If your infant is one of the approximate 10% of children born with cerebral palsy (CP), it may be due to medical malpractice. While your baby is going through a difficult time including doctor visits, therapy appointments, additional tests, meetings with specialists, and medication that you weren’t expecting, the expenses are probably piling up.
In fact, the amount it takes for long-term care of a child with cerebral palsy is more than many families can afford. It’s important to understand your legal rights are and what you may be entitled to in order to financially support your child’s treatments.
By consulting a lawyer who specializes in cases involving CP and medical malpractice, you can get your baby the proper care as well as hold the liable parties responsible for the medical negligence that caused the injuries.
What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need?
When you’re looking for a lawyer, you need to look for a law firm that specializes in birth injury cases, specifically cases involving CP. A lawsuit involving an infant or child with CP is extremely intricate and detailed and an attorney without experience in theses types of cases more than likely will not be able to afford you the best representation.
Always ask potential attorneys if they specifically specialize in CP cases and what kind of experience they have. While it may seem uncomfortable to question an attorney, it’s important to ensure that you have legal representation from a law firm that will give you the best chances in success with your case. Again, these types of cases require someone who specifically specializes in and has in-depth knowledge and experience in handling CP cases.
What Kind of Experience Should I Look For in a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
When you’re selecting a lawyer that specializes in CP lawsuits, you’ll need to look at the past cases the attorney has worked on, as well as the success rate of all past cases. Although the attorney’s education and background are important, a successful track record is vital. It’s helpful to retain a lawyer that has won a case within the last five years.
An experienced attorney should have no problems sharing information regarding successful past cases. It’s important to get this information beforehand and before retaining an attorney. You can always switch attorneys at any time, but it makes the process much easier if you do a bit of homework before hiring a lawyer.
How Do I Find an Experienced Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?
You can start out by asking for recommendations from friends and family. Even if they don’t know of a cerebral palsy lawyer, they may be able to refer you to an attorney who does.
In addition, with today’s technology, there is an abundance of information online, including a list of cerebral palsy lawyers, reviews of each lawyer, and information about their past cases.
In fact, a recent Google survey indicated that aside from asking friends and family for a referral, searching online for an was the leading way people in the United States found and retained legal representation. However, people aged 25-34 found a specialty lawyer on the Internet first, followed by asking family and friends for a referral. The majority of people found attorneys via major search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.
Other methods of finding an experienced cerebral palsy attorney include asking the American Bar Association (ABA), searching your local yellow pages, or getting referrals from social networking sites.
Aside from Experience, What Else Should I Look For?
Being able to communicate openly and trusting an attorney is an absolute must. Regardless of how good their track record is and how knowledgeable they are, you shouldn’t retain an attorney that you feel uncomfortable with or that you can’t get along with. Unfortunately, this happens from time to time, so it’s best to carefully watch the personal conversations and feelings between you and a potential attorney.
Always ask any potential attorney how to contact them and the time frame it will take for them to return your calls. Along with a good personality, you also want an attorney who is prompt and considerate of your time. Although attorneys are often busy, you’ll want to find one that will keep you in the loop of what’s going on in your case. You should never feel uncomfortable asking questions and you should never feel like you are lost and confused about the progress of your case.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down, check your State Bar Association’s website for any public disciplinary histories against each potential attorney.
How Long Does a Cerebral Palsy Work on Birth Injury Cases?
There is no set answer as to how long a birth injury case, especially a case involving CP, will take. Generally, however, most birth injury cases are extremely intricate and require a lot of time and patience. Cerebral palsy attorneys will go through a plethora of research, interviews, and case research, which can take anywhere from several months to year. Birth injury cases are rarely solved within a few months.
In addition, your attorney will negotiate with the other party in an attempt to settle the case before going to trial. This in itself may take several months. If the other party or if you disagree with the settlement amount, other negotiations may be made, and if a settlement cannot be agreed upon, your attorney then has to prepare to take your case to trial.
It’s recommended that you prepare yourself for a long process. Keep in mind, however, that once the ordeal is over, you’ll have the justice and compensation you deserve for your baby.
What Kind of Compensation Should I Expect?
It’s difficult to ascertain the exact amount you’ll get when you win your case as each child is different and will require different treatments. Some children with CP have such a severe cases that lifetime costs for care and treatments can average close to $1 million, while children with mild forms cerebral palsy may require treatment that’s much less expensive Regardless of the severity though, the costs of cerebral palsy as a whole is astronomical. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2003, the financial costs for children with cerebral palsy equaled around $11.3 billion.
Generally, you can expect compensation for:
- Medical costs and expenses
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy costs
- Pain and suffering
- Costs associated with special education and counseling
- Supplies and equipment, if needed, such as wheelchairs, braces, etc.
- Home care costs
No matter what kind of CP your baby has or how severe it is, at the time of diagnosis, it’s always recommended to meet with your lawyer and a team of professionals, such as health specialists, physicians, and economic specialists, who together can help you draft what is called a Life Care Plan.
A Life Care Plan is a document that estimates what kind of care your child will need over the course of his or her lifetime, including costs of all kinds. Your settlement should cover these costs, but it should also be a little above so that you can account for inflation over the years that your child needs care. Your attorney will provide additional details on how to get a Life Plan started and what to expect.
In addition, in some instances and depending upon what state you live in, you may be entitled to punitive damages.
Punitive damages are different than compensation for medical treatment and other expenses; punitive damages is compensation from the liable party as a means to punish their negligent behavior. In other words, if a physician acted in an obvious careless, neglectful manner which in turn caused your child to develop cerebral palsy, then there is a chance the physician will be mandated to pay for his errors.
Punitive damages send a clear message not only to the liable party, but also to other physicians and medical staff that acting in an unprofessional, negligent way will cost them. For more information on punitive damages and what’s allowed in your state, consult with your attorney.
How And When Will I Receive My Settlement or Trial Money?
In most instances, it will depend upon the amount of compensation you win. For large compensation amounts, it’s common to receive it in installments, but smaller amounts may be paid in full. An experienced and knowledgeable cerebral palsy attorney will be able to tell you how the process works and what you can expect from your case.
If your case is not appealed, you can expect payment to start within a few months, although this will vary according to the state you live in and the details surrounding your lawsuit. If the defendants appeal the decision, compensation may take several months, if not more. Fortunately, most CP lawsuits are settled before they go to trial, rendering an appeal unnecessary.