Determining the Cost of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Finding out that your newborn child has cerebral palsy (CP) is not an easy thing to handle. Reimagining the future of your child is hard enough, but thinking about the inevitable costs of raising your kid requires a whole other level of thinking. Sadly, there is no uniform process for making such a calculation, as cerebral palsy varies from person to person.

Defining CP

In fact, cerebral palsy is not a single disorder with a limited set of symptoms; it is rather a catch-all term for a variety of different disorders that limit mobility and muscular development. It is caused very early on (either in the womb or very soon after birth) by a brain injury or brain malformation. In addition, it is not progressive, meaning it doesn’t worsen over time.

Diverse Effects

And its effects are incredibly diverse. One person might need 24-hour supervision because they can barely walk or have trouble speaking. Another person might have trouble writing because of muscular issues in the hand and thus require very little attention. Some patients end up with hearing and vision impairment, while others end up with bladder and bowel control. Of course, disorders overlap as well.

To give you a sense of commonality: one out of every three cerebral palsy patients can’t walk and one out of every four can’t talk. And the greater the physical limitation the greater the potential for mental disability.

Average Costs

As mentioned, pinpointing the cost of cerebral palsy is no simple task. There are, however, some guideposts to give you a sense of what to expect. Generally, the rule of thumb is that a child with cerebral palsy will cost 10 times more than a child without this condition. And a study carried out by the CDC in 2003 found that the lifetime costs of cerebral palsy for the US totaled nearly $11.5 billion, with a majority of costs being incurred indirectly.

That same study found that the average lifetime cost for a family was $921,000 (or $1.3 million as of 2014). Once again, a majority of those costs were indirect, meaning they were incurred by a limited ability to work, decreased earning capacity and early death.

Tallying the Cost

To reiterate, there are no hard and fast rules. The numbers above are merely averages and exclude certain expenses such as a parent’s inability to work because of their child’s condition. Thus, the CDC numbers shouldn’t be read as scripture.

To determine the costs related to your particular situation, you’ll need to think about your child’s specific condition, in addition to his or her present and future needs. In short, you’ll need to breakdown the overall cost into at least three categories:

  • Direct medical costs
  • Direct non-medical costs
  • Indirect costs


Indirect costs – which generally make up the largest portion of expenses – are any costs that may be harder to calculate because they are not directly incurred. For example, a person with cerebral palsy might not be able to work as a result of their condition. So we might say that a person with CP loses wages (present and future) because of their various disabilities. Thus, lost wages would be counted as an indirect cost alongside reduced earning capacity and premature death.


Direct medical costs include expenses directly related to your child’s condition, such as hospital visits, doctor appointments, medical supplies, drugs, ongoing physical therapy and in-home care.

Direct non-medical costs are expenses that are incurred as a direct result of cerebral palsy, but are not medical in nature. For instance, your child might suffer from an intellectual disability and therefore require special education assistance at school or in the home. This is a direct consequence of the condition, but is at the same time not medical. Other similar costs might be speech therapy, home alterations and modifications to your family vehicle.

Cerebral palsy has many potential causes, including premature birth, brain trauma and post term pregnancies. Sometimes doctors and other health care professionals make mistakes that result in cerebral palsy. If your child has CP and you believe a medical professional made an error causing your child to contract this condition, you should consider retaining an attorney with experience in medical malpractice and birth injury claims to evaluate your case.