Learning that your child has cerebral palsy can be devastating. This condition is incurable and lifelong, and can be caused by medical errors made by doctors and nurses during the labor and delivery process or shortly thereafter. Depending on its severity, a child who has cerebral palsy might require therapy, medical care, special education, and 24-hour care for the rest of his or her life. If your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by the negligence of a nurse, doctor, or hospital, you are entitled to pursue compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim. However, you must know the deadlines for filing medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania. If you miss this deadline, you might be barred from filing a lawsuit to recover compensation. The birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn can help you understand your rights and the statutory deadlines that apply in your case. We are experienced medical malpractice lawyers who are prepared to fight for your rights.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Cerebral Palsy Claims in Pennsylvania?
A statute of limitations is a legal deadline for filing different types of lawsuits. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, including cerebral palsy cases, is found in 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524. Under this law, the deadline for filing a medical malpractice case is two years from the date of the injury or the date when it should have reasonably been discovered. However, under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5554, the statute of limitations is tolled when the injured victims are minors until they reach the age of 18. This means that someone who has cerebral palsy as a result of negligence could file a lawsuit before they reach age 20.
There is also a statute of repose in the MCare Act at § 1303.513. Under this statute, people previously could not file lawsuits more than seven years from the date of their injuries even if they could not have reasonably discovered their injuries were caused by medical negligence during that time. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the statute of repose was unconstitutional in 2019 in its decision in Yanakos v. UPMC, 213 A.3d 1214 (2019). This decision means that discovery is not limited to seven years after the date of the injury in cerebral palsy cases in which a person’s injury was only discovered later.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy that could have been caused by medical negligence, you should talk to an experienced malpractice lawyer at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible. Even though your child could wait and file a claim when he or she reaches adulthood, it is much easier to find critical evidence when a claim is filed closer to the negligent incident.
What Does It Mean to Be Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy can happen when a child’s central nervous system or brain is injured because of complications or trauma during labor and delivery or when the child is in utero. This means that some cases of cerebral palsy are not caused by medical malpractice, but others are.
Some children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy will suffer severe effects, including difficulty with motor control and movement, problems with muscle coordination and posture, and problems with the ability to think and learn. Other children might not suffer as severe conditions. Even if a case of cerebral palsy is mild, it is still incurable.
Some of the most common causes of cerebral palsy include the following:
- Brain oxygen deprivation
- Head trauma during or after birth
What Are the Different Types of Cerebral Palsy?
There are several different types of cerebral palsy. People with spastic cerebral palsy have motor control issues and might experience erratic and jerky movements and might be unable to relax their muscles.
People with athetoid or dyskinetic cerebral palsy have damage to the part of the brain that controls coordination, involuntary movement, and reflexes. They might have trouble walking or grasping objects and might have muscles that alternate from being overly loose or tense.
Ataxic cerebral palsy happens because of damage to the cerebellum of the brain. People who have this type of cerebral palsy may have a reduced muscle tone, shake, experience tremors, and have problems speaking.
Finally, people who are diagnosed with mixed cerebral palsy will be severely impaired. In this type of cerebral palsy, children have suffered injuries to several areas of the brain and show symptoms of multiple types of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The symptoms of cerebral palsy will depend on the area or areas of the brain that have been injured and might become noticeable when a child starts trying to communicate or move. Some of these symptoms might include the following:
- Trouble rolling over, sitting, crawling, or walking
- Problems with muscle tone
- Joints that have a limited range of motion or are too tight
- Tremors and spasms
- Slow bodily movements
- Balance problems
- Fine motor skills problems
- Voluntary movement coordination problems
- Toe or scissor walking
- Impaired or slow reflexes
- Severe postural problems
- Speech problems
- Swallowing problems
- Trouble eating food
- Excessive drooling
- Vision or hearing problems
- Chronic pain
- Lack of bladder and bowel control
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive impairment
Available Damages in a Cerebral Palsy Claim
Some children with cerebral palsy will need to use adaptive medical devices and undergo therapy and other types of medical care for life. They might also have to attend special education and may not have many employment options. As adults, people with cerebral palsy may also not have the opportunity to have their own families or marry. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit might help you to recover damages for your losses and those of your child. Some of the available damages might include the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Caretaking costs
- Lost earnings and services
- Disability damages
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental/emotional pain and suffering
- Shortened life expectancy
Potentially Liable Parties
The potentially liable parties in a cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit include the following:
- Obstetricians and gynecologists
Speak With an Experienced Cerebral Palsy Attorney
If your child has received a cerebral palsy diagnosis, you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice and birth injury lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Raynes & Lawn can investigate your case and help you to determine whether your child’s condition was likely caused by medical errors. If we agree to accept representation, we can help you file a claim and pursue the compensation to which you and your child should be entitled. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
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