Wrongful Pregnancy Lawsuits
In medical malpractice, patients can sue for birth injury and wrongful pregnancy. Vasectomies and tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) are the most effective forms of birth control, but pregnancy can still occur after a medical procedure.
Wrongful pregnancy lawsuits seek damages for pregnancies that occur after a sterilization procedure. In these cases, either one or both parents were medically sterilized. Compensation is often limited to medical costs and the pain and suffering of pregnancy and birth.
What Is Wrongful Pregnancy?
If a patient has a sterilization procedure, the procedure should prevent future pregnancies. If the procedure is not performed correctly and the patient gets pregnant, the patient can bring a wrongful pregnancy lawsuit against the doctor for medical negligence.
Wrongful pregnancy is different from similar claims of wrongful birth and wrongful life. Wrongful birth cases happen when a child is born with a severe disorder or birth defect, usually where the doctor fails to diagnose. If the defect were properly detected or diagnosed early, the mother may have chosen to abort.
Parents and guardians can bring wrongful life actions on behalf of a child suffering from an undiagnosed genetic condition. Parents of a healthy child may bring a cause of action if the pregnancy is unwanted.
Legal Elements of Wrongful Pregnancy
A wrongful pregnancy claim focuses on the negligence of a healthcare provider during a medical sterilization procedure. Sterilization procedures that prevent future pregnancies include vasectomies and tubal ligation.
There are many reasons why people do not want children:
- Risk of congenital health issues
- Risk of age-related health issues (from older mothers)
- Risk of health to the mother
- Insufficient resources or finances to care for a child
- Personal preference
Like a tort action, a wrongful pregnancy suit focuses on the duty of care, breach of duty, and factual and proximate causes.
A medical professional owes a patient a duty of care to correctly perform sterilization. A doctor breaches their duty of care if they perform the procedure incorrectly or if the pregnancy would not have happened "but for" the plaintiff(s) reliance on the effectiveness of the sterilization.
Once these elements are proven at trial, the next consideration is damages, the amount of money you can receive in a lawsuit.
Compensation for Wrongful Pregnancy
As a legal concept, wrongful pregnancy is different from a typical tort action. It does not seek compensation for personal injuries or damage to property.
A successful wrongful pregnancy suit compensates the parents of the child. Damages include medical expenses and issues related to the pregnancy. Expenses include:
- Prenatal, delivery room, and neonatal medical expenses
- Lost wages from time spent pregnant or recovering from birth
- The cost of the unsuccessful sterilization procedure
Intangible damages may include:
- Mother's pain and suffering
- Father's loss of consortium during the pregnancy and recovery
An area of damages that divides courts is whether parents may seek recovery for future child-rearing expenses for an unwanted but otherwise healthy child. Courts tend to defer to the notion that even unexpected children are a good thing for most people and society in general.
If financial constraints are a primary factor in seeking sterilization, a minority of states may be more willing to allow a claim for the cost of raising the child to proceed.
Recovery may also cover severe medical conditions. Courts may award damages when specific health issues were the reason for the sterilization procedure and the unplanned child develops abnormalities or inherits certain genetic conditions.
Seeking Legal Advice for a Wrongful Birth Case
If you or your spouse became pregnant after a medical sterilization procedure, you may have a claim for a wrongful birth lawsuit.
Seek legal advice from an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area. Attorneys will be able to help you make an informed decision about the next steps for your situation.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.