Developmental delay is a relatively broad term used to refer to any case in which a child does not reach developmental milestones at the expected stages. These delays may affect a child’s cognition (thinking and processing information), learning, speaking, listening, and understanding, physical capabilities, and emotional function. Developmental delays are persistent, as opposed to fleeting. Some present very early on in a child’s life, evidenced by delays in the time it takes for a child to begin talking, walking, smiling, or responding to external cues in their environment. Other missed milestones do not manifest until the child enters school and fails to reach key developmental steps at the same time as their peers. While some children make progress, becoming more level with others in their age group, others with developmental delays experience permanent conditions known as developmental disabilities. Early intervention is among the most valuable ways to help a child with developmental delays or disabilities. In addition, treatments, therapies, medical devices, assistive technologies, and special needs education services can often facilitate a child’s progress and benefit their quality of life.
Some developmental delays simply exist, with no root cause that can be attributed to a single person, event, or set of circumstances. On the other hand, developmental delays may also be preventable, caused by serious birth injuries or other instances of medical negligence. In these cases, children and their families may seek compensation from those responsible. If you have questions about filing a lawsuit or other legal options that may be available to you, consulting an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can be invaluable. Contact us 24/7 at 866-708-8617 to learn more in a free consultation. Our attorneys serve clients throughout New Jersey and consult on these cases nationwide.
What Causes Developmental Delays?
The potential causes of developmental delays are vast and varied. However, common causes can be understood in three distinct categories: birth injuries, genetic abnormalities, and other conditions or complications.
Birth injuries include a wide range of conditions and injuries that occur prior to, following, or during the childbirth process. They may affect a baby’s brain or body and can result from improper medical management and care in close proximity to the time of birth. On the other hand, genetic conditions and chromosomal abnormalities typically occur during fetal development or are inherited from one parent. Down syndrome is perhaps the most well-recognized inherited condition that causes developmental delays. The last category of other potential causes of developmental delays encompasses diverse conditions and complications such as infections and injuries during childhood, particularly brain injuries in children.
Birth Injuries: Cause of Developmental Delays
Birth injuries and other forms of birth trauma can cause delays in development of the brain, body, or faculties. A birth injury refers to any form of harm that a child suffers immediately before, during, or in the period surrounding birth. For example, lack of oxygen during birth, errors using assisted delivery tools, traumatic birth, and improper maneuvers performed when a baby does not fit through the birth canal, can all cause developmental delays. Common examples of birth injuries and errors during birth that may lead to developmental delays include the following:
- Perinatal Asphyxia
- Errors handling fetal distress or failing to notice signs
- Delayed C-section in an emergency situation
- Excessively long or difficult labor
- Issues with the umbilical cord
- Improper use of labor-inducing drugs
- Mismanagement of placenta problems
- Uterine problems or ruptured uterus
- Using excessive force (commonly resulting in brachial plexus injuries)
- Shoulder dystocia
Developmental Delays Caused by Lack of Oxygen at Birth
Birth Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen during labor or delivery, can result in significant infant brain damage and neurological injury. If a baby is deprived of oxygen at birth, mere seconds or minutes with inadequate oxygen supply in the bloodstream can impede proper supply to the brain. The blood must contain an adequate amount of oxygen in order to deliver sufficient amounts to the brain and rest of the body. Brain injuries are commonly caused by the brain’s response to this lack of essential oxygen. For example, conditions like cerebral palsy (CP) and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) may be caused by birth asphyxia and further lead to developmental delays.
Infections Causing Developmental Delays in Babies
Undiagnosed and untreated infections can also significantly impact a baby’s brain and cause developmental delays. Some infections in the mother, known as maternal infections, may be transmitted to the fetus prior to birth. In other cases, a baby may experience an infection after delivery. Regardless of the cause, failing to diagnose or treat a baby’s infection can cause permanent damage to their brain and problems with neurological development. For instance, Group B Strep is among the leading infant infections linked with developmental delays and disabilities. Other infections such as meningitis, herpes, Hepatitis, and influenza are a few other common examples.
What if a Birth Injury Causes Developmental Disability?
Many birth injuries and conditions caused by trauma at birth are associated with medical malpractice. In fact, a birth injury may have been prevented in certain cases if medical professionals had just exercised proper care. This is all too true for children who suffer harm around the time of birth, whether through a doctor’s mismanagement of a serious situation, failure to identify a condition, or lack of action until it’s too late. When instances of negligence occur in labor, delivery, in utero, or during infant care, the children affected have legal rights.
Child has Disabilities from Medical Malpractice in NJ? Call for Lawyer Help
If your child is exhibiting signs of a birth injury and you are looking for help from an experienced birth injury attorney, you’ve come to the right place. Our team of knowledgeable NJ birth injury lawyers are dedicated to handling birth injury cases and others involving children who are victims of medical malpractice in New Jersey . Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 866-708-8617 or filling out our online form. We are available 24/7 to provide answers to your questions and a free case review.