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Knoxville Birth Injury Attorneys

Helping injured victims and families recover compensation for medical negligence

Find Out If You Have a Case

Were you or your baby injured during labor or delivery?

You should know that you may be entitled to compensation for preventable birth trauma.
Our award-winning law firm has represented Tennessee families for over 40 years.

Tennessee has the 6th highest infant mortality rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). In 2019, approximately 7 newborns died per 1,000 births—adding up to 563 infant deaths that year alone. Countless more babies were injured during labor and delivery. This happens despite Knoxville's UT Medical Center being recognized as one of the best hospitals in the state.

Giving birth is a life-changing experience that expectant parents will remember for the rest of their lives. In these critical moments, parents depend on knowledgeable medical professionals and doctors to help guide them and their little ones safely through labor and delivery.

When complications happen, it can come as a shock when the process isn’t as safe as you’ve been led to believe.

While birth injuries and fatalities are much less common thanks to advancement in medical technology, they do still happen at a surprising rate—sometimes because of a preventable mistake or medical negligence. Proving whether a birth injury was caused by a medical error or some unavoidable factor is the single biggest challenge in these types of cases. Surviving infants often need special long-term care, leaving families struggling to cope with what has happened.

At Gilreath & Associates, our Knoxville birth injury attorneys have decades of experience answering these important questions and others. We interview medical experts and uncover key evidence to determine if the medical professionals in question were negligent. We work hard to uncover the answers families seek and hold wrongdoers accountable. We aren’t afraid to take on major healthcare organizations and malpractice insurance companies. We work to give parents a fighting chance for justice and to compensate them for the difficult losses they and their child have suffered.

If your baby was injured during labor or delivery, you may be entitled to compensation.

Contact our Knoxville birth injury lawyers to discuss your legal options and seek justice in your case.

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What is a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries refer to harm a baby experiences during labor and delivery, or shortly after. Some birth injuries are minor and temporary, while others are severe and permanent. Birth injury symptoms may present immediately, or not appear until months or even years after childbirth. Since every child is unique, birth injuries may present differently in each child.

That said, certain types of birth injuries are common no matter where you live, such as:

Notably, a birth defect is not the same thing as a birth injury.

Birth Defect vs. Birth Injury

The difference between a birth injury and a birth defect is an important legal distinction.

A birth defect usually develops when the unborn baby is still in the womb, often within the first trimester. Defects are typically caused by genetics, chromosomal abnormalities, toxic exposure, maternal health, drug and alcohol use, untreated infections or poor nutrition (lack of vitamins).

A birth injury typically occurs when the baby is being born, during labor and delivery. Various factors can cause a birth injury, including maternal and fetal health conditions or medical malpractice (negligence). For example, if a doctor incorrectly uses forceps or a vacuum extractor and causes the baby to suffer physical brain trauma, the baby may be born with a serious health condition.

What Causes Birth Injuries?

Not all birth injuries are the result of medical malpractice or negligence. Many are caused by the unavoidable effects of a difficult childbirth or certain maternal risk factors. However, medical errors can, and do, take place in hospitals all around the country—including right here in Knoxville. Some of these mistakes can complicate or intensify natural risks or cause a preventable injury.

The most common causes of birth injuries are:

Medical Errors

Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are trained on how to provide reasonable and appropriate care during labor and delivery. But healthcare providers are human, too, meaning they can make mistakes like the rest of us. When a medical error is responsible for a birth injury, this is known as "malpractice" and the provider can be liable for damages their patient experiences as a result.

Some examples of medical negligence that can substantiate a birth malpractice claim include:

  • Failing to anticipate complicated births (such as a larger baby or in cases involving maternal health issues)
  • Failing to appropriately treat bleeding or infection
  • Failing to recognize and respond to umbilical cord entrapment
  • Failing to identify and treat fetal distress
  • Failing to order a timely C-section when necessary
  • Misuse of delivery instruments (forceps, vacuum extractors, etc.)
  • Failing to diagnose or stop preterm birth
  • Medication and prescription errors

Delayed/Prolonged Birth

Any labor that lasts longer than 18 hours is considered a delayed birth. Prolonged labor puts added stress on a baby and can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, prolapsed umbilical cord, neonatal strokes, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) resulting in cerebral palsy, hypoxia and other birth injuries.

Maternal Risk Factors

In some cases, certain biological factors associated with the mother can complicate labor and delivery. For example, if the mother's umbilical cord wraps around the baby, this can reduce or cut off the baby's oxygen supply and lead to brain damage. Or, the mother's pelvis may be the wrong size or shape for an easy delivery, resulting in prolonged labor.

What's more, if the mother has certain risk factors such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), a history of premature deliveries or is considered high-risk because of her age, this can elevate the chances of a birth injury.

Infant Risk Factors (Genetics)

Certain conditions present in the baby can increase the risk of a birth injury, such as the infant's size and position in the womb. Heavier babies are more prone to birth injuries, as are infants in the breech position.


Babies born prior to the 37th week of gestation are considered premature and have a higher risk of birth injury. Since the child's vital organs and systems may not be fully developed, they may not be prepared to enter the world without medical intervention.

For instance, in some cases, a baby's lungs are not fully formed, so they require a ventilator in order to get enough oxygen to their brain. Premature babies are often put in newborn intensive care units (NICUs) for days, weeks or even months until they further develop.

Our Past Verdicts & Settlements

Birth Injury FAQ:
Common questions and answers about birth trauma

Can I sue for a birth injury?

Every birth injury lawsuit must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. While not all birth injuries constitute medical malpractice, some certainly do and the healthcare provider responsible should be held accountable. The only way to determine if you have a case is by consulting with a knowledgeable birth injury attorney in your area.

If a legal professional determines that you do in fact have a case, your lawsuit would likely fall into 1 of 2 distinct categories:

  • Medical malpractice. When preventable birth injuries cause the child to suffer catastrophic and long-term injuries that impact their quality of life, their parents can sue the negligent doctor for malpractice.
  • Wrongful death. When a birth injury results in the premature death of an unborn or newly born baby, the parents can sue the at-fault providers under Tennessee's wrongful death statute.

What damages can I recover in a birth injury lawsuit?

Under Tennessee law, compensation for a number of losses may be available to you following the success of your birth injury lawsuit, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Additional healthcare costs (physical and occupational therapy, counseling, in-home care, special home/vehicle modifications, etc.)
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of life enjoyment

How long do I have to file a birth injury claim?

In most wrongful death and medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs have a limited amount of time in which to file a claim. This legal deadline—known as the "statute of limitations"—varies by state and case type.

In Tennessee, birth injury lawsuits must be filed within 1 year from when the injury was discovered—either at birth or later. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-116).

For instance, if your baby was injured during labor, you have until your baby's 1st birthday to file a claim. However, if you didn't become aware that a birth injury occurred until much later due to development delays or learning difficulties, you have 1 year from when the injury was discovered and your child is diagnosed to file a lawsuit.

Under no circumstances can you bring a lawsuit more than 3 years after the birth injury happened, which is why you should consult with an experienced Memphis medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

How do you prove a birth injury?

One of the first and most important tasks when pursuing compensation for a birth injury is proving that your baby's trauma was preventable—in other words, showing that a doctor or medical provider was negligent in providing proper care. To accomplish this, your attorney can help establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship between you and the doctor, gynecologist, obstetrician, surgeon, hospital or another healthcare provider. Establishing this relationship means that the doctor owed you a duty of care.

Next, you'll need to demonstrate that this duty of care was "breached"—or broken—by gathering evidence, obtaining medical records and interviewing expert witnesses in the same medical field. We'll also look into the healthcare provider's history to look for a history of prior complaints. This step is known as establishing negligence.

After determining a breach of duty of care, we'll work to establish an undeniable and direct link between your baby's injury and the negligence that occurred. Causation is an essential step to successfully winning your birth injury case. The defense will likely try to make the argument that your baby's injury or condition would have happened regardless of the defendant's actions (or inaction), so it's vital you and your attorney prove otherwise by establishing a causal link.

Finally, once we've demonstrated that a duty of care was breached and causation exists, we'll show how the negligent act resulted in actual damages. Damages can be economic (such as medical bills, lost wages, disability expenses, rehabilitation and long-term assistive care) and non-economic (such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and loss of quality of life).

When to Consult a Knoxville Birth Injury Attorney

If you suspect that your baby suffered a birth injury, it may be difficult to ascertain what really happened during labor and delivery since the doctor who delivered your baby has an incentive to withhold vital information from you if medical malpractice played a role. In such cases, it's important to get a second opinion and consult with a third party about your child's injury, condition or developmental delays.

What's more, if you decide to seek compensation from a hospital or medical provider for birth injuries, you'll quickly find that these individuals and organizations will not make it easy to recover the damages you are entitled to. In fact, these multi-million dollar healthcare facilities often fight to the bitter end when accused of malpractice.

For this reason, it's essential you speak with an experienced Tennessee birth injury attorney about your legal rights. At Gilreath & Associates, we will help determine if you have a case and how much your claim is worth. Next, we'll consult with experts and gather the evidence and medical documentation we need to take the next step in securing your financial recovery—from sending a demand payment letter, to mediation and litigation, to trial and appeals, if necessary.

Whether you were a patient at the UT Medical Center, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, North Knoxville Medical Center, Turkey Creek Medical Center, Blount Memorial Hospital, Jefferson Memorial Hospital or one of the many other facilities in the Knoxville area, contact us for your free and comprehensive evaluation to learn more about your options and determine the best next step for you and your family.

From our law office in the heart of downtown Knoxville in the Bank of America building on Main Ave., we serve people in East Tennessee and across the southeast by securing the best possible outcome in their personal injury and accident cases. When you're ready to learn more about how we can help you, we invite you to reach out.

Ready to discuss your case?
Contact our Tennessee personal injury attorneys today for your free consultation.

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Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilreath & Associates offer free and personal consultation to help you evaluate your legal options.
Our attorneys are dedicated to helping you recover financially from an injury stemming from someone else's negligence.