Erb’s palsy, which is also known as a brachial plexus palsy injury, is one of the most common birth injuries suffered in the United States. These birth injuries cause damage to the nerves of the brachial plexus, which is a complex network of nerves that control muscle function in the chest, shoulder, arms and hands as well as sensation in the upper limbs.
During a delivery, the nerves of the brachial plexus may be stretched, compressed or torn. As a result, the child may lose muscle function or experience upper arm paralysis. Injuries to the upper brachial plexus may affect muscles of the shoulder and elbow, while injuries to the lower brachial plexus typically affect muscles of the forearm and hand.
Often, Erb’s palsy tends to occur because of medical negligence or because of carelessness or incompetence on the part of medical professionals. An Erb’s palsy settlement or verdict can provide families with the compensation they need to help the child cope with this ongoing and long-term medical condition.
The brachial plexus is a group of five nerves that control movement of the arm muscles and provide sensation to all parts of the arm. According to the Mayo Clinic, when these nerves are pulled, stretched or torn, there may be permanent nerve damage that results in long-term or even lifelong disabilities. For example, if an obstetrician uses excessive force while pulling the baby out of the birth canal, there is the possibility that the head and neck are stretched and the nerves are damaged. Any prolonged or complex labor presents a higher risk of these types of injuries occurring, and the obstetrician should be aware of same.
If the affected arm loses sensation, children may suffer from complications such as muscle weakness, numbness or even paralysis. Some babies may even need surgery to repair torn or separated nerves. When the nerves tear or avulse, which means the nerve separates completely from the spinal cord, it can be impossible to fully repair such damage. Therefore, children who suffer this type of serious nerve damage will likely live with a disability for the rest of their lives.
Four Causes of Erb’s Palsy
When your child suffers a birth injury such as Erb’s palsy, it is important to determine who or what caused it. There are several ways in which medical negligence can cause a brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy:
Excessive force: When a physician uses too much force on the baby’s arm to get him or her out of the birth canal, the nerves of the brachial plexus may get stretched or torn, leading to Erb’s palsy. Such birth injuries may occur when an incompetent or inexperienced doctor handles a delivery or when a doctor or member of the medical team is in a rush to get the child out and acts recklessly or carelessly in the process.
Cesarean section: A lot of the complications that cause brachial plexus injuries can be avoided with a Cesarean section or C-section where the child is surgically removed from the mother’s womb. For example, if there are certain risk factors present in a pregnancy such as a larger than average sized baby or if the baby is in breech position (feet-first), then a C-section may be necessary. When a physician fails to plan and carry out a C-section or an emergency C-section, especially when a fetus is showing signs of distress, that amounts to medical negligence.
Improper use of birth-assistive tools: During a delivery, doctors may choose to use birth-assistive tools such as vacuum extractors or forceps. In the hands of an incompetent or inexperienced doctor, these tools can be dangerous. When excessive force is applied or when these tools are not used properly, brachial plexus injuries may occur.
Failure to monitor: Doctors and medical professionals have a duty to monitor for signs of fetal distress and to also discuss the mother’s medical history. When this is not done, the labor may become prolonged and complications may occur.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If your child has Erb’s palsy because of medical negligence (carelessness), he or she may be able to receive compensation that may help pay for medical expenses, lost income, cost of therapy, future treatments, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
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.
For over 49 years, our skilled accident attorneys have established a proven track record of helping injured victims. One of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases. We have seen many cases where New York City Health and Hospital Corporation facilities deliver babies who are born with cerebral palsy or erb’s palsy (brachial plexus palsy) stemming from negligence (carelessness), and/or medical malpractice in the labor and delivery etc. of the children.
The following list identifies some of these hospitals (operated by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation):
• Jacobi Hospital aka Bronx Municipal 1400 Pelham Parkway South Bronx, New York 10461 718-918-5000
• Lincoln Hospital 234 East 149th Street Bronx, New York 10451 718-579-5000
• North Central Bronx Hospital 3424 Kossuth Avenue Bronx, New York 10467 718-519-5000
• Coney Island Hospital 2601 Ocean Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11235 718-616-3000
• Kings County Hospital 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203 718-245-3131
• Woodhull Hospital 760 Broadway Brooklyn, New York 11206 718-963-8000
• Bellevue Hospital 462 First Avenue New York, New York 10016 212-562-5555
• Harlem Hospital 506 Lenox Avenue New York, New York 10037 212-939-1000
• Metropolitan Hospital 1901 First Avenue New York, New York 10029 212-423-6262
• Elmhurst Hospital 79-01 Broadway Elmhurst, New York 11373 718-334-4000
• Queens Hospital Center 82-68 164th Street Jamaica, New York 11432 718-883-3000
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