birth-Related Injury Compensation Differs from Medical Malpractice
Virginia’s birth injury program is not your only legal option. Under certain circumstances, families can opt for a medical malpractice lawsuit instead. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider violates the appropriate standard of care, resulting in injuries to the child or mother.
In cases of serious negligence by a doctor or hospital, suing for medical malpractice may be the most appropriate course of action, but all options should be explored. Sometimes, similar or even more compensation can be received by applying to the BRNICA Program.
However, BRNICA does not directly cover the mother’s injuries or damages. To get compensation for maternal injuries, you should consider filing a medical negligence claim. One complicating factor may come if part of the suit includes emotional damages. Under Virginia law, if a child is a BRNICA beneficiary, their parents cannot demand compensation for emotional damages associated with the child’s injury. A mother can only demand compensation for her own personal injuries and trauma.
In these situations, it is essential to have an experienced lawyer on your side to help you understand and navigate the best options for you and your family.
How a Birth Injury Lawsuit Can Help Your Family — and Other Families
Whether you are filing a BRNICA application or a medical malpractice lawsuit, birth injury claims can provide real benefits to your family. Damages that you can recover include medical expenses, healthcare costs associated with specialized medical equipment or rehabilitation, lost wages from caring for a disabled child, and many other related expenses. They may also include a life care plan, which is based on the estimated costs associated with your child’s health and long-term care. Life care plans help relieve a family’s financial burden and give them peace of mind for the future.
A birth injury lawsuit can also help other families who may go through a similar experience. If you prevail at trial, your case may establish legal precedent that helps another family recover damages and receive the care they need. Likewise, a lawsuit may have a deterrent effect – a high-profile claim may change doctors’ behaviors and approach to birth injuries.
RELATED ARTICLE: Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Make Our Communities Safer?
Phelan Petty Has the Experience You Need for a Birth Injury Lawsuit
Virginia’s birth injury laws go a long way toward making a difference for families who are suffering from improper medical care. At Phelan Petty, we have the expertise and passion to make sure you and your family receive all the care you need. Difficult situations that arise from birth injuries can take their toll, but peace of mind and hope for the future are still possible. Let us help you through the process of finding that peace again.
Astein. (2015, March 9). The Scope of Virginia’s Birth–Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program. Bill of Health. Retrieved from http://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2015/03/08/the-scope-of-virginias-birth-related-neurological-injury-compensation-program/
Birth Injuries in Newborns – Children’s Health Issues. (n.d.). Merck Manual. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/general-problems-in-newborns/birth-injuries-in-newborns
Eligibility, Benefits & Claims. (n.d.). Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program. Retrieved from https://www.vabirthinjury.com/eligibility-benefits-claims/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.