Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by damage to the brain as it is developing, often discovered within the first six months of life. Cerebral palsy can impact muscle coordination, posture, and one’s ability to move the body at will.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by birth injuries, lack of oxygen in the womb, or trauma either in utero or shortly after birth. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that roughly 10,000 babies born each year will show signs of cerebral palsy. This equates to 33% of all births.
While some incidences due occur naturally, there are situations in which medical personnel could have prevented the damage. In these cases, parents may have grounds to pursue legal action.
When Cerebral Palsy is Due to a Birth Injury
Whether your physician mishandled signs of fetal distress, or used techniques that were out of the ordinary to deliver your baby, knowing the difference between a true accident and medical neglect is essential. While it’s hard to learn that your child has a lifelong disability, it’s important to secure their future and find the tools you need in order to care of for your child effectively.
How Can a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer Help You?
A cerebral palsy lawyer can help you come to terms with what happened to your child, and give you the peace of mind you will need in order to move forward from the devastating effects of the birth injury. Finding a cerebral palsy lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit can help you with:
- Paying for necessary medical treatment for your child
- Affording living costs that became more expensive because of your child’s injury
- Having money to accommodate your home to care for your child
- Pursuing therapy for you or immediate family members that need it
- Enduring the pain and suffering your child has undergone
When Do I Hire a Lawyer?
States have different timelines as to how long you can take to pursue a personal injury claim due to medical negligence. When you don’t file a lawsuit in a timely manner, the statute of limitations can run out, and you will be left with no recourse to seek damages for your child’s injuries.
If your child is born with cerebral palsy, you’ll want to find out as soon as possible what may have caused the injuries. There may be evidence that your child’s disability could have been prevented with proper care. If your child was not treated with a standard of care and now has cerebral palsy, you may have a viable personal injury lawsuit to file on their behalf.
What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need?
When you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit due to a birth injury, you’ll want to find an attorney that specializes in cases that involve cerebral palsy. It can be a difficult case to prove, and a lawyer who has detailed knowledge of the causes of cerebral palsy, how to litigate such cases, and the upfront money it takes to find professionals who can testify on behalf of your child to determine liability in the case can be a crucial key to success.
Medical malpractice cases can get complicated. Trying to prove that a physician acted outside of the standard of care, and proving that their actions caused irreversible harm to your infant takes time, money and patience. Winning your case is going to take comprehensive knowledge of cerebral palsy and the repercussions throughout the lifespan of the individual.
How to Find the Right Lawyer for Your Cerebral Palsy Personal Injury
When you are meeting with an attorney to discuss your personal injury case, it’s important to ask the right questions. Ask the attorney about their experience with children who have cerebral palsy. Even if the lawyer has handled medical malpractice cases in the past, one that has worked specifically with a child who has CP is likely to be more effective than one who hasn’t. While you may not find a lawyer who has specific experience with CP, make sure they have handled birth injury cases in the past.
Ask the attorney whether they have success as a negotiator or if they have one cases at a trial. Many families want to settle the case as quickly as possible, and so it’s up to you to learn whether the lawyer is more likely to try and settle the case or take it all the way to a trial. Ask for specific numbers regarding their track record of cases won versus cases settled in birth injury lawsuits.
Hiring an Attorney on a Contingency Fee
While you can pay a retainer to an attorney and pay per hour or by the case, you can also work with an attorney who works on a contingency fee. When you hire an attorney on a contingency basis, your attorney doesn’t get paid unless you win your case. In this situation, your attorney gets paid once you receive your compensation or settlement. This allows you to focus on taking care of your child, without having to worry about coming up with the money to fight the medical malpractice lawsuit.
As you interview your potential attorney, make sure that you feel comfortable speaking to him or her. If you don’t feel like it’s a good fit, it’s important to look for a different attorney that can meet your needs. You may be spending a lot of time with your attorney through the course of the case, and you will want to feel comfortable conversing and exchanging information. Your instincts can make a big difference in the outcome of your case, so it’s important to listen to your gut feelings when it comes to interviewing attorneys.
What Type of Experience Should I Look for in a Lawyer?
As you look for a cerebral palsy lawyer, you will want to find one that has a track record that is easy to prove. Research their education, their background, and the major cases they have won in the past. Look at the number of cases that they have handled in the past and the percentage of these cases that have resulted in a settlement or award. An attorney that is open about past cases is likely the type of attorney you want.
How Do I Find a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
When you want to find an experienced cerebral palsy attorney, it’s time to do some online research. The three main search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing will provide you with a wealth of information when you simply type “cerebral palsy lawyer” into the search engine. Take your time to look through the search results, even going to the second page to see if you’ve missed any high-profile lawyers in your area.
Once you have a few names of lawyers you want to consider, take the time to do an online search on each attorney. Read any reviews that you find, both the positive and negative.
You can also get help finding a lawyer through the American Bar Association. This is the association that oversees all attorneys registered to practice in the United States. By calling the Bar Association, you can learn about lawyers in your area who practice birth injury law and get recommendations straight from this source. Always ask whether the attorney has had any disciplinary action against them, and if they have received any accolades. You can gather quite a bit of information if you know where to look.
Parents also tend to join national support groups when their children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, in an effort to get the support and guidance they will need to get used to their new life. Online support groups are a great way to share resources, and this includes knowledge of legal professionals in your area with experience handling birth injuries that involve cerebral palsy complications.
Factors that Cerebral Palsy Attorneys Look Into to Determine Case Value
Your cerebral palsy lawyer will look at a number of factors to determine how much compensation your case should merit. They will look at signs of impairment, such as tremors or seizures, and also the symptoms presented that are more difficult to measure. The types of cerebral palsy, impairments that may be involved, and how CP affects each individual varies greatly from person to person.
Some children do not show signs of CP until their brain has finished developing. While CP becomes more obvious when a baby starts becoming mobile. They will struggle with gross motor skills. Signs and symptoms can change over time. While some babies are diagnosed immediately, others simply don’t show signs of CP until later.
If your child suffers from epilepsy, seizures, communication problems, has trouble eating, or learning disabilities, these are also common in children who suffer from CP. A baby born with CP may have an odd posture, and be stiff. Your baby may show signs of an abnormal spinal curve as well. A developing child showing signs of CP may have trouble controlling their speech, or have poor respiratory control.
How Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy is Classified
Cerebral palsy can be classified in a number of ways, but the goal is to come to a more universal way to determine the severity of CP in each patient.
The Muscle Tone Classification System looks at whether the patient has increased muscle tone due to stiffness, or a decreased muscle tone with loose, floppy limbs. Severity on both ends of the spectrum mean your child has more significant CP, while a child who is identified in more the middle range is deemed less severe.
The Motor Disturbance Classification System classifies the CP based on how the child’s body functions and the area of the brain that has been affected. This is a useful classification when trying to find therapies that will work best for the child.
Severity of Cerebral Palsy
A child diagnosed with CP can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe. A child with mild CP will be able to move without help and activities are rarely limited. A child diagnosed with severe CP clarifies that the child will be wheelchair dependent and need help with most, if not all, daily activities.
Gross Motor Function Classification System
This system of classification is one of the most comprehensive, and provides valuable data to the parents, treatment providers and scientists studying the effects of CP. It’s a five-level system, and the higher the number, the more severe the disability is. The child’s motor impairment is considered and the child is classified from 1-5. With the classification in hand, the parents can know what to expect developmentally as the child ages and look for ways to enhance their overall development.
A level one child with walk without any limitations, a level three child may be able to walk with assistive devices and need some help in transfers, while a level five child will need extensive assistance for any daily life activities.
Manual Ability Classification System to Classify Cerebral Palsy
The manual ability classification system is used for children from 4-18 years old, and it looks at how easily the child handles objects that are part of their daily lives. This system relies on caregiver observations in order to be effective. The child will be classified as level 1-5. A level one child handles objects without any difficulty. A child classified as level three has trouble handling objects, and will need help or modifications in order to be successful. A child classified as level five does not handle objects and does not use their hands for even the smallest of actions.
Communication Function Classification System
This classification system looks at how well the individual communicates. The lower the number, the better the individual is at communicating. The classification levels are 1-5. A level one child is able to communicate effectively, alternating between being the sender of information and the recipient in most situations. An individual classified at level 3 can communicate with those that are familiar to them, but communication with strangers is difficult. Speech therapy may be able to help improve communication. A child classified as level 5 rarely communicates, even with those that they are most familiar with.
How Long Does a Lawyer Work on my Cerebral Palsy Case?
How long your case lasts will depend on a number of factors, but you have to be prepared for the case to last a year or more. There may be a lot of research to conduct and experts to question. In birth injury cases, proving that malpractice was the cause of the birth injury takes time, money and patience. While most cases are settled out of court, the insurance company for the defendant has to be willing to negotiate a deal. If they don’t have enough proof that your case is strong, they may want to take their chances at a trial.
Most personal injury cases due to birth injuries are complex, and your lawyer is not going to take your case lightly. When you rush through your case to try and settle fast, you won’t end up with the compensation you need or deserve to take care of your child over their lifetime.
Your lawyer will be working hard to establish the merits of your case, and will evaluate your child’s needs as they grow up with CP. They will take into consideration your child’s pain and suffering, their loss of enjoyment, potential lost earnings, and the costs associated with providing your child with care for as long as they need. Coming up with a reasonable settlement number is going to take time and investigation, and your attorney will try to negotiate with the other side to get you the compensation you are entitled to without taking your case to court.
What Kind of Compensation Will I Receive?
The costs of caring for your child with cerebral palsy can be high over time. You may need to pay for caregivers to assist you, modify your home to accommodate medical equipment, and to pay for therapies your child needs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the amount of money needed to care for a child born with cerebral palsy is at least one million dollars in their lifetime. This is money that you are entitled to if your child was injured because of medical negligence.
A life care plan will be written for your child to determine their specific needs. Your lawyer will look at the life expectancy of your child, the severity of their symptoms, and their expected level of dependence on caregivers throughout their lifetime. This plan will then be used to determine how much it is going to cost to take care of your child throughout their life, what their pain and suffering may be, and your attorney will identify an amount that they believe is a reasonable settlement for your case.
You may also be awarded punitive damages in a case of gross medical negligence. Punitive damages punish the defendant in an effort to improve the overall medical care people receive. When punitive damages are awarded in a birth injury case, this puts other providers on notice to pay more attention to the quality of service they are providing to all patients.
How Do I Receive Settlement or Trial Compensation?
Settlements for a birth injury case are usually paid out within a few months, although a larger settlement may be paid out in installments. You can expect some money to start coming in once your case is won and the defendant doesn’t file an appeal to the case. If your case was taken on a contingency basis, your lawyer is going to work hard to make sure both of you are paid as soon as possible. There are no set rules governing how quickly your settlement has to be paid out.