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When a baby is born, complications or mistakes can result in a brachial plexus injury, damage to nerves that control the arm. Brachial plexus injuries can be mild or severe and lifelong. You can make a brachial plexus injury claim for compensation if you believe your child suffered a preventable injury due to medical negligence.
What Is the Brachial Plexus?
The brachial plexus is a set of five major nerves originating in the spinal cord. From there, they run through the neck and down to the arm. The nerves attach to smaller nerves that run throughout the arm, from the shoulder to the fingers.
The brachial plexus is the bundle of nerves that supply each division with the ability to sense touch, pain, and other sensations, and to move. Damage to the brachial plexus can cause loss of sensation, weakness, and paralysis, either temporarily or permanently.
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Brachial Plexus Palsies
Brachial plexus damage can range from mild to severe disability in one arm. The disability may be temporary or permanent. When the disability is permanent, treatment may help lessen the severity of the disability.
The resulting symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include loss of sensation, lack of movement or paralysis, and pain or weakness. Where the symptoms occur depends on which of the five brachial plexus nerves were damaged.
When the damaged nerves affect the upper arm, the resulting disability is called Erb’s palsy. This is the most common type of brachial plexus palsy.
When the lower arm is affected, it is called Klumpke’s palsy.
Damage to all five nerves may cause symptoms in the entire arm, called total or complete brachial palsy. Sometimes, any paralysis affecting any part of the arm to any degree is referred to as brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy.
Treatments are available for brachial plexus injuries, but treatment does not always reverse all damage. For mild injuries, natural healing and sometimes some physical therapy are enough to correct the damage.
For more severe injuries, such as tears to the nerves, surgery may be required, along with long-term physical therapy and other types of rehabilitation.
How Medical Malpractice Can Cause Brachial Plexus Injuries
Brachial plexus injuries, and the resulting palsies, most often occur during childbirth, although any accident in anyone can cause such an injury.
Babies born in the breech position, during a long and difficult labor, or with an unusually high birth weight are at a greater risk of suffering a brachial plexus injury.
It is the responsibility of the medical team to recognize potential complications that could cause brachial plexus injuries. In turn, they should take the necessary steps to avoid it.
If a doctor pulls too hard on the baby’s arm, for instance, while the baby’s head is still in the pelvis, this can cause stretching in the neck that damages the nerves.
If the doctor uses a tool such as a vacuum extractor and uses too much pulling force, it could result in damaged brachial plexus nerves.
The Costs Associated with Brachial Plexus Injuries
A brachial plexus injury often results in high costs to the parents and even to the child later in life. A severe injury could require multiple, expensive surgeries. A child may also need physical therapy for an extended period of time.
As a parent, you may be forced to stop working to care for your disabled child, which means lost earnings for the family. You may also be facing the costs of adaptive devices and medications.
In addition to these more obvious costs, others are less tangible. You and your child could face emotional pain. Your child may also experience physical pain throughout her life. Some children and even their parents in these situations need emotional therapy.
How to Make a Brachial Plexus Claim for Compensation
You, as a parent, have the right to make a brachial plexus claim for compensation to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that you get justice for the injury caused to your baby during childbirth.
If you believe your medical caregivers made mistakes with lasting consequences, this claim may be justified. The first step you need to take is to speak to a lawyer as soon after the injury as possible.
Choose a lawyer with a proven track record winning compensation for birth injuries.
Let a qualified professional guide your next steps to give you the best chance of winning compensation.
How to Win a Brachial Plexus Claim for Compensation
To win a claim and get compensation for your child, you need to prove several things. First, you’ll need to prove that your medical caregiver was responsible for your care and your child’s care before and during delivery.
You’ll also need to prove that your medical professional made a mistake and that it led to injury and disability. If you can prove these things, you have a good chance of winning a brachial plexus claim for compensation.
That compensation may come in the form of a negotiated settlement if your lawyer and the hospital’s lawyers can agree on an amount.
It may also come from a trial and a jury’s decision. This may happen if your lawyer does not accept a settlement or if the hospital denies any compensation.
Either way, that compensation will go a long way toward helping your child live a better life.
- Brachial Plexus Injury in Newborns: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). MedlinePlus - Health Information from the National Library of Medicine.
Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001395.htm
- Indirect Cost of Traumatic Brachial Plexus Injuries in the United States. (n.d). American Society for Surgery of the Hand.
Retrieved from: https://www.jhandsurg.org/article/S0363-5023(18)30992-4/fulltext