Medical malpractice in the United States leads to devastating consequences for individuals and families, including serious effects on health and loss of life.
Thousands of medical malpractice claims are filed in the U.S. each year to seek compensation for the harms wrought by the negligence of individual physicians, nurses, hospitals, and other medical providers.
One of the most frequently cited consequences of medical malpractice in birth injury lawsuits is a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, affecting an estimated 10,000 babies born in the U.S.each year.
Although cerebral palsy carries into adulthood, the victims named in cerebral palsy lawsuits are generally young children and infants, who can be especially vulnerable to the causes and risk factors of CP when subjected to negligent hospital care during the mother’s pregnancy, labor, or the delivery process.
If your infant or young child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to what you believe was negligent medical treatment, you may be entitled to compensation.
Filing a birth injury lawsuit to seek justice for medical malpractice can be a meaningful action for parents and their afflicted children, who may face lifelong consequences through no fault of their own.
Learn more about cerebral palsy medical malpractice lawsuits and how to find the right medical malpractice attorney to manage your case.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that refers to a number of neurological disorders that can affect bodily movement, muscle tone, coordination, fine motor skills, and posture.
Generally referred to as a “birth injury,” in many cases infants will develop CP as a result of a lack of oxygen and other issues during the labor and delivery processes. Other traumatic injuries, such as those sustained from a vehicle accident or serious fall early in life, can also lead to the development of CP.
The primary factor that links these various symptoms is damage to the brain, which can have lasting effects on an individual’s body movements, muscle tone, and muscle coordination.
Risk factors for CP among infants include:
- maternal infections (e.g. blood infections)
- low birthweight
- premature birth
- ischemic stroke during pregnancy or shortly after birth
- brain-related birth defects
- multiple birth pregnancy (i.e.. more likely among twins than single newborns)
- children born after in-vitro fertilization
- improper use of delivery instruments
- birth complications
- incorrect administration of medications during pregnancy, labor, or delivery
- diagnostic mistakes
- delayed recognition of fetal distress
As you may notice, several of these common causes and risk factors are directly related to the medical care provided within a delivery setting.
About 98 percent of newborns in the United States are delivered in a hospital setting, where new mothers and their infants are directly cared for by nurses, doctors, and other medical aides.
If a nurse, obstetrician, or hospital acts negligently in caring for new mothers or their infants during the pregnancy or delivery process, it can have serious effects on the health and well-being of both parties—increasing the risk for cerebral palsy among infants.
Cerebral Palsy And Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is an area of law that is concerned with seeking compensation for individuals (or their surviving family members) who have suffered due to the failure of a health professional to meet the medical community’s standard of care.
There are several ways medical malpractice can result in cerebral palsy in infants and children, with the most common causes as follows:
Failure To Monitor
One of the most common causes of cerebral palsy in medical malpractice cases is the failure of a doctor or nurse to appropriately monitor an infant’s condition after birth.
Infants require careful monitoring shortly after birth to ensure their vitals and overall health condition remains stable. An abnormal heart rate, for instance, can indicate a disruption of oxygen to the brain, which may lead to the type of brain injury seen in infants diagnosed with CP.
Failure To Respond Appropriately To Fetal Distress
If a medical professional fails to respond appropriately to a medical emergency during the labor or delivery process (e.g. umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck), this can lead to long-lasting consequences, such as the development of cerebral palsy in the infant.
Failure To Perform A Cesarean Section (C-Section)
When problems arise during the pregnancy or labor phase of the birthing process, medical professionals have a responsibility to identify the safest option for infant delivery.
If a fetus appears to be experiencing a disruption of their oxygen supply (hypoxia), a Cesarean section procedure can be a safer method of delivery to prevent brain damage.
If the delivery team fails to identify the need for a C-section, and the infant suffers brain damage as a result, the physician in charge (or the hospital) may be held liable for medical negligence.
The signs of cerebral palsy in newborns and young children can vary, although there are several common signs of which parents and the attending medical providers can be made aware.
For instance, the following are signs commonly associated with cerebral palsy in infants:
- your newborn suffered seizure(s) within the first 48 hours of birth
- your delivery team failed to respond to signs of fetal or infant distress, resulting in neurological damage
- your baby experienced any sort of head trauma during the delivery process, or shortly after birth
If any of these scenarios are relevant to your own experience in a hospital during the pregnancy, labor, or delivery process, you may be able to seek compensation for damages by filing a birth injury lawsuit.
Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice Laws
In the United States, cerebral palsy lawsuits are filed based on the legal concept of negligence. Negligence in a medical setting can be defined as any action (or lack of action) by a medical professional that deviates from the medical community’s standard of care.
The medical standard of care outlines the responsibility of medical professionals to provide the type and level of care that would be provided by any reasonable and competent medical professional under the circumstances in which the malpractice occurred.
If a nurse, doctor, member of the delivery team, or hospital neglects to provide this level of care to a patient and that negligence results in harm, whoever is at fault may be held liable for the resulting consequences.
Winning a cerebral palsy lawsuit requires evidence that your child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis could have been prevented had those involved in your newborn’s medical care been more attentive to issues throughout the labor or delivery process.
This may require an investigation into the mother’s treatment at the hospital in question, medical records of both the mother and infant, records of those involved in the labor and delivery process, and signs of medical errors, neglect, or malpractice.
Statute Of Limitations For Cerebral Palsy Claims
Any parent who suspects their child’s condition can be linked back to medical malpractice has the right to pursue a lawsuit against an individual physician or the hospital as a whole.
However, one factor to consider in cerebral palsy lawsuits is the statute of limitations for these cases, which can vary by state. This refers to the amount of time parents have to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
In many states, there are two separate time-frames provided within the statute of limitations for birth injury cases, based on:
- when you discovered the injury that led to your child’s CP diagnosis
- amount of time that has passed since the instance of medical malpractice
In Florida, for instance, parents generally have two years after they know or should know that their child was the victim of negligence to commence a medical malpractice lawsuit
However, not every state follows this specific time-frame. The best way to learn what statute of limitations and medical malpractice laws apply in your state is to speak to an experienced birth injury attorney.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that has yet to be fully understood and can manifest in several different ways.
The amount of time it takes for symptoms to manifest in children can also vary, as can receiving a proper diagnosis based on personal factors and factors related to the type of medical care a child receives.
Additional early signs of cerebral palsy can include:
- floppiness of limbs
- unable to bring hands together
- overextending of the back or neck when cradled
- lagging head
- difficulty bringing hands to mouth
- crawling in a lopsided manner
- delayed cognitive development
Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can also manifest differently depending on the age of the infant or child and the severity of the condition.
One of the primary signs of CP, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a delay in early developmental milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, standing, and walking.
What Are The Four Types Of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is generally diagnosed one of four ways. This is often based on the observed symptoms:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: Characterized by stiff muscles, increased muscle tone, and spastic movements; there are three sub-categories of spastic CP that can vary in severity.
- Dyskinetic/Athetoid cerebral palsy: Characterized by uncontrollable movements of hands, arms, feet, legs, and sometimes the face and tongue. This can result in writhing, or jerky or rigid movements, with muscle tone that can change day-by-day, throughout the day.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: Characterized by poor balance and coordination that can result in unsteadiness and uncontrollable movements of the hands, feet, arms, and legs.
- Mixed cerebral palsy: Mixed cerebral palsy can involve symptoms from more than one type of CP, with the most common combination being spastic-dyskinetic CP
Infants and young children without CP may also experience some of these signs and symptoms. If you are concerned your child has CP, it is best to consult a pediatrician who can evaluate your child for the condition and provide a diagnosis as applicable.
Is Cerebral Palsy Treatable?
A common question asked by parents and guardians of children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy is whether it is treatable. At this time, there is no cure for cerebral palsy.
The condition is not progressive—meaning it won’t grow worse over time—but it is a lifelong condition that will require ongoing care and support, depending on the severity of the disorder and other factors individual to each child.
Types Of Damages Awarded In Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawsuits
The consequences of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice can be far-reaching and long-lasting, not only on the health of a child but on the entire family as well.
Children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy commonly develop other behavioral, learning, and developmental issues, such as epilepsy, seizures, intellectual disability, and vision and hearing problems.
This can require ongoing care and support to help children—and their families—manage these health concerns and adequately address them into adolescence and adulthood.
With the help of a skilled cerebral palsy attorney, the types of damages awarded in birth injury lawsuits can reflect both the current and projected expenses families are expected to face to meet the needs of their child with CP.
The types of damages families may be compensated for include but are not limited to:
- medical bills (including doctor visits)
- corrective surgery costs
- physical therapy
- home healthcare
- home modifications (to accommodate any CP-related issues)
- rolling walkers and wheelchairs
- verbal aids
- speech coaching
- leg braces
- counseling services
- projected lost wages
- mental anguish
- pain and suffering
- loss of enjoyment of life
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Are There Caps For Awarded Compensation In Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits?
In cerebral palsy lawsuits, compensatory damages can be categorized in one of two ways: economic or non-economic losses.
Economic losses refer to measurable costs, such as medical expenses, the cost of physical therapy, wage loss, etc.
Non-economic losses, on the other hand, may refer to costs that are difficult or perhaps impossible to measure, such as pain and suffering costs, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment for life.
The amount of compensation that can be awarded in these cases may be limited based on the types of damages a family is seeking to recover. In many states, there is no cap (maximum settlement) for economic losses.
However, in some states, there are caps for recovering non-economic losses in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice lawsuit, as well as a general cap for the amount of overall damages awarded.
To learn your state’s laws and get more information on existing caps for medical malpractice suits, it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable birth injury attorney.
Why Hire A Cerebral Palsy Attorney?
Proving medical negligence as the cause of cerebral palsy can be a challenging process, but is possible with the right legal representation to serve as your guide.
For decades, the medical community—and trial lawyers with a vested interest in perpetuating birth-related myths—promoted the use of ineffective birth defect screenings meant to identify health risks in fetuses.
One of these screening practices is the use of electronic fetal monitoring, which has—according to an article in the Journal of Child Neurology—done nothing to reduce the rate of cerebral palsy and has a false positive rate that exceeds 99 percent.
Much of the litigation in cerebral palsy medical malpractice cases has been driven by these ineffective fetal monitoring processes, which—despite the high false-positive rate—may still be used today against parents attempting to seek compensation for medical negligence through legal action.
Medical malpractice attorneys with experience in handling birth injury lawsuits can offer significant benefits for parents seeking financial compensation for their losses.
An experienced cerebral palsy medical malpractice attorney can:
- consult with legal and medical experts
- establish a reasonable causal link between medical negligence and your child’s cerebral palsy
- investigate the details surrounding the pregnancy, labor, and delivery process by evaluating relevant medical records (including OB/GYN reports) and hospital documentation
- evaluate the hospital’s insurance policy, fault, and liability
- explain the legal process to you step-by-step
- prepare your case to go to trial
- effectively prosecute your case in court
Top-Rated Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Serving The U.S.
Seeking justice for consequences suffered as a result of medical negligence can be an emotional process.
Hiring a medical malpractice attorney who has experience handling birth injury lawsuits can offer significant use for navigating the legal process and successfully securing compensation for your losses.
Establishing a direct link between medical malpractice and a child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis can be challenging without extensive knowledge of these types of cases.
The highly accomplished attorneys of Florin|Roebig can help you identify your legal options based on the details of your case and establish this causation, as unwavering legal advocates for you and your child throughout each step of the lawsuit process.
Our birth injury attorneys are capable of serving clients from our offices in Florida, Texas, Minnesota, and Colorado.
Our team of seasoned cerebral palsy medical malpractice attorneys includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Neil P. O’Brien, M.B.A.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Parker Y. Florin, LL.M.
- Taylor D. Roebig
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
We Are Nationally Awarded Lawyers
Find A Cerebral Palsy Lawyer Near You
For decades, the medical malpractice attorneys of Florin|Roebig have expertly executed legal action against medical professionals whose negligence has led to the development of serious patient consequences.
Our birth injury lawyers have the passion and crucial knowledge needed to prove liability in cases where the negligence of a medical professional has hurt the healthy development of an innocent child.
We are committed to serving clients in cerebral palsy cases with compassion and empathy and can explain each step of the process to parents and guardians with care.
If you believe your child has developed cerebral palsy as a result of medical malpractice, you are not alone, and you may be able to seek compensation from the party responsible to recover your losses.
Don’t wait to begin the process of filing your lawsuit. Call the law firm of Florin|Roebig today to schedule a confidential and free case evaluation with one of our top-rated cerebral palsy attorneys.