Though the birth of a baby is one of the most joyous events of a parent’s life, of every 1,000 babies delivered in the U.S., five experience birth injuries. These injuries can result when a baby does not have enough oxygen during labor, or when a doctor uses medical devices improperly. When this happens, a competent birth injury attorney can help you seek redress.
Before a birth injury attorney accepts a case, he or she must know if birth complications were caused by birth injury, or if they were the result of a birth defect that occurred prior to delivery. Birth defects occur during the pregnancy as a result of a genetic defect, disease, or even drug use by the mother.
Birth injuries occur during labor and delivery. They may be caused by a doctor’s action, such as not ensuring the baby has adequate oxygen during delivery, or misusing forceps. Birth injuries can cause cerebral palsy, or severe head trauma. It is vital for a birth injury attorney to know if a child’s condition is the result of a birth defect or a birth injury.
Finding a competent birth injury lawyer is crucial when seeking redress for preventable birth injuries. If you don’t know a good birth injury lawyer personally, you can contact the American Bar Association for a referral list of suitable attorneys in your area. Or you can visit the ABA website and follow the “Find Legal Help” icon.
Another first step would be to ask people whose opinion you trust. If you know someone who has had experience dealing with a birth injury attorney, you can find out the outcome of the case, and something about how the attorney handled the case, and whether the attorney was easy or difficult to work with.
If you have worked with an attorney in some other capacity, such as a divorce or bankruptcy, and if you were pleased with his or her representation, ask that lawyer if he or she knows a good birth injury lawyer. Chances are they know more than one competent birth injury attorney from either law school or from other court cases.
Once you have a few names and numbers of reputable birth injury lawyers, set up appointments with them. During your meeting, ask the attorney if he or she has dealt with a situation like yours, how the case turned out, and how difficult he thinks your case will be to win. Birth injury attorneys sometimes need to research the case further before answering, however.
Ask yourself what your gut feeling is about this birth injury attorney. Do you get along well? Does he or she listen respectfully? Is this someone you feel like you spend the necessary time with preparing a case? Most likely, your case will be settled through negotiation and not through the courts, so you want a competent negotiator.
Ask up front about fees. Will you need to pay the birth injury attorney a retainer fee? Will he or she consent to be paid from the settlement if a settlement is likely? Read any fee agreement carefully and make sure you understand it before signing. Hiring a birth injury lawyer is a big step, and you want to be informed right from the beginning.
Ask for regular updates on your case. Birth injury attorneys may be working on numerous cases at any one time, and may also be constrained by the person on the other side of the lawsuit. For example, your attorney may have to wait for the hospital to finish its internal investigation process. Be patient, but be informed.