Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Glossary

Glossary of Cerebral Palsy Law Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

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– A –

ABO Blood Type Incompatibility: Results when the blood type of the fetus, or developing child, differs from the blood type of the mother. When incompatibility occurs, the mother creates antibodies to defend against the blood type of the infant. These antibodies cross the placenta and begin destroying the fetus’ blood cells. The result is that the fetus develops jaundice.

Adjudicate: To settle in a legal setting.

Affidavit: A voluntary statement or declaration of facts that has been written down and confirmed under oath.

Allegation: An assertion, declaration or statement that is made in a pleading by one of the parties to the action and tells what that party intends to prove.

Answer: Written response in a civil case where a defendant admits or denies the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s complaint.

Apgar Score: When a child is born, a physician will take note of the baby’s activity – including the muscle tone, pulse, grimace, reflex irritability, appearance, skin color, and respiration. These observations are done immediately after birth and then again five minutes later. A score of zero to ten is given. A low score alerts a doctor that immediate care may be necessary and a high score may confirm a healthy baby. Children with cerebral palsy often receive low Apgar scores.

Arbitration: A process for deciding a legal dispute out of court; substitute for an ordinary trial.

Assumption of risk: The defendant’s allegation that the injured plaintiff recognized the danger of the plaintiff’s course of action but, nonetheless, chose to risk such danger.

Ataxia: Jerky, uncoordinated movements.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Low muscle tone and poor coordination of movements.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: About 10 percent of children have this type of CP. It is caused by damage to the cerebellum or basal ganglia, which are areas of the brain responsible for enabling smooth and controlled body movements. Patients frequently have trouble speaking, eating, reaching, grasping and other movements requiring coordinated movements.

Athetosis: Involuntary movements; uncontrolled movements.

– B –

Baclofen: A medication used to reduce spasticity.

Brain Damage: During pregnancy or birth, brain damage to a child may cause cerebral palsy. The following problems may result in brain damage: Rh incompatibility, a lack of oxygen to the baby, urinary tract infection in the mother, bleeding within the infant’s brain, problems during the delivery or poisoning due to the mother’s use of alcohol or drugs.

– C –

Case law: Law based on previous decisions of appellate courts.

Central Nervous System: Includes the brain and the spinal cord. The central nervous system receives sensory impulses from the rest of the nervous system and then controls the body’s response to those impulses.

Cesarean Section: Surgical removal of a baby from the womb through a surgical opening in the abdominal. A cesarean section may performed if the birth canal of the mother is too narrow; the placenta is not in a proper location; the fetus is breech or otherwise; the fetus is experiencing fetal distress; or the mother is in danger.

Cerebral Palsy: A general term for a group of permanent brain injuries that affect an infant in the womb, during birth, or in the months following birth. Cerebral palsy patients may have limited motor skills, speech difficulties, learning disabilities, or other problems.

Chorea: Uncontrollable, jerky movements of the toes and fingers.

Civil: Generally pertains to disputes, not involving crimes, including family matters, contracts, collection of debts, and compensation for personal injury or property loss.

Collateral source rule: Compensation awarded to an injured party shall not be reduced by the amount of compensation available to him from his insurance company or other independent sources.

Cognitive Functions: The skills of the brain including memory, attention, and concentration.

Common law: Law that derives its authority solely from past laws and judgments.

Comparative negligence: The doctrine of comparing degrees of fault among the responsible parties.

Complaint, civil: The first pleading in a civil case filed by the plaintiff. It alleges the material facts and legal theories to support the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

Contingency fee: A fee arrangement in which the plaintiff and his attorney agree that the fees due to the attorney will be determined by the amount of the judgment awarded to the plaintiff.

Continuance: The adjournment or delay of a scheduled session of a court.

Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness of one party by the opposing party during a trial, hearing or deposition.

CT Scan: Computed tomography scan. May be used to determine the cause of cerebral palsy in a child. This test scans the brain, looking for abnormalities and areas that have not properly developed.

– D –

Damages: Monetary compensation claimed by a person who has suffered a loss or injury to his person, property or rights as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another.

Decedent: A person who has died.

Decree: An order of the court.

Default: Failure of either party to file required documents or appear in a civil case within a certain period of time.

Defendant: The person or party sued in a civil case or accused in a criminal case.

Deposition: The testimony of a witness, taken out of court and usually prior to trial.

Direct examination: Questioning of a witness by the party who calls the witness.

Directed verdict: In a trial, a judgment entered by the judge without allowing the jury to participate.

Discovery: The pre-trial process, such as a deposition, by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon at trial by the opposing party.

Dismissal with prejudice: An order to dismiss a case in which the court bars the plaintiff from suing again on the same cause of action.

Dismissal without prejudice: An order to dismiss a case in which the court preserves the plaintiff’s right to sue again on the same cause of action.

Dysarthria: A speech disorder that often affects people with cerebral palsy, caused by a weakness in the muscles that produce speech. In mild cases, there may only be a slight slurring of speech; in more severe cases, the person may depend upon a voice output system to speak.

Dystonia: Involuntary, slow, sustained muscle contractions resulting in abnormal postures and twisting motions of the arms, legs, and trunk.

– E –

Evidence: A fact presented in court through the testimony of a witness, an object or written documents.exhibit A document or object that is offered into evidence during a trial or hearing.

– F –

Fetal Distress: What occurs when a baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen. The clinical term is hypoxia and could result in damage or death if the fetus is not delivered immediately.

Fetal Heart Rate Monitor: Electronic fetal monitor, or EFM, is used to observe and record the heart rate of a fetus and for keeping track of the frequency, length, and strength of the mother’s uterine contractions.

Forceps: Tools used to grip a baby’s head and guide it out of the birth canal during delivery.

– G –

Gait: How an individual walks. Normal gait requires the proper functioning of the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. Many people with cerebral palsy do not have this proper functioning.

– H –

Hemiplegia: Meaning one side of the body is affected. Arm and leg could be equally or unequally affected.

Hypertonia: Stiffness of the muscles.

Hypotonia: Reduced postural tone or a floppiness of the muscles.

– I –

Indemnity: An agreement wherein one party financially protects another against an anticipated loss.

Intention Tremors: A body part that trembles. Intention tremors become stronger as a person reaches for an object.

Interrogatories: A form of discovery in which one party submits a series of written questions to the other party, and to which the latter is bound to answer under oath.

Intraventricular Hemorrhage: Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) means bleeding into the normal fluid spaces (ventricles) within the brain. IVH is also used to refer to bleeding in areas near the ventricles even if the blood is not within them.

Involuntary Movement: Movement that is not under the control of the brain. Individuals who have cerebral palsy have so many involuntary movements that they interfere with their ability to function normally.

– J –

Jaundice: Normally, the liver processes the bilirubin. Often infants do not have fully developed livers so they cannot process all the bilirubin that is produced. A buildup of bilirubin causes a yellow color in infants and this is called jaundice.

Judgment: The official decision by a court regarding the rights and claims of the parties to a civil or criminal lawsuit.

Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict: A judgment entered by order of the court for one party, although there has been a jury verdict for the other party.

– L –

Liability: A legal responsibility or obligation.

Lien: An encumbrance, upon real or personal property, that secures the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty.

Litigant: One of the parties involved in a legal action.

Litigation: The process of settling a dispute through the court system.

Little’s Disease: Cerebral palsy was originally called Little’s Disease because the first medical records of cerebral palsy were made by English surgeon William John Little in 1843.

– M –

Medical Lien: The right of a hospital, doctor or health care provider to assert an interest in personal injury recoveries to the extent of the cost of the treatment or service provided.

Medical Negligence: Failure of a physician or other medical personnel to meet the standards of conduct for duties relating to the medical profession. Those standards are based on what a reasonable person with the requisite knowledge and skills would or would not do.

Mental Retardation: Significantly low intelligence and severe problems adapting to everyday life skills.

Mistrial: An erroneous invalid trial that cannot stand in law.motion An application for a rule or order, made to a court or judge.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy: This type of CP affects both the pyramidal and extrapyramidal areas of the brain. The most common mixed form includes spasticity and athetoid movements; other combinations are possible.

Motor Disabilities: Disabilities that effect a person’s ability to learn motor tasks such as walking, running, skipping, tying shoes, crawling, sitting, handwriting, and others. To be considered a disability, the problem must cause a person to have motor coordination that is significantly below what would be expected for his or her age, and the problem must interfere with the activities of learning and daily living.

Muscle Tone: Defines the condition of the muscles. Muscles that are affected by cerebral palsy will be either floppy and loose or stiff and rigid. Poor muscle tone limits movement.

– N –

Negligence: Failure to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances. When that failure causes another person to suffer an injury or financial loss, that person may be entitled to just compensation through our civil justice system.

Neurological Damage: If your child does not have a developmental brain malformation then their cerebral palsy may be the result of an injury to their brain before, during, or after birth. These injuries are most often caused by problems associated with premature births, difficult deliveries, neonatal medical complications, or trauma to the brain. Types of problems that can lead to brain injuries include:

  • lack of oxygen before, during, or after birth.
  • bleeding in the brain.
  • toxic injuries, or poisoning, form alcohol or drugs used by the mother.
  • head trauma resulting from a birth injury, fall, car accident, or other cause.
  • Jaundice, very low glucose levels, or other metabolic disorders.
  • infections of the nervous system such as encephalitis or meningitis.

– O –

Occupational Therapy: Therapy designed to enable the individual to work with their arms and hands

– P –

Physical Therapy: Therapy designed to improve mobility and keep muscles stretched.

Plaintiff: The party who initiates a legal action; in a personal injury lawsuit, the person who alleges that he or she has suffered monetary damages due the negligence of another party.

Pleadings: Written documents stating the allegations and claims of the opposing parties in a legal dispute.

Preponderance Of Evidence: The relative weight, credit and value of the evidence presented by adversaries in a trial. In a civil trial, the jury is charged with reaching a verdict

– R –

RH Incompatibility: Results when the blood type of the fetus is different from the blood type of the mother.

Rhizotomy: A surgical procedure to decrease spasticity.

Rebuttal: Evidence that attempts to explain, counteract or disprove facts given in evidence by the other party.

Re-direct Examination: Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one’s evidence has been subject to cross-examination.

Retainer: Advance payment of fees, or fees and costs, made by a client to an attorney when the client retains the attorney to act for him or her.

Risk Factors For Cerebral Palsy: A risk factor is not a cause, it is a variable which, when present, increases the chance of something occurring. In other words, a risk factor for cerebral palsy is not a cause of cerebral palsy, it is a variable that could increase your child’s chances of developing cerebral palsy. The presence of a risk factor does not mean cerebral palsy will occur, nor does the absence of a risk factor mean that cerebral palsy will not occur. If a risk factor is present, it should alert parents and health care professionals to be even more observant of the infant’s development. Risk factors can be associated with the parents, as well as the child.

– S –

Seizures: A person having a seizure may abruptly freeze, fall, shake or simply fall down. Seizures affect about half of all people with cerebral palsy but are usually not harmful.

Sensory Integration Therapy: An approach to help children with CP achieve an optimal level of functioning. This therapy helps to overcome problems experienced by many young children in absorbing and processing sensory information. Encouraging these abilities ultimately improves balance and steady movement. Therapies include stimulating touch sensations and pressures on different parts of the body.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A form of cerebral palsy that causes tightness in the muscles. Because of this tightness, spastic cerebral palsy patients have a difficult time controlling their movement.

Spastic Diplegia: A form of spastic cerebral palsy that affects muscle control in either arms or legs.

Spastic Hemiplegia: A form of spastic cerebral palsy that affects muscle control on one side of the body.

Spastic Monoplegia: A form of spastic cerebral palsy that affects only one limb. This form of spastic cerebral palsy is rare.

Spastic Quadriplegia: A form of spastic cerebral palsy that affects both the arms and the legs of a patient.

Spastic Triplegia: A form of spastic cerebral palsy that affects three of the limbs. This form of spastic cerebral palsy is rare.

Speech Therapy: Therapy used to increase communication skills. It may also include teaching sign language or using a communication device. This is usually a necessary therapy to help cerebral palsy patients cope in day to day situations.

Stipulation: An agreement, admission or concession made in a judicial proceeding by the parties or their attorneys, thus relieving a party of its obligation to produce evidence in support of an argument or allegation.

Subpoena: A legal document issued by the court ordering a person to appear as specified and give testimony and/or produce evidence.

Subrogation: A process by which a third party is put in the place of a creditor so that the rights and securities of the creditor pass to that third person. For example, in a personal injury matter, an insurance company may exercise its right of subrogation to place a lien on a plaintiff’s award or settlement in order to achieve full or partial reimbursement for insurance benefits advanced to the plaintiff.

– T –

Tort: civil wrong, giving rise to a cause of action, independent of contract.

Transcript: The official verbatim record of court proceedings.

Trial: A formal presentation of facts to a court or jury in order to reach a legal resolution

– V –

Vacuum Extractors and Vacuum Extraction: A vacuum extractor is an alternative to forceps in assisting the delivery of a baby. It is a suction cup that is a placed over a baby’s head, which allows the physician to pull the child out through the birth canal.

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