Representing families in birth injury cases is one of the most emotionally difficult things we do at Rice & Bloomfield.  The birth of a child is usually a most joyful event for the parents and family. However, an estimated 29 births out of 1,000 in the United States results in injury to the baby from birth trauma, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. That is almost 4,000 birth injuries per year in Los Angeles.  Some injuries are minor and resolve quickly. However, for those babies who suffer the most serious trauma – from lack of oxygen during labor or delivery to those with permanent, disabling injuries to an arm caused by negligence of a doctor or nurse – life will never be easy or normal for them or their families.

While some serious birth injuries are not preventable – those with genetic causes, for example – many of the most serious can be traced to the inattention of the nursing staff or delay in responding to potential distress of the baby by the delivering doctor. Fetal monitoring should alert the doctor and hospital staff if a fetus is under stress so that timely treatment decisions can be made about how to address that situation before it causes serious and permanent harm.

If a hospital isBirth_Injury_thumb under-staffed or the nurses don’t pay sufficient attention to alarming changes in the fetal heart rate, the oxygen the fetus needs to stay healthy during labor and delivery can be interrupted. Sometimes, the nurses are concerned about the health of the fetus, but the doctor cannot be located or delays responding to those concerns. The result can be a condition called “perinatal asphyxia” or “fetal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.”

I am a trial lawyer. A personal injury lawyer in the San Fernando Valley, who is proud to represent victims of car crashes and dangerous conditions that cause falls, which injure or kill. But, I am perhaps proudest of the work I do as lawyer representing victims of medical malpractice. It is my work as a medical malpractice attorney that has brought me the most satisfaction and made the biggest difference in the lives of my clients.

Unfortunately, limits on the amount a victim of medical negligence can recover in California have made it increasingly difficult to help those injured by health care workers. A $250,000 cap on damages, which was passed in 1975, has never been adjusted for inflation.

packactnewlogo4.png We know who has been hurt by this decades old cap – victims of medical negligence and the families of people who die because of medical mistakes. The prestigious Journal of Patient Safety estimates that 440,000 people die each year because of preventable medical mishaps, a figure also cited by the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s a population the size of Atlanta – killed off each year by negligent health care providers. Only a very small fraction – estimated at less than 5% of medical malpractice victims or their families – receive any compensation for their injuries or loss.

As cell phones have become so common, especially in Los Angeles, where people spent so much time driving, the incidence of distracted driving collisions has gone up. Nobody wants to be injured in a car accident and no one wants to need a car accident lawyer. It is not unusual here in Encino to see people texting while driving. It is no surprise that reading a text requires drivers to take their eyes off the road which leads to a car accident. Writing a text is even more dangerous. It is just common sense that a person who is focusing on a cell phone is more likely to be involved in a crash.

Anyone with whom you discuss it will self-riotously declare the evils of texting while driving. It is common for California drivers to recognize that driving a car and reading small print on an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S4, or other device is bad. No one defends such a dangerous driving habit which surely will lead to injury. Yet, it is common to see people doing it.

Driving%20while%20texting.jpgThis is one area where there is a clear dichotomy between what people preach, and what people practice. Everyone says driving and using a cell phone is bad, but in the San Fernando Valley and across Los Angeles, it is very common to see. People text at red lights, on the freeway, and driving down Tarzana streets.

This is part one in a two part series relating to social benefits from personal injury lawsuits.

People in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California are hurt in auto accidents and through the negligent of others all the time.

Luge%20wake%20KUMARITASHVILI-GEORGIA-WAKE-PICTURES-PHOTOS.jpgEveryone hates lawyers. Juries tell us there are too many lawsuits. Governor Schwarzenegger is taking aim at lawyer with his supposed tort reform proposals.

This is the third in a three-part series about birth injuries in Los Angeles County.

Macrosomia is a condition in which a fetus’ birth weight is much greater than is normal during pregnancy. Generally, macrosomia is defined as a birth weight greater than 4000 grams or 8 pounds, 13 ounces. It is a condition that affects one in ten pregnancies.

Some factors that contribute to macrosomia – genetics, ethnicity, and the size of the parents – cannot be controlled. Other factors that may predispose a fetus to unusual growth in utero can be identified and should be addressed by the obstetrician. If the mother has gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain or diabetes mellitus, her fetus is at risk to develop macrosomia, which is associated with birth trauma to the baby and mother. Women whose pregnancies go on longer than they should are also at risk to develop macrosomic babies.

Encino%20Delivery%20Med%20Mal.jpgThe larger the fetus, the greater likelihood that the baby and/or mother will suffer injuries during delivery. If there is ultrasound evidence that the baby is very large, the doctor needs to take this into consideration when discussing delivery options with the parents.

A woman with a history of having had several large babies without difficulty vaginally may be an appropriate candidate for a vaginal delivery. A petite woman pregnant with a first baby that appears on ultrasound to weigh nearly ten pounds, should be advised of the risks of vaginal delivery and advised to undergo a planned Cesarean section.
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This is part two in a series of three relating to birth injuries in Los Angeles County.

Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a term that is used to describe a group of chronic conditions that result from injury to the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly after birth. It generally affects motor function – how the body moves. Children with cerebral palsy may have mild symptoms affecting coordination or may be completely unable to control motor function, making it impossible to sit or stand independently.

Med%20Mal%20Los%20Angeles%20Baby%20Foot%202.jpgCerebral palsy can occur when oxygen to the fetus is interrupted during labor or delivery. Monitoring of the baby during labor is done to detect changes in the baby’s heart rate which may signal a problem. If the amount of oxygen the baby is getting is reduced or cut off during labor, the baby’s heart rate will change and its ability to recover from the stress caused by contractions will diminish, signaling a potentially catastrophic injury if appropriate medical intervention is not taken in a timely fashion.

It is the job of the obstetrical nurse to monitor the fetus during labor and communicate any significant changes in the fetal heart rate and tone to the obstetrician in a timely fashion. It is the doctor’s duty to respond promptly if conservative measures (changing the mother’s position, administering oxygen to her, for example) do not improve the fetal heart rate.

If the nurse is unskilled or inattentive, she may not appreciate the fact that the baby is in distress, putting the baby at risk of injury. A doctor who does not respond to a nurse’s concern in a timely fashion also puts the baby at risk. Over time, the lack of oxygen can cause the brain damage that results in cerebral palsy.
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This is the first in a series of three relating to birth injuries in Southern California

Every year, hundreds of babies in Los Angeles County are born into the world seriously handicapped because of medical negligence. Birth injuries are among the most devastating injuries that can occur when a doctor or nurse is careless or inattentive. If a mother’s prenatal course is routine and there is no indication of any problems with the fetus she is carrying, the parents anxiously await their new arrival. They pick out names and dream about the future with their new little boy or girl.

Med%20Mal%20baby-nursery.jpgWhen things go awry during the labor or delivery and the baby is born with brain damage or is otherwise injured, everything the parents hoped for and planned is shattered. The baby may have to remain in the hospital long after the mother is discharged, so there are frequent trips back to the hospital. Preparing the home for the baby’s discharge is no longer about the color of the nursery or the style of the crib. There may be equipment that must be obtained and medical techniques to be learned.

This is part four in a series of posts regarding why someone hurt in a car accident should make a claim with the insurance company.

I recently told the story of a friend that called me because her sister was hit by a car while crossing the street. The sister did not want to file a claim. My friend’s sister felt bad and did not want to impose on the person that hit her or the insurance company. Here is how I explained it:

Car%20Crash%20MoneyGrab.jpgThe minute you were hurt because the driver caused the pedestrian accident, you are entitled to money for what you have been through. It is like you are at a table with the insurance company on the other side, and we suddenly put $50,000 of your money in the middle of the table. It is your money. You are entitled to that money because it is fair compensation for the injuries you suffered. (Obviously, the amount of money will vary depending upon the extent of the injuries).

This is part 3 in a series of posts explaining benefits of lawsuits and insurance claims when people in Southern California are injured in an accident.


People buy insurance for several reasons. Some buy insurance because the law says they have to. Some people buy insurance to protect themselves. If they are negligent and hurt someone in an a car crash (it can happen to anyone), they want to make sure it does not cost them a lot of money which can take away from their retirement, or their kid’s college education fund. Still other people buy insurance because they want to make sure that if they cause an auto accident and hurt someone, the person they injure is taken care of. They want to make sure that they have the means to take care of any injury they cause.

The minute you are hurt in a pedestrian accident, or in any car accident in Southern California, or from any negligence of another, under California law, you are entitled to fair compensation for your injuries. The reality of modern insurance companies, is that you will have to fight to get the compensation that is rightfully yours.