Cerebral palsy is one of the leading causes of disability in young children, with thousands of babies and preschool children diagnosed each year. Numerous factors can cause cerebral palsy, but it is often preventable.
In many cases, cerebral palsy is the result of medical malpractice. If your child has developed this condition because of a birth injury, the nurse, physician, or other health care providers could be held liable. At Scaffidi & Associates, we represent the rights of cerebral palsy victims and can help you learn more about your legal options.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological developmental disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance. It results from injury to the child’s brain that occurs during fetal development or birth. Damage caused by cerebral palsy cannot be reversed or repaired, and there is no cure for it. Children who have cerebral palsy may exhibit numerous symptoms, including:
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Tight or stiff muscles
- Differences in muscle tone
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Shaking or other involuntary movements
- Difficulty with precise movements such as writing
- Difficulty with swallowing or speaking
- Abnormal reflexes
Are There Early Signs Of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy symptoms may not be readily noticeable because the condition affects coordination and movement, which take time to develop in children. Nonetheless, the National Institutes of Health advises that there are specific signs that could manifest during a child’s early years. These are some of the early warning signs, based on age:
- Under 6 months of age: The child’s head lags when you pick him or her up from lying on their back. When you pick the child up, he or she feels stiff or floppy, and the legs may stiffen or cross.
- Over 6 months of age: The child doesn’t roll over in either direction, cannot bring his or her hands together, and has difficulty bringing his or her hands to their mouth. The child may also reach out with only one hand while keeping the other one balled into a fist.
- Over 10 months of age: The child can’t crawl straight, or crawls in an unbalanced manner. The child is unable to stand even while holding onto something for support.
Are There Different Kinds Of Cerebral Palsy?
There are three basic types of cerebral palsy:
- Spastic: Indicated by stiffness and tightness in muscles; sudden, jerky movements; crossed knees and abnormal gait; and walking on tiptoes
- Ataxic: This is a relatively rare form characterized by balance problems, difficulties with depth perception, and disruption to motor skills
- Athetoid: Signs include involuntary and uncontrolled movements; difficulty eating, walking, and sitting; and speech problems
How Does Medical Malpractice Cause Cerebral Palsy?
If your child’s cerebral palsy is the result of a birth injury instead of a natural abnormality, malpractice is likely to blame. These are some ways in which such injury may occur:
- Avoidable birth complications — Oxygen deprivation is considered the primary cause of cerebral palsy. This can happen because of complications during childbirth such as uterine rupture or umbilical cord prolapse. Use of too much force during delivery or improper use of birth tools can also cause cerebral palsy.
- Delayed Cesarean section — Proper fetal monitoring can reveal indications of fetal distress, which can lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy. This may be avoided by a Cesarean section, and the delivering physician needs to consider using it.
- Post-birth complications — These include brain trauma, infections, oxygen deprivation, and more. A physician or nurse who fails to properly monitor a child could be liable for such problems.
- Lack of emergency preparedness — Hospitals and doctors are required to maintain adequate procedures to handle emergencies. In the event something drastic or unexpected occurs, permanent brain damage leading to cerebral palsy may result.
- Failure to detect early warning signs — Genetics and environmental factors can lead to abnormal brain development, which in turn can cause cerebral palsy. However, there are screening methods a physician can use to detect these and other warning signs.
How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect A Child’s Life?
Apart from the impaired motor and neurological development, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy will present significant challenges to the child and the family. The child will likely need to undergo extensive rehabilitation during his or her development, and may experience related conditions such as:
- Seizure disorder
- Speech and language disorders
- Intellectual disability
- Impaired vision
- Hearing loss
- Infections and long-term illnesses
Cerebral palsy is not reversible, so these and other conditions will likely endure for a lifetime. They can cause families to incur significant medical expenses for treatment and other adaptations to assist the child with daily activities.
What Compensation May I Be Entitled To?
If a medical professional caused any sort of birth injury to your child, you may be entitled to legal compensation. This includes:
- Medical expenses, including long-term care and treatment
- Nursing and rehabilitative care
- Household and vehicle adaptations (e.g. wheelchair ramps)
- Reduced quality of life for your child
- Lost earning potential
- Lost time from work for medical and other appointments
- Pain and suffering
- Other damages
Contact Our New York Birth Injuries Attorneys
After you arrange for the care your child needs, start gathering evidence concerning his or her injuries. Any medical records from the delivering doctors, hospitals, obstetricians, or other health care professionals involved with your child’s birth will be relevant. So will documentation from any individuals who provide your child’s secondary care, such as in-home nursing.
Once you are ready, contact the experienced New York cerebral palsy attorneys at Scaffidi & Associates to see if you have a case for medical malpractice. You should be aware that there is a 10-year statute of limitations on birth injury cases for the child’s injuries, but only two and one-half years for a parent’s derivative claim for loss of services. The timing for claims against City-owned or Municipal hospitals requires the prompt filing of a notice of claim, sometimes as soon as within 90 days from the child’s date of birth. Because the various rules and timing requirements can be complicated, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. And, the sooner you act, the more likely it is that evidence will be preserved and sufficient details remembered.
Health care professionals should be held accountable when their negligence causes harm to your child. Let Scaffidi & Associates help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.