Can You Sue for a Bad C-section?

July 14, 2023

Every parent fondly remembers the birth of their child. The first moments after your child is born can be among the most wonderful memories of your life. For many pregnancies, a C-section is required to facilitate the birth, but even the necessity of being stitched up can’t ruin that moment. What can ruin it, however, is when the doctor performs a bad C-section and either you or your child is injured. In that nightmare scenario, what are your options? Can you sue the doctor, the hospital, or someone else involved in the C-section?

Common Causes of Botched C-Sections

Botched C-sections occur for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

Failure to Perform a C-section in a Timely Manner

Women in labor should be closely monitored to identify and respond to any sudden changes and provide necessary emergency surgery before damage can occur. An immediate C-section is the reasonable standard of care for when circumstances such as these arise:

  • Fetal distress, drop in fetal heartrate
  • Maternal distress or infection
  • Eclampsia or pre-eclampsia in the mother
  • Labor is not progressing after many hours
  • The umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck or is being delivered first
  • The baby is too large for vaginal delivery
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Anesthesia injuries. If anesthesia is administered at the wrong time or the wrong dosage is given, complications can develop, such as lack of oxygen to the mother or infant, leading to brain damage.
  • Surgical injuries. If the C-section is improperly performed, the fetus can be cut, causing serious permanent injury or death. The mother’s bowels, uterus, or bladder can be lacerated or perforated, causing infection, sepsis, kidney failure, blood clots or hemorrhaging.

A C-section should generally be done within 30 minutes of its being identified as necessary. If it isn’t, the risk of birth injury increases and can lead to serious conditions such as cerebral palsy, brachial palsy, brain damage, and paralysis. In some cases, intellectual and developmental disabilities stemming from lack of oxygen at birth may not be obvious until years later, but negligent medical professionals can still be held accountable.

Unnecessary C-sections

Just as failing to perform a C-section when it is necessary can harm a mother or child, so can performing one when it is unnecessary. Some doctors or hospitals have policies that result in C-sections when a natural birth would be safer or less damaging. Usually, these policies are in place to save money or speed up birth. For example, a hospital might insist on a C-section if labor lasts more than 24 hours because they want to free up the room for another patient. This causes the mother and child to experience unnecessary surgery, which can lead to complications like infection and sterility.

When You Can Sue

Just because something went wrong during a C-section, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can sue. Typically, you can sue only when you have been harmed due to negligence or recklessness. Thus, if the doctor took every reasonable precaution and you still got a mild infection after the surgery, you wouldn’t have grounds to sue. That is the kind of potential side effect that patients are advised about and that occasionally happens no matter how careful the doctor is. However, if you got that infection because the health care providers didn’t properly sterilize their instruments or otherwise acted negligently, you’d have the right to sue.

You also have the right to sue if you never gave consent to the operation. Doctors and hospitals are required to get informed consent before doing a C-section. Unfortunately, while most medical professionals get consent, it isn’t always informed. Doctors will often request permission while the mother is in labor, without giving them all the information. It can be very hard for someone who is in pain to make a reasonable decision, especially when medical personnel are being less than transparent.

Who You Can Sue

While many lawsuits involving bad C-sections are medical malpractice lawsuits against the doctor who performed the C-section, that isn’t always the case. In some cases, you may need to sue the hospital or even an assisting nurse. The important thing is that you should only sue those who are responsible for the harm.

For example, your doctor may have rushed through a C-section, which injured your child. But after some investigation, your lawyer might determine that the reason the doctor rushed the C-section is because a hospital administrator delayed the doctor’s access to appropriate medical devices to perform the C-section. In this situation, you would sue the hospital, and the doctor would likely be a friendly witness in your case.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

After you or your child has been injured by a bad C-section, you will likely find yourself drowning in medical bills or potentially facing weeks or months of lost wages. You have the right to sue to get compensation for those losses, but you should never try to do that alone. An experienced personal injury lawyer will investigate your case, file a lawsuit, and litigate your case, all while your family is still recovering.

Furthermore, you have a limited amount of time to act. If you were injured, Pennsylvania law gives you only two years to take legal action against the negligent party. This is very little time when you are recovering from an injury. An experienced lawyer will make sure you don’t miss any deadlines. If your child was injured, you have quite a bit longer to act, but that extension can be a trap. People often forget about their legal options or don’t retain evidence of harm to the child. An attorney will ensure you don’t make those kinds of mistakes.

Contact Wapner Newman After a Bad C-Section

Roughly 32% of all births in the U.S. are C-section deliveries. Most of them go well. But if you or your child was injured in one of the C-sections that went badly, you deserve compensation for the harm. Contact our law firm at (215) 569-0900 today to schedule a free consultation with a birth injury lawyer.