Epidural Injuries During Labor: Can You Sue the Hospital?

Posted on by in Medical Malpractice

If you've been in a labor or delivery room, you've heard of an epidural injection. Labor - the act of delivering a baby - lives up to its name. It's painful work. Epidurals are one of the few options for making the experience more comfortable.

The epidural block is the most commonly used form of pain relief during labor. It delivers analgesic and anesthetic pain relievers through a tube in your back.

The medication reduces pain by blocking signals before they can get to the brain. After the injection, although you're awake, you experience loss in sensation below the waist but are able to push.

When used correctly, epidurals are relatively safe. However, if an anesthesiologist made an error when giving you an epidural shot, it might have caused you serious injuries. Subsequently, epidural injection injuries can lead to serious disabilities.

You may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if you have suffered any serious medical condition after receiving an epidural injection, such as severe pain and paralysis.

Contact our Miami-based law firm to discuss your situation. We can help you pursue a medical malpractice claim to cover the cost of your:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages from missing work

Can an Epidural During Labor Go Wrong?

The purpose of the epidural injection is to relieve pain temporarily. In most cases, medical professionals handle the injection with care and it does relieve pain.

Sometimes, an epidural is administered negligently. The area where an epidural is administered is very close to the spinal cord, that is why any mistake in the procedure can have lasting and serious consequences. According to the American Pregnancy Association, serious epidural injuries to the mother can include:

  • Spinal epidural abscess. This is an infection between the outer covering of the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. Any time there is an opening in the skin from a needle, bacteria can get inside and cause an infection. The needle should be sterile and medical professionals should clean your skin before it's inserted. However, an infection can develop. The infection can also spread in the body.
  • Permanent nerve damage. Can be caused when the spinal cord is damaged by the catheter or needle; by an infection in the epidural area; by bleeding around the area of the spinal cord; by using the wrong medication in the epidural. These situations can lead to temporary or permanent loss of feeling in your lower body and cause a lifetime of pain.

Serious epidural injuries also include:

In general, the risk of permanent damage is low as anesthesiologists and other medical professionals undergo extensive training. However, medical errors associated with epidurals do exist and can include:

  • Allergic reaction to the medication
  • Injection in the wrong area
  • Overmedication
  • Failure to monitor for maternal distress
  • Administration too close to the time of birth

An epidural malpractice lawyer can fight for justice on your behalf through an epidural lawsuit.

Can a Mother Sue a Hospital for a Bad Epidural?

Unfortunately, when placing labor epidurals, anesthesia providers are not always adequately prepared to treat an airway emergency or hypotension. Sometimes, patients had to be transported to the operating room for resuscitation because of insufficient supplies in the labor room. Some cases of spinal cord injury are clearly related to the epidural block.

You can sue for medical malpractice:

  • The medical professional who performed the epidural
  • His employer, the hospital with a delivery center

Under the theory respondeat superior, if someone is an employee of a hospital, the hospital is typically responsible and can be sued for the resulting harm if that employee is negligent and hurts a patient when doing something job-related.

Usually, medical technicians, nurses, and support staff are hospital employees. However, doctors are usually independent contractors. Even if a hospital is not liable for an independent contractor doctor's malpractice, it may be held responsible in situations when it appeared to be the doctor's employer or it keeps an incompetent doctor on staff.

Below we look at a case when a mother filed a medical malpractice lawsuit after a medical professional botched a painkilling epidural injection during childbirth. Our law firm did not handle this epidural injury case. However, if you have questions regarding any epidural injury matter, please contact us.

When a mother went to a medical center in Miami to give birth to her third child, she needed an epidural to control pain. The anesthesiologist who had been working for 24 hours straight came in to perform the epidural:

  • Reportedly, he put the epidural needle in the wrong spot, between the wrong vertebrae.
  • After the women reported feeling pain, the anesthesiologist took the needle out and put it in the same spot, with the same result.
  • He went lower in her back the next time, and the epidural helped with pain and the mother delivered a healthy baby.
  • However, a couple of hours after the injections, the mother was in agony again.
  • She suffered excruciating pain just placing a blanket over her leg.

After the birth, the mother had trouble walking for more than a short distance, as her leg would give out. These painful sensations are known as paresthesia. Finally, a thoracic spine MRI revealed a hole in her spine where the medical professional had placed the needle.

According to the lawsuit, the needle caused a cystic lesion when it stroked the spinal cord. The condition can only be treated by taking pain medication. The woman was expected to incur medical expenses for many years.

The defense took the position that the hole in the patient's spine was so far from where the needle should have gone in for the epidural that it couldn't have possibly been caused by the medical professional. The defense offered only $150,000.

However, the jury awarded the mother $4.25 million for:

  • Past pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life's activities
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Future loss of enjoyment

Contact the medical malpractice attorney at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary today. We can help you get the settlement or jury verdict you deserve for your injuries or those of a loved one.

How Can The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary Help With Your Medical Malpractice Claim?

It is not always easy to pinpoint the exact mistake that led to an injury. The medical terms are often confusing, and there's a lack of knowledge surrounding hospital procedures. Even when a mistake clearly occurred, it's challenging to determine and prove who is at fault. We can help. A medical malpractice lawyer will work to investigate the case and find the underlying cause of what went wrong during the labor and delivery.

We work with expert witnesses to review all the records. They can testify that your doctor failed to follow accepted procedures, and this failure caused the problems that you now suffer from. During this process, we collect important information to support your claim, including:

  • Medical records
  • Expert witness statements
  • Medical staff reports
  • Personal recollections of the labor

It is also important that we investigate and determine if you have a case within Florida's statute of limitations, which is two years from when the patient knew that the injury occurred. Some situations can extend the timeline, but these are rare.

If you wait too long, it can be more difficult to collect important documents. Therefore, you are encouraged to reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible if you believe your injuries were caused by a medical mistake.

Mothers suffering injuries due to the negligence of health care providers should know they are entitled to compensation. Damages you can recover through a medical malpractice claim include:

  • The cost of medical treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Physical therapy
  • Home health aides
  • Psychological counseling
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional suffering

Upon investigation, we can determine if there was a fault in the labor and delivery setting. The first step to start this process is to discuss the details of your case with our epidural injury lawyer.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this site is not formal legal advice, also the site does not allow you to form an attorney-client relationship.