Pennsylvania Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
A cerebral palsy diagnosis is often accompanied by many unanswered questions and parents can find it difficult to know where to start. The following information is by no means comprehensive, but it can be a good starting point for the beginning of a deeper search for answers.
- Local Pennsylvania CP Resources:
- CP-related nonprofit organizations
- Other useful cerebral palsy and disability-related resources
What is cerebral palsy (CP)?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive motor disorder, meaning that it does not get worse over time, but does involve issues both with movement and coordination. There are multiple kinds of cerebral palsy, and they can look somewhat different:
- Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by muscle tightness, spasms, and involuntary muscle contractions.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by uncoordinated movements. It is often mistakenly confused with ataxia, a rare neurodegenerative disease.
- Athetoid/dyskinetic cerebral palsy (ADCP) may involve frequent changes in muscle tone (varying from too tight to too loose) and/or repetitive movements, which may be jerky or slow and writhing.
What causes cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain injury to the parts of the brain that control movement. The underlying cause of this brain injury is not known, but a CP diagnosis is often strongly associated with birth injury resulting from medical malpractice. Conditions that can cause or contribute to said brain damage can include:
- Abnormal fetal position/presentation
- Birth asphyxia
- Birth trauma
- Brain bleeds (intracranial hemorrhages)
- C-section errors and delays
- Failure to diagnose a high-risk pregnancy
- Forceps and vacuum extractor injuries
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Jaundice and kernicterus
- Low birth weight
- Maternal infections
- Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS)
- Mismanaged fetal distress (or failure to provide proper fetal monitoring)
- Mismanaged high-risk pregnancy
- Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)
- Placental abruption
- Premature birth
- Prolonged and arrested labor
- Twin or multiples pregnancy
- Umbilical cord problems
- Uterine tachysystole/hyperstimulation
- Uterine rupture
Cerebral palsy may only involve motor impairment, but people with CP are more likely to also have co-occurring conditions such as intellectual disabilities (occurring in about 50% of people with CP) and/or epilepsy (occurring in approximately 25-45% of people with CP).
Can cerebral palsy be prevented?
Cerebral palsy is often preventable. Preventing medical errors is a group effort involving many moving parts, including clear communication between medical staff, proper training, and the development of accountable medical systems. Doctors, nurses, midwives and other members of the medical care team are required to meet a certain standard of care in order to prevent injury or harm to an expectant mother and her baby.
Medical personnel are responsible for:
- Providing proper prenatal care and recognizing risk factors for birth injury/cerebral palsy
- Taking actions to prevent birth injury or cerebral palsy (special caution must be taken if risk factors are present)
If medical professionals deviate from those standards, there is a risk for mother and baby to be harmed. Especially with birth injuries, deviations from the standard of care can cause permanent and severe problems for the child.
Can legal help pay for my child’s CP care?
Because malpractice can often play a strong causative role in a child’s cerebral palsy, it is important to speak with an attorney if you suspect their CP may have stemmed from a medical error around the time of birth. It is important to do so promptly since there is a certain time frame – determined by state or federal law – under which parents can pursue a legal case; this is called the “statute of limitations” (SOL). In Pennsylvania, parents have until the minor’s 20th birthday to file a claim involving a birth injury. If parents wish to file a claim on their own behalf, they must begin to pursue a case within two years of the incident.
Additionally, birth injury lawsuits can take years to litigate. It’s crucial to find an attorney that only handles birth injury. The complexity of the medical records and the law requires experience and the right network of experts.
Local Pennsylvania CP Resources
While our resource list is by no means comprehensive, it provides a starting point for parents seeking services for their child with CP. Many of the larger organizations, including state programs, the United Way, the Arc Pennsylvania, and United Cerebral Palsy provide additional programs in education, financial assistance, legal information, and other services.
Financial and Medical Help
Parents who have a child with cerebral palsy can access state and/or federal assistance programs that are developed to help cover medical and equipment costs, as well as other financial considerations. Often, individuals with disabilities can use Medicare/Medicaid to cover some portion of the costs of healthcare, and some are eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if their disabilities do not allow them to work.
- The Social Security Administration provides Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs to assist individuals with disabilities.
- The City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services provides a searchable database of related programs.
CP-related nonprofit organizations
Pennsylvania also has several non-profit organizations devoted to helping people with cerebral palsy. It may be useful to reach out to them individually to see what specific resources are available:
- The United Way of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania): This organization has numerous branches throughout the state, and provides services ranging from early education to financial assistance.
- Need Help Paying Bills resource guide to financial assistance
Educational Help and Early Intervention
Educational resources and their availability can vary depending on your child’s age, abilities, and the geographical region in which you reside. If a child is very young (ages 0-3), there are Early Intervention programs available to help your child’s developmental delays and maximize their potential. Families and specialists develop Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) that can outline the child’s needs and develop a plan to help the child transition into a school environment.
After age three, if a child has diagnosed developmental delays or disabilities, it is their legal right to get support from the public school system through the development and execution of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP document outlines the child’s needed resources, goals, and a plan for their education.
Transitions to Adulthood
When students with IEPs transition to adulthood, there are programs in place to help them maximize their independence and learn valuable pre-vocational skills such as adult day programs, community-based programs, and residential communities. These programs exist to increase community integration, life skills development, socialization, and pre-vocational skill training. Some local PA programs include:
- The CADES program (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania) provides Early Intervention Services, special education schooling for ages 3-21, adult day programs, residential services, and transportation programs.
- The Allegheny Family Network guides provide county residents with early educational information and services.
- The National Association of Private Special Education Centers has a national listing of private special education groups.
- Federation Early Learning Services (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) provides parent education, early childhood awareness programs, and community information.
- The HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) provides education, therapies, and transition programs for children with cerebral palsy.
- Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention provides information regarding resources for early intervention in Honesdale and Lake Ariel.
Other useful cerebral palsy and disability-related resources in Pennsylvania:
- Our Pennsylvania Disability Resource Guide helps families search for resources in Pennsylvania based on their region
- University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Resuscitation Science provides an interactive, worldwide map of all of the hospitals that house Cooling Centers
- The MORGAN (Making Opportunities Reality Granting Assistance Nationwide) Project provides resource guides for parents and caregivers of children with disabilities.
- AAC provides a list of Assistive Technology Lending Libraries listed by state; Pennsylvania has two!
- The Bucks County Special Needs site provides listings of several nonprofit organizations designed to help individuals with disabilities and their families.
- Individuals in Southeastern Pennsylvania can call the Partnership for Community Supports hotline for customized answers to their questions.
- Sesame Place (Philadelphia, PA) is the first U.S. amusement park designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum!
About ABC Law Centers
Attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) focus solely on birth injury cases and have a network of renowned medical, economic and forensics experts at our side. Our attorneys are consistently recognized for their hard work in the birth injury arena and we have an extensive track record in providing services to families affected by birth injuries. We provide personalized attention to our clients and keep them informed throughout each step of the legal process. We do not charge any fees for the entire legal process unless we win.
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