While most cerebral palsy cases of are congenital, many children develop the motor disorder as a result of injury, infection, or another form of medical malpractice at or shortly after birth. While many parents understandably want to focus on medical help for their child in the early days of infancy, it is equally important to seek counsel from a cerebral palsy lawyer who can provide guidance about what financial help may be available for your family.
If your child has experienced birth trauma leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy or another form of neurological disorder impairing their movement and coordination, filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit can help you receive compensation to pay for treatments, long-term care, and other associated medical expenses.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Unlike other forms of paralysis and motor dysfunction, such as Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, cerebral palsy does not have one specific cause. In fact, the term “cerebral palsy” is most commonly used as an umbrella for more specific forms of impairment.
At a high level, cerebral palsy occurs when a child’s brain is damaged or develops abnormally, either during pregnancy or within approximately the first month after birth. However, there are a wide variety of circumstances that could lead to abnormal development or brain injury.
Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy
- Viral infection
- Bacterial meningitis
- Hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”)
- Blood clot or stroke
- Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage)
- Decreased blood flow to the brain (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy)
- Oxygen deprivation (asphyxia) leading to the death of white matter (periventricular leukomalacia)
- Abnormal development (cerebral dysgenesis)
- Head trauma
- Lead poisoning
Cerebral Palsy Treatment Costs
Because cerebral palsy covers a wide range of motor function disorders, each of which present different symptoms, treatment needs can vary significantly from individual to individual. In most cases, medical treatments are limited to managing symptoms or providing aids for everyday needs, such as mobility devices.
The most common treatment-related expenses for people with cerebral palsy include:
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Medications for seizures and muscle spasms
- Orthotic devices (such as braces)
- Mobility devices (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, etc.)
Costs of Long-Term Cerebral Palsy Care
Treatment needs will differ depending on the type of cerebral palsy the personal has, whether spastic, ataxic, athetoid, or mixed.
Because brain damage leading to cerebral palsy is permanent (i.e., there is no cure), consideration needs to be made for long-term medical care related to this neurological disorder. While cerebral palsy is not progressive, meaning it does not necessarily worsen over time, treatment and care costs can increase over the lifespan of the affected individual, as they need additional therapy, devices, and medications to manage symptoms or other side effects.
Accounting for these long-term costs is an important aspect of considering whether to file a cerebral palsy lawsuit. It is important to seek out an experienced birth injury lawyer or law firm that understands the issues at stake and knows how to seek compensation that will cover the lifetime needs of the person affected by cerebral palsy.
How Are Cerebral Palsy & Medical Malpractice Connected?
Obstetricians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, and other medical staff are highly skilled and trained to look out for potential problems that could result in a birth injury. When they fail to recognize dangerous conditions – or worse, cause those conditions themselves – they are committing a form of medical malpractice.
Because of the many possible causes for cerebral palsy, there are potentially many types of medical malpractice that could lead to it. Broadly speaking, these include using the wrong instruments, failing to recognize a dangerous situation, or actively harming the infant during or immediately after childbirth.
Common Reasons for Medical Mistakes
- Causing damage to the head, skull or brain during delivery
- Causing a situation where the baby receives low or no oxygen (such as a prolapsed umbilical cord)
- Failing to properly treat or identify an infection
- Failing to prevent pre-term delivery
- Failing to order an emergency c-section when necessary
- Using tools that increase the risk of birth injury, such as forceps or a vacuum extraction
In addition to filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit against an individual doctor, families may consider filing a claim against the hospital or medical facility where their child was born. Hospitals are required to ensure the appropriate policies, procedures, staffing, and training are in place to keep their patients safe and healthy, without causing further harm. Failing to achieve the standards required by laws and regulations, professional association guidelines, and common practice could make the hospital a liable party for injuries sustained during birth.
Could My Child’s Cerebral Palsy Have Been Prevented?
While some cases of cerebral palsy cannot be prevented, many could be prevented by following appropriate policies, procedures, and medical guidelines before, during, and after childbirth. The difficulty comes in getting a member of the hospital – whether medical or administrative staff – to admit fault.
A cerebral palsy lawyer can help you research your situation to find out if you have a case. Even if you think your child’s cerebral palsy was unavoidable, you should still get a free consultation to see if you are overlooking anything. An experienced birth injury attorney will know the right questions to ask and can put pressure on the hospital or doctor to admit wrongdoing.
There are several ways that filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit can help your child and your family:
- Provide money for treatments that might otherwise be inaccessible to you
- Obtain resources for long-term care that your child might need as he or she ages
- Hold the staff, administrators, facility, or other responsible party accountable for medical negligence
- Offer peace of mind for families who want to move forward with their lives
What Cerebral Palsy Compensation Is Available?
Medical malpractice cases typically end with one of the following types of compensation:
Settlement – Sometimes called an “out-of-court settlement,” this is when two parties agree to certain terms and conditions without going to trial (although, a settlement can sometimes still be reached during trial). Typically this involves a monetary payment, along with other conditions and stipulations agreed upon by both parties.
Verdict – If the case goes to trial, at the end there will be a verdict either in favor of the plaintiff (the family who filed the cerebral palsy lawsuit) or the defendant (the doctor and/or medical center being sued). Verdicts in favor of the plaintiff will often include an award of damages, which can include compensation for actual harm done to the child, as well as punitive damages that punish the individuals or institutions responsible for the harm. No damages are awarded for verdicts in favor of the defendant.
Cerebral Palsy Compensation Factors
Compensation for cerebral palsy lawsuits usually includes considerations for:
- Pain and suffering experienced by the child (physical and mental anguish)
- Medical costs for treating the condition
- Expenses related to future ongoing care, including equipment, treatments, in-home care, and even needed improvements to the family’s house
- Loss of income for the parent if they need to remain home with their child
- Funds for special educational needs, such as speech therapy or tutors to help with learning disabilities
Note that different states have different rules when it comes to the maximum amount of compensation allowed for medical malpractice lawsuits. It is best to talk with a medical malpractice lawyer who has nationwide experience and can provide you with a realistic amount you could potentially receive.
How Can I Pay for a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
An experienced and reputable cerebral palsy attorney will offer a free case review up front. During this review, you will be able to explain your family’s situation and ask questions about the legal process. At the end, the lawyer will be able to give you a realistic assessment of how your birth injury case could fare.
If you choose to move forward, your lawyer will take your case on a commission basis. This means you will not have to pay anything up front, and the law firm will only receive payment once they obtain a verdict, settlement, or another form of compensation for you. Working on a commission basis in this way gives you the freedom to pursue a legal claim that could help your child without putting you in debt or having to worry about coming up with payments along the way.