What to Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy
If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is natural to want answers. Many parents are left wondering what caused the condition and whether some kind of trauma during birth is to blame. When a preventable birth injury causes your child’s cerebral palsy, you deserve compensation.
The attorneys at Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey, P.A. are here to help you and your family understand your rights after an unthinkable diagnosis. We are available 24 hours a day to discuss your legal options. Call (410) 685-2022 or fill out our online contact form to speak directly with an attorney regarding your child’s birth injury.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a form of abnormal development or damage to the brain that usually occurs before birth or during the labor and delivery process. Determining the cause of cerebral palsy may require a thorough analysis of what happened during your pregnancy, delivery, and shortly thereafter.
Common causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Lack of blood flow or disruption of oxygen to the brain (Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE))
- Infections during pregnancy
- Traumatic head injury
- Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage)
- Fetal stroke
What If I Suspect My Child Has Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 1 in 345 children in the United States is affected by CP.
If you notice that your child is not hitting developmental milestones, you should consult your pediatrician and request a screening. Early screening, diagnosis, and treatment can be key to helping a child with their condition.
Early signs of CP can begin before six months of age. These signs might include a child having stiff or floppy muscle tone or missing milestones such as sitting up and rolling over.
Common symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- “Ataxia” – Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)
- “Spasticity” – Stiff muscles, often appearing as bent wrists, pronated forearms, and clenched fists. It also includes muscle spasms with exaggerated reflexes.
- “Rigidity” – Also known as muscle tension, rigor, or stiffness. Stiff muscles with the inability to relax normally. However, reflexes are normal.
- “Hypertonia” or “hypotonia” – Muscles being too stiff (hyper-) or too floppy (hypo-)
- “Athetosis” – Slow, involuntary, writhing movements in face, arms, and legs
- “Chorea” – Movement disorder involving irregular and involuntary muscle movements, often in the shoulders, neck, torso, and face
- “Dystonia” – Involuntary muscle contractions causing twisting and repetitive movements and/or abnormal postures. They often occur in the face, torso, arms, or legs.
- “Hemiplegia” or favoring one side of the body – Only moving or using one hand, arm, foot, leg, etc. to move or perform tasks.
- Mobility Issues – Difficulty crawling and walking
- Gastrointestinal and nutritional problems – Signs might include excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, difficulty sucking, and difficulty eating
- Developmental Delays – Delays in reaching milestones for motor skills, fine motor skills, and speech. Also includes difficulty speaking and learning difficulties
- Seizures – Children with cerebral palsy sometimes also suffer from “epilepsy,” a condition characterized by unpredictable and recurring seizures.
What Are the Types of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy may affect a child’s movement, posture, vision, hearing, and speech. There are four different forms of CP grouped according to the child’s movement disorder and the parts of the body that are affected.
The four types of cerebral palsy are:
- Spastic cerebral palsy (defined by muscle stiffness)
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (affects a person’s ability to control the movements of their extremities and sometimes their face)
- Ataxic cerebral palsy (marked by difficulty with balance and coordination)
- Mixed cerebral palsy (when a person has more than one form of CP)
How Do I Know If I Need an Attorney?
It is always recommended that you speak with an attorney after a child’s diagnosis for a potential birth injury. Trauma at birth can cause devastating disorders such as cerebral palsy. If the disorder was caused by a medical professional’s negligence or medical malpractice, you might be entitled to compensation to assist with the support and care of your child.
In some cases, if a birth injury is suspected, a negligent party’s insurance company may contact you to offer a settlement. Early settlement offers may not represent the full value of your case and may not take into consideration the full extent of your child’s injuries. You should always consult an attorney prior to accepting a settlement.
Can a Birth Injury Be the Doctor’s Fault?
Our attorneys will look into the standard of care you received to determine if your child’s cerebral palsy was preventable. Unfortunately, it might be the case that a medical professional’s negligence or malpractice during delivery is what led to your child’s birth injury of cerebral palsy.
Medical malpractice that can result in irreparable harm to your child might include:
- Failure to diagnose and treat a maternal infection during pregnancy
- Failure to order an emergency C-section to prevent a difficult or prolonged labor
- Failure to diagnose or treat a health issue after birth, such as jaundice in the child, leading to kernicterus
- Failure to address issues causing oxygen deprivation to the child (asphyxia), such as excessive contractions or problem with the umbilical cord
- Improper use of forceps or a vacuum during delivery, causing brain injury or skull fractures
How Can an Attorney Help?
If your child has suffered a developmental disorder, such as cerebral palsy because of a birth injury, an attorney can help you obtain compensation. If successful in a birth injury or medical malpractice lawsuit, you may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages.
Cerebral palsy can require lifelong medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the case, your child may require the use of a wheelchair or require speech and physical therapy. By pursuing a birth injury claim, you may be able to recover the cost of treatment and assistive care, lost wages, future earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
What If I Am Unsure About the Cause of My Child’s Cerebral Palsy?
Determining the cause of cerebral palsy is not always easy. Even if you are unsure whether a birth injury caused the CP, our attorneys will review your case to help determine if you have a cause of action against a negligent party.
There may be one or more parties that can be held responsible if your child’s injury was caused by medical malpractice. Depending on the circumstances, the hospital, doctor, nurse, midwife, or other medical professional may all have some form of liability. Our attorneys will review your medical records and other evidence to help you understand your rights and potential for recovery.
How Soon After a Diagnosis Should I Contact an Attorney?
We recommend that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after you suspect that your child has suffered a birth injury such as cerebral palsy. Our attorneys work with a team of medical experts when reviewing a case to determine liability. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can begin strategizing about how to help your family.
However, it is important to remember that we can still take your case even if a few years have passed since the injury occurred. Under Maryland’s “statute of limitations,” you are allowed several years to file a birth injury claim.
Parents may file a birth injury claim up to five years from the date the injury took place or three years after the injuries were discovered. The child may also file a claim on his or her own behalf up until his or her 21st birthday.
Contact Our Office for a Free Consultation
Tragically, birth injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or developmental disorders such as CP. A child with cerebral palsy may require lifelong care, a wheelchair, a walker, or other support devices. When cerebral palsy is caused by medical negligence or malpractice, you deserve compensation.
At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey, P.A., we will help to get you and your family the maximum recovery and compensation possible for your case. We have represented families throughout Maryland and obtained over $200 million in verdicts and settlements. Call our office at (410) 685-2022 or fill out our online contact form to speak directly to an attorney.