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Cerebral Palsy Attorneys Sacramento, Fairfield and Bay Area
If your child was born with cerebral palsy, you are not alone; the Center for Disease Control reports that approximately 1 in 278 children suffer from the disorder. Under the laws governing birth injury cases, you may be entitled to compensation for the losses and expenses related to your child’s tragic birth injury. York Law Firm provides victims and their families with exceptional representation from a team of experienced cerebral palsy attorneys. Our lawyers serve Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove, Folsom, Fairfield and the Bay Area and the surrounding communities. As one of our clients, you can expect to be treated with compassion and courtesy as we aggressively pursue compensation from the party or parties responsible for your needless suffering.
The goal of the York Law Firm website is to offer a comprehensive bank of information where families of children with cerebral palsy can find the answers they need. For that reason, we’ve provided details on the topics below.
History of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy was first identified as a medical condition in the 1860s by orthopedic surgeon William John Little, who wrote about a disorder that affected children in their early years of life and caused stiff, spastic muscles and poorly developed motor skills. Sigmund Freud disputed Little’s claims that the condition was caused solely by oxygen deprivation, and instead suggested that the problem was rooted in the brain’s development in the womb.
In the 1860s, English surgeon William Little wrote the first medical description of cerebral palsy, describing a condition that caused stiff, spastic muscles in the legs and sometimes in the arms of young children. Dr. Little found that these children had difficulty with grasping objects, walking and crawling, and that their condition exacerbated over time. He believed that the disorder was caused by difficult births – that the baby took too long in the birth canal which resulted in oxygen deprivation. The condition was named “Little’s disease,” after William Little. In 1887, Sir William Osler, and English physician, popularized the term “cerebral palsy,” which the condition is known as today.
Ten years later in 1897, Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud disputed Little’s findings. Freud reported that children with cerebral palsy manifested additional symptoms, including mental retardation, seizures and visual disturbances. His findings led him to believe that the condition developed even before the birth of the child during fetal development.
Even though Freud was regarded as a world famous psychiatrist, Little’s theory prevailed. It was not until the 1980s during a government study that scientists discovered that Little’s theory was not entirely correct, nor was Freud’s. The study revealed that birth complications may be a cause of cerebral palsy, but only a small percentage of cerebral palsy cases were attributed to difficult births.
Today, researchers are still looking into other possible causes of cerebral palsy. Some of the possible causes of cerebral palsy include birth difficulties, head trauma after birth, infant bacterial or viral infections, and maternal infections during pregnancy.
Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is typically diagnosed during pregnancy, shortly after delivery, or in the first few years of a child’s life. A physician will examine your child’s physical and behavioral signs before diagnosing him or her with cerebral palsy. Early diagnosis is critical to obtaining the proper treatment and care.
The effects of cerebral palsy are typically evident from birth, so most children are diagnosed within the first two years of life. If a child’s symptoms are mild, however, it is more difficult to diagnose the condition before age 4 or 5. Infants are rarely diagnosed in the first six months of their lives.
If the infant or child has brain damage, a doctor will suspect cerebral palsy if he or she exhibits the following symptoms: irritability or fussiness; body twitching, seizures or eye fluttering; poor muscle tone; listlessness; problems with sucking and swallowing; and trembling arms and legs.
If a doctor observes any of the above symptoms, she will evaluate the child’s motor skills and consider the child’s medical history. She will look carefully to see if there are any of the classic symptoms of cerebral palsy, such as slow development, unusual posture and abnormal muscle tone. If the doctor suspects cerebral palsy, she will likely administer further testing. The most common diagnostic tests given are computed tomography (CT) scans, which shows the structure of the brain and areas of damage, as well as magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scans, which creates an anatomical picture of the brain’s tissues and structures. A cranial ultrasound may also be administered. It is used for high-risk premature infants since it’s the least intrusive of the imaging techniques, but it is also the least successful. Cranial ultrasounds use reflected sound waves to produce images of the brain.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Symptoms of cerebral palsy include slow development (e.g., delays in reaching developmental milestones such as rolling over, crawling, and talking) and impaired motor control, coordination, sight, and hearing.
Even in cases where cerebral palsy is present from birth, the signs may not be noticed until the child reaches 1 to 3 years old. Often times, doctors and parents will not recognize the infant’s irregular movement until they become more pronounced later in life.
If cerebral palsy is severe, signs and symptoms can be noticed at birth. Some signs vary according to the specific type of cerebral palsy present, but the common signs that may be noticed shortly after birth include:
- Problems with sucking and swallowing
- Weak and unusually high-pitched cry
- Unusual body movement and posture. Sometimes the body will appear either very relaxed or very stiff.
Additional early signs which suggest cerebral palsy that may not be present until later are:
- Delayed milestones such as crawling, walking, controlling head, rolling over and sitting upright
- Slow reflexes
- Developing handedness (or a preferential use of one hand over the other for tasks) before 18 months, as this indicates weakness of the non-dominant hand
- Smaller muscles in the affected arms or legs
- Dental problems due to the child’s difficulty in brushing his or her teeth
- Abnormal movements, which may be unusually jerky or abrupt or very slow
- Stiffening of joints due to unequal pressure on the joints
- Mental retardation, which is present in some, but not all, children
- Speech problems. People with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling the movements of muscles in their tongue, mouth and throat.
- Vision problems. Some people have a condition called strabismus, or the turning in or out of one eye. It’s caused by weakness of muscles that control eye movement.
- Hearing loss (usually partial hearing loss)
- Bowel or bladder control problems
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the result of brain damage or trauma; it can be congenital or acquired during the child’s first few years of life. If your child is born with cerebral palsy, it might be the result of a physician’s negligence, inexperience, or recklessness. Scenarios in which a physician puts the baby at risk for brain damage include the improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor during delivery, failure to perform a timely C-section, and failure to identify or treat fetal distress.
Cerebral palsy affects thousands of children every year. Although historically there has been some debate regarding the cause of cerebral palsy, the following are known causes and result from medical malpractice.
Lack of Oxygen during Birth:
Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, during labor or delivery can cause a baby to suffer severe brain damage which can lead to cerebral palsy. The risk of asphyxia increases if the labor takes too long. Asphyxiation can also occur if the mother has low blood pressure, a ruptured uterus, a detached placenta, or problems with the umbilical cord.
Jaundice is a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellow as a result of build-up of a pigment called bilirubin in the blood. Mild cases will clear up without treatment. Severe cases, if left untreated, can cause can kill brain cells, causing permanent brain damage (kernicterus) and can result in athetoid cerebral palsy.
Failure to Recognize or Treat Seizures Following Delivery:
An infant who has seizures has a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy later in life. If the infant seizes, the doctor should keep a close eye on the child as he or she faces a greater risk of long-term problems in the nervous system.
Failure to Perform a Timely C-Section:
Failing to perform a timely cesarean section (C-section) can contribute to the development of cerebral palsy. C-sections are becoming more prevalent and are used when the baby is too large to fit through the birth canal or if the mother suffers from pregnancy medical disorders. During emergency situations, the physician will have to immediately decide whether a C-section is necessary. If the doctor delays in ordering a C-section, the momentary hesitation can cause the baby to suffer from injuries (like cerebral palsy) or can even be fatal.
Improper Use of Vacuum Extraction:
A vacuum extractor is a device that helps deliver a baby. It is a suction cup that’s placed over the baby’s head and which allows the physician to pull out the child with more ease. Excessive use of vacuum extraction during delivery increases the risk of cerebral palsy.
Improper/Forceful Use of Forceps:
Forceps are another tool used to assist the physician in birth. They are used to grip a baby’s head and guide it out of the birth canal. They are designed to maintain a light grip; however, if they are used too forcefully, they can cause brain damage that results in cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy In Infants
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral palsy occurs in 1 out of every 303 children. Approximately 10,000 babies per year will develop cerebral palsy in the United States, and it is ten times more common in premature infants. Additionally, about 2 to 3 children in 1,000 are affected.
There are several risk factors that make infants more likely to develop cerebral palsy. The most common risk factor is prematurity. Premature babies, or those who are born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, are far more likely to develop cerebral palsy than babies who are full-term. Another risk factor is infections during the mother’s pregnancy that can cause brain damage to their baby. Some infections include cytomegalovirus, rubella and herpes. Insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus can also cause the baby to develop cerebral palsy, as well as asphyxia (or lack of oxygen) during labor and delivery. Severe jaundice that is left untreated can kill brain cells and, as a result, can cause cerebral palsy. More than 50 percent of newborns develop jaundice, a condition where bilirubin, a substance found in bile, builds up faster in their livers than their bodies can break it down.
Because the symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be noticeable until the child is older, cerebral palsy among newborns may go undetected for several years. However, there are some tell-tale signs of cerebral palsy among infants. A child more than 2 months old who has difficulty controlling his or her head when carried and who has stiff legs when picked up may indicate the child suffers from cerebral palsy. Further indications include crawling with one hand and leg and dragging the opposite hand and leg at around 10 months and being unable to crawl or stand without support by 1 year.
The effects of cerebral palsy once were extremely grim. Before the mid-twentieth century, few children who suffered from cerebral palsy survived to adulthood. Due to current research, medical care and rehabilitation, most children with cerebral palsy live to adulthood. These children, however, do face health challenges which they develop later in life. For instance, the majority of people who suffer from cerebral palsy will experience premature aging as a result of the extra strain put on their bodies from their condition. They also often suffer from pain in the hips, back, knees and ankles.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are several types of cerebral palsy: spastic, athetoid, ataxic, and mixed. Some children may also have mild cerebral palsy. Distinguish the differences between the types of cerebral palsy.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy:
Spastic cerebral palsy accounts for nearly 80 percent of all cerebral palsy cases, making it the most common type of cerebral palsy. People who suffer from this type of cerebral palsy have one or more tight muscle groups which limit their movement. They typically have stiff, jerky movements and have difficulty moving from one position to another. Spastic cerebral palsy can be further identified by the body parts that are affected. When both legs are affected, the condition is known as spastic diplegia. If only one side of the person’s body is affected, the condition is known as spastic hemiplegia. Spastic quadriplegia affects the entire body (one’s face, arms, and legs).
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy:
Athetoid cerebral palsy, also known as dyskinetic cerebral palsy, is far less common than spastic cerebral palsy, only affecting approximately 10 percent of children who have cerebral palsy. It is characterized by slow, uncontrollable movements that affect the muscles in the hands, feet, muscles, and in rare cases, the face or throat. It is caused by damage to the cerebellum (the portion of the brain that controls balance) or the basal ganglia (the portion of the brain that is responsible for involuntary movements). Involuntary movements often increase when the person is emotionally stressed and virtually disappear during sleep.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy:
Ataxic cerebral palsy affects roughly 5 to 10 percent of children. It is characterized by low muscle tone and poor coordination of movements. People who have ataxic cerebral palsy have poor coordination, weak sense of balance, and are unsteady and shaky in their movements.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy:
A person who has more than one type of cerebral palsy is said to have mixed cerebral palsy. Approximately 10 percent of children have mixed cerebral palsy. The most common mix is spastic (characterized by tight muscle tone) and athetoid movements (characterized by involuntary movements), although other variations can occur.
Mild Cerebral Palsy:
Mild cerebral palsy is less severe and easier to manage because the brain damage causing them isn’t as serious. Symptoms can go undiagnosed for several years since they are more subtle. It is not uncommon for parents and doctors alike to dismiss any symptoms of mild cerebral palsy as problems that a child will eventually outgrow. Yet, early detection is crucial. With mild cerebral palsy, corrective treatment can be highly effective, so any signs of developmental delay should be tested by your physician.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment
Cerebral palsy cannot be cured; however, treatment can improve a child or adult’s quality of life, increase their strength and ability to perform tasks, and prevent complications. Cerebral palsy treatment will vary by each child’s particular needs and condition, and treatment plans can include physical, psychological, and behavioral therapy, as well as medications and even surgery.
Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy
The life expectancy for an individual with cerebral palsy depends on the level of disability (e.g., the ability to self-feed, the level of motor function). Some individuals are able to live independent and full lives, while others require care and assistance for all activities of daily living. Learn more about the prognosis and life expectancy of individuals living with cerebral palsy.
When your child suffers from cerebral palsy, you undoubtedly have several fears for your child. Perhaps your biggest fear is that the condition will impact your child’s quality of life and his or her lifespan. The life expectancy of a person with cerebral palsy is difficult to determine – there are no definitive rules on the life expectancy of one suffering from cerebral palsy. However, some research suggests that children with severe cerebral palsy could develop other medical complications that can shorten his or her life. On the other hand, children who can walk and who self-feed have practically normal life expectancies.
Costs Associated with Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with cerebral palsy face considerable costs; they usually require long-term care and support services. They have high medical and non-medical costs, including physician visits, hospital stays, assistive devices, and other treatment expenses.
Because cerebral palsy causes lifetime disability, the costs associated with the condition can be staggering. Many people who have cerebral palsy need to use braces, wheelchairs and walkers, and additionally need ongoing medical care and therapy. An article from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) stated that the estimated lifetime cost of people with cerebral palsy is $11.5 billion. On an individual level, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the average lifetime cost associated with cerebral palsy is about $921,000 per person in 2003 dollars.
Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
If your child’s condition is the result of a medical professional’s negligence, your family could be entitled to financial compensation help pay for medical costs, hospital and therapy bills, and other expenses.
Attorney Wendy York, a well-known Sacramento and Fairfield birth injury attorney, offers valuable information in the cerebral palsy lawsuit section of this website, including how to file a Cerebral Palsy claim, proving fault in a cerebral palsy case, and the stages of a case.
Filing A Cerebral Palsy Claim
If you are filing a brain injury claim, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Contact an experienced attorney you can trust to timely protect your claim. Your claim must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitation differs depending on the subject matter of your case. At York Law Firm, our attorneys can protect your legal rights and ensure that your claim is timely filed within the applicable statute of limitations.
- Find an experienced birth injury attorney to handle your case. Wendy York and her team of experienced legal professionals are known for their skill in presenting the strongest cases possible on behalf of their clients. York Law Firm is dedicated to helping birth injury victims obtain the compensation to which they are entitled. If you believe you have a potential case, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with one of our birth injury attorneys.
Who Is Liable In A Birth Injury Case?
Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is often caused by medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals may make mistakes during delivery. Leaving the child in the birth canal too long, failing to recognize and treat seizures following delivery, failing to unwrap the umbilical cord wrapped around the infant’s neck, excessive use of vacuum extraction or improper use of forceps can all cause the child to develop cerebral palsy.
At York Law Firm, our skilled attorneys can evaluate your child’s case and advise you of your legal rights. We understand that birth injuries are among the most life-altering, tragic injuries. We work diligently to make sure that the responsible party is held accountable, and will get your child the compensation to which he or she is entitled.
Legal Considerations In A Birth Injury Case
Statute of Limitations. As with any lawsuit, birth injury lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time of the harmful wrongful conduct, a period known as the statute of limitations. Failure to bring suit within this period may bar your ability to bring suit completely. The statute of limitations, however, differs depending on the subject matter of the case. At York Law Firm, our attorneys can advise and protect your legal claim.
For a more complete evaluation of your case, contact one of our skilled attorneys. We at York Law Firm offer a free case evaluation.
Recovering Damages In A Cerebral Palsy Case
The injured plaintiff can recover past and future medical expenses and non-economic damages (also referred to as pain and suffering – the harms, injuries and losses suffered). Punitive damages can also be awarded when the plaintiff can prove that the wrongdoer acted fraudulently, maliciously or recklessly.
Cerebral Palsy Resources
It’s helpful for families of children and adults with cerebral palsy to have access to information and resources about the condition, treatment options, and local support groups.
Cerebral Palsy FAQs
Cerebral palsy is a complex disorder and the implications can be overwhelming. If you have more questions about cerebral palsy or the process of filing a birth injury lawsuit against a negligent medical professional, browse through our frequently asked questions page.
Contact Our Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
If your child acquired cerebral palsy as a result of the negligence of a healthcare professional, you should speak with a birth injury lawyer. Serving Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove, Folsom, Fairfield and the Bay Area, Wendy York and her team of legal professionals can help you determine whether you have a valid birth injury claim. We invite you to contact our practice or fill out a free case evaluation.