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What Is Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice?

Health care providers can be held liable for cerebral palsy malpractice when they make mistakes during prenatal care or childbirth that cause your child to develop cerebral palsy. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, immediately contact one of our experienced cerebral palsy lawyers. You may be eligible for significant compensation.

What is Cerebral Palsy Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor deviates from established medical guidelines and causes an injury. Medical malpractice may stem from a harmful act or a failure to act. To qualify as medical malpractice, you must be able to establish a causal link between the doctor’s negligent acts or omissions and your child’s cerebral palsy.

Who Is Liable for Cerebral Palsy Caused by Doctors?

Any health care provider that participated in your care and caused or contributed to your child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis can be held liable. Those potentially responsible include the following:

  • Your obstetrician
  • A midwife
  • A pediatrician who cared for your child immediately after birth
  • A pathologist
  • A labor and delivery nurse
  • A pharmacist
  • A radiologist
  • A hospital or birthing center

When Is a Hospital Responsible for Medical Malpractice in Cerebral Palsy Cases?

Hospitals can be held liable for cerebral palsy caused by doctors or other providers if the negligent providers are hospital employees. This is known as vicarious liability. Most doctors and midwives are independent contractors, while nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, and pathologists are more likely to be employees.

Sometimes, a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the actions of doctors who work as independent contractors. For example, if the doctor appears to be an employee, the Illinois courts have ruled that the hospital may still be liable.

Hospitals can also be held liable for their own negligence, such as the following:

  • Understaffing
  • Lack of quality control
  • Lack of communication between departments
  • Poor infection control
  • Poor management of electronic health records

Medical Errors That May Lead to Cerebral Palsy

Obstetricians, midwives, and other providers who provide care during pregnancy, labor, and delivery must be competent and prepared to manage risk factors and complications that could do the following:

  • Interfere with brain development during pregnancy
  • Damage the brain during birth
  • Increase the risk of premature birth

Inadequate Prenatal Care

A growing fetus relies on a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered through the placenta. If this supply is interrupted or tainted with infections, harmful medications, or other detrimental substances, it could compromise brain development, leading to multiple disorders such as blindness, seizures, and cerebral palsy.

The most common forms of medical neglect during prenatal care that may lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy include the following:

  • Unaddressed infections during pregnancy – Pregnant women are more vulnerable to infections than other healthy adults, but many infections can be prevented or quickly remedied through education, pre-screening, and prompt treatment. Infections known to lead to cerebral palsy include chickenpox, German measles, toxoplasmosis, chorioamnionitis, and cytomegalovirus.
  • Poor medication management during pregnancy – Some medications can transfer through the placenta and harm the fetus. This risk must be carefully balanced with the health needs of the mother. The FDA classifies drugs into five categories based on pregnancy safety. Health care providers should work as a team to serve the needs of both the mother and the baby when the mother requires medication during pregnancy.
  • Mismanagement of Incompatible Blood Types – When the mother’s blood type is Rh-negative, and the fetus has Rh-positive blood, the mother’s body may make antibodies against the baby’s red blood cells, leading to severe jaundice, brain damage, and reduced muscle tone. Diligent prenatal care providers can prevent complications by providing immune globulin to Rh-negative mothers during pregnancy.

Birth Errors

Mistakes during childbirth can cause birth asphyxia or hypoxia. Hypoxia is an inadequate supply of oxygen, and asphyxia is complete oxygen deprivation. It only takes a few minutes for either form of oxygen deprivation during birth to cause irreversible damage to the baby’s brain.

Head injuries during birth can also damage the brain and lead to cerebral palsy. Birth injuries resulting in brain damage are most commonly caused by the following:

Premature Birth

Premature birth increases the risk of brain injuries that could lead to cerebral palsy, and in many cases, a competent prenatal care provider can prevent it. Preterm labor often presents with warning signs, such as contractions less than ten minutes apart, lower back pain, gastrointestinal distress, or pelvic pain. 

Competent prenatal doctors and midwives educate expectant mothers on the signs of preterm labor and can often stop it by ordering bedrest and prescribing medication. Doctors can sometimes prevent preterm labor by promptly detecting and treating maternal infections and diligently working to maintain maternal health.

Negligent Pediatric Care Immediately Following Birth

Newborns should be examined immediately after birth. The Apgar score assesses the infant’s overall health status at one minute and again at five minutes. Its purpose is to identify problems with breathing, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin coloration. However, this is only a small part of the assessment newborns should receive.

A pediatrician should also perform a complete physical examination, including weight, size, temperature, skin, and all body parts. The doctor should also evaluate the baby’s level of maturity to ensure all organs and nerves have sufficiently developed to function normally.

Pediatricians may be liable for medical malpractice if they fail to detect or treat health conditions or birth injuries immediately after birth and the infant suffers harm. 

For example, untreated jaundice can lead to kernicterus, a type of brain damage that can lead to cerebral palsy. Jaundice is a yellow skin discoloration from the buildup of bilirubin in the body.

The Consequences of Cerebral Palsy From Medical Malpractice

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy requires more time, energy, and financial resources than caring for other children. In 2004, the CDC estimated that the average lifetime cost of cerebral palsy was $921,000. That amount would be nearly $1.5 million in today’s dollars, which is beyond most families’ means. 

That expense comes in addition to the sacrifices parents must make to care for a child with cerebral palsy, including giving up careers to provide full-time care. Coping with the child’s limitations, advocating for the child in school, and accommodating special needs can also take a strong emotional toll on a family. In addition, cerebral palsy is a permanent condition that results in lifelong disabilities for the child, including the following:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Spastic movements
  • Reduced cognitive functioning
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low vision or blindness
  • Hearing loss or deafness
  • Seizure disorders
  • Emotional and behavioral problems
  • Spinal deformities
  • Joint problems

Children with cerebral palsy face an uncertain future with reduced earning potential compared to those without special needs. In addition, some may be unable to live independently as adults. They deserve financial compensation from the doctors and other health care providers that carelessly caused their plight.

Is It Possible To Sue for Cerebral Palsy?

You may have grounds to file a cerebral palsy lawsuit if you can establish a causal link between your child’s cerebral palsy and medical negligence. You must prove the following elements:

  1. The health care provider had a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care.
  2. The health care provider breached this duty during pregnancy, labor, or birth.
  3. Your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
  4. Your child would not have developed cerebral palsy except for the breach of duty.
  5. The breach of duty is the actual cause of your child’s cerebral palsy and the resulting losses.

Proving all of these elements of negligence in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice lawsuit requires the assistance of an experienced cerebral palsy lawyer with significant resources. 

Large medical malpractice insurance companies will likely claim your child’s cerebral palsy was inevitable. We know what it takes to overcome these defenses. Our co-founder, John J. Perconti, has in-depth knowledge of complex medical issues, and we work with some of the nation’s leading medical experts to compare the reasonable standard of care to each of your health care provider’s actions throughout pregnancy and birth. 

We can often pinpoint the exact moment of failure that caused the brain damage that ultimately led to cerebral palsy. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, contact us immediately for a free case evaluation.

Who Can File A Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice Claim?

If your child has recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy by a licensed physician, you may have grounds to file a cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit, especially if you experienced complications during pregnancy or birth. 

Cerebral palsy may be diagnosed during the first few months of life, but some children are not diagnosed until the age of two or later. Even with a diagnosis at this age, the condition could still have resulted from medical malpractice during pregnancy or birth. Contact our award-winning cerebral palsy lawyers immediately for a free case review. 

Our attorneys can answer any questions you may have about the cerebral palsy statute of limitations or other deadlines, requirements, and restrictions and advise you whether your case is still timely.

Contact Us Today to Start Your Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Claim

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may be eligible to recover substantial compensation for the cost of your child’s care, your lost wages, your child’s pain and suffering, and more. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.