Epidural Injuries During Labor: Can You Sue the Hospital?

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Injuries caused by epidural injections can cause severe disabilities. You may have grounds for a medical malpractice case if you have developed any medical condition after receiving an epidural injection.

The epidural block is the most common method of pain relief during labor, used by an estimated 50% of pregnant women in both C-sections and vaginal births. 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.

When used correctly, epidurals are relatively safe, and the subsequent risks for the mother and child are very low.

However, if an anesthesiologist made an error when giving you an epidural shot, it might have caused you or your child severe 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.

Epidural Birth Injuries

The purpose of the epidural injection is to relieve pain temporarily. In most cases, medical professionals handle the injection with care to relieve pain, as they are trained to safely administer epidurals based on "the four P's:"

  • Preparation
  • Position
  • Projection
  • Puncture

Sometimes, an epidural is handled 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 severe and lasting consequences. According to the American Pregnancy Association, serious epidural injuries to the mother can include:

  • Spinal epidural abscess
  • Permanent nerve damage

Serious epidural injuries also include:

The risk of permanent damage is generally low, as anesthesiologists and other medical professionals undergo extensive training. However, medical errors associated with epidurals do exist, and a negligent or bad epidural may be a result of:

  • A contraindication to epidural injection (low platelet count or taking blood thinners are common contraindications)
  • Administration error (wrong dose of medication)
  • Erroneous needle placement (which may lead to spine damage)
  • Inadequate monitoring of the mother and baby after the administration of the epidural
  • Medication error (the administration of medication the mother is allergic to)
  • Timing error (early administration of the epidural may stall labor)

If the cause of your or your child's injuries is medical negligence and medical records prove this, you can sue the hospital and hold the medical professional in charge responsible for medical negligence.

Can a Mother Sue a Hospital for a Bad Epidural?

Unfortunately, anesthesia providers are not always adequately prepared to treat an airway emergency or hypotension when placing labor epidurals. 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 of 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 when it appears to be the doctor's employer or keeps an incompetent doctor on staff.

Epidural Errors During Labor

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, please contact us if you have questions regarding any epidural injury matter.

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:

  • He reportedly put the epidural needle in the wrong spot, between the vertebrae.
  • After the woman 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 the 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 by 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 an error clearly occurs, it's challenging to determine and prove who is at fault. We can help. A medical malpractice lawyer will investigate the case and find the underlying cause of what went wrong during the labor and delivery.

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, collecting important documents can be more difficult.

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.

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

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

Mothers suffering injuries due to the negligence of healthcare providers should know they are entitled to compensation. 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.