Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that occurs in one to two out of 1,000 births. Because it occurs during the birth process itself, when a physician is almost always in attendance, in most cases Erb’s palsy is the result of a decision made or an action taken (or not taken), by the doctor in charge. For this reason, if your infant is suffering from Erb’s palsy, you may be able to file a lawsuit for medical negligence. In order to explore this option, you should consult with an experienced birth injury attorney. In New Jersey, there is no finer medical malpractice firm than Nagel Rice.
With offices in Roseland, New Jersey and New York City, New York, we have an outstanding track record of winning hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. More than that, we pride ourselves on providing compassion along with excellent legal representation. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin investigating your case and, if appropriate, start fighting to obtain the compensation you deserve.
What is Erb’s palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a birth injury affecting a group of nerves and blood vessels around the shoulder (brachial plexus). This injury results in weakness or even paralysis of the affected arm. The pressure exerted when the infant’s shoulders become lodged in the mother’s pelvis (shoulder dystocia) during the birth process and have to be pulled, can negatively impact the baby’s nerves. Sensation and mobility of the infant’s arms, hands and fingers may be partially or totally lost. Some infants may be able to wiggle their fingers, but unable to move their upper arms or shoulders. The severity and duration of Erb’s palsy vary widely from one infant to another.
Risk Factors for Erb’s Palsy
Though Erb’s palsy is relatively rare, all doctors (and patients) should be aware that the risk of its occurrence increases with:
- High birth weight infant
- Short or overweight mother
- Maternal diabetes
- Contracted or flat pelvis of the mother
- Extended pregnancy (over 40 weeks)
- Drawn out second-stage labor (more than 1 hour)
- Baby in a breech position
If any of these factors is present, the doctor should take extra precautions and be prepared for the possibility that a Cesarean section may be necessary. Otherwise, the sideways pull of the infant’s head and neck through the birth canal (particularly when the baby is large and the mother is small) can damage the nerves in the infant’s shoulders and upper arms. This can happen as the baby’s shoulders are stretched during a head-first delivery or when the baby’s arms are in a raised position during a breech birth.
When is Erb’s palsy the result of medical negligence?
In a great many cases, Erb’s palsy is the result of a misjudgment on the part of the obstetrician. This is why it’s essential to contact the well-schooled attorneys at Nagel Rice for a free consultation. We will listen carefully to the details of your case and have medical records of the birth evaluated by doctors with expertise in related fields so we can determine whether your child’s birth injury could have been avoided by a more knowledgeable, experienced, attentive or skilled obstetrician.
While gentle pulling does not cause permanent brachial plexus injury, the greater the pressure applied, the greater the risk of Erb’s palsy. At times, the doctor will opt for an emergency C-section, but sometimes the problem occurs too late during the birthing process for this to occur. Even though in many cases the obstetrician may be sued because Erb’s palsy resulted from a medical mistake or misjudgment, there are also times when the doctor had no choice but to pull the infant hard enough to extricate it quickly. If the baby is in danger of suffocating, for example, the doctor must pull it out in order to save its life. In such cases, the doctor may be determined not to be negligent even though his or her actions had an adverse reaction.
Medical Mistakes that may Make the Doctor Guilty of Negligence in Cases of Erb’s Palsy
If your child was damaged during an avoidable birth injury, we are more likely to win your case. Cases of medical mistakes that cause Erb’s palsy include:
- Doctor failed to take proper measurements of fetus’s weight before birth
- Doctor failed to manipulate the fetus into an easier position for the birth
- Doctor failed to plan for a C-section when the procedure first seemed necessary
- Doctor failed to prevent infant’s shoulder from becoming trapped during childbirth
- Doctor used excessive force during delivery
- Doctor did not acting responsibly when complications arose
Treatment and Prognosis of Erb’s Palsy
Fortunately, many cases of Erb’s palsy resolve on their own within approximately 3 months; others respond well to treatment — such as gentle massage, range-of-motion exercises, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy — and resolve in under a year. In other cases, surgery may be a workable remedy and is typically performed before the baby is 2 years old. In worst case scenarios, the child may suffer lifelong loss of sensation and mobility.
How Nagel Rice Can Help
Our astute medical malpractice attorneys know the ins and outs of personal injury negotiation and litigation. Not only will we examine your child’s medical records with great care, we will have medical experts study them as well. Such experts can appear as valuable witnesses if we take your case to trial. Once you become a client of Nagel Rice, obtaining justice for you becomes our top priority. We will fight with great energy to get you the damages you deserve, whether through negotiation or in the courtroom. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for any and all of the following:
- Medical, hospital, pharmaceutical and rehabilitative expenses
- Lost income while you take time to care for your child
- Specialized childcare services
- Physical, occupational, and psychological therapy
- Alterations to your home to make it more accessible for your child
- Devices to assist your child in navigating with her/his disability
- Physical pain and emotional suffering
- Your child’s loss of ability to engage in normal childhood activities
Spend your time helping your child overcome her/his challenges and let Nagel Rice take care of seeking legal reimbursement for your family’s trauma. We have won over $300 million in damages for our medical malpractice clients and nothing would please us more than winning you the compensation you and your child deserve. Contact us by phone or through our website and let us Nagel Rice fight your battle.