Bringing home your baby should be among the most wonderful occasions in your life. Unfortunately, not every baby is born in good health.
It’s heartbreaking enough when your newborn arrives with a serious health condition; how do you cope when a negligent act causes that condition? You trust your labor and delivery providers, but sometimes, their carelessness can lead to devastating birth injuries.
One of the most tragic possibilities after a birth injury is cerebral palsy, a movement disorder resulting from brain damage. Cerebral palsy is an incurable, non-progressive condition, meaning that symptoms are permanent. The severity of the brain damage will determine the patient’s ability to walk, speak, eat, hear, and see.
Approximately 10,000 babies are born in the U.S. every year with cerebral palsy, and symptoms arise as early as three months but can take years to develop fully. While some symptoms are mild and easily managed, others can mean a lifetime in a wheelchair and total dependence on others for even the most basic tasks.
A birth injury such as cerebral palsy can be catastrophic for families, affecting their financial, mental, and emotional health. For these reasons, an experienced Washington D.C. birth injury attorney should be consulted. An attorney can help determine if the cerebral palsy was due to medical malpractice and can sue the negligent parties on a family’s behalf, allowing them to focus on their child’s well-being without fear of financial ruin.
An Overview of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy sometimes strikes before a child is even born, often without a clear cause. Possible factors include premature birth, undiagnosed brain infections, meningitis, in-utero genetic changes, maternal infections, stroke from brain swelling, and abnormally large babies.
Common symptoms of cerebral palsy include abnormal gait or posture, exaggerated reflexes, lack of muscle coordination (ataxia), muscle tone that is “too stiff or floppy,” difficulty swallowing, and imbalance in eye muscles.
There are four types of cerebral palsy: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and mixed. Spastic is by far the most common, found in about 70% of cases. Dyskinetic and ataxic cerebral palsy affects 20% and 10% of patients, respectively. Mixed is when more than one type of cerebral palsy is present.
Many causes of cerebral palsy described above are impossible to predict or prevent. However, an avoidable cause makes the diagnosis all the more excruciating. Research shows that up to half of birth injuries are avoidable.
How Does a Birth Injury Cause Cerebral Palsy?
Like any major medical procedure, unexpected problems can occur during labor and delivery that lead to a birth injury. Some cannot be helped, but many birth injuries result from medical negligence or malpractice.
There are several ways a birth injury can lead to cerebral palsy. One of the most common is oxygen deprivation; the human brain can go only four minutes without oxygen before permanent brain damage occurs. Examples include early placental detachment or the umbilical cord wrapping around the neck.
Forceps, an emergency tool used to extract the baby’s head out of the birth canal when labor stops, can be used too forcefully or early and cause bruising, brain swelling or bleeding, skull fracture, scalp wounds, and more.
Vacuum extraction is used for the same reason and can cause similar injury.
Other examples of birth injury caused by medical negligence include errors during a C-section, failure to monitor the fetus for signs of injury or infection, inadequate postpartum care, prescribing the wrong medication, and lack of communication between staff.
Birth injuries are regularly reported in the news, especially when the parents are seeking compensation for their trauma.
In May 2023, a Michigan family won $31.6 million in a malpractice lawsuit against medical staff who missed signs of infant distress during fetal monitoring. A four-year-old child suffered severe brain damage from oxygen deprivation and will endure cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and spastic quadriplegia for the rest of her life.
In June 2021, Paulson & Nace successfully obtained $10.8 million for the parents of a girl who experienced oxygen deprivation at birth and went almost five years without a reason behind her cerebral palsy.
Do I Need a Birth Injury Attorney?
Thousands of parents are helpless to stop the medical negligence that leads to their child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis. As a parent, watching your child suffer and knowing there’s nothing you can do is terrible beyond measure. Parents who endure the trauma of a birth injury often develop lifelong mental health conditions.
Something you can do is hire a birth injury attorney who will fight on your behalf and secure crucial compensation needed for your child’s lifetime care.
Paulson & Nace has more than four decades of experience obtaining cerebral palsy-related compensation for our clients. We will advocate for you against powerful healthcare providers. Hospitals and medical centers have medical malpractice insurance and in-house attorneys to protect them. Winning a case against such a formidable foe is virtually impossible without expert representation.
A birth injury attorney can take everything related to compensation off your hands while you focus on adjusting to your family’s new reality.
At Paulson & Nace, we will collect all necessary evidence, communicate with hospitals and insurance companies, and ensure you don’t accept a bare minimum settlement offer. We will keep you informed every step of the way and are always available to answer questions and ease concerns. Please contact us online or call 202-463-1999 for a free consultation or more information.
Samantha L. Peters focuses her practice in the areas of medical malpractice, personal injury, wrongful death, and other negligence claims.