THE BIRTH OF A CHILD IS ORDINARILY ONE OF LIFE’S GREATEST JOYS, BUT THIS EVENT CAN QUICKLY TURN TO A SORROWFUL ONE IF YOUR CHILD IS BORN WITH A BIRTH INJURY SUCH AS CEREBRAL PALSY.
There are other serious birth defects that can be caused by substandard medical care. Lack of oxygen, for example, can cause developmental delays and other major problems. Children disabled by cerebral palsy or other birth injuries may require help for their entire lives.
Unfortunately, birth injuries are sometimes caused by medical mistakes made by doctors, nurses, and hospitals. If your child’s disability was caused by negligent care, you may be entitled to compensation to help pay for medical bills, therapy, and education costs. The experienced and compassionate medical malpractice attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters, who have dealt with birth injury cases, are empathetic about these problems and knowledgeable in the law.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy occurs from damage to the areas of the brain that direct movement, and it may lead to partial or complete muscle paralysis. Other areas of the brain controlling thinking, speech, vision, or hearing may also be involved. The damage to the brain usually happens before, during, or shortly after birth. The damage becomes evident in the first few years of life and generally does not worsen over time. However, the muscle, joint, and skeletal effects can get worse without treatment.
In general, there are three major kinds of cerebral palsy: spastic cerebral palsy, athetoid cerebral palsy, and ataxic cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy includes stiffness and a problem moving limbs. Athetoid cerebral palsy involves involuntary, uncontrolled, and sometimes abnormal movements. Ataxic cerebral palsy includes problems with balance, depth perception, or walking.
What Are The Causes?
Causes of cerebral palsy include infections (such as German measles) during pregnancy or jaundice in the infant after birth, which can damage brain cells if left untreated. Another cause is head injuries during labor and delivery. This may involve the child’s being deprived of oxygen for too long; being dropped or pulled out forcefully; or being injured by instruments. Labor that lasts longer than 18 hours, especially if the child is one of multiple births, and a baby’s getting stuck in the birth canal or being choked by the umbilical cord, can also damage the brain.
Sometimes the cause lies with negligence by medical professionals, who may fail to perform a C-section when one is necessary, or who use forceps or a vacuum extraction improperly, or who fail to treat seizures or jaundice after birth.
Signs and Symptoms
Cerebral palsy may show up as spastic movements, a lack of muscle control, and often by abnormal, slow, writhing movements that the child cannot control. Muscle tone may vary between being floppy and stiff. The child may miss usual developmental milestones and show intellectual disabilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- Muscle Tone: Lack of muscle control makes tasks such as sitting down, walking, tying shoes, and grasping objects difficult.
- Reflexes: Abnormal reflex responses, tremors, unintentional body movements.
- Coordination and Control: Both are limited and usually get worse when the child is stressed or overwhelmed. This causes spastic movements, poor balance, walking with a wide gait or with toes pointed inward or outward, or dragging one leg.
- Oral Motor Problems: Speech problems and difficulties with communication, breathing, eating, closing the mouth, and swallowing.
Since cerebral palsy is a brain injury, other areas of the brain can be affected. Related disabilities include:
- Trouble with hearing, sight, and speech
- Problems with bladder or bowel control
- Mental health issues, attention deficit disorder, and behavioral problems
- Decreased ability to feel pain or identify items by touch
- Low bone density and fractures.
Confirming Cerebral Palsy
Tests that confirm cerebral palsy include blood tests, a cranial ultrasound, an MRI, and a CT scan, which is an in-depth, 3-D scan of the baby’s brain.
Sometimes it can take years after a brain injury to confirm the diagnosis, and it may require a combination of tests, observations, assessments, and evaluations.
Sometimes DNA testing and evaluation of the parents or other family members may be necessary. Oftentimes health care professionals will blame serious birth trauma on family members.
Treatment and Care
Care and treatment depend on the severity of the disabilities. A team of professionals can evaluate the child and draw up a Life Care Plan, an itemized list of the child’s needs and accommodations that need to be made in the home. The plan may include a list of equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, braces, etc.; therapy, special educational accommodations and plans to improve learning; and licensed in-home care. Some children do well attending regular schools with special services. Vocational training can help prepare young adults for jobs.
Treatments may include orthopedic surgery to diminish spastic movements and physical therapy to improve motor skills. Occupational therapy can help with daily living skills. In addition, there are some medications that may help with symptoms such as spasms, seizures and depression.
Can Cerebral Palsy Be Prevented?
To increase the chances of having a healthy baby, expectant mothers should follow their doctor’s instructions during pregnancy, eat nutritious food, receive vaccinations, and abstain from drugs or alcohol use while pregnant.
Doctors should be aware of and address risk factors for cerebral palsy. These include low or high birth weight; breech presentation at birth; and complicated or premature labor and delivery, including vascular and respiratory problems of the baby, multiple births, infection, blood clotting and bleeding problems during pregnancy, and diabetes in the expectant mother.
If birth injuries are due to negligent medical care, lawsuits may be filed to obtain compensation for the child. For example, we have obtained many settlements in the millions of dollars for children and families of children who have suffered serious birth traumas. In some cases, the child may not even survive. We have handled those cases as well. These are technical cases requiring attorneys who are experienced and who have access to the right kind of medical expertise. We have handled cases not only where there was birth trauma as a result of bad medical care, but even where health care professionals did not know properly how to intubate a child who was only a few years of age. Lack of oxygen before birth is one cause of birth trauma, but there are many others as well.
Trust Our Firm for Honest Answers
Since a statute of limitations and sometimes even a statute of repose applies to lawsuits involving medical and hospital liability, including birth trauma, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you suspect a problem. Medical liability cases are regulated by a complex body of rules. You should know that the book used in Pennsylvania by lawyers was written by Cliff Rieders. Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania has a longstanding history in the Commonwealth as an encyclopedic work relied upon by lawyers, judges, and the appellate courts as well.
Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a trial, Cliff Rieders and other attorneys at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters are familiar with the law. Our staff is thoroughly prepared and is committed to achieving a just result. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
Do not delay. Consult Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters by calling 1-877-962-9411 for a free consultation, or use our online contact form.
Based in Williamsport, but with a statewide practice and involvement in other states and the federal courts as well, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and other states providing a free consultation on all injury matters. We offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, empathy, and a long history of results.
Remember, call the lawyer who other lawyers call and who other lawyers rely upon as a teacher, author and Trial Lawyer: Cliff Rieders.