In some cases, cerebral palsy may be caused by a birth injury resulting in a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain during delivery. How do you prove that a birth injury caused cerebral palsy? To prove a birth injury caused cerebral palsy, you must know the procedures performed before, during, and after delivery and whether any medical professionals were negligent in performing them.
Signs a Birth Injury Caused Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is defined by a group of disorders that affect normal movement in a person’s posture, gait, muscle tone, and coordination. The word “cerebral” refers to the brain’s cerebrum, the part of the brain that regulates motor function. The word “palsy” describes the paralysis of voluntary movements in certain parts of the body. When multiple areas of the brain are damaged, patients can have more than one type of cerebral palsy.
The cause of cerebral palsy is typically damage to the fetal or infant brain during pregnancy, during childbirth, and/or after childbirth. Medical professionals find it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of brain damage because various factors can cause an infant to develop the condition. However, certain signs typically indicate cerebral palsy was caused by a birth injury. These signs include the following:
Bleeding in the Brain
Hemorrhages and bleeding in the brain can cause brain cells to die within a matter of minutes. Bleeding in the brain can be caused by blood disorders, breech birth, fetal distress, lack of oxygen, macrosomia, and prolonged labor. These common types of birth injuries often lead to cerebral palsy in infants.
Forceps or Vacuum Extraction
The use of forceps, clamps, and vacuum pumps during delivery can put extreme pressure on a baby’s soft, pliable head. Due to the amount of force caused by these instruments, it’s easy for soft tissue brain injuries to occur. These types of brain injuries are responsible for damage to cells in the brain that control muscle movement.
The Use of Pitocin
Pitocin is an artificial oxytocin that medical professionals typically administer to mothers who are having difficulty with their contractions and pushing during delivery. The drug produces very strong uterine contractions that can lead to additional pressure on the baby’s head. When this occurs, the resulting injury to the baby can be brain trauma.
Does Medical Negligence Cause Cerebral Palsy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 345 children born in the United States is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. While the CDC links some cases to unavoidable mishaps during pregnancy and delivery, it linked others to negligent or wrongful actions of a physician or medical professional that constitute medical negligence. Chicago birth injury attorneys often see medical negligence caused by:
- Failure to follow routine delivery procedures
- Failure to recognize fetal distress
- Failure to treat severe jaundice after birth
- Improper use of medical tools and drugs
- Improperly handled breech births
- Equipment failure or malfunction
When a birth injury that results in cerebral palsy is caused by medical negligence, a birth injury attorney can file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages for injuries.
Proving a Birth Injury Claim for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a baby’s developing brain, usually during late pregnancy, labor and delivery, or shortly after birth. One major cause is the baby’s blood flow or oxygen supply being cut off for several minutes during labor. However, there are many other causes that often make birth injuries complicated and hard to prove.
How Do You Prove That a Birth Injury Caused Cerebral Palsy?
In medical malpractice cases, injury victims must prove that a physician, medical professional, or medical institution violated the professional standard of care, resulting in the victim’s injuries. Medical professionals take an oath to protect their patients from harm while they are under their care.
In medical malpractice lawsuits, victims must prove four factors to establish medical negligence:
- A Relationship Between the Patient and Medical Professional
Victims must show that a relationship existed between the patient and the medical professional when the injury occurred. Generally, they can prove the relationship by an agreement for medical care between the attending OBGYN, nurse, or other types of medical professionals and the patient.
- The Standard of Care
Victims must prove that the medical professional failed to use the applicable standard of care when providing medical care. The standard of care is based on how other medical professionals would have cared for the victim under the same or similar circumstances.
- The Breach of Duty Caused Injuries
Victims must prove a direct connection between the medical professional’s breach of duty and the child’s injuries. This is often accomplished through the testimony of medical experts that help to establish the professional’s duty of care within the given field of medicine.
- The Patient’s Injury Resulted in Damages
Finally, victims must prove that the child’s birth injury caused by the medical professional resulted in economic, compensable damages, and/or non-economic, intangible damages that can’t be calculated in monetary value.
Damages Recoverable in a Birth Injury Claim
When victims and their attorneys prove all four factors, they can typically recover damages in a birth injury claim through a civil lawsuit. Recoverable damages in a birth injury case include both economic and non-economic damages. In cases where negligent or wrongful actions were egregious, intentional, malicious, or fraudulent, punitive damages may also be awarded to the injury victim for the sole reason of punishing the offender.
Economic damages include compensation for tangible costs that can be calculated in monetary value. These include reimbursement for medical expenses; rehabilitation and therapy expenses; costs for medical aids such as wheelchairs and walking aids; in-home care for the child; prescription medications; lost wages for the parent; and potential lost earnings for the child.
Non-economic damages include compensation for losses that have no monetary value. These include reimbursement for physical and emotional pain and suffering; anxiety and depression; insomnia, physical and emotional impairment; physical and emotional disfigurement; loss of companionship; and loss of quality and enjoyment of life.
Since cerebral palsy usually begins at birth or in early infancy or toddler years, the victim typically goes through his/her entire life with physical and emotional impairments. A birth injury that results in cerebral palsy typically has a lifetime impact on a child’s well-being, as well as the well-being of the child’s parents and family members.
Since there is no cure for cerebral palsy, a child may face a lifetime of physical and cognitive disabilities that require around-the-clock care, adult supervision, and help with common everyday tasks. When calculating recoverable damages, the court takes all the child’s needs, as well as the impact on the child’s parents, into consideration.