Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a series of neurological disorders affecting a person's ability to control their muscles. Cerebral palsy is chronic and non-progressive, with diverse and varied symptoms exhibited by each individual. Although some children lead perfectly normal lives without any intervention, other children with cerebral palsy may never be capable of caring for themselves. For these children, the expense of treating their disorder and maximizing their quality of life can be extremely high.
There are several causes of cerebral palsy, one of which is injury caused by birth defects during childbirth. If your baby was harmed as a result of such as mistake, a birth injury lawyer can help you gain compensation for expenses, and for the pain and suffering of your child.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development or a brain injury in the area of the brain that controls movement. For a long time doctors believed that all cerebral palsy cases were the result of complications during labor and delivery. However, it is now thought there are three main causes of cerebral palsy.
Some cases of cerebral palsy are believed to be congenital (i.e., present at birth) due to abnormal development of the brain early in pregnancy, damage to the white matter of the brain in the latter stages of pregnancy, bleeding in the brain from fetal stroke, and/or loss of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery.
A small number of cases of cerebral palsy occur after delivery, before a child reaches the age of three. These cases are usually the result of illness (e.g., meningitis) or a traumatic brain injury (e.g., in an accident or from child abuse).
Still, there are many cases of cerebral palsy that occur during the birthing process due to medical negligence. If your child has cerebral palsy and you believe that the injury might have occurred due to medical negligence, you may wish to contact a cerebral palsy lawyer who can help determine your legal rights.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
The early warning signs of cerebral palsy are the failure to reach developmental milestones such as crawling or walking, the persistence of infantile reflexes (e.g., "fencer" reflex), abnormal muscle tone (i.e., hypotonic, or "floppy"; or hypertonic, or "stiff") and/or early hand preference. To confirm the diagnosis, a physician needs to rule out other movement disorders, and may order brain imaging studies such as MRI, CAT scan and cranial ultrasound to look at abnormal structures or damage indicative of cerebral palsy.
There are several types of cerebral palsy, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms:
Cerebral Palsy Spastic. Common symptoms include stiff muscle tone and awkward movements in various areas of the body. Other symptoms include seizures, trouble eating and speaking, learning disabilities, "scissored" gait, weakness on one side of the body and many more. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Dyskinetic. Common symptoms include floppy muscle tone and involuntary movements, which may increase during periods of stress and disappear during sleep. Other symptoms include difficulty sitting, walking, eating, speaking or performing other purposeful actions.
Cerebral Palsy Ataxic. Common symptoms include poor coordination and balance with an unusually wide gait. This is the least common form of cerebral palsy.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy. Sometimes the disorder appears with a mixture of muscle tone and a combination of spastic and dyskinetic movements.
The symptoms of these motor disorders are frequently accompanied by disturbances of sensation, cognition, communication, perception, and/or behavior. In addition, medical complications such as seizures, scoliosis and pneumonia are not uncommon.
Cerebral Palsy Treatments
Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive but chronic condition that is managed by a multidisciplinary team of physicians, therapists, counselors, educators and other specialists. Fortunately, the many interventions and treatments that are available can greatly improve even the most severe disabilities and cerebral palsy symptoms.
- Speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychological therapy can improve gross and fine motor skills, communication, and coping skills to help the child assimilate at home, at school and in the community.
- Complimentary therapy such as hippotherapy (therapeutic horseback riding) can not only improve symptoms but also be lots of fun and bolster self-esteem.
- Medications and surgical procedures have shown great success at reducing cerebral palsy symptoms including stiffness and seizures and correcting contractures and other musculoskeletal deformities that are a characteristic of this disease.
- Assistive devices such as computerized voice synthesizers can make a meaningful impact in the patient's quality of life.
A cerebral palsy lawyer can give you examples of settlements related to cerebral palsy and advise you as to whether your family is entitled to compensation that can help with the cost of treatments and therapies.
Legal Issues/Remedies Associated with Cerebral Palsy
When cerebral palsy is the result of a medical mistake, the patient and his or her family may be entitled to compensation for damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering and cost of rehabilitative and therapeutic care. In order to have a successful claim of medical malpractice, the plaintiff has to prove that the healthcare provider(s) failed to act reasonably (i.e., within the applicable standard of care) and that this failure to act reasonably caused cerebral palsy.
Medical malpractice claims can be complicated and may involve a thorough review of the medical records, interviews with medical staff, analysis of evidence, and expert medical witnesses. If you think your child has cerebral palsy because of a medical error, you may be entitled to a monetary award that can help you and your family care for your child. Contact an injury lawyer today to learn more about your legal rights and to determine if you are eligible for compensation.