Seattle WA Cerebral Palsy Lawyer

Is Your Child's Cerebral Palsy the Result of Medical Malpractice?

Cerebral palsy can be the direct result of doctor or labor-and-delivery nursing error during childbirth. Head trauma and lack of oxygen to the infant's brain can lead to the condition. When a Cesarean section is not performed, other medical procedures must be performed that may impose excessive pressure on an infant's head, leading to cerebral palsy.

It is estimated that about 20% of cerebral palsy cases are the result of medical problems during delivery. The use of vacuums and other devices to pull out the baby in a difficult birth may leave the child with CP. If a Cesarean was indicated, and should have been performed, the baby's condition may be the result of medical malpractice. At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., our Seattle birth injury lawyers are prepared to evaluate the situation and advise you of your best course of action, legally.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

sleeping newbornThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about one in every 323 children in the U.S. has cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, there is more than one type of cerebral palsy children can be afflicted with. The four types are:

  • Spastic. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, with up to 80% of cases falling into this category. Typically, groups of muscles work together so that one contracts while the other relaxes. With spastic cerebral palsy, the muscles continuously do the same thing at all times, so they are either always relaxed or always flexed.
  • Athetoid. Unlike spastic cerebral palsy, athetoid involves mixed muscle activity. Sometimes the muscles move in slow, writhing movements while other times, they may tense. This type of cerebral palsy is not as present as spastic cerebral palsy.
  • Ataxic. This type of cerebral palsy affects balance and coordination of movements, something children will have great difficulty with. This is a rare form of the condition that can impede muscle tone and gait, and start tremors.
  • Mixed. This type of cerebral palsy combines spastic and athetoid cerebral palsy symptoms.

Once the type of cerebral palsy has been identified, it will then be further classified.

Classifications of Cerebral Palsy

Classifying different types of cerebral palsy helps healthcare professionals determine quickly which area of the body is affected, so that proper treatment can be administered.

When classifying the different types of cerebral palsy, it is important to know the term paresis, which indicates that the area of the body has been weakened. Plegia or plegic, on the other hand, are terms that are used to indicate that an area of the body has become immobilized and is no longer functional.

  • Monoplegia or monoparesis. This indicates that only one limb is affected; either impaired or experiencing a loss of motion.
  • Hemiplegia or hemiparesis. Unlike monoplegia or monoparesis, which only affect one limb, hemiplegia or hemiparesis indicate that both limbs on one side of the body have been affected.
  • Diplegia or diparesis. A palsy condition that affects the legs or lower body more than the arms or upper body.
  • Paraplegia or paraparesis. Indicates that the lower body, including both legs, is affected.
  • Triplegia or triparesis. Indicates that three limbs are affected. It can also refer to two limbs and part of the face.
  • Double hemiplegia or double hemiparesis. With this type of palsy, all four limbs are affected in some way, but one side of the body is more affected than the other.
  • Tetraplegia or tetraparesis. This is like triplegia, the only difference being that all four limbs are affected. Out of those four, three will be more affected than the fourth limb.
  • Quadriplegia or quadriparesis. All four limbs are involved and are equally affected.
  • Pentaplegia or pentaparesis. One of the most severe forms of cerebral palsy. Under this classification, all four limbs are involved and even parts of the head and neck, which can cause problems with breathing and eating.

The Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in Infants

Cerebral palsy affects the ability to control muscles. Some of the early symptoms of CP that parents can become aware of include a baby who:

  • Feels stiff or floppy
  • Constantly seems to push away from you when held
  • When picked up, the head falls back
  • Legs may get stiff or "scissor" when picked up

As the baby grows, other symptoms appear by about 6 months of age:

  • Does not roll over
  • Cannot bring hands together
  • Difficulty bringing hands to mouth
  • Reaches only with one hand, while other hand is in a fist

As the child grows, cerebral palsy symptoms become evident:

  • Does not learn to crawl
  • Cannot stand without help

What Are the Effects of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy causes a wide range of debilitating physical and mental problems. Here are the most common effects children suffer due to cerebral palsy:

  • Impaired speech, hearing, or sight
  • Mental retardation
  • Sense and perception issues
  • Mobility issues
  • Involuntary movement
  • Muscle spasms/tightness
  • Breathing issues
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Difficulty holding head up
  • Inability to feed or suck
  • Balance problems
  • Bowel and bladder control issues
  • Seizures

Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy

For children affected by cerebral palsy, there currently is no cure, but treatments can improve their quality of life, and make the condition easier to both live with and manage. Treatment options for cerebral palsy include:

  • Medication. While there is no medication that can help deal with the brain damage that caused the condition, there is medication available that can reduce muscle tightness and improve function in the limbs.
  • Therapy. There are a number of different therapies that can help a person develop muscle control and regain function. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy are treatment options in cerebral palsy cases.
  • Surgery. In severe cases doctors may recommend surgery to help correct problems with bones or to reduce tightness in muscles. Nerves may also be severed through surgery, which can help reduce pain and alleviate muscle tightness.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Many cerebral palsy situations can be tied to a traumatic injury the child suffered before or during birth. These injuries caused damage to a child's brain, affecting its physical and mental development. Here are the most common causes of cerebral palsy injuries:

  • Intrauterine hypoxia: This is caused by the child's brain getting insufficient amounts of oxygen during pregnancy. Intrauterine hypoxia is often caused by the umbilical cord choking a child, an infection, or malnutrition. If a physician doesn't detect and treat this problem immediately, the baby can suffer brain damage.
  • Birth asphyxia: When the child's brain gets insufficient amounts of oxygen during labor and delivery. Birth asphyxia is most commonly caused by delayed, extended, or difficult deliveries.
  • Physical injury: A physical trauma a child suffers during delivery can lead to serious brain damage. Injuries during delivery are commonly caused by improper use or forceps or vacuum extraction.

Can Medical Errors Lead to Cerebral Palsy?

Yes, they certainly can. Cerebral palsy is often caused by errors made by the delivery staff and the hospital itself. Here are the most common medical errors that lead to cerebral palsy:

  • Improper monitoring of fetal distress
  • Improper monitoring of fetus during labor
  • Waiting too long to perform C-section
  • Over-medicating the mother when trying to induce or stimulate labor, often with Pitocin or Oxytocin
  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction tools
  • Failure to diagnose and treat preeclampsia
  • Failure to diagnose and treat placenta previa
  • Failing to other detect pregnancy problems (such as the mother's high blood pressure or the child's head being too large for the mother's pelvis)

Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy Must Be Managed

There are various warning signs of potential problems at birth that medical professionals must manage correctly, including:

  • Infections
  • Breech presentation
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Untreated jaundice
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)

Proving Medical Malpractice in Cases of Cerebral Palsy

The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that 1% of physicians account for 32% of medical malpractice claims. These doctors continue to perform services, and a patient may be unaware that an obstetrician has had many claims. We trust our doctors, and assume that their actions will not harm us - or our children. Unfortunately, even the best doctors can make errors, and innocent children can face a lifetime of challenges due to an avoidable error during childbirth.

To prove a case of malpractice, it is necessary to gather extensive information about exactly what occurred, and consult with medical experts regarding whether the correct actions were taken under those specific circumstances. At our firm, we have some of the top medical professionals to call upon to provide supporting evidence and testimony in Washington medical malpractice claims.

Our Washington Cerebral Palsy Law Firm Advocates for Children

We understand the challenges associated with cerebral palsy, and the impact on the child and family. If a doctor failed to apply the accepted standard of care at any point during the pregnancy or birth, and the outcome was a child with cerebral palsy, we can help. We urge you to contact us immediately so we can evaluate your case, and advise you how to move forward with legal action. The damages pursued in such a case will typically include:

  • Loss of quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost earning potential
  • Cost of medical care, nursing care, and treatment
  • Other damages, both economic and non-economic

If your obstetrician made a serious error during the birth process and your child was injured or died, you have the right to seek justice and a fair settlement or jury award. Careful scrutiny and analysis of the labor-and-delivery nursing and neonatal care are an integral part of a medical negligence birth trauma investigation. Our legal team has the experience, dedication, and knowledge you want on your side. We want your child to have the best possible quality of life, considering his or her condition.

We urge you to connect with our Seattle cerebral palsy attorneys as soon as possible - timing can be important in injury cases, as the law restricts the period of time in which a lawsuit can be filed. Contact us now for help and answers to cerebral palsy questions. Call Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., at (888) 228-3860.

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Written by Joseph Pendergast, this book is designed to help people who have suffered a personal injury understand their rights and the steps to take to be sure they get the compensation they deserve.

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