Postpartum Negligence Lawyers in Washington, D.C.
Helping families who suffered losses from negligence after birth and labor
Labor and delivery may be the “hard” part of a pregnancy, but newborns and new mothers must be given adequate care in the postpartum period as well. When a doctor, midwife or hospital staff member fails to provide a certain level of postpartum care, you and your new baby could end up with serious illnesses or injuries. At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, our Washington, D.C. postpartum negligence attorneys fight for mothers, newborns, and families who were injured through no fault of their own. If your doctor’s negligent behaviors put your family at risk, let our family help you.
What is postpartum medical negligence?
Postpartum means “postnatal.” Postpartum negligence is a type of medical negligence that occurs directly after the birth of a child. This type of medical negligence may result in injuries to the baby, but more often than not, it leads to injuries to the mother.
What does postpartum negligence look like?
An explosive investigation by USA TODAY found that “every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster.” This lack of care during labor, delivery, and the postpartum period leads, on average, to more than 50,000 injuries and about 700 maternal deaths each year.
Failure to follow standard safety protocols is the overarching problem when it comes to postpartum negligence. Specific examples of postpartum negligence, and negligence after labor and delivery, include:
- Failure to monitor the mother and/or child
- Failure to updated charts and electronic health records
- Failure to order additional testing when necessary
- Failure to properly diagnose distress
- Failure to accurately measure blood loss
- Failure to diagnose and treat changes in blood pressure
- Failure to prevent, diagnose, and/or treat infections
- Handling the baby too roughly, leading to physical injuries
- Failure to obtain consent for a “husband” stitch after an episiotomy or perineal tear
- Discharging the mother and child too soon
- Failing to admit the mother and/or child to an intensive care unit
Examples of postpartum negligence injuries to the mother
The minutes, days and weeks right after a woman gives birth are among the most dangerous she faces. Whether you chose natural childbirth or a C-section, your body needs time to recover. Complications can come on fast, and if you are not properly monitored, diagnosed, and treated quickly, you can be critically injured. The most common examples include:
- Postpartum hemorrhaging. Postnatal hemorrhage is one of the greatest risks to new mothers. As a 2018 USA TODAY expose showed, most hospitals do not follow standard protocols when it comes to measuring blood loss. Postpartum hemorrhage, if left unchecked, can lead to low blood pressure, seizures, and strokes.
- Postpartum preeclampsia. This is rare, as most cases of preeclampsia are “cured” by childbirth. Postpartum preeclampsia can present with hypertension (high blood pressure), excess protein, changes in vision, low urine output, and severe pain. If left untreated, it can lead to seizures or even death.
- Eclampsia. This is a seizure disorder that may develop during or after pregnancy, linked to the condition preeclampsia. It left untreated, it can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
- Infections. New mothers – especially those who have undergone c-sections – are vulnerable to infection. If it spreads through the blood, it could trigger a deadly immune response called sepsis. Endometritis, the inflammation of the endometrium and the myometrium, is another deadly infection that must be treated right away. These infections can develop around the stitching for a c-section or after an episiotomy.
- Pelvic fracture. The pelvic bones can be fractured during childbirth, especially if the baby is large, or if shoulder dystocia occurs. If the fractures are severe and they are left untreated, a mother can sustain permanent injuries to her reproductive organs, bladder, or lower digestive tract. This could necessitate revision surgeries, or result in incontinence or sterility.
- Low blood pressure. A dangerous drop in blood pressure (hypotension) can be life-threatening, and may send the mother’s body into shock. It can deprive your heart and brain of oxygen, leading to permanent damage or even death.
Examples of postpartum negligence that leads to birth injuries
Your newborn must also be monitored continuously for signs of danger, such as respiratory distress or jaundice. Babies should be tested for nerve damage, potential skull fracturing if forceps or a vacuum extractor were used during labor, accelerated or excessively low heart rates, adverse reactions to any antibiotics administered during pregnancy or labor, and low Apgar scores. Failure to diagnose a transmitted infection or treat an underlying condition could lead to lifelong complications, such as developmental delays, or to the tragic death of your child.
What you need to know about Washington, D.C. hospitals
Twice a year, the nonprofit Leapfrog Group issues a safety grade to hospitals throughout the country. There are currently six hospitals listed in Washington, D.C. – and half of them are failing or below average. As of Spring 2019, these were the grades Leapfrog assigned:
- United Medical Center: F
- MedStar Washington Hospital Center: D
- Howard University Hospital: D
- George Washington University Hospital: C
- MedStar Georgetown University Hospital: B
- Sibley Memorial Hospital: B
You can access each hospital’s grades here, and review how they did in each category.
Why do these scores matter? Because D.C. has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country. The average national rate for maternal mortality is 20.7 lives out of every 100,000. In the District of Columbia, that number is 36.1 out of every 100,000. These numbers are, in part, what prompted the D.C. Council to shut down the labor and delivery unit of United Medical Center, and to create a maternal mortality review committee in 2019.
Why you want a Washington, D.C. postpartum negligence lawyer on your side
Bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital, doctor, midwife, or doula can be a complicated affair. Larger institutions will deploy an army of lawyers whose only goals are to avoid accountability for your injuries, and to avoid paying you compensation.
Generally speaking, you have three years to file a medical malpractice claim in Washington, D.C. If your loved one died, you only have two years to file a wrongful death suit. There are certain exceptions to this rule, but you should not rely on them to help you. You should speak with an experienced postpartum negligence lawyer as soon as you can. Your attorney can help you make a claim for damages, including:
- Medical expenses and associated costs
- Lost wages and loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Burial and funeral costs
- Punitive damages, which are designed to punish wrongdoers for acts of reckless, malicious, or fraudulent behavior
At Paulson & Nace, we know how dangerous inadequate postpartum care can be. We have helped families in and around Washington, D.C. whose healthcare providers failed them, or acted in a negligent way. We have secured millions of dollars in compensation for our clients over the last 40 years, helping them obtain the medical treatments and resources they needed to keep their family safe.
Help when your doctor failed to provide the expected level of postpartum care
At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, we protect Washington, D.C. families whose futures have been put at risk by negligent postpartum care. We create options for your future, and keep the lines of communication open. To schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our dedicated trial attorneys, please call 202-463-1999 or fill out our contact form.