What is cerebral palsy? Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that is linked to medical errors or negligent actions made during prenatal care, postnatal care, or childbirth. Cerebral palsy is a permanent condition with no cure that results in different degrees of brain damage or central nervous system damage in infants and children.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

What is cerebral palsy? Cerebral palsy results in the abnormal development of an infant’s brain or central nervous system. It can be caused by numerous problems and conditions that occur during prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postnatal care after the baby is born. Although cerebral palsy is a non-progressive medical condition that does not get worse with time, it is a permanent, life-long condition for which there is no cure. Cerebral palsy must be managed through ongoing medical treatments, the use of medical devices, physical and mental therapy, and various surgical procedures.

The causes of cerebral palsy and related birth injuries are often related to the time frame when they occur. Whether the problems arise before birth during prenatal care, during labor and delivery, or after birth during postnatal care, they can have an impact on the types of birth injuries and the severity of their impairments.

How do children get cerebral palsy? The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with the condition, known as congenital cerebral palsy. Causes of cerebral palsy that occur before birth include:

  •  Abnormal Brain Development – Disruptions in the normal growth process of the brain can cause abnormalities that affect the transmission of brain signals. Fever, gene changes (mutations), infections, and trauma can cause the baby’s brain to develop abnormally.
  • Bleeding in the Brain – A fetus can have a stroke, which is a common cause of bleeding in the brain. Strokes and brain damage occur when blood vessels in the brain become blocked or broken. Common causes of bleeding in the brain include abnormally formed blood vessels, blood clotting problems, heart defects, and sickle cell disease.
  • Damage to the White Matter of the Brain – The white matter in the brain sends signals throughout the brain and the body. Damaged white matter can disrupt the signals between the brain and the body that control physical movements. In the fetus’s brain, damage can happen at any time during pregnancy, but the white matter is more sensitive to injury between 26 weeks and 34 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Lack of Oxygen in the Brain – The brain can become damaged if it does not get enough oxygen for a long period of time. Low blood pressure in the mother, a torn uterus, detachment of the placenta, problems with the umbilical cord, or severe trauma to the infant’s head during labor and delivery can prevent oxygen from getting to the brain. The use of forceps during delivery and C-sections are often linked to the lack of oxygen in the baby’s brain.

Some children have acquired cerebral palsy, which means the disorder begins more than 28 days after birth. Causes of acquired cerebral palsy include:

  • Brain damage that happens in the first few months or years of life
  • Blood flow problems to the brain caused by abnormal blood vessels, blood clotting problems, heart defects, or sickle cell disease
  • Brain infections like encephalitis and meningitis
  • Head trauma
  • Oxygen deprivation caused by choking or drowning
  • Exposure to toxic substances

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

The symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary depending on the part of the brain that is affected. Symptoms usually become apparent once a child reaches six months of age and begins to move around and communicate with sounds. Children with cerebral palsy may miss developmental milestones such as crawling, rolling over, sitting up, walking, and talking. Common symptoms of cerebral palsy that may signal brain damage include:

  • Balance problems
  • Slow or labored body movements
  • Problems picking up or holding objects
  • Learning disabilities
  • Spasms and or tremors
  • Seizures

In some cases, symptoms of a birth injury like cerebral palsy may develop later in a child. It is not uncommon for some birth injury symptoms to show up when the child is between 1 and 2 years of age. If a birth injury is not recognized or diagnosed early, it may remain unnoticed until the child reaches an age when he or she begins to use muscle strength, motor skills, and communication skills on a daily basis. Muscle abnormalities, balance problems, and speech problems may become noticed in school.

If the birth injury causes cognitive dysfunctions, symptoms may not be apparent until the child begins preschool or elementary school, usually between the ages of 4 and 6. The signs of a birth injury are evaluated using developmental milestones where communication skills, cognitive skills, physical movements, and social skills are compared between children with birth injuries and children with normal skill levels.

Compensation for Birth Injury Lawsuits

When medical negligence or medical malpractice results in birth injuries to a child, you can take legal action by filing a birth injury lawsuit against the guilty party or parties. A cerebral palsy lawyer can help you recover compensation for birth injuries, which includes economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are calculated by their monetary value. They include tangible damages that can be measured such as expenses for doctors’ visits and exams, medical treatments, physical therapy and rehabilitation, prescription medications, and lost wages due to time away from a job. Economic damages may also include expenses for home health care provided by nurses and caretakers, as well as the costs of necessary medical equipment such as medical devices, canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Non-Economic Damages

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages can not be measured by monetary value. Non-economic damages are usually awarded for emotional distress, current and future pain and suffering, long-term suffering, loss of companionship and consortium, and loss of the enjoyment of life. Since these damages can’t be measured, they are usually discretionary and awarded by the court based on similar types of legal cases.

Steps to Take for Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit

According to Illinois laws, medical professionals owe their patients a reasonable duty of care to protect them from unnecessary health risks, injuries, and death. Any medical professional who fails to live up to the obligation to provide proper and reasonable care can be held legally responsible if the failure directly causes a birth injury such as brain damage and cerebral palsy. Medical professionals who can be held liable include anesthesiologists, gynecologists, obstetricians, nurses, midwives, and hospitals.

When can you sue for insufficient prenatal care? In Illinois, if a medical professional fails to provide a reasonable duty of care because of insufficient prenatal care during pregnancy, during labor and childbirth, or during postnatal care, you have the legal right to file a birth injury lawsuit for negligent actions. Illinois law gives you the right to be fairly compensated for all of your losses, including money to cover your child’s medical care.

In most cases, birth injury lawsuits follow the same steps. The first step is to consult with a qualified Illinois lawyer who specializes in birth injury cases, so they can explain birth injury lawsuits and common examples of medical malpractice. To have a valid birth injury case, the following conditions must be met:

  • Did a medical provider fail to uphold his or her duty of care?

Medical professionals are held to a rigid standard of care when treating patients. When a medical professional or medical facility fails to satisfy this standard of care, and patient injury results, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages.

  • Did the injury result from this failure, when was it discovered, and what damages were incurred?

Supporting evidence needs to include proof of the birth injury, proof of damages, and proof that the appropriate statute of limitations was taken into consideration. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a birth injury lawsuit is two years.

If you need more information or legal advice on filing a Chicago personal injury claim for cerebral palsy, contact us for a free case evaluation.