Our law firm handles cerebral palsy lawsuits in Baltimore. There is confusion about CP lawsuits and about cerebral palsy in general. This post hopes to help some clear up some of the confusion and get a clear picture of the landscape of cerebral palsy in general and the litigation landscape of in CP birth injury suits.
Some lawyers and defense experts in birth injury cases want the jury to think the cerebral palsy is a disease. Cerebral palsy is not a disease. Rather CP is a group of disorders in which the brain is unable to control muscle movement, coordination, and balance. The term cerebral references the brain and palsy is a medical term that refers to paralysis or weakness. CP is caused by a particular type of damage to the brain during developmental stages.
CP and its physical symptoms can vary significantly. Individuals with relatively minor cases of CP might just walk with a slight limp or awkward gait. I have one friend who has CP who got off to a tough start but does really well and, at this point, no one knows she has CP. A severe case of CP might leave the person completely unable to walk at all.
CP is thankfully not a progressive disorder meaning the symptoms do not get worse over time. In addition to physical movement limitations, most people with CP also have other related conditions such as mental impairment, seizures, vision & hearing impairment or speech problems.
Different Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are several different types or categories of CP. The type of CP is generally based on the main type of movement or muscle control disorder involved. The 4 primary types of Cerebral Palsy are:
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP. About 81% of all cerebral palsy cases are classified as Spastic CP. Spastic CP is characterized by disability muscle stiffness in a particular part of the body.
- Diplegia: With this Spastic CP subtype the muscle stiffness usually occurs only in the legs and lower body. The upper body is typically not impacted. Individuals with spastic diplegia CP are not able to walk normally because the stiffness in their lower body muscles pulls their legs and knees inward.
- Hemiplegia: This subtype of Spastic CP involves muscle stiffness on just one side of the body. Typically the arm and upper body are more limited than the lower body and leg.
- Quadriplegia: This is the most debilitating form of Spastic CP. With Spastic Quadriplegia CP the entire body – including all 4 limbs and the face – are disabled by muscle stiffness. Individuals with this type of Spastic CP are typically unable to walk at all and usually suffer from other problems including mental delays, seizures, vision, hearing and speech issues.
Dyskinetic CP involves muscles that contract from overly stiff to overly loose. The involuntary muscle movements can be slow or very rapid. The arms and legs are both usually affected. In some cases, the face and mouth are plagued making it very difficult for the person to talk and/or swallow.
The characteristic feature of Ataxic CP is lack of body coordination and balance. People with this type of CP are often wobbly and unsteady when walking. They have difficulty moving quickly or engaging in fine motor skills such as writing.
Some cases of cerebral palsy involve a mix of 2 or more of the CP types described above. Spastic-Dyskinetic is the most frequent type of Mixed CP. Mixed CP varies in severity also.
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
As explained above, cerebral palsy is not a specific disorder but rather an umbrella term for a group of related movement disorders resulting from injury to the brain during pregnancy, childbirth, and early infancy. In most cases, CP results from an interruption of oxygen to the brain during pregnancy or childbirth. This means a baby is essentially born with some type of CP. The signs and symptoms of CP are not always immediate, however, so a diagnosis of CP might not come until weeks or months after birth.
The symptoms of CP are usually painfully obvious in toddlers and in babies older than 13 months. Identifying symptoms and diagnosis CP in younger babies is not as easy. Regardless of age, the signs and symptoms of CP will also vary in each individual case depending on the type and severity of CP. Below are some of the common hallmarks of CP at various stages of development:
Signs of CP in Babies Under 6 Months:
- Limp neck or inability to lift and control head
- Baby feels floppy (like a “rag doll”) when picked up
- Baby feels overly stiff when picked up
- When held baby feels like he is stretching his back and neck as if pushing away
- Baby’s legs become cross or scissor with abnormal stiffness
- Abnormal muscle stiffness or sudden contractions (spastic paralysis)
Signs of CP in Babies Over 6 Months:
- Not able to roll over
- Unable to bring hands together
- Difficulty bringing hands to mouth
- Using only one hand or side while other remains fisted or stiff
- Involuntary movements
- Failure to meet development milestones
- Abnormal posture
- Speech, hearing or vision difficulties
Signs of CP in Babies Over 10 Months:
- Awkward crawling where baby appears to favor one side while dragging the other
- Does not crawl on all fours and instead drags butt or hops on knees
- Poor fine motor skills
- Limited range of motion
- Slow development
Pediatricians will easily recognize the signs and symptoms of CP and be able to diagnose the condition early on. If you are concerned about whether your baby might have Cerebral Palsy your first step should be to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain during the critical stages of development – pregnancy, birth, and early infancy. Damage or injury to the brain during this key point causes the brain to develop and form abnormally. The exact type and source of damage or injury to the brain varies in each individual case.
We can argue about how frequently cerebral palsy is caused by medical malpractice. Plaintiffs’ lawyers tend to think every CP case is malpractice and defense lawyers seemingly think CP cannot be caused by malpractice. The real answer lies between these extreme positions.
There are several recognized categories of brain damage resulting in CP:
- Prenatal Cell Migration Interruption: something disrupts or interferes with the normal migration of brain cells during early formation stages.
- Prenatal Myelin Issues: Myelin (also known as “white matter”) is a special fatty substance in the body that covers and insulates nerve fibers. When a developing fetus has poor myelin insulation it cannot slow and interrupt the development of the brain.
- Birth Injuries: perinatal brain injuries from the temporary interruption of oxygen to the brain during childbirth is one of the most common causes of CP. Unfortunately, this is often the result of a preventable medical error.
- Postnatal Brain Development: trauma, infection or other events in early infancy can disrupt the normal development of brain cells and cause CP.
Life Expectancy for Children with CP
Unfortunately, some individuals with cerebral palsy have a reduced life expectancy. Remember, I said some, not all. Many CP victims are happy people with normal life spans. But CP cases with severe mental/cognitive disability or severe physical impairment are most the likely to reduce life expectancy. The decrease in life expectancy is based in no small measure to the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Claims in Baltimore
Not all cases of CP are the result of medical negligence. But the undeniable fact is that many children end up with CP because the OBGYN or labor & delivery staff at the hospital made a mistake or mishandled a situation. Even a short loss of oxygen to the brain during childbirth can result in serious injury to a baby. Cerebral palsy is probably one of the most devastating childbirth injuries. A child with CP will be disabled and limited for the rest of their life.
Doctor and hospitals rarely come forward and simply admit that they made a mistake. This is particularly true when their negligence results in a serious condition like cerebral palsy. If your child was born with CP as a result of medical negligence or error – you have every right to seek financial compensation for the lifetime of hardship and difficulties that you and your child will have to endure. If you want compensation, you will need to take action. The first step in getting financial compensation is consulting an experienced Baltimore birth injury attorney. Use the links below to find additional information on CP malpractice lawsuits in Baltimore:
- Settlement Value of a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
- Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Verdicts & Reported Settlements
- Determining Whether Your Child’s CP was Caused by Malpractice
- Sample CP Lawsuits
- Baltimore Birth Injury Malpractice Cases
- Step-by-Step Overview of the Birth Injury Malpractice Lawsuit Process
Contact Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Attorneys at Miller & Zois
Miller & Zois is one of the most successful and well regarded medical malpractice law firms in Baltimore. Our malpractice attorneys have developed particular expertise in claims involving cerebral palsy and other birth injuries. Compare the results achieved by Miller & Zois to any other birth injury firms in Baltimore. What is more, our team cares about these children and their parents. Call me today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online case evaluation.