In infants and children, hemiplegia is a type of cerebral palsy that results from damage to the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. This kind of damage may occur before, during or shortly after birth. The term “hemiplegia” means paralysis of one vertical half of the body. Similarly, the term “hemiparesis” means a weakness on one side of the body. In children with hemiplegia, the paralysis in the body occurs on the side opposite the affected part of the brain. So, if the right side of the child’s brain is injured, then the paralysis will be on the left side of the child’s body.
If your child has suffered hemiplegic cerebral palsy during birth, you may be wondering how to pay for medical expenses and rehabilitative treatments, which your child may need for the long term or for the rest of his or her life. Often, hemiplegic cerebral palsy in children occurs because of negligence on the part of medical professionals. If your child has suffered a severe birth injury due to medical negligence, you may be able seek compensation for the resulting damages and losses. Please contact an experienced New York birth injury lawyer to obtain more information about your legal rights and options. Medical negligence is also called medical malpractice.
Hemiplegia is a relatively common condition, affecting up to one child in 1,000. It is common for parents to only become aware of their child’s hemiplegia during infancy or early childhood as the child’s difficulty with movement on one side gradually becomes more apparent. A difficult birth may also be a factor. In most cases, the injury occurs at some point during pregnancy.
Hemiplegia is neither a progressive condition nor a disease. As children experience growth spurts, they may have more issues with muscle spasticity. Children with hemiplegia tend to have atrophy of the hand, arm, shoulder, leg and foot. This appears more noticeable as they grow and become teenagers. The child’s arm and leg on the affected side are often shorter than the other side.
Children with hemiplegia are also at a higher risk of developing scoliosis, which refers to the sideways curvature of the spine. There is no cure available for children with hemiplegia, but therapies are available to help them cope with some of the symptoms. For example, medications may be prescribed for seizures and orthotics, braces or splints may help with spasticity and gait.
Conditions Related to Hemiplegia
Hemiplegia often occurs as the result of a brain injury. This may show in a variety of physical, cognitive and behavioral effects. Each child is different and may experience the following effects as a result of hemiplegia:
- Memory issues: Children may have difficulty with encoding, storing and retrieving new information.
- Concentration: Focusing and sustaining attention for long periods of time may be a challenge for those with hemiplegia. Children may be unable to filter out distractions in the classroom or may have problems functioning in situations where there is a lot of noise or stimulation. Children may also have trouble switching from one topic or activity to another.
- Speech and language: Depending on the age and cause of injury, the child may have issues with speech such as slow speech or lack of speech. These issues may improve with time. Children who have a stroke at or near birth may have delays in talking.
- Executive functions: This refers to difficulty with setting appropriate goals, planning and organizing behavior to accomplish tasks.
- Social communication: Children may have trouble participating in conversations with others that requires the use of cognitive, linguistic and social skills, all of which may be affected by an early brain injury. The child may also have challenges when it comes to following different topics, interpreting social cues, organizing ideas and applying rules of social behavior.
- Behavioral issues: Children may show signs of agitation, mood swings, hyperactivity, apathy and emotional outbursts as a result of the brain injury. Psychosocial problems in children with hemiplegia can be extremely complex.
- Sensory effects: This includes difficulty with vision and impaired coordination of both eyes. The brain’s visual processing area may be affected resulting in partial loss of vision. Hearing may also be impaired.
- Seizures: Children may develop seizures immediately after their injury or even months or years later.
What Causes Hemiplegia in Children?
Children develop hemiplegia as the result of severe forms of trauma. Some of the common causes of hemplegic cerebral palsy include, but are not limited to:
Hemorrhaging: A condition known as intraventricular hemorrhaging is linked to hemiplegia. This may particularly occur during premature births. The blood loss occurs when the blood finds its way into fluid-filled parts of the brain. The resulting swelling causes the injury.
Perinatal injuries: The injuries sustained in the weeks leading up to and following the birth of a child have an increased impact on the chances of causing brain trauma, which may result in hemiplegia. If the child is injured after a successful delivery, the conditions may result in hemiplegia.
Traumatic brain injury: Assisted delivery services such as the use of forceps and vacuums place significant stress on the child’s head during delivery. Misuse of these instruments may result in severe brain trauma and brain damage. The swelling, blood loss and elevated bilirubin counts may contribute to hemiplegia.
Infections: If the child suffers brain infection shortly after birth, it may contribute to hemiplegia. Some of the common infections that tend to affect the brain are meningitis, encephalitis and subdural empyema.
Vasculitis: This is a condition that causes the swelling of major blood vessels. This in turn leads to swelling inside the brain and affects areas responsible for motor function and balance.
New York laws establish the elements of a birth injury claim that should be examined before filing a claim for injury. Here are some of the elements of a birth injury claim in New York:
Duty of care: In birth injury cases or any type of medical malpractice case, duty of care is established by virtue of doctor-patient relationship. Your labor and delivery team – be it the obstetrician, anesthesiologist, delivery nurse or other medical professionals – owe you a duty of care under the law, which is based on the reasonable standard of care expected of a similarly situated professional.
Breach of duty: You must prove that the doctor breached his or her duty, specifically if the doctor acted or failed to act in a manner that deviated from the expected standard of care. Examples may include failure to detect fetal distress or oxygen asphyxia; failure to assess the risks of vaginal delivery or failing to recommend a C-section; and not providing a thorough, accurate assessment of potential issues that might arise during labor and delivery. Other examples include improper use of instruments such as vacuum or forceps during birth and prescribing medications that are harmful to the unborn child.
Causation: Plaintiffs in a birth injury case must also prove the link between the injury and the doctor’s breach of duty. You must be able to show that the mistake your doctor made or his or her negligence caused your child’s injuries. Any defense arguments must be debunked through extensive research, strong arguments, convincing evidence and the testimony of respected expert witnesses.
Damages: This refers to the amount of actual loss sustained such as lost income or future income, medical bills and cost of future medical care, to mention a few. Plaintiffs must show that the doctor or hospital’s negligence caused the birth injuries and the resulting damages.
Steps to Take If Your Child Has a Birth Injury
When you are trying to determine whether your child has a birth injury such as hemiplegia, you may need to maintain a record of as many symptoms as possible. The symptoms are what will help you identify the type of birth injury your child may have. If your child is an infant, subtle changes may be tougher to identify. But more pronounced symptoms such as seizures and limb pain or weakness may still be clearly evident. The most crucial time when birth injuries develop is from infancy to three years of age. If you have any doubts about your baby’s development of symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.
Try to recall as many details as possible. Was there a problem during the pregnancy? Did the mother have any trouble during delivery such as excessive bleeding or other emergency conditions? Was there any point during the labor or delivery when medical staff avoided directly answering how things went, particularly the complications? Did the child struggle at any time? Did the child have breathing trouble, skin discoloration, bulges in the head or lacerations? Did the child have any seizures within the first few days of life?
If your child is showing symptoms of these or other issues, it is critical to get the care your child needs. When you get medical attention, report both the current symptoms and concerns that you may recall about your child’s medical history. If you have concerns about your child’s condition being related to birth injury, it is important that you speak up.
If and when you do so, the doctor or hospital will likely send a representative from the hospital’s insurance company to speak with you. Never ever speak to them or have any contact at all with them. It would be in your best interest to contact an experienced New York birth injury lawyer right away.
Important Pieces of Evidence
In a hemiplegia birth injury case, there are a number of pieces of evidence that can be used to bolster your claim including:
- Your child’s medical records, which may serve as a thorough account of your child’s condition.
- Copies of tests such as ultrasounds, CT-scans or MRIs.
- Make sure your pediatrician gives his or her diagnosis in writing. This may be a useful resource to compare with medical records and tests.
- Save all correspondence with various parties including your doctor, hospital and the insurance company. Never ever have any contact with the insurance company. Let your lawyer do that.
- Bills: These not only account for the treatment and care your child has received, but may also be a good predictor of the type of care your child will require in the future and the costs you may face.
- Journal: Maintain a journal of events as they unfold. Try to record the details as soon as they occur so a piece of information does not get omitted. Write down the names of everyone you were in contact with at the hospital and recollect all conversations as closely as possible.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If your child has sustained a birth injury such as hemiplegia, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our client received a $43,940,000 verdict for a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The hospital failed to diagnose fetal distress, which led to brain damage and cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen supply to the brain. The verdict was so large that it was eventually reduced on appeal.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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