When a baby is born, there are many possible complications that can result in short-term problems or long-term disabilities. A brachial plexus injury, damage to nerves that control the arm, is one of these potential complications. If these nerves get injured by unnecessary stretching, the results may be a mild and temporary disability in the arm, or permanent paralysis, weakness, and loss of sensation. The severity and permanence of the disability depends on the severity of the damage to the nerves.
You can make a brachial plexus injury claim for compensation if you believe your child was unnecessarily injured during the delivery process. If you think the doctor or midwife made a bad decision or pulled too hard on your baby, then you could have a strong case that would win your child compensation. That money could help your child with expenses for the rest of her life, and provide justice in the face of obvious medical malpractice.
What is the Brachial Plexus?
The brachial plexus is a set of five major nerves that originate in the spinal cord. From there they run through the neck and down to the arm. Here they attach to smaller nerves that run throughout the arm, from the shoulder all the way down to the fingers. The brachial plexus is the bundle of nerves that supplies each arm with the ability to sense touch, pain, and other sensations, and to move. If these nerves are damaged, those sensations and the ability to move the muscles of the arm may be disrupted, either temporarily or permanently.
Brachial Plexus Palsies
The result of damage to the brachial plexus may 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 in the arm these symptoms occur depends on which of the five brachial plexus nerves were damaged.
When the nerves damaged effect 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, which is called a total or complete brachial palsy. Erb’s palsy is the most common of the brachial palsies. Sometimes, any palsy affecting any part of the arm to any degree is referred to as brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy.
These palsies can be treated after the injury that occurs at birth to cause them, but treatment does not always reverse all damage. For mild injuries, natural healing and sometimes a little bit of physical therapy is enough to correct the damage. For more serious 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 being 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 and may be eligible for a brachial plexus claim for compensation.
This is because in instances in which there is some complication or difficulty during labor and delivery, it is the responsibility of the medical team to recognize that potential complication and take the necessary steps to avoid it. This often means making the choice to order a Cesarean section. If that choice is not made, the baby may be injured during a vaginal birth.
What happens to cause the injury is stretching of the baby’s neck. If the 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 like a vacuum extractor and this uses to much pulling force, the result may also be damaged brachial plexus nerves.
The Costs Associated with Brachial Plexus Injuries
A brachial plexus injury can result in high costs to the parents and even to the child later in life in the case of permanent disability. A severe injury may require multiple, expensive surgeries to try to correct the damage. Physical therapy may also be needed, regularly and over a long 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 be facing the costs of adaptive devices and medications as well.
In addition to these more obvious costs, there are others that are less tangible. You and your child face emotional pain and suffering because of a permanent disability. 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 this professional guide your next steps to give you the best chance of winning compensation.
How to Win a Brachial Plexus Claim for Compensation
In order to win a claim and to get the compensation for your child, you need to prove several things: that your medical caregiver was responsible for your care and your child’s care before and during delivery, that your caregiver made a mistake, and that this mistake led to the injury and disability. If you can prove these things, you can win 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 are able to 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 with a disability.