Learning that your premature infant has suffered a damaging diagnosis like NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) can devastate the entire family. For many families, including those whose premature infants received cow’s milk-based fortifier or formula in the NICU, that diagnosis changed their lives.
An estimated 25 percent of infants diagnosed with NEC will die. Others will go on to suffer life-altering complications.
Filing an NEC lawsuit can help your family recover considerable compensation for the losses you may have faced. How much compensation can you expect for an NEC lawsuit? Life altering dianosises like NEC not only encompass injury and complications for the child but for the mother too, so determining the value of your claim requires an experienced NEC lawyer who can walk you through the legal process.
NEC Lawsuits Acknowledge Both Parent and Infant Injury
When a premature infant suffers an NEC diagnosis, it causes devastation for both parent and child. A parent with a child in the NICU may face immense emotional distress, struggle to bond with the child, or face a range of frustrating challenges while supporting the child. On the other hand, infants may suffer significant pain and diminished overall quality of life following an NEC diagnosis.
NEC lawsuits acknowledge the suffering faced by both parent and the injuries of the child.
Breaking Down the Compensation You May Deserve for Necrotizing Enterocolitis Diagnosis
A child's NEC diagnosis may lead to substantial financial losses and immense stress. A personal injury attorney cannot guarantee the compensation you will recover for the damages sustained by your child and your family. However, they can help you identify the factors that can influence your claim and the compensation you can recover. They can break down your financial losses and help you determine how much compensation you may ultimately pursue.
Compensation for Medical Bills Directly Related to NEC
On average, treatment for NEC costs between $138,000 and $238,000, depending on the extent of the damage and the length of the child’s NICU stay. Medical costs may continue to rise the longer the infant remains in the NICU: Some parents may pay as much as $3,500 or more for every day the child spends in the NICU.
In addition, many children may face the need for significant procedures and treatments for an NEC diagnosis. A child diagnosed with NEC may receive extra oxygen and antibiotics for infection. Because the child must remain isolated to prevent the spread of infection or to lower the risk of passing on further bacteria, caregivers may need a constant supply of new protective gear and gowns. Infants may also need frequent X-rays and tests to help monitor the progression of the infection.
Infants with a severe case of NEC may require surgical treatment to remove the diseased area of the intestine or bowel. In some cases, doctors may need to remove so much tissue that the child will require an ostomy: an opening on the abdomen to help the child receive nutrients or eliminate waste. These procedures may further increase the medical costs faced by the family. In many cases, infants who require an ostomy, particularly those who will require lifelong use of medical assistance, will need ongoing medical care and treatment.
Parents may also need to exercise additional caution when caring for a child with NEC once the child returns home. The child might not have the capacity to go to daycare or normal preschool. In some cases, the child may need ongoing treatment in the home, including regular visits from a nurse to help with the ostomy, particularly until parents become more comfortable with the equipment.
As part of an NEC lawsuit, parents can pursue compensation for the cost of medical treatment for NEC. Parents may need to work with a lawyer to help break down the costs directly associated with NEC compared to the cost of treatment for other conditions faced by premature infants, who may have already required a stay in the NICU before NEC development.
Compensation for Diminished Earning Capacity for Parents
When parents find their children facing severe health challenges, they may need to miss time at work to remain with the child. In some cases, parents may even lose their job because they need to spend time with a child recovering from an NEC diagnosis.
In addition, parents whose children face life-altering consequences from NEC may not have the capacity to work because one parent must remain at home to care for the child. In that case, the parents might have the right to claim compensation for lost earning capacity or future lost earnings. Talk to a lawyer about how having a child with NEC has impacted your income and whether you expect to remain out of work short-term or long-term, based on your child’s needs and ongoing condition.
Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Like many lawsuits, NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) lawsuits typically include compensation for the pain and suffering faced by both infant and child. Infants who suffer from NEC may have a long stay in the NICU, often isolated from their parents.
They may experience immense physical pain, both immediately after the diagnosis and as they receive treatment. In some cases, NEC can also cause ongoing suffering for the infant that may last long after the initial incident. For example, the child may experience decreased enjoyment of life due to the inability to take food by mouth.
In addition, an NEC diagnosis can cause immense trauma and suffering for the parents of the infant. Having a child in the NICU can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, including enhanced postpartum depression. Parents may also suffer from immense emotional distress as they watch their child undergo dangerous procedures following an NEC diagnosis.
Talk to your lawyer about how the NEC diagnosis has affected your family and what changes the diagnosis forced on you.
Wrongful Death Compensation
If your infant died of NEC due to formula feeding in the NICU, you might deserve compensation for your little one’s death.
In addition to claiming medical costs and pain and suffering, you can also claim compensation for:
- Funeral costs
- Burial expenses
- Loss of your infant’s presence in your life
Talk to a wrongful death lawyer about the compensation you may deserve when you lose your infant to NEC due to formula feeding in the NICU. A lawyer can help you get a better idea of your next steps and how much compensation to expect.
Who Bears Liability for NEC Diagnoses After Formula Feeding in the NICU?
Lawsuits against Similac and Enfamil allege that the formula companies failed to provide adequate information about the potential risks associated with formula feeding. Although the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding in 2011 clearly outlined the risks potentially associated with formula feeding, including the increased risk of developing NEC, formula companies continue to push the importance of formula to many parents.
Not only that, both Enfamil and Similac continue to market formula and cow’s milk-based fortifiers specifically designed for premature infants. These formulas and fortifiers can put infants at much higher risk of both developing NEC and developing NEC that may require surgical treatment or result in the infant’s death.
Dangerous Marketing Practices
Similac and Enfamil both have marketing campaigns designed to push the reliability and importance of formula feeding. Even the cans of formula themselves may make parents feel pressured to choose formula instead of breastfeeding. For example, Enfamil’s NeuroPro EnfaCare markets itself as “clinically proven for continued catch-up growth.” Both EnfaCare and Similac’s Neosure note that they contain DHA, designed to help nourish and build the brain.
Formula manufacturers may also try to convince parents that their products have ingredients specifically geared toward the various stages of an infant’s birth, including premature infants, who, according to those standards, may need additional caloric support to maximize brain and body development.
In reality, however, research shows that a human milk diet offers the best chance of healthy growth, including a significantly decreased risk of developing NEC in the NICU. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and doctors to seek out donor milk sources when the mother's milk remains unavailable to the infant for any reason. Unfortunately, formula manufacturers continue with their dangerous marketing practices, making formula readily available and pushing its importance until even doctors may not fully realize the risks of formula-feeding premature infants.
Lack of Labeling
Products designed for infants must adhere to stringent labeling requirements, including clear dangers the product poses to infants. Infant formula manufacturers often include warnings on ready-to-drink formula, noting that parents should not microwave the milk due to the risk of scalding. Those bottles, however, contain no such warning about the increased risk of developing NEC, even on bottles specifically marketed toward premature infants. As a result, formula companies may bear liability for the damage those infants face. Speaking with an experienced product liability lawyer can help you discover all your legal recovery options.
What if I Receive a Settlement Offer From the Formula Manufacturer?
Formula manufacturers have dealt with several NEC-related lawsuits due to the immense damages faced by many families whose infants have spent time in the NICU. As a result, they may try to head off lawsuits by offering an early settlement that seems to provide compensation for the injuries your infant may have faced.
However, a settlement offer from the formula manufacturer may not include the total compensation your family deserves after an NEC diagnosis. Talk to a lawyer about the specific financial losses your family faced and how that NEC diagnosis affected your whole family to get a better idea of how much compensation you should expect and how to protect your family.
How Can I Maximize Compensation Through an NEC Lawsuit?
An NEC lawsuit cannot take away the suffering your family has faced or the trauma of the NICU. However, it can help reimburse your family for some of the financial losses you may have faced and make it easier for you to manage the expenses often associated with caring for a higher-needs or premature infant. Maximizing that settlement can make it easier for you to rebuild your lives and handle your child's needs.
1. Talk to a lawyer.
The right personal injury attorney can help parents whose infants suffered an NEC diagnosis pursue maximum compensation for the losses faced by the family. An experienced team of lawyers can help support you as you manage your claim, from helping you break down the financial losses you faced to guiding you through the claim process. They can also help represent you to the insurance company, making it easier for you to maximize the compensation you may ultimately recover.
2. Collect and calculate your NEC-related expenses.
To file a claim for the damages your child and your family suffered as a result of an NEC diagnosis, you may need to look at the financial losses your family has sustained and what steps you may need to take next.
Talk to your lawyer about any complications that may have emerged from your child's NEC diagnosis, how much time your child spent in the NICU, and any procedures your child may have faced. A lawyer can help you calculate all of the expenses associated with NEC so you can include them in your lawsuit.
3. Avoid talking to the insurance company or representatives from the company yourself, when possible.
Sometimes, they may want to use that information against you, including showing that the NEC diagnosis has not left as many challenges for your family as you initially claimed.
Did your child suffer a devastating NEC diagnosis due to Similac or Enfamil consumption in the NICU? A personal injury attorney can help. Contact a personal injury attorney today for a free consultation that will help you learn more about your rights, including the process of filing an NEC lawsuit.