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Attorney Jared Pursley
Carlsbad Personal Injury LawyerBlogBirth InjuryThe Before, During, and After of Birth Injuries

The Before, During, and After of Birth Injuries


As a rule of thumb, about one in ten births involve, as doctors like to say, “some complications.” About one in ten of these incidents causes a lifelong or life-ending injury. Beginning at the first prenatal appointment (or initial file review for walk-ins) and ending at postnatal hospital discharge, doctors have a fiduciary duty of care. They must disregard work-life balance, profits, and all other important priorities and do what’s best for their patients.

A Carlsbad birth injury lawyer ensures that doctors live up to this high legal responsibility. This responsibility includes paying compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills. Families shouldn’t have to depend on government handouts or health insurance benefits to cover these costs. Damages in a birth injury case also include compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, so these families can move forward with their lives. Due to the high duty of care, additional punitive damages are usually available in these cases as well.


Most mothers-to-be begin seeing birth doctors as soon as they know they’re pregnant. Other mothers transfer to new physicians shortly before the big day, while others are walk-ins who are already in pre-labor.

The duty of care is the same in all situations, just like all drivers must meet the same legal responsibilities whether they’ve had their licenses for five minutes or five decades.

During prenatal visits or file reviews, doctors must diligently spot red flags and appropriately respond to them.

Possible birth complications red flags include the mother’s age, number of times she’s delivered a baby, her current general health, her prior bad habits, such as alcohol or drug use, and any prior difficult deliveries. Doctors must spend sufficient time with patients, and sufficiently review their records, to spot warning signs.

Additionally, doctors must respond to these potential problems, not approach them with an “I’ve got this” overconfidence. Evidence, usually diagnostic test evidence, must dictate their responses.


If doctors do their homework, delivery room emergencies are rare. If doctors rush through the prenatal care process, delivery room emergencies are common.

SD (Shoulder Dystocia) is the most common birth emergency. Quite simply, the baby is too large to slide down the mother’s birth canal. In these situations, doctors must act quickly to avoid disaster. Like many of us, they make bad decisions when the pressure is on. These bad decisions include using mechanical birth aids, such as:

  • Forceps: Doctors use these surgical salad tongs to pry babies out of their mothers. A newborn is about the size of a two-liter soda bottle and just as fragile. Excess forceps pressure usually causes a permanent head injury.
  • Vacuum Extractor: Instead of prying a baby out with forceps, the doctor sucks a baby out with a vacuum hose. This process involves putting a metal cap on the newborn’s head. Not surprisingly, vacuum extractors often cause more serious injuries than forceps.

When SD emergencies strike, the delivery must happen within five minutes, or the umbilical cord will almost literally strangle the baby.


As mentioned, doctors must make decisions based on evidence. Too frequently, the decision to discharge a baby from the NICU is based on emotion.

Quite understandably, families want to go home together, and they want to go home as quickly as possible. Doctors can’t rush the discharge decision to placate anxious parents.

Count on a Hard-Working San Diego County Lawyer

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Carlsbad, contact the Pursley Law Firm. We routinely handle matters throughout the Golden State.

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