Louisiana Cerebral Palsy Lawyer

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What is cerebral palsy and what causes it?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term that refers to a grouping of various neurological conditions that affects movement, muscle coordination, and posture. The neurological conditions stem from damage to the area of the brain that control motor function and muscle control. Cerebral palsy appears in infancy or early childhood.

Most children who have cerebral palsy are born with the condition. For these cases of CP, which account for approximately 70 percent of cerebral palsy cases, the causes are usually unknown. Risk factors that may contribute to this type of cerebral palsy include, but are not limited to:

a mother's development of an infection during pregnancy
a mother's contraction of an illness, such as measles, during pregnancy
an incompatibility between a mother's and fetus's blood types
medication or drugs administered to a mother during pregnancy
lack of prenatal care

Approximately 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases are the result of some sort of brain injury that occurs after birth. Causes of CP in infants may include a brain infection such as meningitis, or brain trauma from a car accident, fall, or child abuse.

The remaining 20 percent of cerebral palsy cases occur during the birthing process. Asphyxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain) or brain injury that results in bleeding. Asphyxia may occur from a premature separation of the placenta, strangulation by the umbilical cord, or other complications. Bleeding of the brain may come from extreme pressure related to a vaginal delivery or some sort of trauma during the birth process.

Signs of cerebral palsy may include:

difficulty trying to perform voluntary motor functions, such as moving a hand or arm, or reaching for a toy
tight muscles
walking with splayed legs
walking on toes
hearing impairments
speech impairments
visual impairments
learning disabilities

In its mildest forms, cerebral palsy can simply cause difficulty controlling the muscles in one hand. With proper physical and occupational therapy, control can be gradually restored. In its most severe forms, it can render the person almost completely immobile. If the trauma was quite severe, the person can become quadriplegic and lose the ability to communicate. It can also cause the brain to not develop at a normal rate. Severe cases of cerebral palsy might mean that an eight-year-old child may drink from a sippy cup and wear diapers, a ten-year-old child may eat mashed vegetables because she cannot chew or swallow properly, and a 15-year-old may not be able to walk or run.

What are forms of treatment for cerebral palsy?

There are many varying degrees of severity in cases of CP but if treatment is initiated at a young age, there is a much better chance for the child. Treatment of CP can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy.

Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are a variety of medications that can be used in conjunction with physical therapy. Medications to alleviate pain as well as limit muscle contractions have proven to be quite helpful.

Why might it be necessary to seek advice from a legal professional?

Doctors and medical professionals typically take every measure they can to avoid complications during labor. They will set up monitoring devices to monitor the fetus and the mother, and check in on their patients regularly. These precautions significantly reduce the risk of cerebral palsy from birthing complications.

Regardless of the precautions that medical professionals take, there are still chances of mistakes or errors occurring during labor, however, and these can lead to cerebral palsy. If an injury occurs to a child during the course of labor, it may not be the fault of the doctor or the hospital. Doctors are held liable for birth injuries under a set of standards. Doctors and hospitals have a duty to their patients, or infants in the case of birth, meaning that the doctor must be a part of the delivery. To determine whether a doctor or hospital was at fault, an attorney versed in birth injury law must determine whether or not the doctor breached his or her duty to the patient. If a breach of duty did occur, the doctor may be liable for damages. However, if an injury occurred but was not the fault of the doctor, or the injury could not have been prevented, regardless of a breach of duty, the situation can be more complex. Hospitals may also be held accountable for a wrongful injury if the nursing staff or doctors they hired performed inadequately.

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe it may be the result of a birth related injury caused in part by medical negligence, it is important that you seek legal advice. An attorney well-versed in Louisiana medical malpractice law, specifically birth injuries, can help you navigate the legal process and determine what steps you will need to take next.


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