My child was injured in the hospital, who is responsible?

We expect health care works to help our children and to be held accountable when things go wrong.

Having a sick or injured child can be one of the most stressful and frightening experiences in a parent's life. When something happens to your child, you take him or her to the hospital to get treatment from medical experts. You trust that your child is in good hands with the doctors, nurses and other medical personal that are working to help your child. But what happens when that is not the case? What happens when the people you trust with the most important person in your life end up hurting instead of helping your child? The reality is that pediatric medical mistakes happen and the results can be devastating to your child and your family.

Many different health care professionals may treat your child during a visit to the hospital and errors can happen at any time by one of these professionals. Unfortunately, errors occur quite often, some common types of errors include:

  • Failure to diagnose, delayed diagnoses or misdiagnoses of a serious illness
  • Prescription errors (incorrect dosage, wrong medication, drug interaction)
  • Surgical errors
  • Birth injuries

Some types of illnesses also have a high rate of pediatric malpractice claims, according to studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, including appendicitis, meningitis, pneumonia and some forms of cancer such as leukemia.

Proving responsibility

Parents want the person responsible for harming their child to be held accountable for his or her actions. In legal terms, that is called proving liability for medical malpractice.

In order to hold a medical professional liable, certain elements must be established to prove negligence. Namely, the following must be shown:

  • The health care professional owed a duty to the patient (the child)
  • The health care professional violated or did not follow the "standard of care" (this is determined by the level and type of care a medical professional would use under similar circumstances)
  • The breach in the standard of care caused an injury
  • The patient was harmed as a result

Medical malpractice may be proven if negligence is established. It must also be noted that New Jersey has a statute of limitations for these types of law suits (N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A:14-2). The period of time depends on the age of the person at the time the injury occurred. For injured adults, a two year time period starts when the breach takes place or as soon as it was reasonable for the patient to be aware of the injury (assuming that the injury was not immediately known).

When pediatric malpractice occurs, there is a delay in running the statute of limitations. This means that the patient has two years to file a medical malpractice claim against the health care provider once he or she has reached the age of majority (18 years of age). If the injury occurred during birth, the claim must be filed before the minor child's 13th birthday (if born after July 2004). Parents or a guardian ad litem may bring the claim on behalf of a minor child (birth to 13 years of age).

If the time period has passed, the injured patient or parent of the injured child may not be able to bring a claim to hold the responsible person liable. Therefore, time is of the essence if a child has been injured by a doctor, nurse of other medical staff member.

Compensation for injury

Once the medical professional responsible has been found liable for your child's injuries, you may be entitled to damages for his or her negligent actions. The types of damages and amount may depend on the circumstances of your case. Some examples of damages for medical malpractice may include compensation for past and future medical treatment, costs for rehabilitation, physical therapy, long-term care, counseling and pain and suffering.

If your child has been injured while being treated at a hospital, it is important to speak to an attorney right away. At Breslin & Breslin, P.A., our attorneys have experience helping support families through medical malpractice cases. We know how important it is to protect your child. We will work zealously to help you get the compensation your family is entitled to when your child has suffered injury at the hands of a trusted individual. Contact our firm to discuss your situation; we will help you hold the person responsible for your child's injuries.