A diagnosis of cerebral palsy is devastating for parents and children alike. It can mean a lifetime of intensive medical care and therapy. It can mean day-to-day struggles with basic mobility and cognitive development. It can even mean long-term residence in a professional care facility.

Whether you’ve had lingering suspicions about cerebral palsy, or the diagnosis came as a complete shock, coming to grips with it can take time. What’s more, no two cases are alike. It’s important to keep an open mind and learn as much as you can about what this condition might mean for your child – and what options you have for seeking compensation.

What exactly is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the most common mobility-related brain disorder in children. It primarily affects motor skills, including:

  • Walking
  • Talking
  • Eating
  • Balancing
  • Coordinating

Roughly half of patients with cerebral palsy need wheelchairs, crutches or canes to get around.

Cerebral palsy can range in severity. It sometimes involves cognitive disabilities and neurological problems. The full extent of the condition may not be immediately apparent, especially in infants.

On average, the lifetime cost of care for patients with cerebral palsy totals more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Could it have been prevented?

“How could this have happened? Did we do something wrong? Could it have been prevented?” These questions are common – and understandable – in the aftermath of a cerebral palsy diagnosis.

Getting answers can be challenging, as the causes of cerebral palsy aren’t fully understood. What is known, however, is that factor. Any number of missteps during the complex process of labor and delivery can deprive the baby of oxygen, leading to permanent brain damage. Examples include:

  • Inadequate fetal monitoring
  • Failure to respond to indications of fetal distress
  • Failure to order a timely C-section
  • Failure to properly handle umbilical cord prolapse
  • Failure to identify and treat maternal infections during labor
  • Negligence in handling shoulder dystocia
  • Negligence in assisted deliveries (involving forceps or vacuum extraction)

Negligence also sometimes occurs during prenatal or postpartum care. For example, perhaps you weren’t told about the warning signs of newborn jaundice – which, if left untreated, can contribute to cerebral palsy. Or perhaps your prenatal care provider failed to identify and treat an infection, leading to an increased risk of preterm labor, low birth weight and cerebral palsy.

If you have reason to believe that malpractice may have contributed to your son or daughter’s condition, you deserve to know. Speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it’s too late to do anything about it.