When Cerebral Palsy is the Result of Medical Malpractice
When Cerebral Palsy is the Result of Medical Malpractice
There are few things more heartbreaking for a parent than to hear that their newborn has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). Not only does CP mean a lifetime of multiple challenges for the child, but the financial consequences associated with ongoing care and medical attention can be overwhelming for the family.
When attorneys who specialize in birth trauma try these kinds of cases, there are numerous factors to consider. Many of those affected by CP will require lifelong assistance, and the costs associated with their ongoing healthcare and specialized treatment can result in significant expenditures.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that can be treated but not cured. It is characterized as a group of disorders caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. Those who suffer from CP exhibit a wide range of symptoms that vary considerably depending on the severity of the injury. Impairment can range from mild symptoms to total disability. CP affects movement, mobility, muscle tone, reflexes, posture and speech and can also cause severe cognitive damage, deafness, blindness, or seizures.
Unlike progressive nervous system disorders, cerebral palsy symptoms generally do not worsen over time. However, muscle rigidity and consequential shortening of muscles can worsen if not appropriately treated.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Medical malpractice attorneys must establish a direct link between a medical professional’s actions or inactions and the diagnosis of cerebral palsy when trying these kinds of cases.
Common Causes of CP Include:
- Failure to properly monitor mother and baby
- Improper medical response to fetal distress
- Failing to identify a breech presentation
- Failure to perform a Caesarian section
- Delaying the delivery of the baby
- Failing to diagnose a fetal or maternal infection
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractor
- Failing to recognize umbilical cord prolapse
Common Causes of CP that Occur After Birth
The most common events that can cause cerebral palsy shortly after birth include:
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: This type of damage is caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain and can occur before, during, or after birth.
- Intraventricular hemorrhage: This type of damage is caused by bleeding in the brain. Bleeding can cause a hematoma, which creates brain damage.
- High levels of bilirubin. With the advent of managed care and early discharge of patients, oftentimes, babies will be sent home with dangerously high bilirubin levels in their blood. Left unchecked, excess bilirubin can lead to cerebral palsy.
- Delayed resuscitation. It is not uncommon for newborns to require resuscitation after birth. There are standard protocols in place which dictate the sequence of medical interventions necessary to properly treat these infants. If qualified and trained practitioners fail to adhere to these protocols, an infant which might otherwise have escaped injury may suffer damage after delivery.
Elements Required to Prove Medical Malpractice
Medical negligence refers to the failure of healthcare professionals to meet the standard of care as determined by the medical community. If a child develops cerebral palsy because of any of the following characteristics, the family may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- A Violation of the Standard of Care– Medical standards of care are recognized as acceptable medical treatment by qualified health care professionals under similar circumstances. If it is determined that a standard of care has not been met, then negligence may be established.
- An Injury was Caused by Negligence– For a medical malpractice claim to be valid, the patient must also prove that the negligence was a cause of the injury.
- The Injury Resulted in Significant Damages– For a medical malpractice lawsuit to be viable, the patient must show that damages resulted from an injury received due to medical negligence.
Evaluating the Medical Records
Medical malpractice attorneys begin each birth trauma case by acquiring and reviewing all available medical records related to the child’s birth. These will include:
- Mother’s prenatal records
- Infant’s chart
- Obstetrician’s birth records
- Labor and delivery room records
- Blood tests
- Fetal heart tracings
- All other relevant medical records.
Retaining Medical Experts
Expert testimony of medical experts is required in all medical malpractice cases. Physicians and medical professionals are retained to interpret the complex medical information necessary to support the underlying claim of negligence. Qualified experts are essential when deciphering complex timing issues in birth injury cases.
Some of the medical experts used in medical malpractice cases involving CP include:
- A physician to review the fetal heart tracings to establish if there was evidence of fetal distress
- Labor and delivery nurses
- Maternal-fetal medicine specialist
- Pediatric neurologist
- Pediatric neuroradiologist
- Developmental psychologist
- Physical therapist
- Life-care planner
Recovering Compensation in a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
Parents with a child who has developed cerebral palsy due to medical negligence have a legal right to file a claim for compensation against the negligent party. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, attorneys will seek to obtain compensation to pay for medical treatment and ongoing care:
- Medical expenses (including estimated future costs)
- Therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Home accommodation expenses
- Counseling expenses
- Braces or orthotics to provide stability and balance
- Wheelchairs and walkers
- Special education costs
When CP is the Result of Medical Malpractice
When a child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and it is believed to result from medical negligence by the hospital or medical professionals, the family should contact a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in birth injury cases as soon as possible. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate the details of the case to determine if there is a valid claim. Families who have endured the heartbreak of CP due to the negligence of a medical professional deserve a chance to pursue legal justice and receive compensation.
Burg Simpson’s Medical Malpractice department is led by shareholder and trial lawyer Scott J. Eldredge. Mr. Eldredge focuses his practice on complex medical malpractice cases. Mr. Eldredge works closely with shareholders Angela E. McGraw and Marc C. Johnson on complex medical malpractice claims. The Burg Simpson Medical Malpractice team has the experience and the resources to handle your case.
One of America’s foremost plaintiff trial firms, Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, has a longstanding and nationwide reputation for fighting relentlessly and successfully for victims of negligence, malfeasance, malpractice, and abuse. Our attorneys have never hesitated to fight for our client’s rights and consistently face and defeat formidable adversaries, including big insurance companies, banks, and pharma. As a result, Burg Simpson has secured more than $2.7 billion in verdicts, settlements, and judgments in practice areas spanning catastrophic personal injury, mass tort and class actions regarding gas explosions, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs and devices, medical malpractice, complex commercial and business litigation, construction defects, and workers’ compensation. The firm’s success has also included more than 200 recoveries in excess of $1 million.
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