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Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit

Erb’s palsy lawsuits being filed nationwide. See if you qualify by contacting the birth injury lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP.

Erb’s palsy – also known as shoulder dystocia – is a medical term for when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during childbirth. It is an obstetric emergency, requiring quick and careful action by the medical team attending the birth to avoid serious birth complications. When medical negligence causes an Erb’s palsy injury, it is important to know that you can file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit.

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As a parent, there is nothing more devastating than your child suffering from a birth injury and you should know that it is your legal right to file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit. A serious condition such as Erb’s palsy can have a lasting impact that may leave your baby with a disability or medical condition for life. We understand the tragedy of having the happy occasion of your baby’s birth turn into a crisis through medical negligence.

Sadly, Erb’s palsy in a child can occur from a difficult or traumatic delivery. The infant’s head when passing through the birth canal can sometimes get pulled to the side. As well, breech deliveries may cause brachial palsy injuries because of the pressure on the raised arms of the child. The amount of pressure that has caused the injury will determine the recovery time.

Statistics show that approximately 27 out of every 1,000 births involve some sort of birth-related injury, with Erb’s palsy being one of the most common. Although most women give birth in a hospital surrounded by medical professionals, a birth injury can happen at almost any point during labor and delivery. These injuries are often the result of medical negligence or error. A baby with Erb’s palsy may recover fully and quickly or may suffer lifelong physical and/or mental limitations.

Physicians, hospitals, and their support staff have both a moral and legal obligation to adhere to the standard of medical competence and skill in their community in the safe delivery of babies. When this duty is not maintained and a birth injury results, a birth defects lawyer can help you secure justice for your child by obtaining financial compensation to provide for the child’s present and future needs. Please contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP to discuss your litigation options today.

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If your child or other loved one was injured, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit Lawsuit and we can help. Please click the button below for a Free Confidential Case Evaluation or call us toll-free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

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Overview of Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy refers to the most common form of brachial plexus injury. “Brachial” refers to the arm, and “plexus” refers to a network of nerves. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that transmits signals from the cervical spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Damage to the nerves of the brachial plexus can cause partial or total paralysis of muscles in the shoulder, arm, or hand.

Although Erb’s palsy can occur at any time, most cases happen during birth. During the strain of childbirth, the shoulder of the baby can get caught and stretched behind the pubic symphysis bone (part of the pelvic bone). Once the shoulder is caught, the brachial plexus can be compressed, stretched, or torn.

Many babies with Erb’s palsy are larger than average at birth. However, newborns of all sizes, including premature babies, can have these injuries. A larger baby will have a greater chance of getting caught behind the pubic symphysis bone and getting injured severely.

Accepted medical protocol exists to deal with this birthing emergency. In the event of shoulder dystocia, the doctor can support the head of the baby and apply a small amount of traction during the dislodging maneuvers. When the doctor uses excessive traction on the head while the baby’s shoulder remains stuck, the brachial plexus nerves in the baby’s neck may suffer injury. Depending on its location, this injury then causes one of the four types of brachial plexus palsy. If these medical errors lead to a birth injury such as Erb’s palsy, you have the legal right to sue for compensation for your medical bills, your child’s pain, and your own trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

The symptoms of a brachial plexus injury differ depending on the extent of the nerve damage suffered. Some babies are able to recover completely within a few months. However, many babies are left with permanent nerve damage which limits their use of the arm. Erb’s palsy symptoms may include:

  • limp or paralyzed arm
  • lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist
  • lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand

Although minor Erb’s palsy injuries will typically clear up on their own, more severe cases may require long-term treatment. In especially serious cases of Erb’s palsy, patients may never fully recover feeling or movement in the affected arm.

What Causes Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy can be sustained during delivery as the result of a birth emergency known as shoulder dystocia. The baby’s shoulder may become stuck on the mother’s pubic bone causing the nerves which control movement and feeling in the shoulder, arm, and hand to be injured. As a result, the baby may suffer severe limitations in the movement of their arm.

Erb’s palsy is the result of a nerve injury. All the arm’s nerves are connected to a group of nerves near the neck which is called the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus nerves are responsible for feeling and motion in the hand, fingers, and arm.

Although adults can suffer from Erb’s palsy following a spinal or shoulder injury, for the most part, this condition develops before or during birth.

Common causes of Erb’s palsy in infants include:

  • Breech delivery, in which the baby is facing the wrong direction (feet first, rather than head first) during the delivery process
  • Delivery problems, which can lodge the baby in the birth canal
  • Excessive pulling on the baby’s shoulders during delivery
  • Fetal birth injury (an injury that occurs before birth when the baby is still in the womb)

Most cases of Erb’s palsy are due to stretching of the nerve and will heal within 6 to 12 months of delivery; stretching shocks the nerve, but rarely leaves permanent damage. Occasionally a stretch injury will cause scar tissue to form around healthy nerves; in this case, recovery may not be total. Cases in which the nerves are torn are the most serious and will not completely heal on their own. In rare instances the nerve is actually torn apart from the spinal cord; this is called an avulsion. It is estimated that fewer than 10% of brachial plexus birth injuries result in permanent paralysis or impairment.

Risk Factors

Many instances of Erb’s palsy can be anticipated and prevented if the warning signs are heeded; however, there are some instances that cannot be anticipated. The bundle of nerves that form the brachial plexus run close to the shoulder, so traction on the shoulder away from the head can result in brachial plexus injury. This situation can occur with breech presentation, where the baby’s head is last to be delivered and the shoulder and neck stretched during delivery of the head.

Risk factors associated with Erb’s palsy include (but are not limited to):

  • High birth weights: Babies weighing over 8 lbs. at birth are more likely to develop Erb’s palsy.
  • Lengthy labors: Any labor lasting longer than an hour puts an infant at a higher risk of Erb’s palsy.
  • Medical history: Women are more likely to deliver a baby with Erb’s palsy if they have a history of delivering babies with this condition.
  • Shoulder dystocia: When a baby’s shoulders get stuck behind its mother’s pelvis, either before or during delivery, the baby will experience shoulder dystocia, which increases his risk of developing Erb’s palsy.
  • Small birth canals: The less room a baby has to pass through during his delivery, the more likely he/she will experience shoulder, spinal, and nerve damage during the birthing process.
  • Use of vacuum extraction during delivery: Vacuum extraction (the controversial method of using suction to pull a newborn from the birth canal during delivery) can result in nerve injuries and Erb’s palsy.

Types of Erb’s Palsy

There are several types of Erb’s palsy injuries that can be suffered by a child during delivery. The determination and diagnosis of the type of brachial plexus injury which has been sustained by a child is often difficult. The symptoms may be similar, even though the degree to which the nerve has been injured is very different.

Each type of Erb’s palsy refers to a different degree of damage to the brachial plexus nerve and could require different treatment for the child to minimize the impact the injury has throughout their life. The following are 3 of the most common types of Erb’s palsy:

  • Erb’s Palsy (most common variety) – Also known as Brachial Plexus Paralysis, is a condition that can affect 1 or all of the 5 primary nerves that supply movement and feeling to the arm. Each baby’s injury is individual. The paralysis can be partial or complete; the damage to each nerve can range from bruising to tearing. Some babies recover on their own; however, some may require specialist intervention.
  • Complete Brachial Plexus Palsy – Occurs when injury affects all 5 nerves in the brachial plexus. It results in paralysis and demonstrable sensory loss in the entire arm, from the shoulder down. In addition, Horner’s Syndrome, which causes eyelid droop, undilated pupil, and dormancy of sweat glands in the cheek of the affected side of the body, often accompanies the injury. Torticollis, a condition that causes a baby to face toward his good or uninjured side and prevents a baby from being able to face forward for any length of time, also accompanies complete brachial plexus palsy.
  • Klumpke’s Palsy – involves C7 and T-1 (cervical vertebra #7 and thoracic vertebra #1). There is a weakness of the wrist and finger flexors of the small muscles of the hand. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for this type of Erb’s palsy. However, early immobilization is followed by passive movements with a view of preventing contractures (fibrosis of connective tissue and skin, fascia, muscle, or joint capsule that prevents normal mobility of the related tissue or joint). A regimen of physical therapy and/or occupational therapy may be prescribed. Surgery is an option in severe cases and especially if a nerve has been severed.

Erb’s Palsy Tests

Tests such as an x-ray, electromyography (EMG), or a nerve conduction study (NCS) may be necessary to determine an Erb’s palsy injury. Since it is possible for an infant with Erb’s palsy to recover in time, it is necessary for the baby to receive frequent evaluations. Therapy such as exercises and slings or splints may be used as part of the recovery process.

Nerve tests – Nerve health tests for Erb’s palsy take a closer look at how responsive and sensitive the body’s nerves are in the neck, shoulder, and arm regions. In general, doctors will test the health of a patient’s nerves by using electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction study. These will identify how responsive nerves are, and how damaged the areas of the body in question are.

Diagnosing Erb’s Palsy

In most cases, those with Erb’s palsy develop it before or during birth, as fetal development problems or medical mistakes can cause nerve damage that results in the condition. Occasionally, however, adults may also be diagnosed with Erb’s palsy. Such cases typically occur following a sports-related injury or other types of accident.

When a doctor suspects a child may have Erb’s palsy, he or she will first evaluate the patient’s motor skills. A thorough medical history will be taken. Because many other disorders present symptoms similar to Erb’s palsy, the possibility of these conditions must be ruled out before a diagnosis can be confirmed.

A pediatrician will usually be the one to make the diagnosis of Erb’s palsy, based on the weakness of the arm and physical examination. A doctor may order an X-ray or other imaging study to learn whether there is any damage to the bones and joints of the neck and shoulder. The doctor may also do some tests to learn whether any nerve signals are present in the muscle of the upper arm. These tests may include an electromyogram (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS).

Because most newborns with Erb’s palsy recover on their own, the baby will be re-examined frequently to see if the nerves are recovering. It may take up to two years for complete recovery. During this time, the parent will be taught how to do exercises with the baby to protect the soft joints and to keep the baby’s arm in good condition.

Sometimes, the affected arm is noticeably smaller than the unaffected arm. This occurs, in part, because the arm is not used as much. This also occurs because normal nerves do have an effect on growth. Although the size difference is permanent, the arm will still grow until the child stops growing.

Prognosis

The site and type of brachial plexus injury determine the prognosis for individuals with Erb’s palsy. For avulsion and rupture injuries, there is no potential for recovery unless surgical reconnection is made in a timely manner. For neuroma and neuropraxia injuries, the potential for recovery varies.

The prognosis of Erb’s palsy refers to the likely outcome of the condition, which may include:

  • its duration
  • the chance of complications
  • probable outcomes
  • prospects for recovery
  • recovery period
  • survival rates
  • death rates

Additionally, other outcome possibilities can affect the overall prognosis of Erb’s palsy. Naturally, such forecast issues are by their nature unpredictable.

Based on the site of the Erb’s palsy injury, the type of injury will affect the prognosis given. In the most serious injuries (rupture and avulsion injuries) the ability for recovery is less likely, especially if surgical Erb’s palsy treatment for reconnection does not occur immediately.

All children will be affected in different ways, and the Erb’s palsy treatment must consider the individual to best determine a more specific prognosis. Even with continual treatment, some patients will never completely recover, though functioning can be greatly increased.

Erb’s Palsy Injuries

Some of the most common birth injuries result from Erb’s (or brachial) palsy. Unfortunately, Erb’s palsy is often the result of complications during child delivery itself, though it can sometimes occur before or some time after delivery.

The condition known as Erb’s palsy is caused by an injury to the brachial plexus—the nerves surrounding the shoulder. Erb’s palsy is not cerebral palsy, because it is not caused by brain injury or brain abnormalities. An Erb’s palsy injury is typically characterized by weakness or paralysis of the arm.

Ninety percent of all Erb’s palsy injury cases in children are the result of childbirth complications, particularly shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication that occurs when a child’s shoulders get impacted on a mother’s pelvic bones. An Erb’s palsy injury affects approximately 1 to 2 babies for every one thousand births. In many cases, an Erb’s palsy injury is a preventable condition.

The use of forceps, vacuum, or other tools to aid the baby through the birth canal may increase the chance that a baby will suffer from Erb’s Palsy.  Some studies have also found an association between some drugs used to induce labor and Erb’s palsy. However, the condition can also occur when conditions are optimal and birth appears to proceed with no complications.

Even with surgical intervention, many children with Erb’s palsy will continue to have some weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand indefinitely. There may be surgical procedures that can be performed at a later date that might improve function. Our Erb’s palsy lawyers will make sure that any medical malpractice settlement or reward includes payments for future treatment and therapies, as well as for pain and suffering.

Erb’s Palsy Statistics

The following are medical malpractice statistics from various sources about Erb’s palsy:

Medical malpractice lawsuit payment statistics for obstetrics malpractice in the USA:

  • 1,129 medical malpractice payments were made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US 2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • $497,121 was the mean medical malpractice payments made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • $265,000 was the median medical malpractice payments made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US 2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 15,516 medical malpractice payments were made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • $369,543 was the mean medical malpractice payments made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • $200,000 was the median medical malpractice payments made due to obstetrics related malpractice in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)

Medical malpractice lawsuit payment statistics for Obstetrics malpractice in the USA: There was a 5.56 year mean time delay between obstetrics related malpractice incident and payment in the US 2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)

  • There was a 4.63-year median time delay between obstetrics related malpractice incident and payment in the US 2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)

Medical malpractice lawsuit payment statistics for obstetrics malpractice and nursing malpractice in the USA:

  • 264 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against registered nurses in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 8 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse anesthetists in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 281 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 15 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse practitioners in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 0 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against advanced nurse practitioners in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)

Medical malpractice lawsuit statistics for obstetrics malpractice in the USA:

  • There were 8,428 obstetrics related primary malpractice acts or omissions in the US 1990-96 (The National Practitioner Data Bank Public Use File)
  • 7% of primary malpractice acts or omissions were obstetrics related in the US 1990-96 (The National Practitioner Data Bank Public Use File)
  • $2,824,280,036 in payments were made for obstetrics related primary malpractice acts or omissions in the US 1990-96 (The National Practitioner Data Bank Public Use File)

Medical malpractice lawsuit statistics for midwife malpractice in the USA:

  • 445 medical malpractice reports were made to the National Practitioner Databank regarding nurse-midwife in the US 1990-2004 (NPDB Summary Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 10 medical malpractice reports were made to the National Practitioner Databank regarding lay midwives in the US 1990-2004 (NPDB Summary Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 281 obstetrics related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 0 anesthesia-related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 28 diagnosis-related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 0 equipment or product-related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 8 monitoring related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 2 medication-related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 7 surgery related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 22 treatment-related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)
  • 0 IV and blood products related malpractice payment reports were made against nurse midwives in the US 1990-2002 (2002 Annual Report, National Practitioner Data Bank, US DHHS)

Treatment

Erb’s palsy treatment is critical in attempting to combat weakness in the affected extremities. Your child’s physician can help you develop an effective treatment program. Time is of the essence when beginning Erb’s palsy treatment, so don’t wait to see if it goes away on its own.

Treatment options for individuals with Erb’s palsy depend on the type and severity of the injury. Infants with milder injuries often heal on their own, but exercise and therapy are prescribed to ensure a full recovery. Regular follow-up appointments track an infant’s progress and ensure that the treatment plan is on the right track.

Infants with mild injuries who do not heal by 3 to 4 months of age or those with more severe injuries (such as avulsions or ruptures) need surgery to improve or correct nerve function. This surgery is best performed by a highly skilled team, and should ideally occur within 3 to 6 months after birth. After children turn 1 year old, nerve surgery may not be as successful.

In many cases, surgery restores useful shoulder, elbow, and hand function. Rehabilitation specialists and pediatricians assist in the post-surgical care, including prescription of physical therapy exercises and other recommended treatments to help the child function as normally as possible.

Erb’s Palsy Surgery Options

A pediatric neurosurgeon may recommend surgery to improve the arm functions of a child with Erb’s palsy. Often this surgery is more effective when done early in the child’s life. Some studies have shown that it may not be successful when done after the child is one year old.

Serious cases of Erb’s Palsy are often treated with exercise and physical therapy, and 80% of the time, babies born with the condition can achieve recovery without surgical intervention. If surgical intervention is required, it should be performed early on if at all. Best results occur when the child is 5 to 12 months of age. Beyond this age group, surgery may not be as effective.

Whether an Erb’s palsy injury requires surgery will depend on the cause and severity of a patient’s condition. When necessary (for more severe cases), Erb’s palsy surgery can include:

  • Nerve grafts – in which a damaged nerve is spliced with a healthy nerve taken from another part of the body
  • Tendon transfers – in which healthy tendons from another part of the body are relocated to the affected neck area to compensate for nerve damage.

Because nerve tissue grows slowly (about 1 inch/month), it can take years for patients to regain arm, shoulder, or hand movement and sensation following surgery.

Do I Have an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?

The Class Action Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury cases in all 50 states.

If your child or other loved one was diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.

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