SHORT DISTANCE FALLS AND THE ASSUMPTION OF ABUSE
Parents of children with head injuries tend to experience higher levels of hostility from child abuse pediatricians (CAP). Was it a fall from furniture or standing position? The CAP is likely to ignore the parent's explanation. Instead the diagnosis is abuse. This is especially true when the child has even tiny amounts of subdural or subarachnoid bleeding. Or when the child has retinal hemorrhages.
There is a growing body of medical evidence that short distance falls can produce serious head injuries. But hospital doctors are still reluctant to accept a short distant fall explanation. As a result, in a “fall from the couch” type of explanation, the typical CAP is going to assume abuse.
An assumption is never going to meet the evidentiary standards established by Michigan or Federal case-law and rules of evidence. And a doctor certified as a Child Abuse Pediatrician is also likely well-trained in the art of court testimony. Many defense attorneys have difficulty cross-examining such medical doctors in a way that exposes their "facts" as the opinions and assumptions they really are.
If a parent has a child injured during a short fall, he/she should consider the following:
· The sooner you get a competent defense attorney involved the better. Many parents don’t know that they are under investigation. Significant harm to your family and parental rights can occur without proper legal representation.
· Know who is on the child protection team at your hospital. Child protection team doctors may come from various specialties, but the core of the team is likely made up of pediatricians with a CAP sub-specialty.
· When you get legal counsel, make sure your attorney has a good working knowledge of head injury or shaken baby syndrome litigation.
· Have your case reviewed by an independent medical expert. Your attorney should know what medical doctors can help you and how much the medical review will cost.
· Understand that doctors, nurses, social workers, CPS investigators and police all work together to build a case. That is why you should get legal counsel early.
Medical knowledge and scientific discovery are constantly expanding. However, medical beliefs are slower to change. Doctors who are CAPs see themselves as advocates for children. They would rather err on the side of caution and break up a family than risk sending a child home. As a result, many doctors refuse to accept a parental explanation when it seems contrary to their beliefs.
By law, courts must look at the scientific basis of expert opinions. This happens with a Daubert hearing. This could be a very challenging process for an attorney without medical litigation experience. If you are facing an abuse or neglect case where medical issues are present, you need to make sure that your attorney has a clearly developed and defined strategy for challenging the expert opinions you are up against.
Because of my many years of experience, I have the abilities you are looking for in a parent defense attorney. Defending parents is my focus. Let's get you the help you need. Contact Cronkright Law today.