Birth injuries can sometimes have devastating consequences. A diagnosis of cerebral palsy is arguably one of the worst possible outcomes for a child that is injured during childbirth. Cerebral palsy is a life-long disability that can result from minutes of oxygen deprivation during birth. Our cerebral palsy lawyers have seen first hand how this condition can lead to substantial medical expenses and make it difficult, and sometimes, impossible for a child to live a normal life. In a significant number of cases, cerebral palsy is caused by medical malpractice.
- What is Cerebral Palsy? Cerebral palsy is a group of related disorders in which the brain is not able to control and manage ordinary movement and coordination of the muscles in the body.
- What Causes Cerebral Palsy? Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a baby’s developing brain from oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or childbirth. The injury leaves the brain unable to control body movements.
- Value of CP Malpractice Cases Malpractice litigation is a viable source of financial assistance for cerebral palsy. Get insight from our attorneys on the potential value of cerebral palsy malpractice cases at settlement or trial.
- Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy The specific symptoms of cerebral palsy vary significantly depending on the CP subtype and the severity of each individual case.
- Treatment for Cerebral Palsy Cerebral palsy cannot be cured but its symptoms can be effectively managed with physical therapy, medications, and other treatment options.
- Cerebral Palsy Financial Assistance Having a child with cerebral palsy can have major financial implications, but public and private means of assistance are available.
- Cerebral Palsy and Malpractice Medical error or negligence during labor and delivery or in prenatal care are the primary causes of cerebral palsy that lead to medical malpractice litigation.
- Types of Cerebral Palsy There are 4 different recognized types of cerebral palsy: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and mixed. Each subtype has its own unique symptoms and characteristics.
- Cerebral Palsy Statistics Cerebral palsy is the leading cause of childhood disability in the world. This page summarizes the available data and statistics on cerebral palsy.
- Education Programs for Cerebral Palsy Kids with cerebral palsy may have unique education needs to accommodate their learning or physical disabilities. Learn about public programs that provide a host of educational support services to children with cerebral palsy to put your child on the best possible path to a good education.
Cerebral palsy is not a disease, but rather, a term that refers to a group of non-progressive conditions arising from an injury to the developing brain. CP affects approximately 2 in 1000 live births. It is called the most common motor disorder of childhood. But these statistics are misleading. The cerebral palsy that causes lifelong injury and often leads to medical malpractice lawsuits are much less common, affecting 1 out of approximately 12,000 live births. Incidence rates of cerebral palsy have fallen in the last decade. Obstetricians are getting smarter. But there are still too many tragedies that could have been avoided.
Children with CP experience movement and posture disturbances including muscle weakness, reduced coordination, epilepsy, disturbances of sensation, cognition, perception, behavior, communication, and secondary musculoskeletal problems.
It is important to recognize that cerebral palsy does not always result in a profound handicap. But often has significant demands on the family, the risk of depression, and high costs associated with each case of negligent care. Our attorneys have seen first hand the devastation birth injuries can bring to a family. Does a large medical malpractice settlement or verdict solve the problem? It does not. But money absolutely makes it easier to manage, today and for the rest of that child's life.
Causes of Cerebral PalsyMany children with cerebral palsy have a congenital malformation of the brain. This means that the abnormality existed at birth and was not caused by factors occurring during the birthing process. (This also means there is no viable birth injury claim.) Cerebral palsy may also occur due to brain damage sustained during labor and delivery, often resulting from a lack of oxygen to the brain or trauma experienced.
This type of damage may be due to medical malpractice of those involved in delivering the baby. Recently, infection has been shown to cause cerebral palsy. This is especially true in cases where there are no other causes of cerebral palsy in term babies.
In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers reviewed adverse birth events and possible associations with the development of cerebral palsy. The researchers identified six labor and delivery process events which could lead to cerebral palsy, these include:
- placental abruption
- uterine rupture during labor
- fetal distress (nonreassuring heart rate)
- birth trauma
- cord prolapse
Determining the cause of cerebral palsy often takes years. However, many signs and symptoms are present and prominent following birth and in early childhood. In cases where cerebral palsy is a result of intrapartum damage, neonatal encephalopathy is present. Neonatal encephalopathy is defined as abnormal neurological findings presenting within 12–24 hours after birth in conjunction with signs of cortical dysfunction, including lethargy, stupor and in severe cases, seizures. Signs of CP that may be present in early life include difficulties breathing, low APGAR score, significantly missing developmental milestones, abnormal bone growth, difficulty or inability to walk, spasticity, and lack of muscle tone.
There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. But many affected CP victims can lead to more productive and satisfying lives due to advances made in modern therapy and technology. Physical therapy is used in children with cerebral palsy to improve overall functional outcomes by reducing neurologic impairments, increasing physical strength and preventing the development of secondary impairments. Many intervention strategies focus on the reduction of spasticity, which is one of the most notable impairments associated with cerebral palsy. Researchers are also working on determining the role of cord blood therapy for treating cerebral palsy. This is exciting. As these advances continue, so will the percentage of cerebral palsy victims who can rely on medicines and other treatment modalities to manage the symptoms of cerebral palsy to live more functional lives.Cerebral Palsy and Medical Malpractice
The exact cause(s) and pathogenesis of cerebral palsy are not fully understood. Several factors may lead to cerebral palsy.
There is a large dispute in the medical community as to the percentage of cerebral palsy cases that are the result of medical malpractice. Every time you turn your head, there is a new study that suggests that CP is caused by some other factor than malpractice. But so many of these are researchers with an anti-malpractice bias. Often, the study has complaints about malpractice lawsuits in the text of the study's results. It is ridiculous. Still, we can agree that not every case of spastic paralysis is medical malpractice.
In figuring out whether medical malpractice is the cause of the child's CP, the key is what was the condition of the child when the doctor began treating the mother. On this issue, the fetal heart rate is critical. Certainly, the first warning sign for a doctor is the absence of fetal heart rate accelerations or other fetal heart rate abnormalities. Acceleration is an abrupt increase in fetal heart rate accelerations above baseline with onset to the peak of the acceleration less than 30 seconds and less than 2 minutes in duration.
Besides the absence of accelerations, the fetal admission test is also critical. A fetal admission test may include monitoring the fetal heart using a Doppler ultrasound transducer, uterine contractions, sound-provoked fetal movement, fetal breathing, and amniotic fluid volume. Doctors have to see the signs and correctly interpret these tests. But doctors have to treat both patients and look for other warning signs, even when these tests appear to indicate that the child is neurologically intact. Statute of Limitations in Cerebral Palsy Cases The statute of limitations in a cerebral palsy case varies by state. In Maryland, the statute of limitations in a cerebral palsy case is complicated. The child's claim is cut and dry. The child has a claim before his or her 21st birthday. The parents also have a claim in birth injury cases for, among other things, medical expenses. In one technical sense, there is an obligation to bring this case within three years. But Maryland courts have relaxed this requirement in many cases (Garay and Pepper).Do You and Your Child Need a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
If you believe your child has cerebral palsy as the result of medical malpractice, we will do everything we can to help you and to get to the truth. Call to talk directly to an attorney at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.More Information About Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
- Cerebral palsy frequently asked questions
- More on CP Claims
- Take a look at a sample lawsuit on behalf of a child with CP filed to better understand the issues in these cases
- Types of Birth Injuries During Pregnancy
- Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions
- What you need to do to get a malpractice case going
- What is ataxic cerebral palsy?
- What is diplegic cerebral palsy?