Maternal Mortality in Massachusetts Birth Injury Claims

A recent report by the USA Today Network found the United States is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.Injury Accident on Fairhaven Road

The investigation found 50,000 mothers are injured in child birth each year in the United States. More than 700 mothers die. About half the deaths and injuries could be prevented with basic safety practices that are routinely ignored, despite being the standard of care for a generation.

Experienced Massachusetts birth injury lawyers know U.S. maternal mortality rates are actually rising, while rates in most of the rest of the developed world continue to decline. While we often hear about the risks of childbirth, less attention is placed on the risks to the mother. Pregnant women at highest risk of maternal mortality include women over the age of 40, women who are obese, and women who lack health insurance, according to data from the United Health Foundation. 

However, all mothers face substantial risk during child birth. Hemorrhage and hypertension are top causes of fatal maternal injuries during child birth. Untreated pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are a primary threat, and can result in seizures, comma, organ failure and cardiac arrest.

Improving outcomes involves both improving mother’s health before pregnancy and providing better medical care. Preconception health, prenatal care, and proper medical care during and after childbirth are all vital to improving maternal outcome, as well as the health and wellbeing of the infant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports top causes of pregnancy related death include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, 15.2%.
  • Non-cardiovascular diseases, 14.7%.
  • Infection or sepsis, 12.8%.
  • Hemorrhage, 11.5%.
  • Cardiomyopathy, 10.3%.
  • Thrombotic pulmonary embolism, 9.1%.
  • Cerebrovascular accidents, 7.4%.
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, 6.8%.
  • Amniotic fluid embolism, 5.5%.

Massachusetts maternal mortality rate stands at 6.1., which is second best in the nation behind California. Still, many injuries to mother or child occur each year due to preventable medical error.

“Deadly Deliveries” Cause Maternal and Infant Mortality

While Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has taken steps to protect seniors, it has not implemented reporting requirements for injuries involving pregnant women, despite paying for about 2 million of the nation’s births each year.

There is strong evidence that proactive measures can make a real difference when it comes to reducing maternal mortality. California has instituted many best practices in recent years, and has since cut in half its maternal death rate, which now stands at 4.5 per 100,000 child births. At 58.1, Louisiana reported the worst rate in the nation.

Nationwide, the rates stands at 26.4 mother deaths per 100,000 births.

Instances of injury and death of infant are much higher, and may result in fractures, facial paralysis, cerebral palsy, brachial plexus or erb’s palsy, hypoxia, brain damage and other serious medical complications.

The statute of limitations found under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 260 section 4  generally gives a patient three years to initiate a lawsuit, measured from the date of harm inflicted. Massachusetts law provides a maximum of 7 years to file a lawsuit for any cause; the only exception being for foreign objects left in the body after surgery.

Unlike many other types of personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, Massachusetts law requires those pursuing medical malpractice claims to present their claims to a three-member tribunal shortly after officially filing a civil claim in Commonwealth court. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 231 Section 60B requires plaintiff injury attorney to present an offer of proof to a three-member tribunal within 15 days of defendant health care provider’s response to a filed lawsuit. The tribunal will consist of a Massachusetts superior court justice, a licensed physician of relevant practice, and a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

Thus your chosen Boston birth injury lawyer most be prepared to defend your case shortly after filing; not at the date of some distant potential trial. Timely consultation following serious child-birth complications will best allow a birth injury law firm to build your case for damages.

Massachusetts law places a cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages in most medical malpractice cases. However, the law provides for no cap on non-economic damages in cases that include a substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function, or substantial disfigurement, or in cases where it can be proven such a cap would deprive a plaintiff of fair compensation.

Economic damages are not capped, and include medical expenses, cost of ongoing medical care and lost income, as well as any damage to a mother’s ability to earn a living. Massachusetts shared fault rules mean defendant healthcare provider could argue victim was partially at fault (for not following doctor’s instructions, etc.) and thus entitled to a proportional reduction in damages in accordance with the rules of modified comparative negligence (which permits partially at-fault victims to collect damages, as long as they were not more than 50 percent at fault).

Under Massachusetts medical malpractice laws, a patient must prove injury caused by substandard care, or the care that would be used by an experienced practitioner. Common causes of action include:

  1. Incorrect diagnosis or failure to diagnose;
  2. Failure to treat illness properly;
  3. Hospital oversight;
  4. Nursing error;
  5. Errors during surgery.

Beginning in 2012,  MGL c. 231 s.60L, established a process and time frame for patients and doctors to discuss alleged mistakes, in an attempt to settle claims without going to court. Under the law, a health care provider most be given 6-months written notice of intent to file a medical malpractice claim. The notice must include factual basis, applicable standard of care and how compliance to care standard should have been met, how breach of care caused injury, and the names of all other health care providers (other potential defendants) the patient intends to notify of a potential claim.

Birth injury cases, whether involving mother or child, are among the most legally and medically complex cases a law firm can handle. Records are often best obtained before providing such notice of a pending lawsuit to health care providers. Early consultation with a law firm that has extensive experience handling these types of claims will ofter best chance of a successful plaintiff outcome.

Families dealing with a birth injury in Massachusetts can call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.