Detroit Cerebral Palsy Lawyers
Bringing a child into the world is one of life’s unforgettable moments. However, for families who learn that their child has cerebral palsy, accepting that their child may have a lifelong disability may be difficult. It can be even more frustrating to learn that this condition may have been entirely preventable.
At the Detroit birth injury law firm of Sommers Schwartz, P.C., we help families of children born with preventable cerebral palsy to pursue financial compensation claims against the medical providers responsible for their child’s injuries. Our dedicated team of Detroit birth injury attorneys garners nationwide respect as authorities on cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of nervous system disorders. It is the most commonly diagnosed motor disability in children and can profoundly impact a child throughout their life. While the symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary widely, the condition often includes balance and posture problems, difficulty coordinating movements, and speech problems.
Cerebral palsy has a variety of causes, and determining how a case of cerebral palsy occurred is not always straightforward. The condition develops during pregnancy, at birth, or shortly after birth. It can result from inadequate prenatal care or medical negligence during the labor and delivery process.
How Common Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability for young children. Experts estimate one to four children per 1,000 births worldwide receive this diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three children per 1,000 births in the United States are diagnosed. While cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability among children, it isn’t as common as many other types of childhood conditions.
What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy generally have abnormal muscle tone, abnormal posture, and various developmental delays. A 2010 study found that only 58.9 percent of eight-year-old children with cerebral palsy could walk independently; 7.8 percent walked using a hand-held mobility device (such as a cane), while 33.3 percent had limited or no walking ability. A separate study found that 41 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 with cerebral palsy were limited in their ability to crawl, walk, run, or play and that 31 percent required special equipment such as walkers or wheelchairs.
The specific symptoms a child with cerebral palsy exhibits will depend on their diagnosis. Cerebral palsy refers to a group of four different disorders, each characterized by different symptoms. These are as follows:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the condition, representing about 80% of the total affected population. Individuals with spastic cerebral palsy exhibit hypertonia (increased muscle tone). Their muscles are stiffer than normal, which may distort the positioning of their arms, legs, or other body parts. They often have difficulty moving from one position to another or controlling individual muscle groups.
Muscle stiffness can make speaking and grasping small objects challenging. Severely affected children cannot walk; they may also have other developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability, seizures, or problems with vision, hearing, or speech.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is characterized by involuntary movements. This type of cerebral palsy occurs when the basal ganglia, a group of structures in the brain that assist with movement, is damaged. Children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy can have muscle tone that is too loose or tight. Depending on which type of dyskinetic CP a child has, they may experience dystonia, athetosis, or chorea:
- Dystonia – Involuntary and repetitive twisting motions that are usually painful and occur more frequently when a child is tired, anxious, or tense.
- Athetosis – Slow, writhing, involuntary movements, often affecting the face, neck, hands, or feet. Athetosis is sometimes mistaken for restlessness.
- Chorea – Brief, abrupt, and uncontrolled movements.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by difficulty with balance and coordination. This type of cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for fine motor skills and balance). Children with ataxic cerebral palsy may exhibit unsteady or shaky movement, struggle to balance, and have poor depth perception. Ataxic cerebral palsy is the least common form of CP.
Mixed-Type Cerebral Palsy
Some children exhibit symptoms of more than one type of cerebral palsy. The most common combination is spastic-dyskinetic CP.
Signs of Cerebral Palsy
It can be difficult for parents to determine whether an infant has cerebral palsy because the above-listed symptoms often are not evident until children are a bit older. Doctors generally wait to diagnose a child with cerebral palsy until they are at least two years old. However, failing to meet the expected physical and cognitive milestones may indicate cerebral palsy.
The CDC provides a detailed physical and cognitive milestones list for very young children. These include:
By the time they are two months old, most babies can:
- Hold up their head while lying on their stomach.
- Move their arms and legs independently.
- Open and close their hands.
- Watch you as you move through a room.
- Focus on a toy or object for several seconds.
By the time they are six months old, most babies can:
- Roll from their stomach to their back.
- Push themselves up with straight arms when lying on their stomach.
- Lean on their hands to support themselves while in a seated position.
- Put objects in their mouth.
- Reach for toys or objects.
- Close their lips when they are no longer hungry.
By the time they are one year old, most babies can:
- Pull themselves up to stand.
- Walk while holding onto furniture.
- Drink from a cup without a lid (with parental help).
- Pick up small pieces of food or objects with their fingers.
- Look for things hidden from them.
- Place objects into a container.
There is a wide range of “normal” childhood development; failing to meet these milestones according to this schedule doesn’t necessarily mean a child has cerebral palsy or other developmental disorders. In conjunction with medical advice, the CDC timeline is one tool parents can use to assess whether their child may be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Is Cerebral Palsy Preventable?
Doctors know that cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development of or damage to the brain. Whether cerebral palsy is preventable depends on the case.
In many cases, cerebral palsy results from preventable trauma a child suffers in utero or during labor and delivery. These cases are called “congenital cerebral palsy.” However, in a small percentage of cases—approximately 10 to 15 percent—cerebral palsy develops more than 28 days after a child’s birth. These cases are called “acquired cerebral palsy” and may be caused by an infection or illness.
Some cases of congenital cerebral palsy are preventable, while others are not. Several factors increase the risk that a child develops cerebral palsy. However, a child could have multiple risk factors and not develop cerebral palsy, while another child could have no risk factors and be diagnosed with the condition at birth.
Some of the most commonly cited risk factors for cerebral palsy include:
- Premature birth.
- Low birth weight.
- Multiple births (twins/triplets/etc.).
- Use of fertility treatment before pregnancy.
- Infections during pregnancy.
- Birth complications.
Cerebral palsy is often the result of medical negligence stemming from one or more of the following:
- Poor prenatal care.
- Deprivation of oxygen.
- Reduced blood flow.
- Physical trauma during the delivery process.
It can be difficult for parents to determine whether a medical provider’s negligence was responsible for their child’s cerebral palsy. A dedicated Detroit cerebral palsy lawyer has the necessary tools to investigate all potential causes of cerebral palsy and can advise parents on their options.
Why Pursue a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Against a Medical Provider?
If a child’s case of cerebral palsy results from medical negligence, the child’s parents can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Pursuing a claim following a cerebral palsy diagnosis or any other medical malpractice incident is important for a few reasons.
First, your family can recover meaningful financial compensation if you successfully bring a claim. This compensation will help ensure your child receives the medical care and support they need for the rest of their lives. While damages will vary depending on the specific facts of each case, they may include:
- Past medical bills.
- Future medical expenses.
- Assistive care a child needs for the rest of their life.
- A parent’s lost wages to care for their child.
- Mental anguish and emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Disability or disfigurement.
The second reason to file a birth injury claim following a preventable case of cerebral palsy is to encourage the healthcare industry to increase their vigilance and render the appropriate level of care in all circumstances. Most cerebral palsy cases include the physician who committed the error and the hospital as defendants. Facing the stiff financial consequences of making a mistake may incentivize doctors and hospitals to take extra steps to ensure patient safety.
At Sommers Schwartz, P.C., we recognize these changes occur incrementally over time. Still, we believe every successful birth injury case is a small but measurable advancement toward a better, safer healthcare system.
Schedule a Free Consultation With the Compassionate Detroit Birth Injury Lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C.
If your child was born with or recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you should discuss your options with a knowledgeable Detroit cerebral palsy lawyer. Sommers Schwartz, P.C. is here to help. For more than 40 years, our labor and delivery lawyers have helped pioneer medical negligence litigation, fighting for the rights of patients and their families.
Our team of medical malpractice lawyers is widely recognized as an authority on birth injury litigation. Several Sommer Schwartz, P.C. lawyers have authored textbooks on effectively handling birth injury cases and are routinely invited to speak at birth trauma conferences, including the Boston University Medical School Annual Perinatal Conference and the American Conference Institute’s Annual Advanced Forum on Obstetric Malpractice Claims.
To learn more and schedule a free consultation, call (800) 783-0989 or contact us online. Because we take all cerebral palsy cases on a contingency basis, we will not ask you to pay for any of our services unless we can recover compensation on your behalf.