Can Medical Malpractice Cause Cerebral Palsy?

December 19, 2017 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Can Medical Malpractice Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a difficult disability to categorize—it is either a traumatic brain injury or brain malformation that occurs before, during, or immediately following birth. Medical science does know, however, that cerebral palsy almost always occurs in developing brains, but the injuries and disabilities that result from cerebral palsy depend on the nature and seriousness of the injury, and where in the brain the injury takes place. While one person diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth can become an All-American athlete with straight As, cerebral palsy may leave another with little to no physical or intellectual function. So what primarily causes cerebral palsy? Can physician error during pregnancy or birth cause it?

When people sustain cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence, they can often recover compensation for the losses they sustain, including their medical expenses, lost quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. At the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we will review the medical care you received during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and determine whether there is any evidence that indicates that your child's cerebral palsy was caused by the carelessness of a medical provider - all at no cost to you. To schedule free case evaluation with one of our lawyers, call us today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy

A traumatic brain injury alters brain functions as the result of an external force—such as dropping a child. An acquired brain injury, however, is not hereditary or induced by birth trauma, but results from conditions like tumors or strokes. If your child suffered a brain injury during the birthing process that resulted in cerebral palsy, doctors will generally consider it a traumatic brain injury. An individual source of cerebral palsy in a specific child may prove difficult to pinpoint, but common causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • Prenatal disturbance of brain-cell migration, either due to genetic or environmental factors (brain cells do not move where they should during development)
  • Lack of prenatal insulation of developing nerve cell fibers (inadequate protection of the nerve fibers that help transmit information from the brain to different areas of the body)
  • Brain cell death during birth (a traumatic brain injury due to ruptured blood vessels or lack of oxygen to the brain that inhibits brain function)
  • Post-birth trauma, infection, or lack of oxygen that damages brain cells and connection
As you can imagine, the means by which a child acquires cerebral palsy generally determines whether you have a claim for medical malpractice. For example, in today's modern era, lack of oxygen injuries often result from medical malpractice, and unnatural causes typically produce traumatic brain injuries suffered during the birthing process. For example, if a physician failed to timely order a cesarean section and that failure resulted in the baby not getting enough oxygen, there is a good chance that he or she would be able to assert a claim. On the other hand, if the child suffered from a genetic defect, or if drugs or alcohol consumed during the pregnancy injured the child, you likely do not have a medical malpractice claim.

Florida Expert Witnesses and Medical Malpractice

Because a plaintiff must pinpoint the cause of cerebral palsy in a medical malpractice cases, your Florida medical malpractice attorney typically must introduce the testimony of an OB-GYN or pediatric neurologist. Under Florida law, “if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the [jury or judge] in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in the form of an opinion.” The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a medical malpractice action, and must do more than show the court that a child suffers from cerebral palsy. You will need a medical expert who can testify as to the specific cause of the disability and whether the birthing or prenatal doctor failed to provide an accepted standard of care.

Furthermore, because cerebral palsy typically results in serious disconnects between the brain and muscles, as well as speech and learning impediments, your child will likely need years of physical, cognitive, and speech therapy. This can result in a plethora of unanticipated bills that your medical insurance may not cover. What if, for example, your child needs a private tutor? To answer this and other questions about the injury's financial costs, you and your Florida traumatic brain injury attorney must discuss your case with an economic expert who can work with your medical expert to calculate future expenses.

Medical Malpractice in Florida

Even if your doctors tell you that they could not prevent your child's brain injury, including cerebral palsy, always get a second opinion. Children are not normally deprived of oxygen during the birthing process, and injuries that develop as a result of an infection or undiagnosed, treatable condition can also constitute medical malpractice. Pursuant to Florida law, to recover compensation due to medical malpractice, such as birth injuries, you must show that the medical error caused the injury. In determining this, Florida courts ask whether another competent doctor who had used medically acceptable standards of care could have reasonably foreseen and prevented the infant's brain injury.

Contact a Clearwater Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

In your cerebral palsy case, a whole team of attorneys and experts may need to determine the nature of your future medical expenses and which of those expenses can result in compensation. Furthermore, the full extent of the disabilities your child suffered as a result of cerebral palsy may not manifest until school age. The negligent practice of medicine should not saddle you with mounting medical debt, and you should not settle for less than you need to equip your child to live the fullest possible life. If cerebral palsy struck your loved one and you suspect doctor error, contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today. They have the experienced traumatic brain injury attorneys you need to fight for your rights in the greater Tampa Bay area. Call or write them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk medical malpractice consultation.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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