Cerebral Palsy—Do I Have a Lawsuit?
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can significantly affect a child’s physical development and well-being. While this condition is not always immediately noticeable after a child’s birth, within a child’s first few months, a varying range of symptoms may begin to develop. Sadly, in many instances, negligent medical care rendered before and during childbirth will result in a child developing cerebral palsy. At Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A., our medical malpractice attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals and families who have suffered as a result of negligent medical care.What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is not a single condition that develops in children. Rather, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. In many instances, a child’s vision and hearing are negatively affected, as well. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is a more common disorder than most people think; in fact, it is the most common motor disability in childhood.
“Cerebral” means having to do with the brain, and “palsy” means weakness or problems using muscles and movement. Cerebral palsy can be caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the brain as it develops.
There are four main types of cerebral palsy:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy: This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, and it is generally characterized as involving significant muscle tightness and stiffness. Spastic cerebral palsy can affect many parts of a person’s body, including all four limbs, the torso, and the face. When it affects a person’s legs, it oftentimes makes it difficult or impossible to walk because the legs pull together and cross at the knees (what is referred to as “scissoring”).
- Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy: This usually involves involuntary muscle contractions which make it difficult for persons to control their upper and lower limbs. Frequently, a person will have no control over bodily movements in areas that are impacted by dyskinetic palsy.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: This is the least frequent form of palsy, and usually is characterized by problems with balance and coordination of motor skills, oftentimes resulting in trouble with walking and depth perception.
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy: This type of cerebral palsy tends to be diagnosed when a person suffers from symptoms of more than one of the types of cerebral palsy cited above.
Of course, not all cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical mistakes. However, medical negligence is a frequent cause of cerebral palsy in young children.
Some of the most common medical mistakes that can lead to a child developing cerebral palsy include:
- Failing to detect or treat an infection in the mother (which could spread through to the placenta).
- Failing to detect or treat changes of the child’s heartbeat, which many times can be an indicator that the baby is suffering with oxygen deprivation.
- Failing to perform a C-section when one is medically advisable or necessary.
- Failing to ensure that the umbilical cord does not cut off the baby’s blood supply (cerebral palsy is very often the result of an insufficient amount of oxygen reaching the baby’s brain).
- Improper use of delivery tools during childbirth.
As a parent, it is important to understand the early signs of cerebral palsy in an infant. In some instances, doctors will be able to detect cerebral palsy in your child early on, but that is not always the case. The signs of cerebral palsy vary greatly, but some common indicators in young children include:
- The baby feeling floppy or stiff
- Overextension of the child’s neck or back
- Having stiff legs
- The baby having difficulty rolling over in either direction
- Not bringing their hands together
- Crawling in a lopsided manner
The Florida medical malpractice statute of limitations states that a lawsuit must “be commenced within 2 years from the time the incident giving rise to the action occurred or within 2 years from the time the incident is discovered, or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.” Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4). Florida also has a statute of repose of four years. This means that a person cannot file a medical malpractice lawsuit more than four years after the actual medical malpractice incident, regardless of when the injury was discovered.
However, there are a few very limited exceptions to the statute of limitations and the statute of repose when it comes to some medical malpractice claims. For example, if “fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury,” then there is an extension of “2 years from the time that the injury is discovered or should have been discovered … but in no event to exceed 7 years from the date the incident giving rise to the injury occurred” within which a lawsuit can be filed. Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4). And this 7-year limitation does “not bar an action brought on behalf of a minor on or before the child’s eighth birthday.” Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4).
However, it is important to keep in mind that the exceptions won’t apply, and the two-year statute of limitations can still limit the time to file a claim, if the parents or guardians of the child knew or should have known of the incident giving rise to the malpractice claim.What Compensation is Available in a Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Case?
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and the condition was caused by medical malpractice, your family may be entitled to compensation. Caring for a child with cerebral palsy can become costly, with some estimates saying the lifetime cost of treatment reaches more than $1 million. A successful medical malpractice case can potentially help parents recover compensation for:
- Medical costs for treatment
- Special education needs
- Physical therapy
- Pain and suffering damages
- The costs of any necessary medical equipment
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you suspect the injury was caused by medical negligence, contact Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A. today to find out if you have a potential lawsuit. Our knowledgeable and experienced team has decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice claims. Let our Florida medical malpractice attorneys help with your case today. You can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or calling 877-853-7466.