Cerebral palsy is the most common type of childhood disability, and affects about 500,000 children. Although the condition is sometimes attributed to natural causes, it is often the result of medical malpractice.
If your child developed cerebral palsy because of a birth injury, the doctor, nurse, and other health care professionals could be held responsible. The attorneys of Hale & Monico understand the questions and concerns you have, and we will demand the compensation you and your child deserve.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders resulting from injury to the child’s brain. The injury may occur during fetal development, but frequently happens during birth. It has no cure, and it cannot be reversed.
Children who have cerebral palsy exhibit numerous symptoms affecting movement and balance. They include:
- Inability to sit up, crawl, or walk
- Abnormal muscle movements
- Difficulty coordinating and controlling muscles
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Involuntary movements and shaking
- Speech problems, such as slurred words
- Difficulty with precise movements like writing
The three basic types are:
- Spastic. This is the most common type, mainly affecting the child’s muscles, coordination, and motor functions. A child suffering from spastic cerebral palsy will have difficulty reaching developmental milestones such as walking.
- Dyskinetic. This type affects the part of the brain responsible for coordinating and controlling movements. As a result, children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy often exhibit abnormal and involuntary movements and muscle contractions.
- Ataxic. Similar to dyskinetic cerebral palsy, this is caused by damage to the part of the brain responsible for balance and coordination. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects a child’s motor skills and can also affect eye movement and speech.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Numerous factors, such as lack of oxygen, can cause a child to develop cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, many causes are the result of medical negligence occurring before, during, or after the child’s birth. They include:
- Failure to detect early warning signs. Environmental factors and genetics can cause abnormal brain development, which can lead to cerebral palsy. Health care providers have screening tools that can detect these warning signs, but sometimes fail to properly use them.
- Oxygen deprivation. Complications during the birth of the child, such as umbilical cord problems, can deprive the child’s brain of oxygen. Other causes include failure to monitor oxygen levels and failure to supply the baby with sufficient oxygen during birth.
- Delays in performing medically necessary Cesarean section (C-section). Fetal monitoring can reliably detect fetal distress, which leads to brain damage and cerebral palsy. A C-section can help avoid this problem, and the delivering physician must consider using it.
- Post-birth complications. A variety of issues occurring after the child’s birth such as infections, brain trauma, and oxygen deprivation can also cause cerebral palsy. Doctors and nurses are required to monitor a child after birth to minimize these risks.
- Inadequate emergency preparedness. Doctors and hospitals are obligated to maintain procedures to handle birth emergencies. When those procedures fail, a child may suffer brain damage and thereby develop cerebral palsy.
How Will A Child Be Affected By Cerebral Palsy?
Because cerebral palsy affects the child’s motor and neurological development, significant adjustments and accommodations will need to be made. Mobility, speech, and numerous other limitations require special equipment, tools, and resources to help the child. The child will also have to undergo extensive rehabilitation and special education to address these and other conditions:
- Intellectual disability
- Speech and language disorders
- Vision impairment
- Hearing loss
- Infections and other illnesses
These conditions will likely last a lifetime since cerebral palsy cannot be reversed. Parents of children with cerebral palsy will incur significant expenses for health care, medications, adaptive equipment, accommodations, special education assistance, physical therapy, vocational training, and much more. Numerous medical and non-medical professionals, including speech therapists, counselors, and pediatricians will need to be consulted throughout the child’s life. For a family of modest or limited means, these needs can impose serious financial challenges.
Am I Eligible For Compensation?
Proving medical malpractice is a necessary first step to seeking the compensation you and your child need to live with cerebral palsy. But it’s no easy task. Not every birth injury or disorder is the result of medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals are represented by aggressive medical malpractice attorneys who defend their clients against all sorts of claims.
To prove that your health care provider committed malpractice, you need to show that the doctor failed to follow accepted standards of care. In other words, you have to demonstrate that the doctor, nurse, or other medical professional committed unreasonable errors and omissions that caused the child to develop cerebral palsy.
It’s also imperative that you take legal action within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets a deadline to file medical malpractice cases. Under Illinois law, medical malpractice cases brought on behalf of the child must be filed within eight years of the date of the injury, but must be filed prior to the child’s 22nd birthday. If the injuries caused a qualifying disability to the child, the statute of limitations would be tolled until the disability is removed. In cases of permanent disability, that could effectively toll the statute of limitations altogether. Statutes of limitation are unforgiving, and the sooner you take legal action, the better.
You and your child could be eligible for compensation that includes:
- Medical expenses
- Nursing and rehabilitative care
- Household and vehicle adaptations, such as wheelchair ramps
- Reduced quality of life for your child
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
How Can Hale & Monico Help?
You need a law firm that has experience handling the complicated legal and medical issues that arise in cerebral palsy cases. Our medical malpractice attorneys thoroughly investigate the facts and build a compelling case to present to a jury. We understand the law and have a network of medical, vocational, and other professionals who can testify as to the special needs and expenses you and your child will face.
If you believe a doctor or other health care professional was responsible for your child’s condition, we can help. Give us a call today to discuss your case.