Birth Injury Liability in the State of Florida
Birth injuries are traumatic and they can create long term challenges for parents and families. These injuries often occur when physicians make errors during pregnancy or the birthing process.
Neural tube defects occur when infants are born with birth defects to the brain or spine. The condition often results from the mother’s failure to adequately provide the fetus with folic acid. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), women do not consume enough of the foods that contain Vitamin B, causing the development of neural tube defects early in the gestation process. Some women do not even know they are pregnant at the time. Physicians often prescribe prenatal vitamins to patients who are trying to become pregnant, in an attempt to prevent neural tube defects.
The NIH explains that neural tube defects are more common when:
- the mother is obese;
- the mother’s diabetes are uncontrolled; or
- the mother takes seizure medications.
Types of Neural Tube Defects
Neural tube defects occur in various levels of severity. Spina Bifida is one type of neural tube defect. The condition occurs when the spinal column of the fetus does not close completely, according to the NIH. The four variations of Spina Bifida include:
- Occulta – this is the mildest form and it rarely causes disability;
- Closed neural tube defects – Can result in partial paralysis or bowel dysfunctions;
- Meningocele – spinal fluids flow through an opening in the vertebrae. It can result in complete paralysis; and
- Myelomeningocele – the most severe form. Can render the affected child unable to walk.
Your Doctor’s Responsibility in Preventing Neural Tube Defects
A physician has numerous responsibilities in the prevention of birth injuries. Routine testing and adequate examinations can help to identify problems early, providing an opportunity for corrective procedures. It is also the responsibility of an OB GYN to keep abreast of current findings on various birth defects. There are significant reports regarding the connection between certain prescription drugs and the development of neural tube defects including Spina Bifida. If a mother is prescribed medications during pregnancy and the fetus develops a neural tube defect the prescribing physician may be liable for medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Florida
The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA) was established by the state legislature to limit malpractice awards for birth injuries. The fund is applicable to certain neurological defects, caused by oxygen deprivation or mechanical injuries during delivery. Eligibility is not automatic and it must be determined by an Administrative Law Judge. For babies who are covered, benefits include a one time cash award up to $100,000. A $10,000 death benefit is also provided, along with reimbursement for claim expenses.
Due to the limited eligibility of NICA compensation, many neural defect cases are not payable under the fund. In these situations, the injured family is allowed to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida courts. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the necessary steps of filing the lawsuit and pursuing compensation.