Parents whose children were born with Cerebral Palsy may be able to file a lawsuit against the doctor who delivered the child to recoup a number of damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of future earning potential. The medical bills that are associated with a child suffering from Cerebral Palsy can be costly. As a result, parents may be able to receive compensation for future medical bills when a doctor's negligence was the cause of their child's illness. Cerebral Palsy may also prevent the child from being able to perform certain jobs, negatively affecting their long term monetary prospects. Parents may be able to receive compensation for any damage done to their child's earning potential. At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our New York Cerebral Palsy lawyers realize how difficult life can be for parents and their children after a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis. We understand that nothing can make up for an infant who unnecessarily suffers Cerebral Palsy. We are, however, committed to helping injured infants and their families get their lives back on track. Our attorneys always pursue maximum compensation to try and ease the effected family's unnecessary financial burden.
Has your child been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy shortly after birth? Do you believe that doctors may have acted negligently before or during, or after the delivery? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free evaluation of your legal options, call 212.406.1700 or contact us online. We will review your claim and see how our attorneys may be of assistance.Cerebral Palsy is a Debilitating Birth Injury That Can be Caused Organically or by Medical Malpractice
It is a tragic fact that in the 21st Century, despite significant advances of medicine and science, that many children are still born with disabling injuries like Cerebral Palsy. While many of these injuries may be unavoidable, some occur due to the negligence of medical workers. The negligence of the medical staff-including but not limited to doctors, nurses and midwives-are charged with caring for the mother and her baby. When the staff fails in these duties before, during, or shortly after the birthing of the child, they run the risk of causing a birth injury like Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy describes a group of disorders that affect the control of body movements. Unlike Erb's Palsy, Cerebral palsy is not the result of damage to the effected muscles or nerves, but by damage to the parts of the brain that control the body's muscles. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common causes of chronic childhood disability. The United Cerebral Palsy Association estimates that more than 764,000 American have Cerebral Palsy. Approximately 10,000 infants and 1,500 preschoolers in the U.S. are diagnosed with Cerebral palsy each year. It has been estimated that 90% of these cases are caused before or during delivery.
The signs of cerebral palsy typically develop when a child reaches age two or three. The most common signs include a lack of muscle coordination during voluntary movements (called ataxia); stiff muscles or muscles that are tight with exaggerated reflexes (referred to as spasticity); tremors or involuntary movements; excessive drooling or swallowing difficulties; dragging one foot or leg while walking; favoring one side of the body; walking on the toes; trouble with fine motor skills such s grasping small objects; and muscle tone that is too tight or too "floppy." While the brain damage itself does not continue to worsen over time, the symptoms may evolve.The Four Types of Cerebral Palsy
- Spastic cerebral palsy: The most common diagnosis, it is characterized by spastic muscles that are rigid and jerky. Types include spastic diplegia (tight leg and hip muscles, which make it difficult to walk, resulting in a kind of movement characterized as crossed legs at the knees and often called scissoring); spastic hemiplegia (stiffness on one side of the body, which can affect development of limbs); and spastic quadriplegia (the severest spastic diagnosis, affecting all limbs and sometimes characterized by seizures and mental retardation).
- Athetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy: The second most commonly diagnosed form of cerebral palsy, it is characterized by muscle problems throughout the body. While normal in intelligence, the child can have trouble sitting, walking, speaking and/or controlling facial muscles.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: The rarest diagnosed form of cerebral palsy, it affects fine motor skills.
- Mixed cerebral palsy: Doctors commonly will diagnose a child as having mixed cerebral palsy, or some combination of the above forms or symptoms.
While much remains unknown about the causes of cerebral palsy, it is believed that the following can all be causative factors:
- Babies who are born breech, prematurely, or at a very low birth weight
- Infants born severely jaundiced or whose jaundice is untreated
- Twins are at a higher risk
- The mother has an infection during pregnancy
- German measles/rubella
- The mother has chicken pox
- Mother has Cytomegalovirus
- Toxoplasmosis present in the mother
- Mother has contracted syphilis
- Maternal exposure to certain toxins
While cerebral palsy typically results from the above listed organic causes, it can also be caused by the negligence of a medical practitioner. Typical cases of medical malpractice causing cerebral palsy involve the medical provider's failure to recognize and timely correct the risks to the baby. For instance, while in utero, the infant is entirely dependent on the mother for its oxygen supply, delivered via blood through the placenta. Any impairment in this delivery of blood and oxygen can cause distress and injury to the unborn baby. The baby's distress may be shown by abnormalities in the fetal monitoring strips-a graphic display of the baby's heart rhythm and rate, and the mother's contractions, if any. Abnormalities in the heart rate or rhythm, particularly when compared to the timing of contractions may be signs of distress. For example, during labor, changes in the baby's heart rate called accelerations and decelerations are expected and normal, particularly when compared to the occurrence of contractions with a return baseline. An absence of these changes, changes that are too large, or irregular return to the baseline can all be signs of distress. These signs need to be recognized, and in some cases, the baby may need to be delivered. In other cases, for a variety of reasons, the mother could have difficulty in delivering the baby with a prolonged labor. If uncorrected, there are times when the baby's oxygen supply can be impaired and a delay in performing certain maneuvers to facilitate delivery or a cesarean section to deliver the baby can cause brain damage.
When a doctor or other medical provider fails to respond to any of the aforementioned situations in a timely manner, they may have acted negligently and could be liable for any resulting injury. Parents of children who have suffered a brain injury such as cerebral palsy may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the negligent medical provider. For instance, our firm recently resolved a case involving a brain damaged child for $5.8 million just prior to opening statements at trial. In this case, the attending OBGYN damaged the baby's brain by using excessive force during a forceps delivery. In this case, the doctor's excessive use of force was considered negligence that subsequently caused the infant's injury.
In still another class of malpractice cases, medical providers may fail to take appropriate steps to prolong a pregnancy or to optimize a preterm birth. In some instances, women with what is called an incompetent cervix or with other conditions may have difficulty carrying a pregnancy to term. Placing a stitch, called a cerclage, may prolong the pregnancy and reduce the risk of preterm delivery. When preterm labor begins, medical providers may be able to prolong the pregnancy with the use of certain medications. They may also be able to administer medications to help speed the baby's lung development to lessen the risk of illness associated with preterm birth. Given the morbidity associated with preterm delivery, and the increased risk of cerebral palsy, failures to properly or timely intervene in these ways could be avoidable causes of injury to the baby.
When a doctor or other medical practitioner fails to take the appropriate steps to prolong a pregnancy they may be liable for any permanent injury that occurs. For instance, our firm recently brought to trial a case in which a child was prematurely born with cerebral palsy at 30 weeks gestation. Due to the failure of the OBGYN to properly treat the mother's incompetent cervix, she went into early labor. Consequently, the child was born severely disabled. The multimillion dollar settlement we obtained for our clients ensured that the child's needs will always be satisfied.The Medical Indemnity Fund Fully Covers the Medical Expenses of all Children Whose Cerebral Palsy was Caused by Medical Malpractice
In New York, for qualified children and their families, a 2011 law can help alleviate the crushing medical costs associated with the life time of care necessitated by cerebral palsy. Title 4, Article 29-D of the New York Public Health Law created the Medical Indemnity Fund to pay for the health care costs associated with "birth related neurological injuries." The law applies to "An injury to the brain or spinal cord of a live infant caused by the deprivation of oxygen or mechanical injury occurring in the course of labor, delivery or resuscitation or by other medical services provided or not provided during the delivery admission that rendered the infant with a permanent and substantial motor impairment or with a developmental disability."
For children with a birth-related neurological injury, as defined in the law, the Medical Indemnity Fund pays for the children's "medical, hospital, surgical, nursing, dental, rehabilitation, custodial, durable medical equipment, home modifications, assistive technology, vehicle modifications, prescription and non-prescription medications, and other health care costs...which are necessary to meet their health care needs." The benefits of this fund are available to a plaintiff or claimant "who (i) has been found by a jury or court to have sustained a birth-related neurological injury as the result of medical malpractice, or (ii) has sustained a birth-related neurological injury as the result of alleged medical malpractice, and has settled his or her lawsuit or claim therefor."
Our birth injury lawyers have a wealth of experience in litigating birth injury cases. We have also successfully obtained the benefits of the Medical Indemnity Fund for our qualified clients. For example, last year our firm was successful in placing a child in the Neurological Impaired Infant Fund providing lifetime medical care and treatment. In this case, our client arrived at the community hospital in labor and suffering from Placenta Abruption. This condition causes the placental lining to separate from the uterus placing the unborn fetus at great risk. Despite the severe bleeding noted at the time of admission to the hospital, the doctors delayed performing a Cesarean Section. This delay caused the child to suffer hypoxia which is the lack of oxygen to the brain resulting in cerebral palsy. The successful resolution of this lawsuit provided the child with lifetime placement in a special needs facility that the family would be otherwise unable to afford. The Medical Indemnity Fund, however, covers all of the injured child's medical costs. Additionally, a trust worth several million dollars was created. Though the child will continue to battle the challenges of cerebral palsy, the family has the security of knowing that all of their daughter's medical requirements will be met.Do You Have a Valid Claim?
In order to have a valid medical malpractice claim, plaintiffs must be able to prove that the Cerebral Palsy could be attributed to a doctor's negligence before, during, or shortly after birth. While there are many causes of Cerebral Palsy, some can be directly attributed to a doctor's negligence. The following causes of Cerebral Palsy may be the result of negligence:
- The gynecologist failed to identify an infection during the mother's pregnancy
- The doctor failed to monitor the child's oxygen levels before or during birth. A lack of oxygen can cause Hypoxia, leading to Cerebral palsy.
- The physician failed to diagnose a kidney or urinary tract infection in the mother
- The infant suffered a traumatic head injury during birth
- The doctor failed to order a C-Section, resulting in an injury to the infant
- The medical staff failed to react to complications-such as the umbilical cord being wrapped around the baby's neck-in a timely manner
While a doctor's primary job is to help patients, they are afraid to get sued and may not give a satisfactory explanation as to why a child was born with Cerebral Palsy. As a result, it is important that parents whose child has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy not hesitate to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney. A medical malpractice lawyer is a valuable asset for parents of children with Cerebral palsy, as they will have top medical experts review the medical records of the birth and help determine whether the infant's family has grounds for a lawsuit. At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our attorneys have decades of experience handling Cerebral Palsy cases. We thoroughly review all of our clients' claims, hire medical experts, handle the filing of lawsuits, and seek enrollment for their infant into the MIF program.
If your child has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, you may have legal recourse. For a free consultation, call 212.406.1700 or contact us online. Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool take all cases on a contingency-fee basis, meaning there is no charge without a monetary recovery.