How do I find out if my child has a case?
Birth injury cases must be evaluated thoroughly before any sound decision can be made on whether to go forward. The first step in the evaluation process is for the family to talk with an attorney experienced in handling birth injury cases about all of the pertinent facts, including "who," "what," "when," and "where."
The next step is to obtain the medical records, including the mother's pre-natal and labor and delivery records, the fetal monitor strips, the baby's newborn records, as well as any of the child's subsequent medical, therapy, or school records which may be available. In addition, copies of imaging studies performed on the child, including ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs of the head should be obtained. These materials will be looked at initially by the attorney. The depth of the review will vary, depending upon the lawyer's medical expertise.
The lawyer will then consult with medical experts regarding the case. Depending upon the issues involved, this may include an obstetrician, perinatologist (a specialist in high-risk obstetrics), pediatric neurologist, neonatologist (pediatrician specializing in newborn babies), or neuroradiologist (a radiologist specializing in the brain). After the experts have reviewed those portions of the records which are pertinent to their specialities, they will confer with the attorney regarding their findings.
In the final step of the review process, the attorney discusses the experts' findings, and makes recommendations as to whether or not to proceed. The final decision, of course, is the family's to make.
Will I have to pay to hire a lawyer?
No attorney's fees are owed unless we are successful in obtaining compensation for your child's injuries. The attorney's fees are based on a percentage of the total recovery. Since birth injury cases are typically brought while the injured parties are still children, any attorney's fees charged must be approved by the court in which the case has been filed.
Birth injury cases are very expensive to pursue. The costs of depositions, expert witnesses, preparation of trial exhibits, and everything needed to pursue the case in the strongest, most effective way possible can exceed $100,000. Because we accept only those cases that we believe in strongly, Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates advances these costs on behalf of our clients. The costs are reimbursed out of the settlement or judgment that we obtain on your behalf. Our clients are not responsible for paying back these costs unless and until a successful result is obtained.
Is there a time limit on bringing my child's case?
Yes. Each state, as well as the United States (in cases involving the Federal Tort Claims Act), has its own statute of limitations. The limits vary widely from one state to another, and may also be affected by whether or not the defendant is a public entity (whether city, county, state, the United States, or even a hospital "district" established by law).
The statute of limitations generally runs, whether or not the family was aware of it. Accordingly, if you suspect that your child may have been injured during the birth process as a result of medical neglect, it is important to begin your investigation into the circumstances as soon as possible.
My child will have lifelong injuries. How do we determine now what care he/she will need 10 or 20 years or longer in the future?
As your child's case goes forward, we continue to obtain the updated medical, therapy, and school records as they become available. We consult with appropriate experts, who may include pediatric physiatrists, pediatric neurologists, physical and occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, or life care planners to determine all of your child's future care needs. One or more of these professionals may be asked by us to evaluate your child for purposes of the case. This will not in any way interfere with the ongoing care that your child is receiving. The information obtained from the treating healthcare providers is furnished to our experts, and constitutes an important part of their evaluation.
Based upon the medical records, and our experts' evaluations, we obtain projections for the future, as to what care will be required, and whether your child's employment opportunities will be limited because of his/her birth injuries. An economist is then retained to calculate how much the future care will cost, and the amount of earnings that the child will lose in the future because of his/her disabilities.
The law does not require us to prove these damages with "certainty." The standard of proof is "reasonable probability." Thus, the way this evidence is developed is by looking carefully at the child's condition, and determining what most likely will happen in the future.
Will the case settle out of court?
Most birth injury cases settle prior to trial. Some cases do not settle, and must proceed to trial. We never know in advance which category a given case will fall into. However, we do know that, in order to settle cases favorably, we must present a powerful, thoroughly prepared case to the other side. Doctors, hospitals and their insurance companies will not settle birth injury cases unless they believe that they are at risk of losing the case if it goes to trial.
Accordingly, Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates prepares every case as though it is going to trial, but always attempts to explore the possibility of out-of-court settlements when it would be in the best interests of our clients.
What factors are important in deciding which lawyer to choose?
Birth injury litigation is highly specialized. It is important that the attorney be experienced in handling all phases of birth injury litigation, from initial evaluation through and including trial by jury. In addition, a detailed fund of medical knowledge regarding cerebral palsy, Erb's palsy, Group B strep, and other birth injuries is essential. This medical knowledge will enable the lawyer to select the best experts from the appropriate specialties, see through the "smoke screens" and, sometimes, outright medical fabrications offered by the other side, and prepare and present the case powerfully. The lawyer must also be completely familiar with the substantive law in this area, as well as the cutting edge techniques for effective case work-up, trial preparation, and courtroom presentation.
The lawyer should have a proven track record of personally litigating cases to a successful conclusion.
The lawyer must have the ability and willingness to spend the money required to hire all of the experts, take all of the necessary depositions, and obtain whatever anatomical models, medical illustrations, or other demonstrative evidence that may be needed. These costs often exceed $100,000 in birth injury cases.
Last, but certainly not least, the lawyer must have a passion for justice, and an unwavering commitment to the child and family.
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