Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that is accompanied by changes in muscle tone and posture, both at rest and with voluntary activity. It is usually diagnosed before the age of three and is the result of brain damage. There is no question that medical malpractice practice causes many cases of cerebral palsy. In these cases, the child’s cerebral palsy is usually caused by mistakes made during the birthing process.
There are many different types of cerebral palsy. Neurologic classifications of cerebral palsy include spastic (pyramidal) cerebral palsy, dyskinetic (extrapyramidal) cerebral palsy, and mixed types. Spastic cerebral palsy disorders tend to be the most commonly occurring and account for approximately 75% of children affected.
Many states have laws that stack the deck against birth injury victims. Illinois does not. Both plaintiffs and doctors get a fair shake in an Illinois birth injury medical malpractice lawsuit.
There are specific laws and regulations that govern medical malpractice lawsuits, including those related to cerebral palsy. If you are considering pursuing a cerebral palsy lawsuit in Illinois, it is important to understand these laws and work with an experienced birth injury lawyer who can guide you through the legal process involved in bringing an Illinois birth injury lawsuit.
Why Bring a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
Undoubtedly, parents are the most significant people in any child’s life. Raising a child demands time, patience, love, dedication, and many other virtues.
When it comes to raising a child with cerebral palsy, the requirements for these qualities amplify. The emotional burden that arises from raising a child with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities presents a unique challenge for parents. Unfortunately, there is no universal guidebook for parents on how to raise a child with cerebral palsy, and each parent must discover their own path. Nonetheless, the role of parents in the development of their child with cerebral palsy is irreplaceable. Each child will have different abilities and talents, and the essential goal is to enable the child to achieve their full potential.
Does a big settlement payout solve the child’s problems? No. But economic resources help parents find a path to maximizing their child’s potential and, more importantly, happiness. Lawsuits are not for everyone and very reasonable people who love their child can choose roads to those goals that do not include a cerebral palsy lawsuit. But our lawyers believe that getting the money your child deserves from the hospital or the healthcare provider’s insurance companies can help.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that affect movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain, which can occur before, during, or after birth. There are many different factors that can contribute to cerebral palsy, including:
- Oxygen deprivation during birth
- Trauma to the head during birth
- Infection during pregnancy
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Prolonged labor or difficult delivery
- Inadequate monitoring of the fetus during labor and delivery
Medical Malpractice and Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a serious medical condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including birth injuries. Lawyers have battled for years on the science of how often cerebral palsy is caused by medical malpractice. No one contends that all cases of cerebral palsy stem from medical malpractice. But too many are.
- Hypoxia-related injuries: Lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain could lead to brain damage, and consequently, cerebral palsy.
- Failure to monitor the fetus during labor and delivery: The fetus is talking to the doctor via the fetal heart monitor and they have to listen to calls of distress
- Failure to detect infections: A pregnant mother should be monitored during pregnancy for bacterial and viral infections that can transfer to the developing baby and that can cause brain damage and cerebral palsy. Meningitis and encephalitis are two serious illnesses that can cause inflammation of the brain, which in turn can lead to a variety of medical issues, including cerebral palsy.
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery: There is a place for mechanical instruments in some delivers but the obstetrican has to be extremely careful to use a vacuum or forceps appropriately
- Failure to perform a C-section: If labor is high-risk or prolonged, doctors usually make the decision to perform a cesarean section. If a C-section is not performed in a timely manner, it can cause the oxygen deprivation that can cause cerebral palsy.
- Prolonged labor: Labor, if it goes on too long, can harm the baby as well as the mother. The baby might suffer from limited oxygen during the labor process or brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy.
- Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice: Jaundice is often not taken seriously until it is too late to avoid brain damage.
Regardless of the cause, when a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is devastating for both the child and the family. If you think your child’s cerebral palsy might have been caused by medical malpractice, you want to explore compensation through a cerebral palsy lawsuit.
Proving the Doctors and Nurses Caused the Cerebral Palsy
In order to prove medical malpractice in a cerebral palsy lawsuit in Illinois, you must demonstrate that:
- The healthcare provider had a duty to provide appropriate care to the patient
- The healthcare provider breached that duty by failing to provide appropriate care
- The breach of duty caused the patient’s cerebral palsy
Establishing proof of these elements in an Illinois birth injury malpractice case requires testimony from a qualified medical expert (i.e., another doctor of the same specialty). In a birth injury malpractice case, you will need an expert opinion from another OB/GYN doctor, a labor and delivery nurse, and probably a hospital expert also. You will need these experts to establish how the defendants in your case were negligent.
Statute of Limitations for Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits in Illinois
If you are considering pursuing a cerebral palsy lawsuit in Illinois, it is important to be aware of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a legal deadline for filing a lawsuit. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is generally two years from the date of the injury or from the date that the injury should have been discovered.
However, there are exceptions to this rule for cases involving minors. If your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of medical malpractice, under Illinois law, the statute of limitations for birth injuries is set at eight years. Are there possible exceptions? Yes. The Illinois statute of limitations allows an exception when the child in a birth injury case is “under a legal disability” at the time the cause of action accrues, the SOL period can be extended until the child’s 22nd birthday. ILCS § 5/13-212. If you are past eight years, you still want to call an Illinois birth injury lawyer to see if you may still have a claim.
The statute of limitations described above applies to the claims of the injured child in a birth injury case. However, the parents of the injured child can bring their own separate claims in an Illinois birth injury case. The claims of the parents in birth injury cases are subject to the general Illinois statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, which is 2 years from the date that the injury is discovered (or should have been discovered).
Illinois Cerebral Palsy Settlement Amounts
If you are successful in a cerebral palsy lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation for a variety of damages, including:
In Illinois, the settlement amount in a cerebral palsy lawsuit will be determined by a number of factors, including the severity of the child’s condition, the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth and subsequent medical treatment, and the liability of the parties involved.
Some factors that may be considered in determining the settlement amount in an Illinois cerebral palsy lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses and care: The cost of medical care and care, including past and future expenses related to the child’s cerebral palsy is a huge driver of what a cerebral palsy claim is ultimately worth, particularly the future expected medical expenses for the rest of the child’s life.
- Pain and suffering: The physical and emotional pain and suffering experienced by the child and their family will be taken into account. This harm, the biggest harm in any cerebral palsy lawsuit, has a particularly high value in Illinois because, unlike many states, there is no cap on pain and suffering damages in an Illinois birth injury lawsuit.
- Future lost earnings: The estimated loss of future earnings, if the child is unable to work due to cerebral palsy, will be considered.
- Liability: This is the “how strong is the case?” variable. The stronger the case, the greater the likelihood of a higher settlement payout for your child.
The settlement amount will ultimately be negotiated between the parties involved in the lawsuit and may be determined through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial, where a jury will determine the amount of damages to be awarded.
You want to talk to a qualified attorney Illinois cerebral palsy lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case and the potential settlement amount that may be available given the specific facts of your child’s claim.
Example Illinois Cerebral Palsy Settlement Amounts and Jury Payouts
Understanding the potential value of your Illinois birth injury lawsuit can be aided by examining previous settlements and verdicts in similar forceps birth injury cases. While these can provide valuable insights into potential compensation, it’s important to approach them with caution. Every case is unique and complex, and it’s not possible to accurately summarize a case in a single paragraph or assume that a similar case will have the same outcome.
It’s important to recognize that there are many factors at play in any given cerebral palsy birth injury case, and a settlement or verdict in one case cannot predict the outcome of another. Therefore, prior settlements and verdicts can be used as a tool to gain a general understanding of the range of potential compensation but should be considered in conjunction with other case evaluation tools to accurately determine the value of your claim.
- $19,025,000 Verdict (Illinois 2023): Mother presented at 40 weeks gestation and was admitted for induction of labor with a history of previous cesarean section. Despite history, defendants opted for a vaginal delivery and the OB/GYN used Cervidil for labor induction even though Cervidil’s manufacturer warnings say it should not be used on women with a history of prior c-section due to risks, including uterine rupture. Uterine rupture occurred during labor and the baby suffered permanent brain damage, causing spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, seizure disorder and g-tube dependency. Sadly, he died at 10 months from complications related to his cerebral palsy. A jury in Chicago awarded $19 million.
- $35,000,000 Settlement (Illinois 2022): A family in Cook County has received a settlement of $35 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital system and an obstetrician. The lawsuit alleged that medical decisions made during the delivery of premature twins did not meet the standard of care. One of the twins was born with severe disabilities and cerebral palsy. The obstetrician was accused of being late to the surgery, using the wrong type of incision, and taking too long to deliver the second twin. The family claimed that they relied on the hospital to provide qualified and competent medical personnel. The case went to trial but ended in a deadlocked jury before the settlement was reached. The obstetrician – who was 75 years old – was also facing criminal charges from several former patients and had pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving two female patients. Is this related to the case or admissible at trial? No. But it helped get the case settled.
- $1,000,050 Settlement (Illinois 2021): The child suffered a serious and permanent brain injury during birth and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital staff was negligent because they improperly administered Pitocin and then failed to appropriately monitor the mother’s response and intervene when the fetal heart tracings showed signs of stress induced by overresponse to the Pitocin. This is the lowest settlement of this batch.
- $14,000,000 Settlement (Illinois 2019): The plaintiff, a newborn female, allegedly suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) during birth. The injury left her with severe cerebral palsy with cognitive disabilities. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant (Cook County Health & Hospital System) was negligent for failing to properly interpret the fetal heart monitoring tracings as indicating distress and excessive uterine activity and failing to intervene with a C-section delivery to avoid oxygen deprivation.
- $12,000,000 Settlement (Illinois 2019): The mother went to the defendant MacNeal Hospital at 28 weeks gestation where she displayed clear signs of serious fetal distress and potential complications. The hospital doctors and staff discharged her and the next day she had to be rushed back to the hospital for an emergency C-section. It was later discovered that the mother’s membranes had ruptured the previous day. The baby suffered brain damage and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant was negligent in failing to diagnose the preterm membrane rupture and sending the plaintiff home.
- $50,300,000 Verdict (Illinois 2018): The infant plaintiff suffered HIE brain injury during 12-hour labor delivery at the hospital and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hearing loss. The plaintiff’s parents contended the defendants were negligent in misreading the fetal monitoring strip, failing to recognize that the mother’s uterus was tachysystolic, failing to discontinue Pitocin in the presence of hyperstimulation of the uterus, and waiting too long to deliver by C-section. A jury in Cook County awarded $50.3 million, which included $12 million for future medical expenses and $3 million for future lost wages.
- $35,000,000 Settlement (Illinois 2018): An infant reportedly suffered a severe brain injury from hypoxia and ischemia during her birth, resulting in spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy (one of the most severe types of CP) and seizures. The plaintiff alleged the defendants failed to properly monitor in utero, failed to recognize and report non-reassuring changes in her heart tones, restarted Pitocin after her condition began to deteriorate, failed to have a pediatric or neonatology team present, and failed to have a team capable of resuscitating her present at the birth.
- $15,000,000 Settlement (Illinois 2017): Newborn female reportedly suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury, resulting in cerebral palsy and inability to walk and talk, requiring lifelong care, during her delivery at Franciscan St. James Health. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital and staff were negligent in failing to properly and diligently monitor the fetal heart tracings and properly interpret the warning signs of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation.
- $23,138,380 Verdict (Illinois 2017): a newborn girl, reportedly suffered dyskinetic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, global developmental delays, and brain damage during her birth at defendant Palos Community Hospital. The lawsuit alleged that the attending OB/GYN failed to properly monitor the mother’s progress during labor and was not available to respond when complications arose.
Working with a Birth Injury Lawyer in Illinois
If you believe that your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical malpractice, it is important to work with an experienced birth injury lawyer in Illinois. A birth injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and work to obtain the compensation you and your child deserve.
When choosing a birth injury lawyer, it is important to look for someone with experience handling cerebral palsy lawsuits. You should also look for someone who is compassionate and understanding, as this can be an emotional and challenging time for you and your family.
Your birth injury lawyer will work with medical experts to investigate your case and determine whether medical malpractice was a factor in your child’s cerebral palsy. If malpractice is identified, your lawyer will help you file a lawsuit and work to negotiate a fair settlement or take your case to trial if necessary.