Cerebral Palsy From Medical Malpractice: What You Should Know
Caring for a child with a permanent medical condition is emotionally and financially trying. It is especially heartbreaking when a healthy child is injured by a medical team member assisting in the birth.
This form of medical malpractice will affect the child’s family for the rest of their lives.
This page will discuss a few types of traumatic birth defects, also known as congenital disabilities, particularly traumatic brain injury and Cerebral Palsy. Medical malpractice can be a contributing factor in some cases.
To receive compensation, families must file a lawsuit to advocate for damages. These damages can help pay for medical treatment and provide financial security so that a medical mistake does not bankrupt a family. If you are interested in pursuing a medical malpractice suit, speak to an experienced attorney who can help you fight for the maximum amount of damages for which you qualify.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy Overview and Types
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that impact a person’s mobility, balance, and posture. It is caused by atypical brain development or damage to a young brain, as can happen in a malpractice case when the baby does not receive enough oxygen.
Cerebral refers to the brain. Palsy indicates that this abnormal brain development or injury can cause the person to have less control or no control over some muscles. You may have heard of spastic, dyskinetic, or ataxic Cerebral Palsy. These describe some different types of movement issues that relate to damage in specific parts of the brain.
Individuals with Cerebral Palsy may have vastly different symptoms and levels of impairment. Some might walk a little haltingly but be able to live independently and lead relatively normal lives. Others with Cerebral Palsy may need to use special equipment and require lifelong assistance.
Cerebral Palsy is defined by poor motor control, but people can have other symptoms as well. Some people living with cerebral palsy have trouble hearing, seeing, and speaking. Others have curved spines or “contractures,” the medical term for a body part that becomes fixed in a rigid, deformed position. Some people with Cerebral Palsy suffer from seizures. Some have intellectual disabilities.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Cerebral Palsy does not worsen over time, but an individual’s exact constellation of symptoms can change.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Doctors usually diagnose Cerebral Palsy in older children, but some symptoms can begin to emerge in the first year of a baby’s life.
Infants younger than six months may appear either stiff or “floppy,” according to the CDC. When picked up, they are slower to lift their heads and often cross or scissor their legs. These babies often seem to lean away from people who hold them.
As the babies get older, they will not reach motor control milestones on schedule. They do not roll or bring their hands together or to the mouth. They may favor one side of the body if they crawl, appearing to drag the other side behind.
Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Traumatic Congenital Disabilities
Birth injuries or traumatic congenital disabilities occur when an otherwise healthy baby is hurt in the womb or, more commonly, during labor and delivery.
In the United States, around six to eight out of every thousand babies suffer a birth injury. Some cause minor or short-term health issues, but others can lead to lifelong impairment. Some are so severe that the newborn does not survive.
We have already discussed Cerebral Palsy, a traumatic brain injury caused by the baby receiving insufficient oxygen. The effect is similar to an adult who comes close to drowning but survives with persistent health problems.
Medical staff can also damage the head and nervous system of a newborn in other ways, such as:
- Instrument-assisted deliveries can overextend the spine, leading to temporary paralysis or permanent nerve damage.
- Trauma to the head can cause a skull fracture and intracranial hemorrhage.
- Forceps may pinch a facial nerve.
Other birth injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Untreated umbilical cord prolapse or strangulation
Doctors must also provide timely and appropriate medical care for other risky conditions that can endanger the mother and child if not adequately treated. These conditions can include placental abnormalities, Rh incompatibility, pre-eclampsia, and maternal infection.
Some potentially hazardous conditions are rare, while others are much more common, especially among older mothers or people with a family history of certain conditions. Good medical staff will be prepared to anticipate dangerous circumstances and provide adequate and timely treatment.
Cerebral Palsy, Medical Malpractice, and the Law
In most cases, medical malpractice does not cause Cerebral Palsy, but healthcare professionals are to blame in a minority of cases. This malpractice can happen at various points during pregnancy.
First, a doctor may not make a note of a preexisting condition that could make your child more susceptible to Cerebral Palsy. Alternatively, if the physician is aware of the condition, but due to a clerical or administrative error, the information is not passed on to other medical professionals who need it, the primary doctor may be responsible.
If you were ill during pregnancy, it could have affected your child. It is possible you and your baby did not receive adequate medical attention, which led to the child receiving inadequate oxygen in the womb. It is also possible your doctor prescribed medicine that had an adverse effect on the baby.
Many issues could happen during labor and delivery. The first class of problems has to do with timing. Labor and delivery staff may have delayed birth, such as taking too long to perform a necessary cesarean section, depriving the baby of needed oxygen.
During delivery, medical staff may not have monitored the fetal heart rate correctly. The staff may have failed to notice or treat an umbilical cord that prolapsed or wrapped around your child’s neck. Medical professionals may have used vacuum tools and forceps too roughly and physically injured your baby.
During or after delivery, your child may not have received a compatible blood transfusion.
At each of these steps, medical negligence may have contributed to your child’s Cerebral Palsy. Let us now turn our attention to filing a lawsuit to seek financial relief.
How To File a Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice Suit
Establishing a Case
In a medical malpractice lawsuit regarding the issues we have discussed on this page, you must first demonstrate that a doctor or someone else involved in your medical care was at fault. Usually, Cerebral Palsy and other birth injuries result when someone was negligent in providing appropriate care rather than outright maliciousness.
This evidence shows that your child’s condition was preventable and that the child would be healthy in this regard if not for the malpractice. Even if some level of Cerebral Palsy was inevitable, you might be able to argue that inadequate medical care exacerbated an existing problem. For example, your child may have received too little oxygen for reasons that were not the physicians’ fault, but they were too slow to notice and intervene, which made the problem worse.
You may sue individual practitioners for medical malpractice. You may also be able to sue an entire hospital if the organization did not properly vet its staff, maintain an adequate staffing level, or provide a clean and safe environment.
Once you identify the at-fault party, you must seek damages in the form of financial compensation. Children with Cerebral Palsy have medical costs ten times that of a typical child. If the person with Cerebral Palsy also has an intellectual disability, the costs to raise them increase to 25 times the average.
The court may order the at-fault party to pay damages to cover the costs associated with medical treatment, care, and equipment. Your family may also qualify for additional damages related to pain and suffering.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you decide whether you have a case and then help determine the maximum amount of damages for which you qualify. Keep in mind that doctors and hospitals are likely to be represented by a team of lawyers from their insurance companies. A knowledgeable attorney of your own can help you even the playing field and fight for the total amount of damages that your family needs so you may care for your child without facing financial ruin.
Frischman & Rizza: Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
At Frischman & Rizza, we know that a medical malpractice suit involving your child’s health is emotionally draining. That is why our partners Bernie and Craig are dedicated to providing personal support from your first free consultation until the court renders its decision.
We do not represent the most clients, but we offer the most to the clients we take on. Our former clients describe us as tenacious and tireless in our pursuit of a quick judgment that provides you with fair financial compensation.
If you seek a medical malpractice attorney in the Pittsburgh, PA area, call Frischman & Rizza today at (412) 291-9377 to schedule a free consultation.