When you have awaited the arrival of your infant for months, you may be shattered to find that her or she suffers from cerebral palsy due to a mistake made by a healthcare provider. This condition is permanent, and requires various forms of medical care for the lifetime of the affected infant. The law does allow you to recover monetary damages for your losses, which can be significant. Our cerebral palsy birth injury lawyers at the Preszler Law Firm will fight to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Please contact us at 1-844-373-8202 to schedule a free consultation, and read on for some important information about your rights.
Overview of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a type of neurological disorder that permanently impacts motor skills and muscle coordination. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected, your child may suffer either partial or complete paralysis. Unfortunately, the condition is usually a permanent disability.
Medical Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Medical experts describe cerebral palsy as the result of a brain malformation which may occur before, during, or shortly after birth. It can be caused by low levels of oxygen or reduced blood sugar, that may or may not occur due to a medical error. Cerebral palsy may also occur due to a pregnancy-related infection of the mother that interferes with normal growth and development of the brain.
Signs that Your Infant has Cerebral Palsy
This medical condition is identifiable based upon spastic movements, inhibited muscle control, and abnormally slow reactions, all of which can be difficult to spot in an infant. However, it is important be on the lookout for:
- Muscle spasms and a noticeable lack of control, such as when your child is grasping for an object;
- Trouble with muscle reflexes;
- Problems with coordination;
- Facial spasms, especially when stressed or overwhelmed;
- Issues with breathing, eating, and swallowing; and,
- Any other medical issues that seem abnormal based upon your child’s development.
Negligence May be the Cause of Cerebral Palsy
Though cerebral palsy may be related to oxygen and blood sugar levels from a medical standpoint, negligence can be the underlying cause if a provider made a mistake before, during, or shortly after birth. Possible negligent acts include:
- Delayed or misdiagnosis of the pregnant mother’s infection;
- Improper monitoring of the fetal heart rate;
- Misuse of medications to induce or augment labor;
- Failure to recognize and take action for too frequent contractions;
- Unnecessary delay in performing a cesarean section or other medical procedure for delivery;
- Improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor;
- Denying the fetus or newborn oxygen for a prolonged period of time; and,
- Other conduct that does not conform to the appropriate standard of care.
Proving a Claim for Cerebral Palsy due to Birth Injury
To recover compensation for a case based upon medical error, you must prove four essential elements:
- The existence of a patient-provider relationship, which established when any physician provides prenatal care and delivery assistance;
- Negligence in providing care;
- A connection between the negligent act and the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, such that your child would not suffer from this condition had the provider not make a mistake; and,
- Damages caused by the injuries.
There can be challenges in meeting the burden of proof with respect to these elements, because medical negligence is a very specific form of wrongdoing. You must be able to show that the doctor deviated from the standard of care that applies to all health care providers. This requires comparing your physician’s conduct and decisions to what another practitioner would have done under the circumstances. If a doctor with similar training would have acted the same, you may not be able to sustain a claim for a birth injury case for cerebral palsy.
Still, if you can prove these elements, you can recover from a wide range for health care providers in a birth-related cerebral palsy claim: Examples include:
- The obstetrician or other treating physicians;
- Nurses during delivery or providing aftercare;
- Delivery room staff;
- Hospital personnel; and,
- Any other party whose negligence was a factor in causing your child to develop cerebral palsy.
Damages in a Birth Injury Claim
Children with cerebral palsy typically require a lifetime of medical care, services, and support. On an ongoing basis, your child may need treatment from various medical specialists, including speech therapists, physical therapists, psychiatric professionals, and other providers. The emotional and financial tolls can be as devastating as the physical condition.
You may be entitled to compensation for your losses, which falls into two groups of damages:
- Economic damages, which includes medical care, surgery, all types of therapy, medications, and other costs; and,
- Non-economic damages that are more indeterminate and subjective, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and decreased quality of life.
Limitations on Claims for Birth-Related Cerebral Palsy
In Ontario, the Limitations Act places a two-year time limitation on claims for birth injuries. However, the statute of limitations in a case involving cerebral palsy may be measured in different ways. For instance, you may not discover that your child has cerebral palsy for a few years after birth. Under the circumstances, the two-year time clock would start to run upon discovery.
You should also note that a 1978 decision by the Canadian Supreme Court places a cap on general damages for non-economic losses like pain and suffering. At the time, the limit was $100,000, but would likely be $300,000 under current economic standards. The cap may not apply if the form of negligence was extreme or other circumstances mandate a higher amount. Plus, it only works against non-economic damages. Medical costs, which could be significant for a child with cerebral palsy, are not limited by the cap.
Consult with a Skilled Birth Injuries Lawyer Regarding Cerebral Palsy
For more information on birth injury cases and your rights, please contact Preszler Law Firm to schedule a free consultation today. You can reach our office by calling 1-844-373-8202 or visiting our website to fill out a simple contact form.