Understanding Cerebral Palsy and a Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Claim

Little girl in wheelchair holding a plush bear. Visual concept for legal blog discussing medical negligence birth injury resulting in cerebral palsy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cerebral palsy is a “group of conditions that affect movement and posture…caused by damage that occurs to the developing brain, most often before birth.” It is a permanent condition that often appears in infancy and can cause exaggerated movements. The child’s arms and legs may appear floppy, or they may have stiff posture. Other symptoms include irregular posture, uncontrollable movements, an unsteady gait, or some combination of these can be the result of a birth injury, especially when the infant’s brain was damaged before or during birth.

If your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy that you believe was caused by medical malpractice, you and your family may be entitled to compensation. The cerebral palsy birth injury lawyers at Robenalt Law can evaluate your situation to determine whether you have a case. We can explain and help you evaluate your options, and fight to hold your doctors and healthcare providers responsible for the harm they caused.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a disabling condition caused by brain damage or brain abnormality in the early stages of development. The damage can happen before the child is born, during labor and delivery, or in the early stages of life.

It can affect virtually every aspect of a child’s life, including mobility, speech, learning, and more. While many therapies are available, there is currently no known cure. With proper support and medical care, people who have cerebral palsy can lead a rich, full life. However, therapy and support services are expensive, and the cost over the patient’s lifetime can be astronomical.

While many cases of cerebral palsy are congenital, some are caused by medical negligence. When this is the case, it is important to speak with an Ohio birth injury lawyer as quickly as possible. The birth injury lawyers at Robenalt Law can analyze your situation to determine whether medical malpractice was a cause of your child’s cerebral palsy and fight for the compensation you and your family deserve.

What Are the Different Types of Cerebral Palsy?

There are four general types of cerebral palsy.

  • Spastic cerebral palsy presents as stiff and awkward muscle movement and exaggerated muscle reflexes. There are three types of spastic cerebral palsy:
    • Spastic Diplegia causes difficulty walking and often involves the legs crossing at the knees.
    • Spastic Hemiplegia affects one side of the body and can impair development of the arm or leg.
    • Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of cerebral palsy and affects the entire body, making walking, talking, and daily function extremely challenging.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, also known as athetoid cerebral palsy, presents as extremely tense or relaxed muscle movements that affect a person’s posture and ability to walk and talk.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy results in a lack of coordination and poor depth perception and balance and can lead to seizures and poor fine motor skills.
  • Hypotonic cerebral palsy causes floppy muscle tone, which can limit a patient’s ability to walk and cause limitations due to poor posture.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Many cases are congenital, meaning they are caused by issues that occur while the baby is in utero, during the labor and delivery process, or during the baby’s first month of life.

Cerebral palsy can be caused by:

  • Maternal-acquired infections passed from a pregnant mother to the unborn baby. The infection results in inflammation that, if left untreated, can damage the baby’s brain.
  • Oxygen deprivation during delivery. Multiples and babies born prematurely are at higher risk of oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation can be caused by placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterus) and nuchal cord (when the umbilical cord becomes tangled around the baby’s neck), which can reduce the flow of oxygen to the baby and result in brain damage.
  • Low birth weight. Babies weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces are at increased risk of cerebral palsy.
  • Kernicterus caused by high bilirubin levels. Many babies are born with jaundice (yellow skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin). A baby’s bilirubin levels should be monitored to ensure the baby does not suffer from brain damage.
  • Fetal stroke due to oxygen deprivation or bleeding in utero can result in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) that can damage a developing brain.
  • Head injuries due to trauma during the labor and delivery process. Head injuries during birth can be caused by the misuse of forceps or vacuum extraction devices that can damage the baby’s head and underlying brain tissue.

How Does Medical Malpractice Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Determining the exact moment a birth injury occurred can be challenging. However, medical errors by the labor and delivery team can increase the risk of cerebral palsy. Lawsuits commonly involve:

  • Failure to diagnose and treat maternal infection
  • Failure to diagnose and treat the mother’s chronic conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, or autoimmune disorders
  • Failure to treat blood type incompatibility between the mother and baby
  • Failure to detect fetal distress
  • Negligent use of instruments, such as forceps and vacuum extraction devices
  • Failure to perform a cesarean section in cases of prolonged labor
  • Errors in monitoring the baby after birth
  • Negligent treatment of jaundice, infection, stroke, or other conditions after the baby is born

Many of these errors are not apparent to the baby’s parents and family. However, they can lead to lifelong challenges.

When to Contact a Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawyer

If you suspect your child developed cerebral palsy because of medical negligence, please contact Robenalt Law as soon as possible. Our birth injury lawyers can assess your case and determine whether you have a claim.

Call (216) 223-7535 or contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Tom Robenalt began his litigation career at a large law firm in Cleveland, where he represented doctors and healthcare providers against claims of medical negligence. Today, he uses that experience to help people who have suffered birth injuries secure the compensation they deserve.