When you bring your child to the doctor for developmental issues, the last thing you want to hear is that your child has cerebral palsy and that the condition may have been caused by complications that occurred during the labor and delivery process. If your child was born with or developed cerebral palsy 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 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 cerebral palsy struggle to control their limbs and muscles. While the exact symptoms vary from child to child, all children with cerebral palsy 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 cerebral palsy 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 cerebral palsy 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 from 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 cerebral palsy. 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 cerebral palsy and how it can develop because of a birth injury.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are three different types of cerebral palsy (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 cerebral palsy and affects roughly 80% 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), one side of the person’s body (hemiplegia/hemiparesis), or all four limbs (quadriplegia/quadriparesis).
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with dyskinetic cerebral palsy 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.
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 cerebral palsy, some individuals have a mixture of more than one type of CP. This condition is often referred to as mixed cerebral palsy.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
There are two ways that a child develops cerebral palsy. 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 have a greater chance of having CP.
- Low birthweight – Babies who weigh less than 5½ pounds at birth are at a higher chance of having CP.
- 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 can 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 cerebral palsy 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.
With enough force, a brachial plexus injury may also result from this situation, which can severely harm a child hands, arms, shoulders, and wrists. Brachial plexus injuries can cause a child to develop Erb’s palsy.
Get Help from a Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Lawyer Today
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 hospital or doctor’s office does not allow further negligence to continue.