The signs of cerebral palsy (CP) – a condition that affects cognition, balance, and movement – include developmental delays and abnormal muscle tone or posture. CP can become noticeable early in a child’s life and range in severity, from minor deficits to conditions that are severely debilitating.
If you believe your child may have CP or if they have received a positive diagnosis, we hope this Q&A helps in your research to understand the condition, investigate the underlying cause, and determine your next steps.
What Causes CP?
CP is caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain that affects a child’s ability to control his or her muscles. Most CP is related to brain damage that happened before or during birth and it is called congenital CP. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these factors can increase the risk for congenital CP:
- Being born too small
- Being born too early
- Being born a twin or other multiple birth
- Being conceived by in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technology
- Having a mother who had an infection during pregnancy
A small percentage of CP is caused by brain damage that happens after birth. This is called acquired CP and can result from having a brain infection, such as meningitis, or suffering a serious head injury. Medical mistakes at birth can also lead to CP. These mistakes include an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain during or close to delivery, complications missed by a doctor during pregnancy, or other errors that resulted in fetal distress or brain damage during delivery.
What Does the Future Look Like for a Child With CP?
CP is incurable, it does not go away when the patient reaches adulthood. Nevertheless, there are services and support available for children and adults with CP, as well as their families. The CDC provides information here that can be especially helpful for parents, guardians, and caregivers of children with CP.
Can a Doctor Be Held Liable for a Birth Injury That Results in CP?
Yes, CP can be caused by doctors if they are negligent with their care before and during childbirth. Medical professionals are expected to meet a high standard of care. If they fail to meet that standard of care and a child is injured, a doctor can be held accountable. This can include failing to provide:
- Proper prenatal care
- A needed intervention during labor and delivery
- An appropriate response to signs of fetal distress
- Correct use of forceps during delivery
- Treatment for preeclampsia (maternal elevated blood pressure)
- Proper resuscitation of a newborn
Should I File a Claim if I Suspect My Baby’s CP Was Caused by a Birth Injury?
Yes. CP causes lifelong challenges as well as economic hardships for the child and the family. You may be able to sue for CP if your child’s birth injury was caused by a negligent mistake before or during childbirth. Filing a claim can help your family get financial compensation to pay for your child’s treatment, which, according to this study published in 2011, can be extensive:
- Among children enrolled in Medicaid in 2005, medical costs were higher for children with cerebral palsy.
- Medical costs for children with cerebral palsy alone were 10 times higher than for children without cerebral palsy or intellectual disability
- Medical costs for children with both cerebral palsy and intellectual disability were 26 times higher than for children without cerebral palsy or intellectual disability
- CDC has estimated that the lifetime cost to care for an individual with CP is nearly $1 million (2003 dollars).
- It also has been estimated that the combined lifetime costs for all people with CP who were born in 2000 will total $11.5 billion in direct and indirect costs.
What Damages Can Be Included in Compensation for a CP Claim?
In general, plaintiffs can claim:
- Parental economic losses
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering to the child
- Injuries to the parent/child relationship and distress for the parents
- Medical expenses (including past, present, and estimated future costs)
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Special education costs
- Home accommodation expenses
- Counseling expenses
Menzer Law Can Help
While the prospect of filing a claim against a doctor or hospital may sound daunting, you don’t need to fight this alone. Attorney Matt Menzer has represented people injured by medical malpractice for more than 30 years. Matt is a highly experienced, respected, and compassionate lawyer you can count on to protect your rights while looking out for you and your child’s best interests.
If you suspect your child’s CP may have caused by a birth injury, call us at 206.903.1818, or fill out this online form, and our team will review your claim at no cost to you. Rest assured; you will not pay any upfront no upfront fees when working with us. If we’re able to take on your case, we’ll do so on a contingency basis and will receive payment only after we recover compensation through a settlement or jury trial.
Disclaimer: This content is written for educational purposes and is intended to provide general information and understanding of the law. The information should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.