In many cases, when an infant or toddler develops cerebral palsy (CP), it’s linked back to a traumatic birthing experience during or shortly after delivery. In fact, experts state that CP is one of the most serious health issues caused medical negligence. When a baby develops CP, there is a permanent impact, both medically and emotionally, on the baby as well as the parents. When there is overwhelming evidence that medical mistakes led to CP, many hospitals and/or physicians may agree to a CP settlement, in which the infant and the parents are compensated for the lifelong medical bills associated with the disorder.
Medical Malpractice and Cerebral Palsy
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is hurt by a physician or medical staff that’s appointed to be the responsible medical provider. Medical malpractice happens for various reasons, including failure to diagnose a medical condition in the mother or infant, or misdiagnosing a medical condition. Numerous infant develop injuries each year, due to medical malpractice. When a baby develops CP because medical malpractice, it’s generally because the infant didn’t receive adequate oxygen, resulting in birth asphyxia.
In other instances, however, untreated jaundice, leading to kernicterus, can cause an infant to develop CP. Another cause may stem from Rh incompatibility between the mother and the infant. Jaundice is often caused by an Rh incompatibility, yet it’s the physician’s responsibility to detect and diagnosis it as early as possible.
What is a Cerebral Palsy Settlement?
A cerebral palsy settlement is an agreement between two parties in a CP lawsuit (the plaintiff and defendant) that states the lawsuit will be dismissed if the defendant pays an agreed-upon compensation amount to the plaintiff. As mentioned earlier, defendants will usually settle if the evidence against them is overwhelming.
For instance, if an infant’s medical records show that there was trauma to the head during childbirth that should have been avoided, or evidence of untreated jaundice that led to oxygen deprivation and to CP development, there is a good chance that the defendant’s attorney understands that their client will lose if the case proceeds to trial, and therefore, agrees to settle out of court.
When determining if a settlement should be agreed upon, both parties generally assess the risks of going to trial. In other words, both sides will determine their chances of losing the case if it goes to trial. This is usually done in what is known as the discovery phase of the lawsuit. During the discovery phase, both sides present the evidence they have to each other. After the discovery phase is completed, one side or even both sides still may not agree on a settlement amount, but keep in mind that the defense can choose to settle at anytime, even if the trial starts.
How Much Can I Receive from a Cerebral Palsy Settlement?
The value of a CP claim will vary. There are a lot of factors considered, including:
- Medical expenses, including past, present, and estimated future costs
- The type of CP the infant has
- The extent of the medical negligence
- Estimated lost earnings (if a caregiver has to leave work to care for the baby full-time)
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
In some instances, punitive damages will also be factored into a settlement amount. Punitive damages are awarded if there is clear evidence that the defendant acted in a willful, reckless manner, that led to the birth injury. These types of damages are meant to “punish” the defendant for acting in an unacceptable way.
For example, if a doctor notices an infant has severe jaundice, yet ignores it and/or tells the mother that it will clear up on its own, this is generally an example of a willful and reckless action. However, not all states recognize punitive damages in medical malpractice cases, so whether you’re entitled to punitive damages will depend not only on the evidence in your case, but also the state you live in.
Examples of Cerebral Palsy Settlements
The amount of cerebral palsy settlements, as aforementioned, will vary widely. With so many factors that come into play, it’s difficult to determine how much a case is worth until both parties present evidence and negotiate a settlement amount. The following are examples of CP settlements that will give you an indication of the amounts, based on the factors surrounding each case.
$4 Million Massachusetts Settlement
In a 2012 settlement, a mother filed a lawsuit against a Massachusetts hospital after her daughter was born with a basal ganglia injury and developed CP. According to court documents, the defendants failed to properly monitor the baby, and in turn, were unable to detect fetal distress. Although the defendants denied any wrongdoing, a settlement agreement for $4,380,000 was reached. Since it was a confidential agreement, the plaintiff’s and defendant’s names were not released.
$5 Million Washington Settlement
In another 2012 settlement, a baby girl was born with shallow breathing and with a heart rate of 30. She was limp and pale, and therefore taken to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for resuscitation. Shortly after, the baby starting experiencing seizures. A few months later, the infant was diagnosed with dystonic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. The infant was later treated at a children’s hospital, and the attending neurologist stated that the CP may have developed because of infection and birth trauma.
The defendant stated that the baby’s injuries could have been prevented if the medical staff had properly monitored fetal distress signs, including fetal heart tracing and uterine hyperstimulation. The defendants denied the claim, resulting in a failed mediation. Eventually, the case was settled for $5,000,000. Since the case is confidential, the names of the parties involved were not released.
$9 Million Hawaii Settlement
In 2014, a settlement was finalized in a case in which the parents of a boy with CP sued a military hospital, claiming the boy’s “catastrophic brain injury” that occurred at birth, happened due to medical negligence.
According to court documents, plaintiff Lauren Whitney, mother of Noah, the infant born with brain damage, arrived at Honolulu’s Tripler Army Medical Center in 2010. She was admitted early, at 35 weeks pregnant, with strong abdominal pain. The plaintiff complained that the medical staff failed to detect and respond to uterine rupture signs, and failed to promptly notify her physician, who was in charge of managing her pregnancy.
Whitney “was at risk for uterine rupture in connection with future pregnancies, including her pregnancy with Noah,” the lawsuit states. It also states that “failure to promptly notify and consult the obstetrician who had been managing” the pregnancy.”
A settlement agreement was eventually agreed upon, which included $5 million paid up-front to the plaintiff, and the remaining 4 million to be dispersed throughout the remainder of the Noah’s life.
Settlement Tips to Consider
Remember, if your baby has been injured and you feel it’s due to negligent care, you have the right to seek compensation for your infant’s injuries. Keep in mind that most birth injury cases do end up with a settlement agreement before going to trial. It’s important to keep track of all your infant’s medical records, including past and present, as well as any other pertinent information involved. A birth injury attorney will be able to help you through the process.
Furthermore, keep in mind that there is no certain in which cerebral palsy cases will settle. Some cases take several months, while others may take a few years.