When you bring your child to the doctor for developmental issues, the last thing you want to hear is that your child has a condition that may have been caused by complications that occurred during the labor and delivery process. If your child was born with or developed a birth injury due to negligence that happened during childbirth, you may be able to receive legal assistance. A Baltimore cerebral palsy lawyer from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC can help.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects a child’s ability to move and maintain posture and balance. It’s caused by abnormal brain development or damage that’s caused to the brain while it’s still developing. This damage may occur while the fetus is still developing, during the process of labor and delivery, following delivery, or during the child’s early developmental stages.
Most children with CP struggle to control their limbs and muscles. While the exact symptoms vary from child to child, all children with this condition require special care to learn to adjust to their disability. They may need special equipment to walk and/or physical therapy or may not be able to walk at all. Other motor functions and posture may also be affected. While the disorder doesn’t generally get worse over time, the symptoms can change over an individual’s lifetime.
There are many potential causes for cerebral palsy, but there is, unfortunately, no cure. Some cases of this developmental disorder cannot be prevented and are due to external factors or influences beyond anyone’s control, but some cases can be prevented. These are the cases when the damage is sustained during a preventable birth injury. Birth injuries are trauma-related and are often caused by a mistake made by a delivery team, doctor, nurse, or medical technician.
Seeking legal action may be an option for a family that is watching their child suffer after sustaining an injury that led to a congenital movement disorder. To learn more, we encourage Maryland residents to get in touch with the Baltimore cerebral palsy attorneys at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC. First, let’s go over what we know about the condition and how it can develop because of a birth injury.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are three different types of CP that are defined by the type of movement limitations that present. Each type affects different areas of the brain, but some children and adults with CP present with multiple symptoms and movement limitations which mean that multiple areas of the brain were likely affected.
The three different types are as follows:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic CP is the most common type of this disorder and affects roughly 80 percent of people with CP. It causes the individual to have increased muscle tone which stiffens the muscles and causes awkward movement patterns. Spastic CP can affect mainly the legs (diplegia/diparesis), which causes difficulty walking because tight hip and leg muscles can pull their legs together, turn inward, and cross at the knees.
In the event only one side of the person’s body (hemiplegia/hemiparesis) is affected, the arm is usually more affected than the leg. Sometimes, all four limbs (quadriplegia/quadriparesis) are affected. Individuals with spastic quadriparesis usually cannot walk and often have other developmental disabilities, seizures, or problems with hearing, vision, or speech.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with dyskinetic CP have difficulties controlling the movement of their hands, arms, legs, and feet, making it difficult for them to walk and sit. Movements can be slow or rapid and jerky. The muscles of the face can also be affected and may impact the person’s swallowing and speaking. It’s possible for the muscle tone to change every day.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with ataxic CP have difficulties with balance and coordination. They may walk unsteadily or have trouble writing, reaching for objects, or making other types of motions that require steady control.
In addition to the three different types of the condition, some individuals have a mixture of more than one type of CP. This condition is often referred to as mixed cerebral palsy.
Early Signs of CP
There are certain movement milestones children should reach from birth to the age of five, like rolling over, sitting up, standing, and walking. If you notice significant delays in these goals, CP is a possibility. As a child ages, the signs of a problem may change.
In a baby three to six months of age, you may notice their head falls back when you pick them up from lying on their back, they feel stiff or floppy, they seem to overextend their back or neck when cradled in someone’s arms, or their legs get stiff and cross when they’re picked up.
In a baby older than six months of age, they may not roll over in either direction, have difficulty bringing their hands to their mouth, or only reach with one hand while the other is fisted. Signs of CP in a baby older than ten months include crawling in a lopsided manner by pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg, or not crawling on all fours but instead scooting around on their buttocks or hopping on their knees.
If you suspect your child may have cerebral palsy, you should bring the matter up with their pediatrician right away, who will put you in touch with a specialist to determine what your child is going through and why.
Diagnosing the condition can take several steps. The first is often developmental monitoring. This tracks the child’s growth and development over time. A developmental screening may take place, where the child is given a short test to see if specific developmental delays are present. If the results of the screening are concerning, additional developmental and medical evaluations will take place.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
There are two ways that a child develops this disorder. One is before or during the labor and delivery process. This type of CP is called congenital cerebral palsy. Most cases of CP fall into this variety.
The known causes and risk factors for congenital cerebral palsy include:
- Premature birth– Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- Low birthweight– Babies who weigh less than 5½ pounds at birth.
- Multiple births– Twins, triplets, and other babies born during multiple births have a greater chance of having CP.
- Infections– Some infections like chickenpox, rubella, bacterial infections, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) have been linked to CP.
- Medical conditions of the mother– When an expecting mother has a thyroid, intellectual, or seizure disorder, the infant can sometimes be born with cerebral palsy.
- Jaundice– Jaundice and the resulting condition referred to as kernicterus can sometimes cause CP.
- Infertility treatments– Assisted reproductive technology (ART) infertility treatments can cause multiple and pre-term births, both of which may cause CP.
- Complications during birth– Uterine rupture, placenta detachment, or issues with the umbilical cord during birth can disrupt oxygen supply which may cause cerebral palsy.
Acquired cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that occurs more than 28 days after birth. This type of CP is rarer and is generally caused by one of the following conditions:
- Infection– Infections like meningitis or encephalitis that can affect the brain during infancy may cause CP.
- Injury– Brain injuries sustained during infancy can cause cerebral palsy, such as those sustained during a car accident.
- Blood flow conditions– If an infant has a blood clotting disorder, has blood vessels that didn’t develop properly, sickle cell disease, or a heart defect, this can cause bleeding in the brain which may result in palsy.
The Risks of Malpractice-Related Cerebral Palsy
Due to the numerous ways a birth injury can develop, finding an exact cause can be a challenge. Multiple factors may play a role. Negligence in a hospital or delivery room can play a role in some of the above factors, but when filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit, you and your injury attorney will need to narrow down a specific cause as close as possible. Oxygen deprivation is one of the most common ways negligence can be attributed, but any delivery room error can potentially result in harm.
Here are just a few of the ways that negligence and/or carelessness in a medical setting may be a factor in a child’s development of cerebral palsy:
- Failure to properly monitor an unborn child and/or mother
- Failure to adequately prepare for a difficult birth
- Failure to delay childbirth if possible when it’s very early pre-term
- Failure to recognize and properly react to fetal distress during labor
- Failure to perform a timely C-section
- Improper delivery techniques
- Improper use of delivery tools
One of the more common ways for oxygen deprivation to occur during the process of delivering a child is for a delivery team to fail to anticipate a situation called shoulder dystocia, where a newborn’s shoulders get caught on the mother’s pelvic bone during birth. By trying to forcefully pull the infant free, it’s very easy to compress the umbilical cord, which can deprive the child of oxygen.
The Cost of Cerebral Palsy
As with any chronic condition, CP is incredibly expensive. On average, medical costs are ten times higher for children with the disorder, and 26 times higher when an intellectual disability is also present. Over the course of a child’s lifetime, it’s likely the care costs will exceed one million dollars.
It can be difficult to ascertain the finances you will need to properly care for your child and provide them with the highest quality of life possible. In general, you will need to have money for medical costs and expenses, rehabilitation and physical therapy costs, supplies and equipment, if needed, like wheelchairs and braces, home care costs, and costs associated with special education and counseling.
If you believe your child’s injury resulted from a negligent medical provider, you shouldn’t have to handle those expenses on your own. No matter what kind of CP your child has or how severe it is, you should meet with a lawyer who can gather a team of professionals, including health specialists, physicians, and economic specialists, who can calculate the expenses related to the lifetime costs of care your baby will need.
With your attorney and that compensation estimate, you will be able to build a strong case against the negligent party you suspect harmed your baby. You’ll want to also find out if you are eligible to collect punitive damages, like for pain and suffering, which act as compensation from the liable party as a means to hold them accountable for their negligent behavior. Punitive damages not only help your family cope with the trauma associated with what happened but will serve as a clear message to the liable party and other physicians that acting in a way that harms others will cost them.
Get Help from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC
If your child suffers from cerebral palsy and you believe it may have been at least partially caused by negligence or a mistake made during the process of labor and delivery, you may be able to file a civil medical malpractice claim against the facility or professional that allowed the error to happen. Doctors and delivery team professionals have a duty to protect our children from injury. When this duty is failed, legal action may be taken.
To learn more, get in touch with a Maryland cerebral palsy attorney today. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, our experienced legal team will do whatever we can to help you get the compensation you need to care for your child to the best of your abilities. In addition, filing a lawsuit against the responsible facility or party will ensure that the hospital or doctor’s office does not allow further negligence to continue.