Nothing gives people as much joy as anticipating a new baby. Unfortunately, a preventable medical error can harm your baby and result in cerebral palsy (CP), causing mental health complications such as anxiety and depression in adulthood.
If your child has cerebral palsy, consider getting legal representation about filing a lawsuit against the hospital or the medical personnel involved in the delivery process.
The law firm of Nessler & Associates has represented victims of negligence for more than 35 years. Your lawyer can work on your behalf to help you get maximum compensation for medical bills and other expenses related to your child’s disability.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Many things can cause CP, from abnormal brain development to medical negligence. Common causes include infection, genetic mutations, blood clots in the umbilical cord or placenta, an unusual inflammatory response to infection, and a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. For CP to develop, any of these injuries has to happen to the still-developing brain.
CP occurs more frequently in high-risk pregnancies, including those with threatened miscarriage, uterine infections, carrying multiple babies, high blood pressure, or hemorrhage before delivery. Premature birth is a significant risk factor, and the lower the gestational age at birth, the higher the risk.
Carrying twins doubles the risk for each baby, and twins resulting from in vitro fertilization increase the risk more than four-fold.
Signs of Cerebral Palsy at Birth
If there are any complications at birth, healthcare providers should examine your baby for birth injuries specific to hypoxia. This examination should include:
- Measuring the baby’s pH
- Seeing the presence of neonatal encephalopathy
- Finding signs of spastic quadriplegic or dyskinetic CP
- Ruling out other causes of CP
When a baby’s heart rate significantly slows down during a prolonged period after a cord prolapse, hemorrhage, or ruptured uterus, you should suspect hypoxic brain injuries. If the baby also had an Apgar score of less than four after five minutes, showed signs of multisystem organ failure, or showed early signs of brain edema or bleeding within the first five days, the hypoxic brain injury was likely a result of the delivery.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) affects, movement, muscle tone and motor skills. There are four types of CP:
Spastic cerebral palsy: This type of cerebral palsy affects the legs or one part of the body. It can affect all four limbs, the trunk, and the face, resulting in spastic quadriplegia. People with spastic quadriplegia can’t walk and have other medical conditions such as seizures and cognitive disabilities. They also have vision, hearing, or speech issues.
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: Having this condition affects the child’s ability to control their muscles, making it difficult to walk or sit. It can also make eating and speaking difficult. The muscles may be too tight one day and too loose the next, or even on the same day.
Ataxic cerebral palsy: A child with ataxic CP may have trouble with balance and coordinating their body movement. Fine motor skills like writing are incredibly challenging, and they might have difficulty controlling their arms when reaching for something.
Mixed cerebral palsy: When a child shows signs of more than one type of CP, this is known as mixed cerebral palsy. Mixed type cerebral palsy may damage parts of the brain that affect motor control and coordination.
Medical Negligence That Can Result in CP
Medical negligence is defined as a doctor or other medical professional failing to do what any reasonable doctor or another medical professional working in the same specialty would do faced with the same circumstances.
A study on CP conducted in China showed delayed delivery was the most common error associated with babies who developed CP. Some mistakes that can cause delayed delivery include:
- Underestimating the baby’s size
- Missing a breech presentation
- Failure to notice when the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the birth canal
- Misdiagnosis of umbilical cord collapse or a blood clot in the cord
- Hemorrhaging from maternal bleeding includes uterine rupture or placental abruption, where the placenta detaches from the uterus before the baby is delivered.
A 2021 research paper identified delayed or incorrect diagnosis or treatment as the top two factors in birth injuries leading to medical malpractice claims. Failure to diagnose and treat a brain bleed could lead to the development of CP, and a brain bleed could be associated with errors made during delivery, such as skull fractures due to the use of forceps.
Forms of Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the part of the body affected, a child with cerebral palsy requires various treatments to work on their sensory skills and coordination. Families can collaborate with medical providers to ensure their children receive the proper care.
A physical therapist works with your child to build and maintain muscle strength and improve balance and range of motion. The physical therapist helps your child learn to sit, walk, and use a wheelchair.
Occupational therapists help children with cerebral palsy develop the skills they need to thrive in the world around them. These therapists can teach your child to do everyday tasks like dressing, eating, and writing. These tasks allow your child to develop the motor skills they need to boost their confidence and independence in all areas of life.
If your child’s facial muscles are affected, a speech therapist can help them learn to speak more clearly, chew, and swallow. They can also help them communicate in alternative ways, such as sign language or through an assistive device.
Orthotics placed on the limbs can improve balance and movement. Other devices like walkers, scooters, and wheelchairs increase mobility.
Communication devices like computer-based machines and mobility devices like crutches and walkers increase your child’s ability to move and communicate.
Several types of medication are available for CP, including oral, injectables that go in the muscle, and infusions delivered to the spinal cord through a special pump.
Surgeons may be able to relieve some issues, like badly misplaced bones, a misaligned spine, or muscles that are too tight to allow function.
These treatments can last throughout your child’s lifetime and quickly add up in medical bills. An experienced cerebral palsy attorney with Nessler & Associates can review your child’s hospital birth records to understand the severity of your child’s CP and the treatments necessary to help them.
When to Hire a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer
The time limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois is 2 years from when you find out about the injury. If the child is under the age of 18 at the time of the injury, the time limit is 8 years. The child has until their 22nd birthday to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
If you believe that the healthcare providers who treated your baby failed to provide appropriate care and treatment, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Your birth injury lawyer will have to prove three elements to win a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit:
- The healthcare providers violated the standard of medical care during delivery
- The violation resulted in your baby’s injury
- Your baby’s injury caused significant damages
How Can You Work with a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
Your experienced lawyer can help you understand the legal process when filing a claim for medical malpractice. You can expect your lawyer to provide the following services:
Collection of evidence: Your lawyer can gather any evidence to show how your child was injured during birth, including doctors’ notes, hospital records, and witness statements from people who were present when the incident took place.
Knowledge of medical malpractice cases: The first step in a medical malpractice claim is to file an affidavit of merit showing you consulted with a qualified healthcare provider who understands the issues involved. Your lawyer has access to a network of medical expert witnesses to help with your case. A medical expert can examine your child’s medical records and provide a statement for your affidavit of merit.
Negotiations on your behalf: When you work with an attorney at Nessler & Associates, your lawyer can inform you of your medical malpractice lawsuit progress.
Since the healthcare providers and hospitals have an insurance company, your lawyer can negotiate with them for a birth injury settlement. If the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, your lawyer can take your claim to court.
Types of Damages Recoverable in Cerebral Palsy Cases
Birth injury claims should recover damages for financial and non-monetary losses. These include current and future medical expenses, necessary medical equipment, special education costs, and mental anguish.
Current medical expenses
Compensation for damages should include all medical costs related to the birth injury and CP treatment. This treatment might consist of therapies, medication, out-of-pocket expenses, assistive devices, and surgery.
Future medical bills
Your child will require long-term medical treatment related to CP, and those bills should be considered in your financial compensation request. Everything from assistive equipment to surgical treatments should be compensated. Your personal injury lawyer will consult medical experts to get a clear picture of what your child will likely require.
Quality of life
Disabled children face a lower quality of life than other children, which should be included in the damages. Participating in educational activities, sports, and social activities will be impaired. Your child’s future ongoing care costs may keep increasing, and your personal injury attorney may consider them part of your compensation.
Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer at Nessler & Associates can use their expertise to ease the financial burden that a CP diagnosis places on your family. We can handle the medical malpractice claim while you focus on adjusting to life with your new baby. Call Nessler & Associates at (800) 727-8010 to schedule your no-obligation, free legal consultation today.