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When is cerebral palsy a result of medical malpractice?

Cerebral palsy is a type of brain injury that happens at birth. The illness is an umbrella term for a family of illnesses that affect brain function and mobility, and those illnesses can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Cerebral palsy happens in the womb, during birth, or immediately after birth. When a child receives a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, parents often have many questions, including "Why did this happen to my child?"

Some cases of cerebral palsy are not easy to explain. The source of the disorder can be unrelated to medical malpractice, or a medical professional may have caused the injury. In Florida, cerebral palsy cases are like other medical malpractice cases, and like other malpractice cases, have certain guidelines they must meet.

When trying a medical malpractice case, there are four factors to consider:

  • Duty of care: Did the attending physicians (and other medical staff) have a duty to care for your child? When the doctor agrees to deliver your child, he accepts the duty of care.
  • Breach of duty: With the duty of care comes an acceptable standard of care. Did the physician (or other medical professional) breach their duty by not acting within the acceptable standard of care? To prove a breach of duty, you will have to consult another similar medical professional, likely an obstetrician in the case of cerebral palsy, to confirm what the accepted practice might be. Another way to show breach is through court precedent.
  • Causation of damages: For a successful medical malpractice claim, you will have to prove that the doctor's negligence, and not some other factor, was the cause of the injuries to your child. One example of this is if the child lacked oxygen because of a twisted umbilical cord, and the doctor failed to notice or remedy this situation. Because of this action, your child developed cerebral palsy. You may be able to hold the doctor accountable for causing your child's injury.
  • Proving damages: You must also be able to prove that your child does in fact have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and is suffering injuries along with the diagnosis. If there are no damages, there is no need to pursue the case.

After reviewing these factors, if it does appear that a medical professional is to blame for a child's injury, the family may consider filing a medical malpractice suit. An attorney would be able to evaluate the case and offer further guidance with any questions.

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