Cerebral palsy (CP) occurs when there is damage to the brain that cannot be fixed. While CP is incurable, treatment and therapy can help to manage the effects on the body. Often, this damage occurs due to prenatal complications. In other circumstances, however, a doctor’s inattentiveness or neglect may cause a child to suffer severe harm during birth.
If you suspect that a doctor’s negligence affected your child during birth, you are likely to be traumatized and overwhelmed. However, it is difficult to obtain the appropriate documentation to demonstrate this neglect during this difficult time. Of course, the doctors and hospital will not tell if you if a medical mistake caused your child’s cerebral palsy.
Therefore, in order to prove negligence, the more detailed information you have, the stronger your case may be against the responsible parties. Furthermore, an experienced and compassionate Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer could help to be a guide through each step of the ensuing legal process. Below is helpful information and documentation that may help prove your case, including how to recognize the signs of CP and how to determine fault.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a slight percentage of cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that arises more than 28 days after birth. This is called acquired cerebral palsy and usually is related to infection—such as meningitis—or a head injury. Most of these problems occur as the baby is developing and growing in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first 2 years of life, while the baby’s brain is still developing.
Premature infants have a somewhat higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy may also occur during early infancy as a result of several conditions, including:
- Bleeding in the brain
- Brain infections
- Head injury
- Infections in the mother during pregnancy
- Severe jaundice
Does Cerebral Palsy Get Worse Over Time?
Parents who have children suffering from cerebral palsy often wonder if it can worsen over time. Because it is a non-progressive health condition, it does not necessarily worsen over time. However, there are some potential health issues and long-term concerns that may become pronounced as the child ages. These long term concerns include, but not limited to:
- Flexibility and motor control problems that may become more restrictive for a child’s lifestyle
- Problems with eyesight that may make school, driving, and other activities difficult
- Cognitive and learning disabilities that can make schooling difficult to handle
- Disability-related stress that can create significant emotional and behavioral problems
Early Diagnosis Signs
Many times, people acquire cerebral palsy because parts of their brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen—hypoxia—in the area. It is not known why this occurs. Parents may be advised to:
- Know the signs—Although early identification of cerebral palsy symptoms can’t cure or minimize the condition, it can help you identify likely causes of the brain damage. Some signs include abnormal muscle tone or movements, imbalanced or delayed development, skeletal deformities, and joint contracture. Seizures and are another common symptom, but a symptom shared with a variety of other disorders
- Keep detailed documentation—Keep a journal of prenatal care, doctor visits, and impressions from delivery and baby behavior and development after birth. This will help you stay alert for warning signs, and to establish a timeline to help prove your case if a cerebral palsy lawsuit is necessary
- Ask for a copy of the records—Get and keep a copy of all records of your prenatal care, delivery, and post-natal care. The law requires meticulous records of all care provider action, including decisions that can later be proven to be mistaken
- Identify a cause—In court, your attorney will have to prove a specific act of negligence or improper practice on the part of the doctor, his staff, or the facility where you had your delivery. This is easier to do if you can point to a specific decision or action. Review your memories, journals and medical records for likely causes of your child’s disability
When diagnosing a baby with CP, common tests that are helpful include a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the child’s brain. Other tests may also be done if a genetic, metabolic, or infectious cause of cerebral palsy is suspected.
In the event that cerebral palsy was due to medical negligence, a lawsuit may be filed to compensate both the child and their parents for these damages. With the help of a Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer, these claims may include significant funds necessary to care for the child throughout his or her lifetime.
Managing the Disorder
Usually, individuals with cerebral palsy will need a variety of services to make life livable and gain them some measure of independence. Because of this, caring for someone with CP usually carries a significant physical, emotional, and financial burden. The cost of medications, therapy, and lifetime treatments are often expensive, as are adaptive equipment, schooling, transportation, and other necessities. As mentioned above, there is no known cure for CP. However, medications and therapy can help with many of the symptoms, as well as to reduce the pain and dysfunction associated with the condition.
Common Medical Errors That Cause Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is often caused by a reduction in oxygen (or hypoxia) during birth. Hypoxia is caused by several factors, many of which could have been prevented with proper treatment and care. The common types of negligence alleged in a CP lawsuit include a failure to:
- Order specific tests during pregnancy or not interpreting these tests correctly
- Perform a cesarean section in the presence of fetal distress
- Deliver the infant when the membranes have been ruptured for more than 24 hours
- Properly monitor the fetus and respond to signs of fetal distress
- Act quickly when the water broke, when there was unexpected bleeding, or when maternal blood pressure rose suddenly
- Monitor the baby immediately after birth and to note signs of jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, or infections
- Refer the expectant mother to a specialist when problems arose during pregnancy
Because these and other errors might lead to severe and lasting impacts on a child’s life, it is essential that a parent or guardian understand how the causes of cerebral palsy are demonstrated. To this end, a detail-oriented Michigan cerebral palsy attorney could work tirelessly to assess the facts of a case and determine if a medical professional is at fault.
Pursuing a Claim
If a parent wishes to pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit against a medical professional, the first step should be to contact a well-versed cerebral palsy lawyer for help. A legal professional could help to get all of the pre-natal records, hospital records, and post-birth records and carefully review them. Then, an attorney could consult with medical experts to determine if medical negligence caused the birth condition and how this condition will affect the child throughout his or her lifetime. Afterward, a lawyer could give the claimant an honest opinion on whether they have a case or not.
If so, a claimant must send out the required Notice of Intent to File a Lawsuit to all doctors and hospitals who might be responsible for the harm suffered by the child. The malpractice laws in Michigan require that every lawsuit alleging negligence by a licensed medical provider must have an Affidavit of Merit attached to the complaint filed with the court. This affidavit is a notarized legal document that must be signed by a physician serving as an expert witness on the claim. This would contain medical reasons generated by an expert regarding whether or not a medical professional was negligent. Once all of the Affidavits are received, a lawsuit can be filed in the circuit court for the county where the medical treatment occurred.
Suing a hospital or doctor in a cerebral palsy lawsuit requires more than just proving that a child has a birth injury. Under Michigan law, the main factors needed to prove a cerebral palsy medical malpractice case are:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship (or hospital, urgent care, or clinic)
- That the medical care or treatment provided to the mother during pregnancy or at the time of giving birth was below the acceptable standard of care, including the failure to make a medical diagnosis or provide necessary treatment for a condition, or
- The medical care or treatment provided to the child at or before the time of delivery, or after birth, was below the acceptable standard of care
- That the medical negligence caused cerebral palsy or other harm to the baby
- The child suffered quantifiable harm as a result of the medical malpractice, which would include pain and suffering, disability, loss of future income, loss of enjoyment of life, special educational needs, medical expenses and other economic harm.
Essentially, a parent can file a lawsuit if their child has cerebral palsy due to medical negligence during prenatal care, during labor and delivery, or after the baby is born.
Recoverable Damages for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Their Parents
Many parents must quit their jobs and careers to take care of their child, thereby losing a primary source of family income. Although every parent is legally responsible for providing for their child, the work and effort needed to care for a child with CP is very difficult. As a result, settlements frequently provide compensation to parents to help them for their loss of income and their extraordinary work caring for their child.
The settlement money for the child, on the other hand, must usually be placed in a trust. This is done for several reasons. First, a special needs trust is necessary to protect the child’s ability to receive government benefits in the future. Furthermore, the trust can also protect the funds from creditors and even fraud.
Second, a structured insurance policy pays the child and parents a pre-determined amount of money every year over the child’s life. The amount of the policy and the payments is determined by the parents with the assistance of their attorney and often a financial adviser. The amounts are intended to pay for necessary resources for the child, including the annual housing, education, medical expenses, and other needs of the child and family. The parents can still use the funds to provide for things that are in the best interests of the child.
Deadlines for Filing a Claim
There are strict deadlines for filing a claim in Michigan on the basis of cerebral palsy malpractice. These deadlines are commonly known as the statute of limitations. For cases involving cerebral palsy or any other birth injury, the lawsuit must be filed before the child’s 10th birthday. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Because of the severity of these deadlines, any parent pursuing compensation for their child might benefit from contacting a hardworking cerebral palsy lawyer for help with a Michigan claim.
Contact a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer in Michigan
If an infant suffers cerebral palsy due to the careless, reckless, or otherwise negligent behavior of a medical professional, the family may have legal recourse. Cerebral palsy is a serious medical condition that might affect the future social, academic, and vocational pursuits of your child. Furthermore, the treatments can result in significant expense over their lifetime.
As a result, a claim for compensation may include these damages. However, gathering the appropriate documentation and calculating the extent of your losses may prove difficult without the aid of a seasoned Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer. By enlisting the services of an attorney at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. you could focus on spending time with your family. Call today to discuss your legal options.
Cerebral Palsy References and Resources