Cerebral Palsy and Medical Negligence


Cerebral Palsy is often a term used to broadly cover a variety of neurological disorders affecting an individual’s ability to control muscle function. Cerebral palsy is characterized as chronic and non-progressive, with assorted symptoms that differ from person to person. The United Cerebral Palsy Foundation estimates that as many as eight hundred thousand children and adults in the United States live with some form of the condition. It is also estimated that nearly ten thousand babies born in the United States will develop Cerebral Palsy. (Statistic courtesy of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Although some people are able to lead completely normal lives without the need for any major assistance, others may never be able to care for themselves properly. For these people, the expense of managing their condition can be astronomical.

There are essentially three main causes of Cerebral Palsy. In general, the condition is due to abnormal brain development or a brain injury in the area that controls bodily movement. For years many physicians believed Cerebral Palsy was due to complications that occurred during labor and delivery. Today, however, there seem to more definitive causes.

The first reason Cerebral Palsy can occur is due to a congenital issue. This means the abnormal brain development happened early on in the pregnancy, or that damage occurred to the white matter of the brain in later stages of pregnancy. It can also be a result of bleeding in the brain from a fetal stroke, and/or loss of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery.

A very small number of cases develop after the time of birth, but before the age of three. These cases generally come about because of a traumatic brain injury from an accident or abuse, or due to a severe illness such as meningitis.

The third, and most difficult cause of Cerebral Palsy to accept, is due to an issue that arose during the birthing process from medical negligence. This means that some action was taken by a member of the medical staff that could have or should have been avoided, resulting in an injury to the brain. These mistakes could have happened at some point during the pregnancy, during delivery, or even after delivery.

The symptoms can vary a great deal however there are some key warning signs that you should be aware of. These symptoms include: failure to reach key developmental milestones (such as walking or crawling), abnormal muscle tone (such as a floppy or stiff appearance), an early hand preference, or persistent reflexes. In order to be sure of whether or not your child has developed the condition a full medical exam needs to be carried out. This will be able to completely eliminate other movement disorders, or other types of medical conditions. It is important to note, there are several forms of Cerebral Palsy, as explained below.

Cerebral Palsy Spastic: Identifiable by awkward movements and stiff muscle tone. Other possible symptoms can include, trouble with speech, inability to eat, seizures, learning disabilities, weakness on one side of the body, and a “scissored gait”. This type of Cerebral Palsy is the most common.

Cerebral Palsy Ataxic: The most recognizable symptoms of this form of the condition include poor coordination, poor balance, and an unusually wide gait. This is the least common form of Cerebral Palsy.

Cerebral Palsy Dyskinetic: Common symptoms include floppy muscle tone, difficulty walking, difficulty sitting, involuntary movements, difficulty eating, trouble with speech, and difficulty performing everyday tasks. These symptoms may worsen under stress, yet become completely unnoticeable while sleeping.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy: This form of the disorder can cause a mixture of symptoms including floppy and stiff muscle tone, and a wide range of dyskinetic movements.

Children who experience symptoms usually also have other issues with cognition, behavior, sensations, communication, and perception. Other medical issues such as recurrences of pneumonia and seizures are common as well.

Many infants and children who suffer with Cerebral Palsy may have to be cared for by a professional over the course of their entire lifetime. This may mean regular physical, speech, drug therapy, and surgical treatments to help improve or correct abnormalities. These individuals may also require orthotic devices such as braces, walkers, wheelchairs, and even specialized communication aids such as voice synthesizers.

If you believe your child’s Cerebral Palsy was a result of medical negligence it is absolutely essential that you meet with an experienced attorney that can provide you with the assistance you need. These attorneys are a type of personal injury lawyer who know exactly how to go about obtaining the justice you deserve.

Compensation can be significant and can include: current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, financial loss, and emotional distress. In many cases, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.

Your attorney will be able to determine the validity of your claim and make sure it meets the basic principles for trial. This means you must be able to prove the medical professional did not act appropriately (within a reasonable standard of care) and that this failure resulted in the child developing Cerebral Palsy.

The process of filing this type of claim can be quite complicated. Your attorney knows exactly how to see the process through the system, obtain all necessary medical records, interview medical professionals, collect all needed evidence, and arrange for expert witnesses to testify. Since these attorneys typically work on a contingency basis, you pay nothing upfront.

If you are still unsure of whether or not you should contact an attorney, consider these facts: The cost of a lifetime of care for a child with Cerebral Palsy is over $920,000. This figure is in addition to the expenses of a person who does not have the condition and does not include costs for emergency room or hospital visits, residential care, and other miscellaneous expenses. (Statistic courtesy of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) The monetary reward you may receive cannot repair the damage that has occurred, but it can help to provide a positive future for you and your child.