FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and Answers About Cerebral Palsy
Here are the answers to some commonly asked Illinois cerebral palsy FAQ about medical negligence, and the birth injury lawsuit process.
As always, please contact one of our lawyers with any questions that you may have about your child’s cerebral palsy and birth injuries.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a brain disorder that affects movement and balance. It develops because of damage to the brain before it matures, often when the baby is in the womb. It could also occur because of a birth injury that happens due to the doctor’s medical malpractice. It is one of the more common birth injuries.
The term originates from the fact that conditions affect the brain’s cerebrum. This is the area of the brain responsible for motor function. The word “palsy” signifies a condition that restricts normal and free-flowing movement.
What Birth Injuries Cause Cerebral Palsy?
Head trauma to the baby from a difficult delivery could cause brain damage that results in a cerebral palsy diagnosis. This could cause the malformation of the immature brain.
In addition, the brain could be damaged by oxygen deprivation in the uterus or during childbirth. When there is even a brief oxygen cutoff, the baby could suffer from Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. This is essentially when the baby has a stroke during delivery.
Damage to the placenta could also cause an interruption in the oxygen supply. It does not take long without oxygen for the baby to suffer permanent damage.
What Are the Different Types of Cerebral Palsy?
There are four primary types of cerebral palsy. They are:
- Spastic cerebral palsy – This is when there is excessive stiffness in the muscles, making it very difficult for the person to move. They will have a much more limited range of movement.
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy – The muscles will either be too stiff or too floppy, alternating between the two conditions. This will cause random and uncontrolled jerky movements and spasms.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy – This type of cerebral palsy will have struggles with balance and coordination. There can be shaky movements and repeated tremors.
- Mixed cerebral palsy – A person could suffer from more than one of the above three types of disease.
What Are Some Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy (CP)?
Cerebral palsy symptoms are consistent with a lack of control over one’s body. They usually impact bodily movement and development.
In terms of movement, here are some symptoms of cerebral palsy:
- Being too stiff or floppy
- Random and uncontrolled movements
- Jerky and clumsy movements
- Shaking hands
- Weak arms or legs
In terms of development, here are some cerebral palsy symptoms:
- Eye problems, including reducing vision or squinting
- Learning disabilities
- Problems with speaking and communication
- Difficulty controlling bladder
- Trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep
As you can see, cerebral palsy can have a dramatic impact on the life of the child and the family. It is understandable that families want justice if someone else’s negligence was the cause.
Is Cerebral Palsy an Acquired Brain Injury?
Cerebral palsy could occur on its own, or it can be an acquired brain injury. There are cases of cerebral palsy that happen naturally due to something that happens in the uterus or malformation of parts of the brain.
In fact, most instances of CP happen on their own. Statistics show that roughly 10% of cerebral palsy cases are acquired, meaning they develop as a result of something external. When your baby develops acquired cerebral palsy, there is usually someone to blame for the condition.
How Long Do Cerebral Palsy Patients Live?
In some cases, cerebral palsy does not affect the person’s lifespan. Many people with the disease can live long lives. It is all about the severity of the disease. A severe case of the disease will curtail the number of functions that the child is able to perform for themselves.
When cerebral palsy results in a vegetative state, the child is more prone to infection. In addition, other organs could be affected by the disease. When children have feeding difficulties and suffer seizures, it could also cut their life short.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are mild cases of the condition that may not even take much if any time from the patient’s life.
What Is the Treatment for Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition, and there is no cure. In some cases, cerebral palsy treatment can help manage the symptoms, depending on the severity of the disease.
Physical therapy is the main form of treatment. It can help a child build up and strengthen their muscles to reduce some of the symptoms. Children may have a regular regimen of therapy that could last over the course of their entire childhood. Of course, the costs of this can add up quickly. Occupational and speech therapy could also help with some of the effects.
There are also medications and treatments that could help manage the disease. Muscle and nerve injections could help with some of the movements and spastic jerking. In addition, oral muscle relaxers could lessen the tightness.
In more serious cases, the child may need surgery to correct some of the muscle tightness.
How Is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?
Parents will know early that their child is exhibiting signs of the disease, often right after birth. Their pediatrician may order a series of tests. Most often, the pediatrician will refer the child to a pediatric neurologist for more advanced tests.
Here are some of the tests that a doctor may run:
- Brain scans – The doctor may order an MRI that can spot lesions and abnormalities in the brain that are consistent with cerebral palsy.
- Cranial ultrasound – This uses sound waves to create images of the brain. While the scan is not as detailed as an MRI, it is a quick way of getting a diagnosis. The doctor may order more testing after an ultrasound, but this will give an initial reading.
- Electroencephalogram – This test is used when the child is experiencing seizures. Electrodes are attached to the brain to detect electrical activity. Doctors are looking for abnormal brain waves.
Is Cerebral Palsy the Result of Medical Malpractice?
It depends on if the cerebral palsy is acquired. Doctors can cause cerebral palsy through inadequate prenatal care and medical mistakes during the delivery.
After the baby is born, you should run tests to try to figure out how the case of cerebral palsy happened. If it was not natural, you may have potential malpractice claims against the doctor.
Not all cases of cerebral palsy happen because of a doctor’s mistake. You should try to learn relatively early whether there was a cause of cerebral palsy because you may have a limited time to sue.
If you had a difficult delivery, or if something went wrong during childbirth, chances are that your child’s case of CP was the result of malpractice.
What Are the Costs to Treat Cerebral Palsy?
This all depends on how severe the case of the disease is. As you saw, there are extensive costs for therapists and medications to treat the disease.
If the child is very profoundly affected, they will need home care and special education at school. Then, they will need to be supported for their entire adult lives because they will need this care and be unable to work.
There are some estimates that the lifetime costs for a case of cerebral palsy average $1 million. However, this could be on the low side if the case is severe.
It is essential to get a better estimate of the lifetime costs of the disease before you file your lawsuit or sign a settlement agreement. You should hire life planning experts and economists to establish the cost of care because that is what you will be seeking in a lawsuit.
You do not want to run out of money years later because you settled the case for too little.
When am I Legally Entitled to Financial Compensation for Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury?
A birth injury case is the same as any other medical malpractice case. You need to prove that the doctor or hospital made a mistake and was negligent in your case. This is a four-part test, and you must have evidence that shows every element.
The test is as follows:
- The doctor owed the child a duty of care
- The doctor breached that duty by acting unreasonably
- Your child suffered an injury
- Your child would not have been injured had it not been for the actions of the doctor.
Here, the key is proving that the doctor acted unreasonably. You would have expert witnesses testify about what a reasonable doctor would do under the circumstances. Then, you would compare this doctor’s actions against that “reasonable doctor” standard to show how they breached the duty of care.
How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Cerebral Palsy Claim?
As soon as you learn that your child has been affected by cerebral palsy, you should consult with an attorney. When you schedule a free consultation with Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, our attorneys will review your case.
They will investigate a possible lawsuit for brain injuries, consulting with medical experts to discuss the possible strength of your case. Ultimately, we are looking for evidence that the physician acted unreasonably in the prenatal care or the delivery.
Based on medical records and expert testimony, we should have an idea of whether your case is worth pursuing with a cerebral palsy lawsuit. First, you should come to us for a free case evaluation.
Is Cerebral Palsy Always Medical Negligence or Malpractice?
No. There are some cases of cerebral palsy that occur on their own. However, the circumstances of prenatal care and delivery need to be examined for signs that the health care provider was negligent.
You should always have a conversation with an attorney to learn about your legal options and the information that you need if you are to receive compensation.
How Much Is My Cerebral Palsy Case Claim Worth?
It all depends on how much your child has suffered. Obviously, more severe cases would require more compensation. Your cerebral palsy claim could include:
- Out-of-pocket medical costs for cerebral palsy treatment
- The cost of home healthcare
- Lost wages for the child (when they become an adult) and for the parents who take time from work to care for the child
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Will My Cerebral Palsy Case Go to Court?
Statistics show that a birth injury claim will usually settle without a jury trial. Chances are that you may have to file a lawsuit in your case. However, that will kick off settlement negotiations between you and the defendant.
Many cases will reach a settlement after the discovery phase of the trial. Many birth injury defendants are motivated to settle the case without a trial because they do not want to end up in front of a jury.
A child who has suffered lifelong injuries from someone else’s negligence makes for a sympathetic plaintiff in front of a jury, and doctors and hospitals know that.
In most cases, you can count on settlement negotiations at some point during the proceedings. The malpractice insurance company will at least try to explore what it would cost to reduce their own risk.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit?
In Illinois, the statute of limitations  for medical malpractice cases is two years from the date of discovery. In your case, this does not mean the date of your child’s birth, even though cerebral palsy is a birth injury.
The date is two years from the time that you knew or should have known that your child suffered a birth injury. This is important when the diagnosis comes sometime after birth.
Nonetheless, you should contact a cerebral palsy lawyer from our law firm for a case evaluation as soon as your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and there is a possibility of a birth injury.
Two years seems like a long time in medical malpractice lawsuits, but your personal injury lawyer needs time to investigate your case and draft a complaint in your lawsuit. Even missing the statute of limitations by one day will cost you the right to receive compensation.
In some situations, a CP case can be pursued years after the incident if a child is deemed to be disabled. This can be subjective, so it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney.
Can I Afford a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
Yes. Many people have questions and are concerned about legal costs because they are already dealing with prohibitive medical bills. The good news is that you will not pay any fee or need to lay a penny out of your pocket to hire a lawyer.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, our law firm and your attorney work for contingency fees. This means that we are only paid if you receive compensation. We get our money out of the proceeds of your settlement or jury award. We work for you on a contingency fee basis.
If your case is not successful, you would not need to write our team a check afterward for our legal services. In that regard, we also take a risk by taking on your case because there is always a chance that we do not get paid for our time. The percentage that we are paid is set out ahead of time in the representation agreement.
How Do I Know if a Birth Injury Lawsuits Attorney Is Right for Me?
Most importantly, you need an attorney with the experience necessary to handle a birth injury case for your child’s cerebral palsy. As we have explained, these cases are among the most complex personal injury actions for a number of reasons, and not every lawyer has the capacity to try these cases.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we have the necessary experience and skills along with a track record of helping Illinois families. We have represented clients in many birth injury cases, including ones that result from cerebral palsy. Call our team with any questions about birth injury law.
Have Additional Illinois Cerebral Palsy FAQ?
Contact our law firm for a free consultation with an experienced attorney. We can address any questions you have unique to your situation.
Resources:  Cornell Law School