For over fifty years, The Beasley Firm has been one of the pre-eminent law firms for birth injury litigation, obtaining over hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits for children with cerebral palsy, including over $15 million in cerebral palsy verdicts in 2012 alone.
Cerebral Palsy refers to a group of disorders with similar symptoms, rather than a single medical condition. In the most basic sense, cerebral palsy is always caused by damage to a baby’s developing brain, particularly the parts that control the body’s motor skills, muscle coordination, and movements. The injury can occur at any point from the beginning of pregnancy, to labor, the period after birth, or the first two years of life.
Most cerebral palsy is not preventable; the legal system focus on the instances in which it was preventable, such as during the third trimester of pregnancy or, in particular, the labor and delivery period, or the immediate period after birth, while the baby is still in the hospital. Cerebral palsy can be caused by oxygen deprivation during labor or after birth (“hypoxia“), infections during pregnancy (like Group B Strep), untreated high bilirubin levels or kernicterus, dangerously low blood sugar levels, or untreated meningitis.
In a malpractice lawsuit, the family can be awarded compensation (including for future medical benefits) if their attorneys can prove in court that it was negligent for doctors, midwives, or nurses not to recognize the signs and symptoms of a problem and treat it appropriately.
Risks of Infant Oxygen Deprivation
During the pregnancy or prenatal period and during labor and delivery, a baby’s well being must be closely monitored for any signs of distress, hypoxia, anoxia, or lack of oxygen. OB/GYNs have a wide variety of tools available to them to diagnose fetal distress, including the use of ultrasound, bio-physical profiles, stress tests, non-stress tests and the fetal monitor strips or baby monitor during labor. Doctors, midwives, and nurses should be able to see when a baby is in distress or running out of oxygen, and, once that process starts, the health care providers should deliver the baby right away — like through an emergency c-section — to prevent brain damage. The longer a baby stays in a bad environment without oxygen or with low blood sugar, the worse the outcome.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms (Such As Seizures) and Treatment
One of the first signs that your baby suffered a severe lack of oxygen to the brain is seizures. When you hear the word seizure, you think of a body shaking or convulsing uncontrollably. In newborns or babies, seizures can present differently. A baby that is having a seizure may just have a blank stare, stops breathing or has apnea, nodding of the head, rapid blinking of the eyes, loss of tone, a loud pitched cry, tightening of an arm or leg, lip smacking, or shivering.
Each baby is different; therefore, medication that may work for one baby, may not work for another. Medications that are commonly used to try and control the seizures are Phenobarbital, Ativan (Lorazepam), Clonazepam, Versed (Midazolam), Depakene (Valproic acid), Depakote (Valproate), Dilantin (Phenytoin), Ethosuximide Felbatol (Felbamate), Gabitril (Tiagabine), Keppra (Levetiracetam), Lamictal (Lamotrigine), Lyrica (Pregabalin), Neurontin (Gabapentin), Primidone Sabril (Vigabatrin), Tegretol (Carbemazepine), Topamax (Topiramate), Trileptal (oxcarbazepine), or Zonegran (Zonisamide). Sometimes, when the seizures are not able to be controlled by medications, Vitamin B6 and a ketogenic diet that is high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and calorie restricted may be added to the treatment regime.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms and Types
The diagnosis is usually made by the time a child is 2 years of age, though some forms are diagnosed at 3 years of age. The early signs of Cerebral Palsy are a lack of muscle coordination, not reaching milestones, delay in crawling or walking, stiff or tight muscles, walking on toes, or floppy muscle tone. In addition to causing problems with walking, crawling, or ambulation, Cerebral Palsy can also lead to problems with bowel and bladder function, breathing, speech, eating, swallowing, learning, vision, and hearing — the whole range of bodily functions that depend upon muscle control.
The three types of Cerebral Palsy are spastic, athetoid and ataxic. Differences in symptoms, rather than cause, usually lead to the separate diagnosis. Spastic Cerebral Palsy causes stiffness and difficulty with movement. Athetoid Cerebral Palsy causes uncontrolled movements. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy causes an alteration in balance and depth perception.
A Medical–Legal Team Working for You
Babies that were subjected to prolonged stress or who were deprived of vital oxygen during the prenatal (pregnancy) period or labor are going to have lifelong medical problems and expenses. Our specialized birth injury Cerebral Palsy team is made up of medical doctors with legal degrees and nurse paralegals that have worked for decades in the hospital, including in the labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units. We know how to quickly examine client narratives, medical records, and fetal monitor strips to let you know whether your child’s cerebral palsy could have been prevented — and if so, how we plan to prove that in court.
Our collective knowledge assisted in obtaining two of the largest medical negligence verdicts in Pennsylvania history, $100 million and $55 million, as well as countless other multimillion dollar judgments and settlements, including, in just the past year (2012), a $3.75 million jury verdict in a county where medical malpractice plaintiffs virtually never win, and a $12.6 million jury verdict against a well-known Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hospital. Our medical negligence and cerebral palsy lawyers are nationally recognized, and are often the lawyers that other lawyers turn to for their most challenging and important cases.