In cases where medical negligence (carelessness) lead to birth injuries such as brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy, in addition to other potential parties, the hospital can be held liable for the injuries and losses caused. The actions (or lack of actions) on the part of the hospital, doctor or medical provider, failure to diagnose and begin treatment for brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy can amount to negligence.
Parents can pursue compensation in a birth injury claim such as a brachial plexus injury claim that stems from a doctor’s mistake or negligence (carelessness). Such errors or acts of carelessness may occur during prenatal care or during labor and delivery.
Understanding Erb’s Palsy
A brachial plexus injury refers to an injury of the brachial plexus, which is a complex network of nerves between the neck and the shoulders. These nerves control muscle function in the chest, shoulder, arms and hands and sensation or feeling in the upper limbs.
According to Boston Children’s Hospital, brachial plexus injuries occur in about one to three out of every 1,000 births in the United States. The nerves of the brachial plexus may be stretched, compressed or torn, particularly during a difficult delivery. This may result in a loss of muscle function or even paralysis of the upper arm.
When is a Doctor Responsible?
Whether your doctor can be held responsible for your child’s brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy depends on how the injury occurred, the extent of the injury and other related medical factors. Here are some of the common questions that may be asked in order to determine whether your hospital and/or doctor may have been negligent (careless):
Did the doctor discuss your case thoroughly before your delivery including talking about your medical history?
This is really important because there are certain risk factors that contribute to prolonged labor or other complications such as shoulder dystocia, which lead to a brachial plexus injury. For example, if you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, it is important that your doctor treat you for it, because having gestational diabetes is a risk factor.
Doctors should also make efforts to determine the size and position of the baby prior to birth. A larger than average baby or a breech baby that is in feet-first (instead of head-first) position are all significant risks for a prolonged labor. In such cases, the baby’s shoulder may also get stuck against the mother’s pelvis, making it difficult for the infant to come out.
Did the delivering doctor exert force on your baby’s head or neck when attempting to deliver the baby?
Birth-assistive tools such as forceps and vacuums are commonly used during difficult births. However, when an inexperienced or incompetent doctor pulls excessively or uses more-than-necessary force to get the baby out, there is a heightened risk for serious injuries including a brachial plexus injury that may lead to Erb’s palsy.
Did the doctor try any techniques or maneuvers to help ease the baby into delivery?
When a baby becomes stuck in the birth canal during a prolonged or difficult labor, there are a number of maneuvers or techniques doctors can and should attempt in order to release the baby before he or she begins to undergo significant distress including breathing problems. Failure to do so can also be viewed as negligence (carelessness) on the part of the delivering order.
Did the doctor order a timely Cesarean section?
In most cases, when there are one or more risks that point toward a difficult labor, the best call might be to do a Cesarean section (C-section), which reduces or eliminates these risks. When a doctor fails to monitor a pregnancy for risks or fails to order a timely C-section despite knowing the risks and potential dangers of a vaginal birth, that may also be viewed as medical negligence.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If your child has suffered a birth injury such as a brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy, 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 $1,846,000 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. Also, 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 Brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s 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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