A stillbirth is a terrible tragedy that is traumatic for the mother, father, and other family members. While some stillbirths are unavoidable, others result from the negligence or incompetence of a healthcare professional during pregnancy, labor, or childbirth. Contact a West Virginia birth injury attorney immediately if the physicians could not give you a clear answer about the reason for the stillbirth, or if you have a nagging feeling that malpractice played a part in your infant’s death. You may have grounds to file a claim against the professional, the hospital, or a third party.

Medical Malpractice and Stillbirth

Childbirth is a complex area of medicine. From a medical standpoint, a lot of things could potentially go wrong during labor and delivery. Despite advances in medical technology, a mother and infant could still suffer injuries during childbirth. Unfortunately, many negative outcomes stem from someone else’s negligence, not “acts of God.” A careless hospital, gynecologist, doctor, nurse, medical technician, surgeon, or other staff member could make one simple mistake that is catastrophic for the infant. Such mistakes can include:

  • Failure to identify risk factors, such as the mother’s age, obesity, multiple gestations, previously failed pregnancies, and pregnancy complications.
  • Failure to diagnose placental disease, fetal abnormalities, infection, hypertensive disorders, or other medical conditions.
  • Lack of clean and safe hospital facilities for mother and infant, or lack of competent and properly trained medical professionals.

Any number of things can go wrong during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Not all stillbirth incidents result from negligence, but there is always the chance that someone made a mistake somewhere along the way that caused or contributed to the wrongful death of your unborn child. Even a seemingly minor error could have set off a chain of events that ended in tragedy. After a stillbirth, it is worthwhile to speak with a wrongful death attorney in West Virginia. You can learn whether or not your case has merit.

Proving a Stillbirth Case

A discussion with a lawyer can give you a more accurate idea of whether you have a claim against a hospital or individual for the death of your child. There are certain elements that must be present in all medical malpractice cases. Parents of a stillborn child may be able to sue a doctor or hospital on the grounds of medical malpractice or negligence. Both types of cases require the same burden of proof on the plaintiff’s part. To prove medical malpractice in a stillbirth case, the plaintiff must have three elements:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. All healthcare professionals owe high standards of care to patients – including both the mother and unborn baby during childbirth.
  2. The defendant breached his or her duty of care. To prove medical malpractice, you must have evidence of the defendant’s breach of duty, or negligence. This could be misuse of birthing tools, failure to monitor fetal signs, inappropriate reaction to an emergency, or plain incompetence.
  3. The breach caused the plaintiff’s harms. The defendant’s act of negligence, carelessness, or recklessness must be the proximate cause of the stillbirth. The courts must deem that were it not for the defendant’s actions, the infant would likely have survived.

The plaintiff must also have suffered real damages from the breach of duty. In the event of stillbirth, these damages can include medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, the loss of the infant’s consortium, and funeral and burial costs. Negligence cases might center around some failure on the hospital’s part, such as poorly maintained equipment or hiring a doctor who was dangerously incompetent. Medical malpractice centers on a failure on the part of a medical professional. Speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a stillbirth to learn your rights and options.