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Distinguishing birth injuries from birth defects

Parents put the life of their child in the hands of the physician during the birthing process. When a child suffers injuries at birth due to the negligence of the physician, it may be possible for the parents to seek compensation.

One of the key steps in developing a solid case is making sure the injury is truly a birth injury and not a birth defect. A few factors can aid in making this distinction.


A birth injury occurs during or immediately after delivery. Though it may be unavoidable in some cases, there are many instances where it cannot be prevented. Some of the most common types of birth injuries that a child may suffer include:

  • Head trauma or brain damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Broken bones
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Cerebral palsy

These conditions account for a large number of birth injuries; however, there are quite a few more that may occur. A knowledgeable attorney can help to determine if a certain type of injury qualifies.


Birth defects happen while the child is forming in the mother's womb. Unlike an injury, a defect is usually a genetic mutation that the physician cannot cause nor prevent. However, there are a few cases where certain treatments or medical prescriptions lead to defects during pregnancy.


The duty of care of a physician plays a strong role in determining negligence in a birth injury case. Physicians owe their patients a certain level of care, and as long as they uphold that duty, they are in the right. In other words, if physicians can show they performed their duty in a reasonable manner as any other physician and the injury could not be avoided, the judge may dismiss the case. It is up to the claimant to prove the contrary. For those who feel they have a strong case, it is important to follow Maryland law regarding filing a claim.

This is a brief overview of the distinguishing factors of birth injuries and birth defects. If you are considering filing a claim, make sure you understand the process so that you may build a solid case.

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