Proposed law would set up birth injury fund in Maryland

Medical malpractice cases involving birth injuries have resulted in some very large jury verdicts in recent years in Maryland. In response, Maryland hospitals are backing House and Senate bills in the General Assembly that would set up a no-fault fund to compensate birth injury victims.

Under the proposed law, hospitals in the state would contribute $25 million a year to the fund. The fund would provide compensation for medical bills and living expenses for any infant who suffered a neurological injury due to actions taken by hospital personnel. Claims would be handled through an administrative process rather than through civil lawsuits. Virginia and Florida have had such funds in place since the 1980s.

The size of the proposed fund is based on an actuarial estimate indicating that about seven cases would qualify for compensation each year. One lawyer who represents malpractice victims argued at a recent hearing on the bill that this estimate is far too small, and that the true number of birth injuries in the state is closer to 150 every year.

It is too early to tell if this bill will become law in Maryland. Currently, the civil lawsuit system provides a fair and thorough process for deciding whether a medical error caused an injury, and determining the amount necessary to compensate the victim. Birth injuries can be traumatizing in many ways. Not only do they turn what should be a joyful occasion into a tragic one, but they often lead to the need for long-term medical and rehabilitative care. This kind of care is extremely expensive, and it's crucial for families affected by birth injury to have the compensation they need to handle these costs.

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