Was your child’s cerebral palsy the result of a birth injury?

By Greg Kohn

You didn’t expect it to be this way. Your child suffered a birth injury and now you think it may have led to cerebral palsy. You worry about the future, including the costs of caring for your child. Did medical malpractice cause your child’s cerebral palsy, or was it something else?

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy covers a ground of disorders – spastic paralysis, spastic quadriplegia, spastic hemiplegia and spastic diplegia. Children with cerebral palsy often show abnormalities that can include stiff muscles, weakness and abnormal movements. In addition to impaired movement, cerebral palsy can also cause intellectual disabilities, seizures, vision problems and hearing problems.

Each child with cerebral palsy will function differently from other children with the disorder. This can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose it. The symptoms of the disorder can appear anytime during infancy and early childhood.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy can be caused by a number of factors, many of which medical professionals cannot control. Injuries to the brain can also occur after birth, during the first two years of the child’s life.

One of the causes of cerebral palsy that can sometimes be linked to a birth injury is hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in the brain. Other causes of cerebral palsy include brain infections, infections in the pregnant mother, head injuries, low birth weight, exposure to toxins, jaundice and bleeding in the brain. Some of these factors are related to medical malpractice. Others, such as severe prematurity, are simply natural occurrences.

Medical professionals may be held accountable for medical malpractice if they caused an injury that resulted in cerebral palsy and the cerebral palsy would not have occurred otherwise. Some examples of medical malpractice that causes cerebral palsy include:

  •     Failure to properly diagnose or treat an infection
  •     Failure to diagnose infant distress and order a C-Section
  •     Improper use of vacuum extractors or forceps
  •     Failure to monitor an infant’s vital signs
  •     Failure to treat early seizures
  •     Untreated compression of the umbilical cord

Because of the number of potential causes of cerebral palsy, determining whether medical malpractice caused your child’s cerebral palsy can be difficult. A lawyer experienced in birth injuries can help build your case and determine whether you may be able to recover compensation for your child’s injuries and medical costs.

Source: A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, “Cerebral Palsy,” Sept. 16, 2009.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.