Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice

Birth Injury, Legal Help, Tips for Parents

Doctor holding clipboard with 'At Fault' written in red, with gavel in foreground

Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent, non-progressive disorders caused by either abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain. This developmental interference impacts a child’s ability to control his or her muscles, which makes CP a motor disability.

The three types of CP are:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: causes stiffness and movement difficulties
  • Dyskinetic (athetoid) cerebral palsy: causes uncontrolled movements
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: causes a problem with balance and depth perception

Up to 80% of all people diagnosed with CP have some degree of spasticity, making it the most common form of CP. Even so, a person’s condition can be so mild that walking might simply look a bit awkward, or it might be so severe that walking is impossible.

How Can Medical Malpractice Result in CP?

Medical malpractice resulting in cerebral palsy may occur during pregnancy or even up to several years after birth. CP that is related to factors that happened before or during birth is called congenital CP, which applies to the majority of children with CP. In pregnancy, your OBGYN’s negligence might be in the form of a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a bacterial infection.

When it comes to birth injuries, there are many different causes or even a combination of factors that can result in cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Mismanagement of labor or delivery
  • Delayed delivery or C-section, causing lack of oxygen or blood to the brain
  • Spinal cord injuries and autonomic dysreflexia
  • Improper use of tools such as forceps or vacuum extractor
  • Failure to monitor or recognize signs of fetal distress

We expect doctors to make decisions that are in our best interest, and they often have to make them very quickly, especially when it comes to fetal distress or labor complications. While not every birth injury is the result of a negligent decision, doctors are trained to know how to react to known risks, and we trust them because of it.

When a doctor knows the risks and begins to see signs of a problem, their training should pay off. When a doctor negligently ignores their training and education in spite of the known risks, it might be medical malpractice. However, negligent medical care after delivery can also cause cerebral palsy. If healthcare professionals fail to properly manage a newborn’s airway, administer cooling therapy, or treat jaundice, babies may experience devastating injuries that lead to CP.

How Can I Determine if Medical Malpractice Occurred?

Sometimes, it’s not one specific, harmful action on the part of your doctor that results in malpractice. In the case of prenatal or labor and delivery injuries, it can be difficult to imagine that the doctor you have built a relationship with and have entrusted your care to during such a powerful time in your life could be responsible for your child’s cerebral palsy.

The first sign that medical malpractice may be responsible for your child’s CP might be that nagging instinct you have that something was not right with your care or your baby’s care after birth. From a legal standpoint, however, there are four specific criteria that must be met:

  • The doctor had a duty to care for the patient.
  • The doctor breached that duty.
  • The patient was injured because of the breach of duty.
  • The injury caused damage to the patient.

You may not know how to prove that medical malpractice happened, but it’s not something you have to do on your own.

What Legal Recourse Is There in CP Medical Malpractice Cases?

When your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe the condition was caused by medical malpractice, you may feel confused about what to do next.

The sooner you speak with an attorney about your case, the sooner they can start gathering evidence to determine if your instincts match the law’s requirements. States have statutes of limitations (the period of time in which you can file a lawsuit) on malpractice cases, and witnesses’ memories fade. Acting quickly means any compensation you receive can go toward helping your child sooner.

In medical malpractice cases, compensation is available for medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more. While it may be hard to imagine now, the lifetime costs of treating CP are monumental. This does not include the lost wages for family caretakers, unexpected medical costs like emergency room visits, or other compensation allowed for by law—such as emotional distress.

Did Medical Malpractice Cause Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy?

Medical malpractice cases can take several years to resolve, so it’s important to work with a firm that has the financial resources to fund long-term cases. Expert witnesses, laboratory testing, depositions, and medical record copies to strengthen the case all cost money. However, with the right resources, an experienced cerebral palsy lawyer can take this very complicated medical issue and build a case that demonstrates a clear connection between the actions (or inactions) of your medical professional and your child’s CP.

The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have consulted with more than 30,000 families nationwide. We call upon our legal and medical experience to uncover the truth and fight to recover the compensation your family deserves. Contact us if you suspect that malpractice played a part in your child’s CP.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?