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Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that can cause permanent disabilities and complications. Although the severity varies from one child to the next, the condition currently has no cure.
In some cases, cerebral palsy results from brain damage caused by medical negligence.  If your baby developed cerebral palsy this way, you have the right to file a cerebral palsy lawsuit.
Do I Have a Valid Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit?
Medical negligence that causes an infant to develop cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy or during or shortly after labor and delivery. Some of the most common preventable medical errors that can lead to cerebral palsy are:
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- Failure to perform a C-section at all, or scheduling it after it’s too late.
- Inadequate monitoring of fetal vital signs and distress, or failure to act on monitored danger
- Failure to treat jaundice, which can trigger kernicterus, a type of brain damage
- An excessive force with birth-assisting tools, like forceps
- Failure to diagnose and treat infections in the mother or to monitor her health during pregnancy.
- Not delivering an infant promptly, resulting in oxygen deprivation
- Mistakes in anesthesia administration
- Surgical errors during a C-section
If you feel your baby is now disabled because of medical mistakes, contact an experienced and reputable lawyer specializing in medical malpractice.  An attorney who has worked with families of children with cerebral palsy can help.
The Costs of a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
With the right lawyer, a lawsuit won’t cost you anything unless and until you win your cerebral palsy lawsuit and recover damages from the defendants.
Most cerebral palsy attorneys file the lawsuit on your behalf. They then work with you on a contingency basis. You only pay a percentage of the compensation if and when you win the lawsuit.
Typical contingency fees for a lawyer in a medical malpractice case are between 15 to 40 percent of the money you receive from the defendants. Always talk about costs before hiring a legal team.
When Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits Go to Trial
Most of these lawsuits end in a settlement, which takes place instead of a trial. But the defense may refuse to admit wrongdoing or to settle for an amount your lawyer feels is fair. You may also decide not to settle for the amount offered, in which case you can go to trial. 
Steps in a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
Once you file your lawsuit, your lawyer will start investigating the incident to find evidence to prove medical negligence. You can help by providing all of your medical records, including prenatal care, your baby’s medical care during pregnancy, and childbirth records.
- Filing a Lawsuit. With all of the information gathered, your lawyer files the lawsuit and sends it to the defendants. They will have a certain amount of time to respond tot he complaint, usually 30 days.
- The Discovery Period. Discovery begins once the defendant has responded to the complaint. During the discovery phase, both sides’ legal teams prepare documents, evidence, and depositions to prove their side of the lawsuit. Both sides can exchange information during this period.
- Negotiations and Settlement. Your lawyer will try to resolve your case with a settlement negotiation. Your attorney will lay out the evidence against the defendant to negotiate a settlement amount for your family. The goal is to settle now instead of going through a lengthy trial. 
- Trial. Most defendants agree to settle out of court in medical malpractice cases, even if they are unwilling to admit negligence. It is usually less expensive because juries tend to award more significant amounts. If your cerebral palsy lawsuit goes to trial, your attorney will present the evidence before a jury. The board decides if the defendants are negligent and the amount of any monetary award you are entitled to receive. 
When Should I File a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit?
If a medical professional’s mistakes caused your baby harm, take legal action as soon as possible. Each state has a statute of limitations that sets a period after which it is too late to file.
Since many children with cerebral palsy aren’t diagnosed until several years later, you may have extra time to file your case. Your attorney will be able to explain the laws in your state.
Because your child needs therapy and treatment, which can be costly, it’s a good idea to get started on a case as soon as possible.
Recent Notable Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
In 2017, a family won a $14.2 million lawsuit against Salina Regional Health Center after a federal jury returned a verdict in their favor. According to court documents, “Dr. Carnevale and Clearfield Hospital improperly administered the drug Pitocin” to plaintiff Nicole Welker while she was in labor, resulting in her baby developing neurological disorders and cerebral palsy. 
The jury ultimately agreed that the family’s cerebral palsy attorney provided enough evidence to determine the defendants were at fault.
On July 2, 2019, Erica Byrom and her daughter, Zubida, won $229.6 million in what was called “the largest medical malpractice verdict ever awarded in the United States,” according to the Baltimore Sun. 
Byrom was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Maryland with extremely high blood pressure, brought on by preeclampsia. At only 16, Byrom decided not to undergo a C-section and the attending physician didn’t make the decision to carry out an emergency C-section, although there were warning signs that the unborn baby was in dire condition.
Due to lack of oxygen during delivery, Zubida developed cerebral palsy and now requires “around-the-clock” care. The jury decided that enough evidence of negligence was presented to determine that the hospital contributed to the causes of the infant’s birth injuries.
In April 2019, a Wisconsin family was awarded a $22.5 million settlement payment after their infant son developed cerebral palsy, following surgery at the UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital.
According to court documents, the infant developed permanent brain damage after he lost oxygen while undergoing surgery. The plaintiffs’ attorneys said that Dr. Michael Chalifoux, the physician who performed the surgery, didn’t take the appropriate measures when the baby’s blood pressure readings dropped too low.
The case was preceded by another Wisconsin case in 2012, when $22.5 million was awarded to the family of a baby who developed cerebral palsy after Dr. Donald Baccus at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Milwaukee “used two kinds of forceps and a vacuum” during delivery. 
The state Medical Examining Board indicated that the doctor should have ordered and carried out an emergency C-section, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can doctors cause cerebral palsy?
The underlying causes of all cases of cerebral palsy is abnormal brain development or brain damage. There are many potential causes of brain damage and risk factors, including birth complications, maternal infections, and jaundice in the infant. Any mistake made by a doctor that leads to one of these and other risk factors can be a cause of cerebral palsy.
Is cerebral palsy the doctor's fault?
Whether or not a doctor is at fault in a child’s cerebral palsy depends on the situation. Examples of doctor error–which may be considered malpractice and negligence–include failure to diagnose an illness or condition, misreading test results, ignoring test results, surgical errors, including those made during delivery, poor aftercare, and premature discharge of a patient.
Do I have a malpractice lawsuit?
A cerebral palsy lawyer can help you decide if you have a case for medical malpractice. To prove malpractice, you must be able to show the following: that the medical professional in question had a duty to provide care; that they violated the acceptable standard of care for the particular medical situation; that the above negligence caused the patient harm; and that the harm resulted in significant damages.
Can you file a negligence lawsuit?
Anyone can file a negligence or medical malpractice lawsuit against a responsible medical professional or facility. If you do not have sufficient evidence to make a case, however, a lawyer may not take you on as a client. Only an expert in this type of law can help you determine if you have a valid case that warrants filing a lawsuit.
Is cerebral palsy caused by lack of oxygen at birth?
Oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery is just one cause of the brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy. Often, the exact cause cannot be determined, but risk factors are well-known: low birth weight, birth complications, maternal infections and illnesses, premature birth, and more.
What is the difference between malpractice and negligence?
Negligence is a broad term for any act or omission that deviates from the standard of medical care. This can be failing to administer a test, being careless during a surgical procedure, or providing an unproven medication, for instance. Malpractice refers to negligence on the part of a medical professional that results in harm or injury to the patient. Anyone can be negligent, but only professionals held to a certain standard of care can commit malpractice.
Can I sue a doctor without a lawyer?
You can sue a doctor without a lawyer but doing so is strongly discouraged. Medical malpractice laws are different in each state and can be complicated and difficult to understand. Proving malpractice is also difficult. Lawyers have expertise in the laws, know medical experts for testimony, and have experience proving medical malpractice.
How much money can you sue for negligence?
When beginning a case against a doctor, your lawyer will use information about your expenses to determine an amount to seek. Damages can run into the millions of dollars and include compensation for medical bills, medications, therapy, travel costs for medical care, and other actual costs. Damages may also include compensation for intangible costs, such as pain and suffering.
What is the statue of limitation on suing a doctor?
Every state has its own statute of limitations on filing medical malpractice lawsuits. This is the period of time you have to sue a doctor, and it usually begins when the negligence occurred or when you could have reasonably discovered it. The statute of limitations in most states is two years, but may range from one year to seven.
For cerebral palsy lawsuit information specific to your state, see our list below:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Cerebral Palsy - Symptoms and Causes. (2019, August 17). Mayo Clinic.
Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cerebral-palsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20353999
- The Standard of Care: Legal History and Definitions: the Bad and Good News. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3088386/
- Twenty Years of Evidence on the Outcomes of Malpractice Claims. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628515/
- Malpractice: When to Settle a Suit and When to Fight. (2013, September 25). Medscape.
Retrieved from: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811323_3
- LearnVest. (2013, May 16). 10 Things You Want To Know About Medical Malpractice. Forbes.
Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/05/16/10-things-you-want-to-know-about-medical-malpractice/#46a0ee2b416b
- Welker v. Carnevale, civil action No. 3:14-cv-149 | Casetext search. (2016, December 12). Smarter Legal Research | Casetext.
Retrieved from: https://casetext.com/case/welker-v-carnevale
- Prudente, T. (2019, July 3). Baltimore jury awards record $229 million for brain injury during child's birth at Johns Hopkins Bayview. Baltimoresun.com.
Retrieved from: https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-hopkins-medical-malpractice-record-20190702-story.html
- David Wahlberg | Wisconsin State Journal. (2019, April 25). State fund pays $22.5 million in UW malpractice case involving injured baby. Madison.com.
Retrieved from: https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/health-med-fit/state-fund-pays-million-in-uw-malpractice-case-involving-injured/article_ecba5b9e-6016-5bc6-99fc-199c4679e0d0.html