Birth Injury Law

Cerebral Palsy: Legal FAQ

What Is Cerbral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a loss or deficiency of motor control with involuntary spasms caused by permanent brain damage present at birth. It is often used to describe any type of disorder involving chronic impairment and control of bodily movement. It has also been known as static encephalopathy, spastic diplegia, and as "Littles disease."

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Most cases of damage to the brain among cerebral palsy children occurred before they were born - more specifically, during the first six months of pregnancy. Experts believe the brain damage happened because of three possible reasons: 1) Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) Some experts believe that lack of oxygen to the unborn baby's brain cells may be to blame. The causes of PVL are usually related to the mother's health - whether she's caught an infection, has very low blood pressure, has a premature birth or consumed illegal drugs during the pregnancy. 2) Abnormal development of the brain When a child's brain does not develop as it is supposed to, the body's muscles can be affected, causing cerebral palsy. Experts believe that an unborn baby is most vulnerable to abnormal development of the brain during their first 6 months. 3) Intracranial hemorrhage This refers to bleeding inside the brain caused by the unborn baby having a stroke. After a stroke, the bleeding in the brain can stop the supply of blood to vital brain tissue. Without blood the brain tissue either dies or becomes damaged.

Is There A Time Limit In Which I Need To File A Lawsuit For Medical Malpractice?

Yes, there is and that time limit is referred to as the statute of limitations. In Alaska, medical malpractice actions for personal injury or death must be filed within two years from the date of injury. The period of limitations usually runs from the time the injury occurred. Special rules, however, apply in some situations. If the claimant is under the age of majority, or incompetent by reason of mental illness or disability, the two­year statute begins to run when the disability is lifted. When the injured party is under the age of eight years, the time period before the person`s eighth birthday is not a part of the time limit. In an action for wrongful death, a reasonable failure to discover a key element of the cause of action tolls the two­year limitation period.

What Are The Different Types of Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis and Risks?

Risk factors for cerebral palsy are ever present in childbirth, but it does not necessarily follow from their presence that cerebral palsy will occur. A few of these risk factors include:
  • Breech presentation. In this situation, the baby is positioned feet first rather than head first, the usual and customary presentation for birth
  • A complicated labor and delivery
  • Vascular and/or respiratory problems
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Multiple births
  • Visible neurological malformation, e.g., an abnormally small head
Diligent medical practitioners will often consult the Apgar Scale, a numbered rating system for checking the baby's heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color during the first minutes after birth. A low Apgar score indicates potential problems of one kind or another and is often an indicator of cerebral palsy. Symptoms manifested by the mother during pregnancy may also suggest the possibility of cerebral palsy in the child. Maternal bleeding or severe proteinuria (excessive protein in the urine) late in pregnancy and vaginal bleeding during the sixth to ninth months are both linked to higher risk of cerebral palsy affecting the child. Mothers with hyperthyroidism, mental retardation, or seizures are also more likely to have a child with cerebral palsy. Seizures in the newborn child may also be indicators of cerebral palsy in the child's future. If your child or a member of your family has cerebral palsy and you believe it is the result of medical malpractice, please consult with a cerebral palsy attorney listed on this site to begin your initial consultation to discuss your litigation options.

How Many Children Are Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy Every Year?

According to United Cerebral Palsy, a national charity dedicated to serving CP victims and their families, about 8,000 newborns and infants are diagnosed with the condition each year. However, not every newborn who has Cerebral Palsy is identified, as many as 1,500 preschool children every year are diagnosed with having Cerebral Palsy.

Do I have to have a Cerebral Palsy expert testify in my case?

Generally yes. One of the key components of a medical malpractice case, particularly those that involve cerebral palsy, is that they require the testimony of a medical expert to help strengthen and support your claims. An experienced attorney will know what type of questions to ask an expert witness and what types of evidence need to be shown in court.

Do I Have To Have An Attorney To File A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

While you don't have to hire a medical malpractice attorney, filing a medical malpractice claim is incredibly difficult. An attorney will be familiar with your state laws, what types of evidence are required by the court, and what reasonable damages are. Remember, if you don't present your case correctly to a court, it will get thrown out and you won't receive anything for your injuries. The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.