What is Cerebral Palsy?

Free Case Evaluation

You must read the following notice before sending an e-mail message to Robins Kaplan LLP.

Any information that you send us in an e-mail message should not be confidential or otherwise privileged information. Sending us an e-mail message will not make you a client of Robins Kaplan LLP. We do not accept representation until we have had an opportunity to evaluate your matter, including but not limited to an ethical evaluation of whether we are in a conflict position to represent you. Accordingly, the information you provide to us in an e-mail should not be information for which you would have an expectation of confidentiality.

If you are interested in having us represent you, you should call us so we can determine whether the matter is one for which we are willing or able to accept professional responsibility. We will not make this determination by e-mail communication. The telephone numbers and addresses for our offices are listed on this page. We reserve the right to decline any representation. We may be required to decline representation if it would create a conflict of interest with our other clients.

By accepting these terms, you are confirming that you have read and understood this important notice.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder characterized by damage to the areas of the brain that regulate movement and posture. It results from damage to the brain before, during, or soon after birth. Poor oxygen supply to the brain, trauma, severe dehydration, and maternal infections such as rubella are among the factors that may result in cerebral palsy, but often the precise cause of the damage cannot be identified.

"Cerebral" refers to the brain. "Palsy" refers to any disorder that impairs control of  body movement. Cerebral palsy appears in infancy or early childhood and permanently affects body movement and the ability to maintain posture and balance.  In people with cerebral palsy, the part of the brain that controls the muscles is damaged. Because of this, the muscles may not move in coordination with each other. The amount of brain damage varies from person to person.  The severity depends on how much of the brain is damaged and also depends on the location of the damage.

Because cerebral palsy influences the way children develop, it is known as a developmental disability. According to the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Foundation, in the United States today more people have cerebral palsy than any other developmental disability, including Down syndrome, epilepsy, and autism. About two children out of every thousand born in this country have some type of cerebral palsy.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year about 10,000 babies born in the United States will develop cerebral palsy.

The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age.  The brain injury does not damage the child’s muscles or the nerves connecting them to the spinal cord – only the brain’s ability to control the muscles.  Depending on its location and severity, the brain injury that causes a child’s movement disorders may also cause other problems. These problems include mental retardation, seizures, language disorders, learning disabilities, and vision and hearing problems.

Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition - damage to the brain is a one-time event so it will not get worse - and people with cerebral palsy may have a normal life-span. The effects of cerebral palsy vary widely from individual to individual. The most common effects of cerebral palsy are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. 

At its mildest, cerebral palsy may result in a slight awkwardness of movement or hand control. At its most severe, cerebral palsy may result in virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech. Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disability.  In most cases, the movement and other problems associated with cerebral palsy affect what a child is able to learn and do to varying degrees throughout life.

Only a careful review of the medical records can support a likely cause of injuries and whether the actions of the delivery team played a part in causing your child's cerebral palsy. Our lawyers and medical advisors who handle birth injury cases have experience investigating medical mistakes and birth injury malpractice and have access to the type of qualified medical experts necessary to review complicated birth injury cases. If your child suffered a birth injury resulting in cerebral palsy due to improper care during your pregnancy or at the time of delivery, perhaps we can help. Contact one of our medical advisors - all are professionally licensed - they will understand the complex issues of labor and delivery that can result in medical conditions like cerebral palsy.

About Our Birth Injury Attorneys

At Robins Kaplan LLP, our birth injury lawyers and medical advisors have years of experience sifting through medical records to uncover the truth. We find out the cause of birth injuries and whether the actions of the medical team played a part in causing them. Year after year, we have been recognized for recovering substantial settlements for people who have suffered from medical malpractice.  

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation

If you or your child suffered a birth injury during your pregnancy, or at the time of delivery, we may be able to help. Call 1.800.552.7115 or complete our free case evaluation form to speak to a medical analyst who understands. There is no charge for this call or evaluation.

Our attorneys handle matters primarily in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.


  • Geralis, Elaine, (1998) Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Parent's Guide, Woodbine House, Inc., 1991.
  • Miller, Freeman, M.D., Bachrach, Steven, M.D., Cerebral Palsy: A Complete Guide for Caregiving, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 2005
  • Pincus, Dion, Everything You Need to Know About Cerebral Palsy, Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. New York, 2000.
  • Pellegrino, Louis. Cerebral Palsy, in Batshaw, M.L. (ed.), Children With Disabilities, Fourth Edition, Baltimore, MD, Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company, 1997, pages 499-528.
  • Stanley, Fiona, Blair, Eve, Alberman, Eva. (2000) Cerebral Palsies: Epidemiology & Causal Pathways. Mac Keith Press


The articles on our website include some of the publications and papers authored by our attorneys, both before and after they joined our firm. The content of these articles should not be taken as legal advice.


Teresa Fariss McClain


Co-Chair, First Chair Training Program

Peter A. Schmit


Chair, National Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Group

Brendan V. Johnson


Member of Executive Board
Chair, National Business Litigation Group
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group

Back to Top