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Cerebral Palsy: Frequently Asked Questions

Cerebral palsy is a group of movement disorders that occurs as the result of brain damage before, during, or shortly after birth, and it can have far-reaching consequences for children and their families. As birth injury attorneys who fight on behalf of victims across Florida, our Miami trial lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. have experience handling cases involving birth injuries like cerebral palsy, and know that families have many questions about the condition and their rights when it comes to pursuing legal action against negligent health care providers.

To provide more information about cerebral palsy, its implications for families, and how it relates to birth injury lawsuits and medical malpractice, we have answered some frequently asked questions below.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy, or CP for short, is a disorder characterized by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls motor function. When this area of the brain is injured or underdeveloped, it can cause spasticity, inactivity, and/or a lack of coordination in muscles and a person’s movement. Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy may also have other neurological conditions, such as developmental delays, speech or feeding problems, and seizure disorders. According to statistics, roughly 1 in every 278 children has some type of cerebral palsy, and approximately 8,000 children are diagnosed with the disorder every year in the U.S.

What causes cerebral palsy?

The medical community still has a lot to learn about cerebral palsy, which is why its underlying cause is not always exactly clear. What’s known is that it is not a genetic condition passed through DNA, so it isn’t hereditary any more than broken bones or lacerations are hereditary. In terms of medical malpractice, there are many documented case that show cerebral palsy can result from preventable brain injuries and damage that occur during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This includes injury caused by oxygen deprivation, as well as head trauma, meningitis, and even infection.

When can cerebral palsy be diagnosed?

Cerebral palsy may not be apparent immediately after birth, unless cases are severe and involve conditions such as spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. In most cases, however, a diagnosis may not be made until a child ages and begins to show signs of developmental delays (such as delays in sitting up on their own, crawling, or walking), problems with movement, and poor coordination or reflexes. This may not happen until a child reaches the age of 2 to 3, and in some cases the age of 5 or older. Parents typically notice these signs and medical professionals they consult perform additional tests – including brain imaging tests – to correctly diagnose a child.

Does cerebral palsy get worse with age?

Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder, which means that it does not get worse with age. However, depending on the severity of the brain damage that occurred, and whether other conditions or disabilities are involved, children can face medical concerns that create adverse health consequences as they get older. In many cases of cerebral palsy, especially with early detection and treatment, children can still live full and productive lives and have normal life expectancies.

Are there increased costs associated with caring for a child with cerebral palsy?

Although cerebral palsy doesn’t get worse with age, it is a lifelong disorder that can create various limitations and unique needs for children and their loved ones. This includes the financial expenses associated with raising a child who has CP. Although every case varies depending on the severity of the condition, studies of children who receive Medicaid have estimated that children with CP had medical costs that were approximately 10 times more than costs associated with medical care for children without a disability.

Often, these costs are associated with direct expenses (such as medical care, medications, and therapy), as well as costs associated with having to make accommodations, modify vehicles or homes, pay for special education services or programs, and various medical or assistance devices. The costs associated with cerebral palsy can accumulate and place stress on families, which is why compensation for past and future needs, in addition to non-economic damages, are recoverable through birth injury lawsuits.

Was my child’s cerebral palsy a result of medical malpractice?

This question is a common one, and it is an essential question to ask when families explore whether or not they can pursue a birth injury lawsuit. While an accurate answer will depend on a careful examination of your case and the unique facts it entails, cerebral palsy can certainly be caused by medical mistakes. Common examples of medical negligence that can lead to a child developing cerebral palsy include:

  • Failures to perform a timely C-section, resulting in oxygen deprivation
  • Negligent use of vacuums or forceps during delivery
  • Failing to diagnose and treat infection
  • Failure to treat meningitis
  • Failure to treat jaundice after delivery
  • Failure to treat a prolapsed umbilical cord

Cerebral palsy is not always preventable, but it could and should be prevented in situations where any reasonably skilled and careful medical professional can take action to avoid harm. This means meeting the duty to provide acceptable medical treatment – such as properly monitoring a fetus during labor and delivery, performing a timely C-section when circumstances call for one, treating certain infections in the mother, and identifying and treating complications that may lead to oxygen deprivation, such as umbilical cord problems.

Do I have a case?

You may have a birth injury lawsuit if a medical professional’s negligence led to your child’s development of cerebral palsy. Determining whether negligence played a role and proving it in court, however, is not an easy task. As such, it becomes important for families to find the support and guidance they need from experienced legal professionals who can provide the information, resources, and advocacy they need to protect their rights and secure the justice and compensation to care for their child as they grow. Our legal team at Freidin Brown, P.A. is committed to doing just that, and offers free and confidential consultations to help families learn more about their potential cases.

Learn more about your rights, our firm, and how we may be able to help when you call (888) 650-0918 for a FREE consultation.

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