The only way to prove a cerebral palsy birth injury case is through expert testimony. There are a multitude of experts required for this purpose—most trials last a minimum of two weeks. Your medical malpractice legal team with have to provide evidence that your child’s health care providers breached the standard of care, and their negligence caused your child’s injuries. Those injuries, past, present and future, must all be explained in detail to the jury. Finally, experts may be required to counteract claims made by the defendant’s experts.
Experts typically have at least one of the following three jobs:
- Testify that your health care team violated the standard of care. These types of experts are known as liability experts. They will explain to the jury that your health care team acted improperly—either by doing something that they should not have done, or by failing to do something that they should have done. Your lawyer will usually have one or two liability experts for each defendant. For example, if a defendant is an obstetrician, your lawyer may hire a well-known obstetrician to testify against him. Frequently two experts will be used—one who is an “in-the-trenches” practitioner, and another who is more of an academic and well-versed in the medical literature.
- Testify that actions of the health care team caused injury. These are causation experts. They will explain to the jury that the actions or inactions of the health care team are directly linked to the injuries the child suffered. Many causation experts also testify about liability, and many also testify about damages.
- Testify as to the extent of the child’s injuries. These are damages experts. Their job is to explain to the jury the nature of the child’s disability, and the effects/costs of that disability, past, present and future.
Types of Experts
Every cerebral palsy birth injury case is unique, but these are the types of experts that are frequently required:
Obstetrician: If one of the defendants is an obstetrician, your lawyers will hire one or more obstetricians to testify that your doctor violated the standard of care. The obstetrician will review the doctor and hospital files for the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery. The expert will also review any deposition testimony by witnesses about what happened during labor and delivery. Based on that information, the obstetrician can testify about whether the doctor acted negligently.
Maternal-Fetal Specialist: A maternal-fetal specialist is a specialized type of obstetrician. If your doctor was a maternal-fetal specialist, your lawyer will likely need to hire someone of the same caliber. If your obstetrician was not such an expert, your lawyer might hire a maternal-fetal specialist to give more credibility to your negligence case.
Obstetrical Nurse: If the nurses did something wrong, like failing to notify the doctor of concerning electronic fetal monitor tracings or neglecting to go up the chain of command, you may need an obstetrical nurse to testify.
Nurse-Midwife: In claims against nurse-midwives and birth centers, a primary liability expert will be another nurse midwife who is aware of the practices, procedures and standards of care for other nurse-midwives.
Neonatologist: A neonatologist is a doctor who takes care of the baby from birth to (typically) about 30 days of life. Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics. These doctors excel at understanding the conditions and immediate needs of children who are born with injuries after birth, including hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Neonatologists will usually testify about causation and damages.
Pediatric Neurologist : A pediatric neurologist is a doctor who specializes in identifying and helping children with problems including seizures, delayed speech, cerebral palsy and other neurological injuries. The pediatric neurologist will detail the child’s medical needs to the life care planner in order to create a comprehensive life care plan.
Pediatric Neuroradiologist:The pediatric neurologist in many cases is one of the most important causation experts. Based on radiology and imaging scans taken shortly after birth, during the neonatal period, and into childhood, the pediatric neurologist will be able to explain the type of brain injury and, more importantly, the timing of the insult that created the injury. These images are persuasive to show that lack of oxygen to a child’s brain in the labor and delivery process caused cerebral palsy.
Infectious Disease: In many cases the defense will argue that a child’s injury is caused something other than negligence. A frequent scapegoat for these injuries is viruses and infections. Of course, failure to properly identify these viruses and infections can be negligence, but when used as a defense it is usually argued that injury was unavoidable. Your lawyer may hire an infectious disease specialist to rebut those arguments.
Life Care Planner: The life care planner is a damages expert responsible for working with the other medical experts to identify the child’s present and future needs throughout life expectancy. The goal is to create a life care plan which will be used to explain those needs to a jury and to justify the amount of money requested by the plaintiff at a medical malpractice trial.
Economist:The economist relies on the report of the life care planner to come up with a dollar figure that will take care of the extraordinary needs of the child for the rest of his life. Importantly, the economist must take into account the inflation of costs (for example, a surgery ten years from now is likely to be more expensive than the same surgery today). Also critical is that the economist must reduce the entire cost of care to present-day value. This is an amount of money that, if the jury awards at trial, can be conservatively invested to provide for the full cost of care as stated in the life care plan. Finally, an economist may testify as to the value of lost wages that a child with cerebral palsy could have earned absent the injury.
Our law firm has worked with numerous experts across the nation in each of these specialties to successfully prosecute birth injury lawsuits on behalf of cerebral palsy victims. Even if you are unsure as to whether you have a cerebral palsy lawsuit, we can investigate your medical records and consult with experts to find a definitive answer. Call us at (440) 252-4399 or fill out our online form for more details.