Cerebral palsy can be a devastating injury for the whole family. Cerebral palsy is a motor disability that often impacts children and stays with them for the rest of their lives. Depending on the type and severity of the palsy, it can impact a person’s ability to move, get around, and even communicate. There are treatment options to alleviate some of the effects of cerebral palsy but there is no known cure.
There may be a number of different causes of cerebral palsy but it generally involves some damage or abnormal development in the brain. Damage to the brain can occur during the development of the fetus, during pregnancy, during childbirth, or after the child is born. Serious damage to a child’s brain can cause permanent mental and physical disabilities.
When a medical professional fails to provide proper care to a child or pregnant mother, it can be the cause of cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy birth injuries can be tragic and injury victims should be able to be compensated for their losses. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help the child and family recover damages when a doctor causes a serious birth injury, including cerebral palsy.
A medical malpractice lawsuit is generally used to recover damages for injuries caused by medical mistakes. However, a doctor, clinic, or hospital could also be liable for healthcare information privacy violations. A civil lawsuit may allow you to recover damages for the harm caused by a security breach that violates your privacy rights. If you have questions about hospital security breaches and your rights, contact a law firm with a record of success.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a motor disability disorder. Cerebral palsy (CP) can be caused by abnormal brain development or brain damage. CP can cause problems with a person’s ability to control motor function and muscles. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that cause problems with movement, balance, and posture.”
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability for children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1 in 345 children in the U.S. have CP. Cerebral palsy in children can be more common when a child is born at a low birth weight or is born prematurely.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are several types and levels of cerebral palsy, which can impact different muscle groups, coordination, muscle tone, and balance. It can also be classified based on gross and fine motor function, communication, and which limbs are impacted. The primary types of cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic cerebral palsy
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
- Ataxic cerebral palsy
- Mixed cerebral palsy
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic CP is the most common type of muscle disorder in children. According to the CDC, almost 83% of children identified with CP have spastic CP. Spastic CP is associated with stiff and jerky movement caused by hypertonia, or increased muscle tone. Children with this type of CP may have problems moving because muscle signals are sent through the injured or damaged part of the brain and may not move correctly.
Spastic CP can be caused by damage to the neurons in the brain (corticobulbar tract) and spinal cord (corticospinal tract) in an area that controls muscle function. These types of injuries are commonly caused by traumatic birth injuries, lack of oxygen during birth, abnormal brain development, or other types of birth injuries.
The effects of this type of palsy can affect the upper limbs, lower limbs, facial muscles, and speech. Spasticity in the upper limbs can affect how the fingers, wrist, and elbows are bent, making it more difficult to get dressed, wash, brush teeth, eat or drink, write, and handle objects. In the lower limbs, it can affect a person’s ability to stand, walk, or run. Face, tongue, and vocal muscles can result in slurred speech and imprecise speaking.
Spasticity can change how it appears over time in someone with CP. Spasticity can lead to muscle stiffness, atrophy in unused muscles, and fibrosis. Muscle growth problems can impair achievement of the full range of motion for limbs. Spastic CP can cause muscle pain and deformities of the bone, joints, and spine.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic CP is generally caused by damage or underdevelopment in the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia has a complex involvement in movement-related functions. When the area of the brain has been damaged, it can be characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that appear to be slow twisting movements, repetitive movement, or awkward posture. Slow or rapid movement can be painful. The impairment can be aggravated by lack of sleep, anxiety, or emotional triggers.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic CP is less common and is characterized by shaky movements in different parts of the body. People with this type of CP may appear clumsy, unstable, unsteady, or appearing to have tremors. It can also cause problems with balance and depth perception. Ataxia generally involves damage to the cerebellum, which can control the sense of balance. At rest, ataxia may not appear to be a problem but occurs when the individual attempts to move, walk, get up, or pick up objects.
Mixed CP involves a combination of different types of palsy. Mixed CP can occur when there is damage or development problems in different areas of the brain.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy in Children and Babies?
There are a number of possible causes of cerebral palsy in children. Generally, CP is caused by abnormal development in the brain or brain damage during development, delivery, or after birth when the child’s brain is still developing. Some CP cases are congenital and the exact cause of brain damage or developmental problems may not be known. Risk factors for CP may include:
- Low birth weight (under 5 ½ pounds at birth)
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Premature birth (before the 37th week of pregnancy)
- Assistive reproductive technology (ART) fertility treatment
- Infections during pregnancy
- Birth complications
- Jaundice and kernicterus
- Certain medical conditions of the mother
How Do I Know If My Child Has Cerebral Palsy?
Different types of brain injuries can present in different ways, depending on the age of the child. Many brain injuries are not evident when the child is born. Newborns and infants can have muscle disorders that do not appear out-of-the-ordinary until they continue to develop. Even after the child is showing signs of a movement disorder, first-time parents may not be familiar with the irregular development, which can delay diagnosis.
Global developmental delay (GDD) is a term for evaluating mental and physical development as a child grows. Developmental milestones are based on the child’s age and when they can achieve development in motor skills; speech and cognitive function; and social and emotional development. For example, the CDC has developmental milestones based on young children at 2, 4, 6, and 9-months-old, then at 1-year, 1 ½ years, and every following year up to age 5.
In young children, signs of possible motor function impairment can involve when a child can hold up their head, push up, roll over, crawl, and stand and walk. Children with CP may have delayed function in all of these milestones for children up to about the age of 1. Children with CP may also have irregular responses to making sounds, using words, and movement and response to sounds and people.
Cerebral palsy can present in different ways, depending on the type and location of the palsy. It can also range from more minor cases to severe impairment. Cerebral palsy in a child can cause delays in development, reaching milestones, speech development, and movement development. Some of the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy in a young person may include:
- Stiff muscles and spastic movement
- Variations in muscle tone and rigidity
- Lack of coordination
- Favoring one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking or eating
If you are concerned about your child’s development or suspect a birth injury, make sure you talk to your doctor. If you want to know about your legal rights if your child may have suffered a birth injury like cerebral palsy, talk to an experienced birth injury attorney about your options to recover damages.
How Do I Know If CP Was Caused By Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a complex issue. It may be impossible to know if a birth injury was caused by medical malpractice before you speak to an attorney. However, there may be indicators that your child’s brain injury was caused by medical mistakes. If you feel like something went wrong, it may be a good idea to trust your instincts and talk to a birth injury lawyer about your case.
Medical malpractice that increases the risk of a brain injury can occur at any time during pregnancy, birth, or even after the child is born. However, if your doctor, hospital, or other medical professionals failed to provide proper care, it could have increased the risk of brain damage in your child. Some ways that cerebral palsy can be caused by medical malpractice include:
- Failure to monitor the fetus
- Failure to monitor the mother
- Failure to get informed consent for medical procedures
- Birth infections caused by improper sterilization practices
- Medical employees acting outside the scope of their ability
- Improper medication
- Anesthesia errors
- Intubation errors
- Improper delivery techniques
- Improper fertility treatment
- Failure to evaluate genetic, chromosomal, or blood conditions
- Improper diagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Delayed delivery
- Improper C-section procedures
What Are the Lifetime Costs of a Cerebral Palsy Injury?
When caring for your child, you will do whatever it takes to provide the best care to give your child the best opportunities for a healthy and happy life. Unfortunately, the reality of healthcare in the U.S. is that cost of care is a factor in providing medical care. The lifetime care costs of a birth injury can be staggering. Costs associated with a cerebral palsy injury can include:
- Emergency care
- Hospital stays
- Special education
- Medical devices
- Diagnostic testing
- Physical therapy
- Mobility devices
- Occupational therapy
- Home modifications
There may also be future costs of care that you are not expecting. If your child suffers a serious birth injury, they will need continuing care after the parents are no longer able to care for their child. This may include in-home nursing, residential care, and long-term care.
According to the CDC, in 2013, the estimated lifetime economic costs associated with cerebral palsy were $921,000. However, adjusted for inflation, that amount is more than $1.3 million in 2021. If inflation continues to rise, with healthcare outpacing other areas of expense, a family could be looking at more than one and a half million dollars in lifetime economic costs associated with CP.
Damages in a Birth Injury Claim
There are other economic costs of a birth injury. Children with severe cerebral palsy may be limited in their job prospects. Without the same access to a future income, damages may include loss of economic opportunity from not being able to work. In addition, there are non-economic damages that can be more difficult to assess.
Non-economic damages may include the losses associated with the injury that do not have a clear or definite economic value but are still evident. Non-economic damages in a birth injury case can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment in life
Help Filing a CP Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice cases are complex and there is a lot at stake. The hospital and the insurance company can be tough to deal with and it can be very comforting to have experienced trial attorneys on your side with a cerebral palsy injury case. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you recover the maximum compensation available for your future.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Gilman & Bedigian can evaluate your medical malpractice case and help you understand your rights. Talk to experienced birth injury trial attorneys who can review your case and help you understand your legal options with a medical malpractice injury. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.