Medical malpractice lawsuits from birth injuries are common in New Jersey, but many new parents do not know that doctors may be liable for certain birth defects as well. While birth injuries generally occur during the delivery process, defects are often the result of genetics, factors during the mother’s pregnancy or unknown causes.

As FindLaw explains, mothers can cause birth defects with alcohol, substance abuse or poor self care during pregnancy, but defects can also result from deficient medical treatment such as prescription drugs with adverse effects on fetuses.

Pharmaceuticals and birth defects

Over time, medical authorities discover that certain drugs have tragic side effects specific to pregnant women. Certain nausea and acne medications, for example, can cause birth defects or increase the likelihood of complications. For those who believe that prescription medication may have caused a birth defect, there are certain factors to consider.

Liability for birth defects from pharmaceuticals

Doctors sometimes prescribe dangerous drugs to pregnant women through negligence. In these cases, a medical malpractice suit is a viable option for the mother if she can show that the doctor reasonably should have known that the drug could cause the defect.

However, in some cases, the doctor may not be at fault under New Jersey law. A nurse, pharmacist or health care worker could have given the medication in error, or the pharmaceutical company may be liable.

Drug manufacturers have a duty to warn potential users of known side effects of their products and are liable if they do not. They often transfer this liability, however, to learned intermediaries such as doctors and pharmacists when they educate them on the medication.

Statute of limitations

After determining who is liable for a birth defect, it is a good idea to act quickly. The statute of limitations for both product liability and medical malpractice suits is two years in New Jersey for most cases. Either lawsuit will likely require extensive medical records and expert witnesses to demonstrate that the prescription caused the birth defect and not genetics or the mother’s actions.