Shaken Baby or Child Head Trauma

When a child suffers a head injury it can often have tragic results and even lead to the death of the child. Determining how the child was injured is a priority for law enforcement. But it can be a difficult task.

If the child passed away and no one witnessed the child being injured it can be next to impossible to determine how the child died.  Even if the child survives, he or she may be brain damaged to the point of not being able to communicate about what occurred or may be too young to verbalize what happened.

Occasionally, the death of or injury to a child will be blamed on the adult caregiver who last had the child prior to the child’s hospitalization for the injury.  This often occurs when a child is hospitalized with a severe head injury and the caregivers can give no explanation for what occurred, or the explanation given does not explain the extent of the child’s injuries.  For example, a child rolling off a bed onto a carpeted floor will not result in a skull fracture with petechial hemorrhaging. In a case where a caregiver is charged with a crime against the child it is common to see an unexplained skull fracture, swelling to the head, subdural hematoma, and petechial hemorrhaging to the eye or eyes of the child.

Law enforcement will also look for other injuries to the body of the child such as bruising on the arms or torso which would indicate that the child was held tightly and shaken or slammed against a hard surface.  Other injuries indicative of abuse can be fresh or healing fractured bones.

In some cases, there is no visible injury to the child’s head and much of the injury takes place internally, in the child’s brain.  In a shaken baby case where there is no visible injury to the child it is very important to get an accurate timeline of who was with the child in the hours and days leading up to the child’s hospitalization for its injuries.  If the child has minimal or no visible injuries, it is feasible that the last person who was with the child had no idea the child was injured before the child came into their care.

Even a child with a severe skull fracture may have no visible external injuries.  Some signs that indicate a child is suffering from head trauma are vomiting, confusion, lack of use of one side of the body (stoke like symptoms), seizures, increased fussiness or inconsolable crying, or lack of appetite.  Some of these symptoms can even be written off as typical baby behavior. If you have any reason to believe a child in your care has suffered a head injury, immediately seek medical assistance and contact the parents of the child or the last adult who was caring for the child to determine the child’s history. It is important to take these measures as immediately as possible, as a Decatur criminal lawyer can explain.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into shaken baby or child head trauma.