There are times when a child will be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and it is impossible to determine the cause of the injury. However, there are other times, where it is clear that a preventable mistake by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional has resulted in a tragically-altered future for a beloved child. It is critical that parents determine what has led to the injury sustained by their child, to the extent possible.
A diagnosis of cerebral palsy covers a wide range of neurological conditions that may impact a child across a broad spectrum of ways. In many cases, it is believed that oxygen deprivation, which may include:
- a partial restriction on normal oxygen levels (hypoxia)
- or a complete deprivation of oxygen (anoxia)
is the cause of cerebral palsy. Physical trauma, such as that caused by the improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery also may cause or contribute to the development of cerebral palsy. A child who suffers from cerebral palsy may experience partial paralysis or lack of muscle coordination, as well as other motor control symptoms that are the result of neurological disorders.
Different mistakes that may lead to serious injury and the development of cerebral palsy
- A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional may have failed to diagnose a serious infection, such as meningitis, or did diagnose it, but did not treat it properly during a mother’s pregnancy;
- A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional failed to monitor the mother and unborn infant for signs of distress during labor and delivery;
- A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional failed to detect the existence of a prolapsed umbilical cord or failed to respond to a diagnosis of a prolapsed umbilical cord, leading to deprivation of oxygen to the infant during the delivery process;
- A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional failed to identify a serious medical condition during the delivery, such as shoulder dystocia, which prevented the baby from being born in a timely manner and led to oxygen deprivation; and
- A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional failed to use medical devices, such as forceps or vacuum extractors, in the proper manner, leading to serious head trauma and deprivation of oxygen.
One of the most difficult things about a medical malpractice case is proving the elements of causation and harm and demonstrating that the individual or persons who were involved in the mistake that resulted on the severe and devastating injury were liable for their actions.
In order to succeed in this type of case, it is necessary to show the following:
- The medical professional owed a duty of care to the mother and child – This often is proven by the voluntary medical care by the professional, such as accepting a woman as a patient or treating a woman in an emergency situation;
- The medical professional breached the duty of care – In order to prevail on this element, it is necessary to have a medical expert, who is qualified to testify about the specific area of medicine at issue in the case, set forth the applicable standard of care, which is what a professional with the same education, training, and knowledge would have done under the same circumstances, and then testify about how the defendant(s) deviated from that established standard of care;
- The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the harm that the child suffered – This element often is challenging because the defendant often asserts that some other genetic or environmental factor was the cause of the harm suffered by the child; and
- There was actual harm – In a case where a child has suffered through the devastating consequences of cerebral palsy, this is not a difficult requirement to prove.
Regardless of the type of cerebral palsy, which may include spastic, athetoid, and ataxic, it is critical to obtain the resources necessary to provide a child with the right physical therapy and accommodations in order to lead a full life. Often, the only way that this is possible is through a medical malpractice lawsuit when a preventable mistake changed the course of a child’s life.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Children Suffering from Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a devastating medical condition that may prevent a child from leading the life that he or she would have but for a medical professional’s mistake. At Stern Law, PLLC, our medical malpractice attorney has more than 30 years of experience in holding doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals accountable for the serious harm that they caused when they made a preventable error. Stern Law, PLLC also offers information and resources to anyone with questions about medical malpractice and cerebral palsy, even for those who are not clients. We have knowledgeable and compassionate staff members available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to answer questions. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.