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One of the most common birth injuries is cerebral palsy (CP). Cerebral palsy actually refers to a group of permanent disorders that are caused by developmental brain injuries a child suffers during fetal development, during the birth process or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy is a permanent, lifelong condition that has a variety of symptoms, including seizures, paralysis and spasticity. The ability of the body to control movement and to control posture is impaired in a child with cerebral palsy.
While no two cases of cerebral palsy manifest in exactly the same way, children who experience the range of cerebral palsy symptoms will have difficulties for the rest of their lives. They require special early intervention to meet both their medical and social needs. Typically, children with cerebral palsy will need some type of assistance or adaptive care for the rest of their lives.
In cases where the CP is caused by a doctor or by the negligence of another medical provider, the negligent party should be held responsible for covering the cost of care and for compensating the family members. At the Abelson Law Firm, we represent children and families who have been affected by cerebral palsy, and we work to ensure that you have the money you need to get the help you need.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy may be congenital (present when the child is born) or it may be acquired during or shortly after birth. Every year, there are approximately 10,000 babies in the United States who develop cerebral palsy. In some cases, it is not clear why the brain abnormality occurs or why the child suffers from the condition. In other cases, however, cerebral palsy develops because of something that the doctor or delivery team did.
For example, cerebral palsy may develop due to:
- An infection while the mother is pregnant – Infections, including rubella, toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus, can occur during pregnancy and can endanger the health of both mother and child. When the infection impairs the development of the child’s nervous system, the child may be born with cerebral palsy.
- Untreated jaundice — When a child has severe jaundice that is left untreated, brain damage can occur as a result. This brain damage can be classified as cerebral palsy.
- Rh incompatibility — In some cases, pregnant women have a blood condition that causes their immune system to treat the baby as a foreign object and to attack the fetus. This can result in jaundice, which can in turn lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy.
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy — This is a medical term for brain damage caused by oxygen shortage or oxygen deprivation. If the fetus is deprived of oxygen for any reason (such as an umbilical cord being around the child’s neck), then brain damage can start to occur almost immediately.
- Stroke — When a mother suffers a stroke during pregnancy or birth, this can cause the baby to develop cerebral palsy. Some women with coagulation disorders may be at greater risk of having a stroke during pregnancy.
- Drug or alcohol use — If a mother exposes her fetus to drugs, alcohol or other toxins, brain damage can occur as a result. Babies in these cases are also at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and other problems caused by exposure to chemicals or drugs.
- Bleeding in the brain — When bleeding in the brain occurs in the fetus shortly after birth, this can cause brain damage and cerebral palsy.
- Meningitis, encephalitis and other brain infections — These infections can afflict the baby within the first few months or years of life. They can result in permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.
- Head injuries — A baby or young child may suffer a head injury due to shaken baby syndrome, child abuse, car accidents or falls.
These are just some examples of the causes of cerebral palsy. In many cases, the damage to the brain occurs as a result of negligence or error on the part of physicians or health care providers. For example, if a doctor fails to notice signs of fetal distress and take prompt action, this can exacerbate the risk of cerebral palsy. Aggressive use of the vacuum or forceps during childbirth, improper prenatal care or inadequate postnatal care can all be forms of medical malpractice that lead to cerebral palsy. In any situation where a doctor or care provider falls short of what a reasonable provider would have done in treating either mother or baby, the doctor could be considered negligent and could be held liable for the consequences of that negligence.
Legal Help For Cerebral Palsy Victims
If you or a loved one has been impacted by cerebral palsy, it is very important that you seek legal assistance from a qualified birth injury attorney. Getting physical, vocational and social training for a child with cerebral palsy is very important, and you will need to be able to afford the types of help and adaptive care that are necessary. Once the injury occurs, the cerebral palsy is lifelong, meaning the child may need ongoing medical care and may never be able to support himself or herself financially as a result of the impairments. The costs of cerebral palsy can be enormous, and a qualified birth injury attorney can help you to make sure that the responsible party pays for those costs.
At the Abelson Law Firm, our birth injury attorneys have helped many families affected by cerebral palsy to obtain compensation. Call us today at 202-331-0600 or toll free at 1-888-797-4242 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation and to learn how we can help.