Shaken Baby Syndrome Laws

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a severe brain injury caused when an infant or toddler is violently shaken. This act can lead to brain trauma, as the motion can cause the brain to move back and forth inside the skull, leading to bruising, swelling, and bleeding.

Are the Injuries from Shaken Baby Syndrome Serious?

Yes, injuries resulting from Shaken Baby Syndrome are gravely serious and can include brain damage, blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, seizures, and even death. The syndrome can also lead to long-term complications, causing pain and suffering for both the child and the family involved.

Here’s a deeper dive into how the act of shaking can lead to various injuries:

  • Brain Damage: The violent shaking associated with SBS can cause the baby’s fragile brain to move back and forth inside the skull. This motion can lead to bruising (cerebral contusions), swelling (edema), and bleeding (hemorrhages) of the brain tissues. The pressure and trauma can result in the death of brain cells and long-term cognitive issues.
  • Blindness: Retinal hemorrhages, or bleeding behind the eyes, are a hallmark sign of SBS. This type of injury is rarely caused by accidental traumas but is frequently seen in shaken babies. If severe enough, these hemorrhages can lead to visual impairment or even total blindness.
  • Hearing Loss: The violent motion can damage the inner ear structures, leading to potential hearing loss. Additionally, brain injuries associated with SBS can affect the auditory pathways and centers of the brain that process sound.
  • Learning Disabilities: Brain damage, especially in areas responsible for cognition, memory, and learning, can lead to long-term learning disabilities. Children who survive SBS might face challenges in school and might require specialized educational support.
  • Physical Disabilities: Depending on the region of the brain affected, a child can develop physical disabilities ranging from motor skill difficulties to paralysis. Some children might need physical therapy or even lifelong care.
  • Seizures: Brain injuries can lead to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, causing seizures. Some children might develop epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, leading to repeated seizures.
  • Death: In the most severe cases, the trauma from the violent shaking can be so intense that it leads to fatal brain injuries.

The impact of these injuries also extends beyond the physical harm to the child. The emotional and psychological pain and suffering experienced by the child, if they survive, and their families can be profound. The family might grapple with guilt, anger, sorrow, and the challenges of caring for a child with disabilities. Additionally, there’s a significant financial strain associated with ongoing medical treatments, therapies, and specialized care.

Can Falls Cause Similar Injuries to a Child as Shaken Baby Syndrome?

While certain severe falls can cause injuries, it is important to differentiate between injuries caused by accidental falls and those resulting from Shaken Baby Syndrome. Typically, the type and pattern of injuries from SBS are distinct and more severe than those from ordinary falls. However, medical professionals are trained to differentiate between the two to ensure accurate diagnoses and reporting.

Here’s a breakdown of the training and how they determine the nature of such injuries:’

  • Medical School and Residency: During their medical education and residency, doctors are exposed to a wide range of conditions and injuries. Pediatricians, in particular, receive specialized training in recognizing child abuse indicators, which include SBS.
  • Continuing Education: Doctors and nurses are often required to participate in continuing medical education (CME) programs. Many of these programs offer courses on child abuse recognition, including the specific signs and symptoms of SBS.
  • Forensic Training: Forensic pediatricians specialize in distinguishing between accidental and non-accidental injuries. They use a combination of medical history, physical examination, and radiological findings to draw conclusions.
  • Characteristic Injuries: Certain injuries are telltale signs of SBS, like retinal hemorrhages (bleeding behind the eyes), subdural hematomas (bleeding around the brain), and specific patterns of bone fractures. While some of these injuries can be caused by severe accidents, their presence, combined with a lack of a plausible explanation, can raise suspicion of SBS.
  • Imaging: Advanced imaging techniques, such as MRI and CT scans, can reveal specific brain injuries characteristic of shaking. These images can show patterns of injury and bleeding that aren’t typical of accidental falls.
  • Clinical Presentation: Children with SBS might present symptoms such as irritability, seizures, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or unconsciousness. While these symptoms alone aren’t definitive proof of SBS, when combined with other clinical and radiological findings, they can be indicative.
  • Differential Diagnosis: Medical professionals will consider other medical conditions that might mimic the signs of SBS. Conditions like certain types of metabolic disorders, bleeding disorders, or infections can cause similar symptoms. A thorough medical assessment helps rule out these conditions.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Doctors often work in tandem with other professionals, such as social workers, law enforcement officers, and legal professionals, to ensure a holistic approach to suspected cases of child abuse, including SBS.

False accusations can have devastating consequences for families. Hence, medical professionals take their responsibility very seriously. They use all available tools, knowledge, and collaborative efforts to ensure that their diagnoses are accurate and justifiable.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Causing Shaken Baby Syndrome?

People who are often in close contact with the child can potentially be held liable. This includes parents, guardians, day care workers, babysitters, and sometimes even older siblings:

  • Parents and Guardians: They are primarily responsible for the child’s care and well-being. When a child presents injuries consistent with SBS, parents or guardians are often the first to be questioned, as they typically have the most frequent contact with the child.
  • Day Care Workers: Entrusted with the child’s care in the parents’ absence, any sign of abuse occurring during daycare hours can make these workers liable.
  • Babysitters: Like daycare workers, babysitters are directly responsible for the child’s safety during their watch. Injuries sustained during this time could make them accountable.
  • Older Siblings: While less common, there are instances where older siblings, due to frustration or lack of understanding, may shake a younger sibling, leading to injuries. In such cases, the extent of their liability might be weighed differently, considering their age and maturity.

What If a Baby or Infant Product Caused Injury to My Infant?

If a product, such as a baby carrier or crib, is found to have caused or contributed to injuries similar to Shaken Baby Syndrome, the product might be recalled. Manufacturers can be held accountable for producing and distributing defective products. Parents and guardians should always keep an eye out for product recalls related to infant and baby items to ensure their child’s safety.

What Are the Legal Remedies in a Shaken Baby Syndrome Lawsuit?

Victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome and their families can pursue legal remedies that may include compensatory damages for medical expenses, therapy costs, pain and suffering, and, in tragic cases, funeral expenses. In cases where malice is proven, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Case?

Handling a case involving Shaken Baby Syndrome can be intricate, emotionally taxing, and legally complex. If you or someone you know is dealing with such a situation, consult with an experienced attorney.

LegalMatch can assist in connecting you with a qualified personal injury lawyer who can provide guidance, represent your interests, and ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.

Law Library Disclaimer


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer