Beginning during pregnancy, parents are highly protective of their children's health, well-being, and safety. If a child experiences medical issues, the parents' protective instinct will likely move into hyperdrive. Under such sensitive circumstances, if a medical professional entrusted to care for the child instead causes them harm, parents may be quick to lash out, whether verbally or by filing a lawsuit against the practitioner.
In this article, we will explain the concept of pediatric malpractice, the evidence required to prove it, and why it is best to speak with an experienced pediatric malpractice attorney about your options.
What Is Pediatric Malpractice?
Pediatric malpractice is a type of medical malpractice in which physicians or other healthcare professionals provide medical care that does not meet the medical community's generally accepted standards of care for pediatric patients. In pediatric malpractice cases, the failure of a medical professional to provide reasonable medical care can cause a child patient to suffer severe injury, permanent injury, or even death.
Types of Pediatric Malpractice
There are many types of medical negligence cases filed against doctors who allegedly provide substandard treatment for children. A few of the more common types of medical negligence or pediatric malpractice claims include:
- Birth injury
- Birth defects
- Infant jaundice
- Infections, such as meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or appendicitis
- Infections of the brain or spine
- Transverse myelitis
- Respiratory issues
- Bowel obstructions
- Health conditions, such as juvenile diabetes
- Developmental dysplasia of the hip
- Surgery errors
Pediatric malpractice claims can also result from medication prescription errors, which generally occur for four distinct reasons:
- Ordering errors
- Administration errors, such as providing a pediatric patient with the wrong drug, dose, method, or time frame
- Transcription errors
- Dispensing errors (e.g., a pharmacist dispenses the wrong medication)
Most Common Scenarios
The most common type of pediatric malpractice claim, regardless of the pediatric patient's age, involves injuries to the brain.
Meningitis, which is an infection of the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord), is the most common diagnosis cited in pediatric malpractice cases. Meningitis can be caused by either viruses or bacteria. This illness can be difficult to diagnose, especially in infants, which can lead to a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. The damage meningitis causes can very quickly become irreversible, so time is of the essence when it comes to these diagnoses.
Age Ranges of Pediatric Patients
Because of the vast developmental differences between children of varying ages, there are four general age ranges for which pediatric malpractice lawsuits often arise. These include:
- Neonate: Less than 1-month-old
- First year: 1 to 11 months old
- Child: 1 to 9 years old
- Teenager: 10 to 17 years old
Of the four groups, neonates tend to suffer injuries of higher severity more often than older children.
Types of Health Care Providers
Any medical professional who provides care to a pediatric patient may be named in a pediatric malpractice suit. The majority of claims involving pediatric patients name medical providers in the following specialties:
- Emergency medicine
- Family medicine
- General surgery
Proving Medical Negligence in a Pediatric Malpractice Lawsuit
Winning a medical negligence suit against a healthcare provider is not a foregone conclusion. Establishing that medical malpractice took place can be challenging. To win a pediatric malpractice lawsuit, your attorney must prove the following four requirements:
A Duty of Care Was Owed To Your Child
You must provide evidence that a professional relationship was established between the patient (your child) and the medical professional. When this is true, the provider owed your child a duty of reasonable, professional care. If the provider failed to give your child reasonable care, this may be grounds for a malpractice suit.
The Pediatrician Breached That Duty of Care
On your child's behalf, your attorney must invoke the concept of the standard of care, which is defined as care that a medical professional in a similar situation would have given to the patient. By proving that the health care provider failed to meet the standard of care, you may establish malpractice.
The Breach Caused the Injuries Sustained
You must be able to prove that the actions of the medical provider caused your child's injury. This means detailing a direct relationship between the negligent treatment and the damage that resulted from it. If you can provide clear proof of correlation, you may have grounds for malpractice.
That Damages and Losses Have Been Suffered
In any medical malpractice case, this may be the easiest evidence requirement to fulfill. Proof of damages encompasses any evidence that you suffered financial losses due to your child's injuries. This proof can include bills or invoices for medical care, rehabilitation, medical equipment, therapy, medical treatment, and even lost wages during medical care visits for your child. Medical bills and related expenses can bolster a medical malpractice claim.
If the court finds negligence on the part of the medical provider, the provider or their insurance company must repay these expenses to the patient.
The Potential Compensation
Injuries involving younger children tend to result in higher settlement amounts. Children are at their most vulnerable when they are younger than 1 month old, and parents often expect an even more stringent standard of care from doctors caring for neonatal infants.
Although it is impossible to put a true price on the health and well-being of your child, the pain and suffering your child and your family have experienced can factor greatly into the amount of a pediatric malpractice settlement. These cases can be significantly difficult to prove, but some of those parents who have won pediatric negligence claims have received compensatory damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Seek Justice With a Pediatric Malpractice Attorney by Your Side
If your child was injured because a medical professional failed to provide them with the expected standard of care, contact the experienced pediatric medical malpractice lawyers at The Moore Law Firm today.