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What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of long lasting conditions that can effect body movement, muscle co-ordination and result from the adverse affect of brain trauma on a child’s motor abilities. Cerebral palsy can also lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, speech problems and learning and feeling disabilities. The damage usually occurs in four different ways -


Cerebral Palsy Medical Negligence Claim

  • During development of the foetus 


  • During birth


  • Shortly after birth 


  • During infancy



Until recently, there was a widespread belief that all cases of cerebral palsy were as a result of complications during the birth process. Recent medical research has changed this view. In up to 80% of cases, children develop cerebral palsy in circumstances where the cause was not related to medical negligence. Consequently and under these circumstances it is not possible to bring an action in a court of law. In situations where cerebral palsy is preventable, it can be as a result of medical negligence. In summary, medical negligence during pre-natal care and child birth can be responsible for causing cerebral palsy. 


Non Negligent Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Many babies have a congenital malformation of the brain, which occurs while the foetus is growing in the womb. This means that the baby is born with a birth defect rather than having been injured as a result of a medical negligent event. Tragically for some, the true cause of cerebral palsy in a child is never fully known.


When cerebral palsy is recognised in a new born, a congenital malformation is initially suspected, especially where there is an absence of the risk factors associated with a medical negligence event such as foetal distress or delayed delivery. Diagnosis takes time. Doctors have to wait to see specific movement problems developing. Consequently a diagnosis is usually not made until the child is approx 18 months of age or older.


Good pre-natal care is an essential part of preventing congenital problems. Problems can occur even when the mother has strictly followed medical advice, ensuring she cares for herself and indeed the developing infant. Although the causes of birth defects are usually unknown, there are several factors which appear to pre-dispose a child to injury including -

4 Cerebral Palsy Medical Negligence Claim


  • Exposure of the expectant mother to certain chemicals including alcohol, cigarettes, and cocaine
  • Exposure of the expectant mother to certain infections including rubella, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus
  • Severe physical trauma to the Mother during pregnancy
  • Prematurity


Advancing a Cerebral Palsy Claim

Cerebral palsy claims are difficult, complex and often protracted. Most actions are strongly contested. It is essential that you have an experienced legal team, appropriate expert witnesses and the confidence in your legal team to walk the long road towards a successful conclusion to your claim. When engaging legal representation, it is crucial that your legal team has the experience to be able to assess the validity of your potential claim and be able to achieve the maximum quantum of damages for your claim. This allows for the fact that a brain damaged child will require expensive long term care.


These are the key issues that a prudent parent will consider when engaging legal representation. It is expected that successful representation can achieve fair and equitable compensation either by way of settlement or hearing.


Examples of Medical Negligence causing Cerebral Palsy

One of the most common causes of cerebral palsy is medical negligence on the part of the doctor, nurse or midwife. There are a number of mistakes and misjudgements made before and during delivery that have caused children to be born with cerebral palsy -


Leaving the child in the birth canal too long causing lack of oxygen to the brain and what is known as intrapartum asphyxia

Failure to recognise and treat seizures following delivery i.e. failure to have appropriate paediatric intervention in a timely manner

Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord, reducing oxygen supply i.e. failing to read the signs and the cardiotocograph (CTG) trace of foetal distress (CTG is a monitor that checks the baby's heart rate in uterus. This provides an indication of the baby's wellbeing)

Excessive use of vacuum extraction

Improper use of delivery forceps causing brain damage

Failure to perform a caesarean section against the backdrop of foetal distress

Failing to respond to changes in the foetal heart rate apparent from a CTG trace

Failure to respond to the mother’s high blood pressure or toxaemia

Failure to respond to an unfolding situation of help syndrome


Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four dominant types of cerebral palsy -


Spastic cerebral palsy present in between 75 to 88% of all cases as characterised by stiff or permanently contracted muscles

Athetoid cerebral palsy which affects 10 to 20% of patients and is characterised by uncontrolled, slow, writhing movements

Ataxic cerebral palsy which is a rare form which affects 5 to 10% of patients.


This form of cerebral palsy affects the sense of depth and perception and results in poor coordination and difficulty with precise movements. Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when a patient has symptoms of two or more of these forms. Many combinations are possible, however the most common mixed form is a blend of the spastic and athetoid forms.


Considerations for a Cerebral Palsy Medical Negligence

Cerebral Palsy Claims are extremely complex, they place a huge emotional strain on parents who take the case on behalf of their child. Parents must take into account how long ago the incident occurred. There are now new rules limiting the time in which the case can be pursued.


In a personal injury action, a case must be taken within two years of the injury, or within two years of date of knowledge of the injury. In a claim involving allegations of medical negligence arising from birth, the date that the cause of action began is the child's birth date. However, if the injured party is a child, the two year limitation period does not begin to run until the child turns 18 years of age. In spite of this limitation period, it is important to note, that excessive delay, in a decision to advance a potential claim, could have an adverse affect on the outcome of the claim.


If you feel you have a cerebral palsy medical negligence claim and are a victim of medical negligence please phone us at 01 87 444 22 or fill in our online inquiry form and a client care executive will be in contact with you.

All of our client care executives are non-lawyers with a considerable track record of helping people through the many difficult issues that arise during the process of a cerebral palsy claim. They will also organise an appointment with an experienced cerebral palsy solicitor. If you would like to receive legal and medical updates on topics relevant to you click here to subscribe

Useful Links

How to File a Complaint with the HSE

Enable Ireland

World Cerebral Palsy Day

Royal College of Physicians Ireland

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

World Health Organisation

The Cochrane Collaboration - They work together to help healthcare practitioners, policy-makers, patients, their advocates and carers, make well-informed decisions about health care, by preparing, updating, and promoting the accessibility of Cochrane Reviews

An Bord Altranais, Nursing Board

Health Service Executive

Medical Council

The Lancet Medical Journal

British Medical Journal

Medscape - Medscape from WebMD offers specialists, primary care physicians, and other health professionals the Web's most robust and integrated medical information and educational tools

Miscarraige Association of Ireland

Feileacain (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland, SANDAI)

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists U.K.

Midwives Information and Resource Service U.K.

Department of Health and Children

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