Erb’s palsy refers to the damage to the nerves of the brachial plexus that occurs during childbirth. While damage to this group of nerves is what actually causes Erb’s palsy, there are many reasons why it occurs. Factors leading to this condition involve mistakes made by doctors and medical staff before, during or after the child’s birth. The nerves of the brachial plexus run from the spinal cord through the bones of the neck to the shoulder and down the arm. Any damage to these nerves may cause various degrees of weakness, paralysis and loss of sensation.
Here are the four most common causes of Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injury:
1. Excessive force: Childbirth is an extremely delicate process – one that requires not just competence on the part of the doctor and medical staff involved, but also patience and skill. Since brachial plexus injuries that cause Erb’s palsy involve nerve damage, there is a major risk for such injuries when an obstetrician pulls on the infant’s arms during labor and delivery. This causes unnatural stress and strain on the child’s nerves and may lead to Erb’s palsy. Such injuries may also occur when a doctor inappropriately or incompetently uses birth-assistive tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors. Pulling the baby with excessive force using these tools may lead to serious birth injuries including Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries.
2. Shoulder dystocia: This is a condition that is also known to result in Erb’s palsy. According to March of Dimes’ website, shoulder dystocia occurs when a baby’s head is delivered through the vagina, but his or her shoulders get stuck inside the mother’s birth canal. Some of the common risk factors for shoulder dystocia include the mother’s birth canal being too small or when the baby is larger than average – a condition known as macrosomia. When the baby’s shoulder gets stuck, it can cause other serious issues in addition to brachial plexus injuries such as asphyxiation.
3. Breech delivery: When infants are in breech position (feet-first instead of head-first), there is a higher risk of brachial plexus injury because of the pressure on the infant’s shoulders and neck. Erb’s palsy can occur because as the doctor pulls the baby’s feet out first, the arms tend to go over the head. This can put stress on the brachial plexus and cause damage to the nerves. A breech delivery may be an extremely difficult experience for the mother and child and poses numerous birth injury risks. For this reason, breech babies may be delivered by a C-section where the baby is born through a cut made in the belly and uterus.
4. Failure to perform a C-section: When risk factors are present, it is important that the doctor make a determination as to whether a C-section needs to be performed. When a child is larger than average or when the mother is diabetic, there is an increased risk for dangerous conditions such as shoulder dystocia. The same applies for breech births. In such situations, if a doctor fails to foresee problems and perform a timely C-section, it may be viewed as medical negligence.
What Damages Can You Seek?
Erb’s palsy lawsuits typically seek compensation for damages for any type of expense or hardship that stems from the injury and/or disability. In most cases, you may be entitled to compensation for damages including all medical expenses associated with your child’s injury including past and future costs; rehabilitation costs including physical and occupational therapy; physical pain endured by the child due to the injuries; cost of in-home care, medication and specialized medical equipment; lost wages for parents who take time off or quit their jobs to care for their child, etc.
The value of your Erb’s palsy lawsuit will likely depend on a number of factors such as the medical treatment that is required, cost of future treatment, the extent of the injury, if there is a permanent injury or disability, etc. as well as the extent of negligence involved.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
The experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. One of our clients secured a $2,850,000 verdict that was reduced by the appeals court to $1,850,000 because the verdict was so large. This was the highest amount upheld by the appellate courts for many, many years. In addition we recovered $1,400,000 for a newborn who lost motion in the arm during birth due to doctors applying incorrect force on the baby’s head.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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