Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of motor coordination illnesses. It develops when the centers of the brain responsible for controlling a person’s voluntary movement and physical coordination sustain damage or injury. This often occurs in newborn children during or soon after birth. It manifests as weakness or stiffness in the arms and/or legs, weakness in the limbs, an inability to stand or walk, problems with feeding and swallowing, as well as seizures and/or a degree of mental retardation.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, we are here to help. Beyond the pain and suffering of your child, your family will likely be under significant financial, physical, and emotional stress. We understand these challenges and are here to help you navigate the complex world of medical malpractice and healthcare insurance. We will help you get your child the care he or she needs and will conduct a thorough review of your case to determine how and why your child developed cerebral palsy, who, if anyone, was responsible, and what compensable damages you may be entitled to. To learn more, call us at (800) 222-9529 for a free and confidential case evaluation.
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About Cerebral Palsy
There are different types of cerebral palsy, each of which is categorized differently based on the effect the illness has on your child’s movement or the area of the brain that sustained damage. It can range from mild cerebral palsy that can be overcome with therapy and rehabilitation to severe cases that require round-the-clock care, assistance with everything from changing and feeding, learning disabilities, a total inability to walk, and difficulty controlling the mouth and keeping the head up straight.
The incidence rate of cerebral palsy in the United States is roughly 2 children out of every 1,000 live births, making it one of the most commonly-occurring developmental illnesses in children.
Here are a few important facts about cerebral palsy that parents and families of children diagnosed with this illness should know.
- The main types of cerebral palsy are spastic, athetoid, and ataxic cerebral palsy.
- Cerebral palsy is sometimes not diagnosed until the child is two or even three years old.
- In most cases, cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition and it does not worsen over time.
- The lifetime costs of treatment and therapy for children with cerebral palsy can be several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Roughly 10,000 infants develop cerebral palsy every year in the United States alone.
- Roughly 80% of all cerebral palsy cases are spastic cases in which the patient suffers from stiff and difficult movement.
- Most cases of cerebral palsy are developed before the baby reaches one month of age.
- About 70% of all children who suffer from cerebral palsy develop the condition in part due to events before birth that led to abnormal brain development.
- Developmental delays affect between 25% and 35% of all children with cerebral palsy.
- Seizures and other neurological disorders can occur with cerebral palsy.
- In severe cases, the patient may suffer problems with vision, hearing, and learning.
- Muscle and bone conditions such as weakness, atrophy, low bone density, and recurring fractures are also common in cerebral palsy cases.
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Causes of Cerebral Palsy
One of the most common causes of cerebral in newborn children is prematurity; this occurs when a baby is delivered before his or her brain is fully developed, and it is common in babies born before week 37 of the mother’s pregnancy. Children born during weeks 26-30 of gestation have an even higher risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Other causes of cerebral palsy include hypoxia or asphyxia during delivery, physical trauma, and bacterial or viral infections. Hypoxia and asphyxia are conditions in which the baby does not or cannot get the oxygen he or she needs and suffers from brain damage as a result. Trauma can occur if the medical team delivering the baby is forced to use assistive devices such as forceps or a vacuum extractor to pull on a baby that is stuck in the birth canal. Improper use of such devices or using such devices with unwarranted force can lead to brain damage. As for infections, they may lead to high blood pressure in the mother or brain swelling in the baby, and both of these situations can place undue pressure on the brain of the child, leading to bleeding and/or damage.
Premature birth, hypoxia, asphyxia, physical injuries, and infections leading to brain damage can have life-long consequences to both the baby as well as his or her family. Any situation in which a baby is diagnosed with cerebral palsy warrants a careful investigation of the circumstances surrounding the mother’s labor and the delivery itself in order to determine whether or not situations that resulted in injury could have been avoided. Such investigations involve reviewing evidence found in the medical records of the mother and the baby, the treatment that was administered before and during the delivery, scans that the neonatal team used to plan the delivery and the mother’s treatment, and the professional records of the delivery team in order to rule out (or find just cause for) medical negligence.
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How a Lawyer Can Help
If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence, you can only win compensation if you are able to prove that:
- The delivery team owed you a duty of care, meaning they were expected to act rationally and professionally in dispensing care to the mother and her child.
- That the delivery team breached or did not satisfy the duty of care.
- That injury resulted from their negligence.
To prove the above, you will need to interview the delivery team, take statements from medical and legal birth injury experts, categorize and quantify your expenses, and file a claim with the right courts within the statutes of limitations. If it can be shown that any of the conditions or events that caused your child’s cerebral palsy could have or should have been avoided, or that the delivery team owed you but did not fulfill their duty of care toward you, you may have grounds for a malpractice claim. Call us at (800) 222-9529 to speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer to learn more.