Facial paralysis (or Bell’s Palsy) can occur during the birth process, causing either temporary or permanent paralysis or disfigurement. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help to defray the present and future costs of treatment.
Facial Paralysis (Bell’s Palsy)
Facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy is when one side of the face becomes paralyzed or suddenly weak. This can make it difficult for the person to move his or her mouth, nose, or eyelid. It may also make one side of the face droop or appear stiff. Bell’s palsy often occurs when a facial nerve is not working as it should. Facial nerves may get damaged during difficult labor and delivery, particularly when a doctor applies more force than necessary to get the baby out.
Facial paralysis can be emotionally devastating for kids because it drastically affects their appearance. Children may experience bullying or teasing as a result of this condition. If your child has suffered facial paralysis due to birth-related trauma or injury, you may be able to seek compensation for the damages. An experienced West Virginia birth injury attorney can help you further explore your legal rights and options.
How Does Facial Paralysis Occur During Birth?
Facial nerve palsy or weakness that is caused by birth trauma may stem from excessive pressure on the facial nerve just before or at the time of birth. An infant’s facial nerve is often referred to as the seventh cranial nerve. When too much pressure is applied to get the infant out during a difficult labor and delivery, the facial nerve may get damaged.
Oftentimes, it is not clear what causes Bell’s palsy. In children, it may either be acquired or congenital. The causes may range from infection and birth trauma to genetic issues. For Bell’s palsy and facial nerve damage that is caused by birth trauma and happens during a difficult delivery, the following factors may be involved:
- A long pregnancy or labor.
- Use of epidural anesthesia. This anesthesia is administered through the mother’s spine during labor to numb the lower body.
- Use of Pitocin to induce labor. This causes stronger contractions.
- A larger than average baby (fetal macrosomia), which is common in women who have diabetes or women who deliver after their due date.
- Use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
- Acquired cases of Bell’s palsy can occur due to viral infections.
- High blood pressure in children has been seen in recurrent Bell’s palsy as well.
Symptoms and Long-Term Effects of Bell’s Palsy
Some of the symptoms of facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy include excessive tearing or extremely dry eyes, increased sensitivity of hearing, drooling, a smile that is one-sided, and loss of taste or decreased sense of taste. In most instances of Bell’s palsy, the symptoms are usually quite clear.
However, determining the extent of the weakness and the nerve damage may require undergoing a battery of tests that focus on the child’s sensory perception, sight, and hearing.
For further testing, your doctor may recommend Computed (Axial) Tomography (CT or CAT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An Electroencephalogram (EEG) can also help test nerve functioning.
A majority of Bell’s palsy cases have the potential to result in permanent injuries or disfigurement. Mild cases of facial paralysis may resolve themselves and some cases may be treated with drugs such as Corticosteroids.
Severe cases of Bell’s palsy, however, may result in permanent weakness and nerve damage in the face, with movement that may or may not eventually return.
Also, severe cases may cause eye damage on the side of the face that has been affected leading to partial or complete blindness. It is crucial that you discuss your child’s treatment options with your doctor, particularly if you notice your child trying to touch or scratch the affected eye. You should also watch out for whether your child’s eyes are excessively dry. In such cases, artificial tears may offer a solution. In some cases, the part of the face that has been affected may become permanently paralyzed.
Bell’s Palsy and Medical Negligence
As with the prevention of other types of birth injuries, constant and competent monitoring of the mother and child before and during birth is critical. As far as Bell’s palsy is concerned, proper use of forceps has shown to reduce the rate of facial paralysis. Physicians should also look out for maternal infections that may be passed on to the child.
Such infections should be diagnosed and treated promptly to avoid injuries and complications. If a mother is at high risk for a complicated or difficult delivery, the doctor needs to make a decision with regard to performing a cesarean section, which may help prevent long and difficult labor as well as prevent injuries and complications. Failing to detect these risks and failing to make a decision regarding performing a C-section may be viewed as medical negligence in these cases.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If your child has suffered injuries such as facial paralysis because your doctor was negligent and/or failed to properly monitor mother and child, failed to take proper action, or incorrectly used birth-assistive tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors, he or she may be held accountable for the resulting injuries and losses. In addition to the doctor, the hospital or medical facility, and others on the medical team such as the anesthesiologist, ultrasound technician, or nurse, whose negligence led to the birth injuries, may also be held liable.
In order to be successful with such a medical malpractice claim, plaintiffs (injured victim) must prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed; that the doctor or hospital provided substandard care; that the victim was injured; and that the victim and his or her family members suffered damages or losses as a result of the negligence.
In a birth injury lawsuit, families may be able to seek damages such as:
- Medical expenses to cover the cost of hospitalization, surgeries, diagnostic tests, cost of medical equipment, medications, etc.
- The cost of therapy and rehabilitation, which may add up very quickly in such cases. This would fall under expenses related to continued treatment and care. These types of expenses often need to be paid out of pocket and are not fully covered by health insurance plans.
- Permanent injuries, disabilities, or disfigurement that result from facial paralysis.
- Noneconomic damages such as past and future pain and suffering may also be sought. This includes physical pain suffered by the victim as well as emotional distress suffered by family members and the victim over permanent injuries and disfigurement.
West Virginia Birth Injury Lawyers
Our experienced West Virginia birth injury lawyers have a long and successful track record of fighting for the rights of injured victims and their families. Please contact us for a free consultation and a comprehensive evaluation of your case. Call (304) 594-1800 today.