Since 1987, March has been recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Throughout the month, healthcare providers, community organizations, and the loved ones of those who suffer from developmental disabilities work to bring awareness of the need for additional research, treatment, and support. Their goal is to provide the men, women, and children living with developmental disabilities the tools they need to reach their full potential.
What Are Developmental Disabilities?
The term developmental disabilities is used to refer to a range of conditions that lead to impairments in learning, language, behavior, and/or physical abilities. Common developmental disabilities include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Down Syndrome
- Spina Bifida
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Intellectual disability
Research indicates that approximately 1 in 6 children suffers from a developmental disability. Some experience only a mild impairment and are able to live independently with the assistance of career planning, job coaching, and supportive employment services. Others are left with significant difficulty in accomplishing the tasks of everyday living and will require lifetime care.
What Are the Causes of Developmental Disabilities?
Researchers are still trying to fully understand how to help children diagnosed with developmental disabilities. However, the following factors have been linked to one or more developmental disabilities:
- Genetic and chromosomal disorders
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Infection during pregnancy
- Exposure to toxins in the womb
- Untreated newborn jaundice
- Head trauma
- Complications after birth
How Are Children with Developmental Disabilities Treated?
Every child with a developmental disability has unique needs, which means treatment must be tailored to address specific impairments. Types of therapy a child with a developmental disability might require include:
- Physical therapy, which helps improve gross and fine motor skills
- Occupational therapy, which helps develop independence in the tasks of daily living such as dressing, eating, and bathing
- Behavioral therapy, which addresses issues such as angry outbursts, self-injury, and social withdrawal
- Cognitive therapy, which encourages the development of memory, attention, and perception while addressing symptoms such as anxiety and depression
What Types of Compensation Are Available?
Children who suffer from developmental disabilities can incur significant costs for their medical care, therapy, tutoring, home health assistance, and other necessary support services. Government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are available for children with disabilities, but these programs can still leave a child's caretaker with a large financial burden.
A child who is diagnosed with a developmental disability attributed to a healthcare provider's negligence may be eligible to receive medical malpractice compensation for future expenses. This includes medical care, applicable loss of future earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Children aren't allowed to take legal action on their own, but a child's parent or guardian can initiate the malpractice suit by contacting an experienced attorney.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?
To successfully prove a malpractice claim, you must establish duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation:
- Duty. A doctor/patient relationship existed.
- Breach of duty. The doctor failed to perform his duty by neglecting to provide the accepted standard of care for the child's condition.
- Damages. The child suffered verifiable physical harm in the form of a developmental disability.
- Causation. The doctor's conduct caused the child's developmental disability.
Of these elements, causation is the most difficult to prove. For example, cerebral palsy is associated with hereditary risk factors, maternal infection, and birth trauma. Cerebral palsy can also cause other developmental disabilities, such as hearing, vision, and speech problems. Expert testimony is often needed to prove the doctor's conduct caused the child's disability.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to helping Louisiana residents who've been harmed by a healthcare provider's negligence receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.