A brachial plexus injury is most often caused during childbirth, and this type of injury has the potential to cause lasting damage and disability. The injury is caused to nerves that control the arms and resulting disabilities can range from a lack of sensation in the arm to muscle weakness to partial or complete paralysis of an arm.
In many instances a brachial plexus injury is preventable. Tugging, pulling, and inappropriate use of tools during delivery can cause this type of injury. With the right lawyer, you may be able to make a strong case that your doctor or other medical provider was negligent in causing your child’s injury and disability. The resulting brachial plexus injury settlement could provide your family and your child with the compensation that will pay for medical bills and more.
The Brachial Plexus and Injuries
A brachial plexus is a group of five nerves that connect the arm to the spinal cord. They provide all parts of the arm with sensation and the ability to use the muscles in the arm to move it. The nerves are damaged when they get overstretched. The severity of the damage may range from stretching to tears and even being completely pulled from the spinal cord.
The more severe the damage, the more lasting the disability will be. If a newborn’s brachial plexus is just overstretched, it may suffer some side effects, but the nerves will likely heal within a few months and leave no permanent disability. When the damage is more severe and includes tears and rips, even corrective surgery cannot typically restore full function to the arm. These children will face lifelong disabilities.
How the Brachial Plexus Gets Damaged
The stretching that can injure the brachial plexus nerves most often occurs during childbirth. The head and shoulder of the baby may get forced away from each other, which causes the neck to stretch. The nerves run through the neck, so this stretching motion can damage them. If the stretching is hard enough, it can even rip the nerves. This kind of damage occurs when the baby’s arm, shoulder, or lower body is pulled too hard coming out of the birth canal, while the head remains inside.
In too many cases of brachial plexus injury, the situation could have been prevented with better judgment on the part of the doctor delivering the baby. Risk factors for such an injury include a long and difficult labor, a high birth weight, and a breech birth position. Doctors are supposed to be monitoring for these situations and making an important decision about a Cesarean section to avoid complications. When they make the wrong decision or fail to recognize a complication, an injury can be the result.
Another way in which a doctor or midwife may be negligent in a brachial plexus injury is in pulling too hard on a baby being delivered. This happens when there are complications and when the baby’s head gets stuck in the pelvis or birth canal. The doctor may tug on the baby to get it out and to avoid asphyxiation, with the unintended consequence of injuring the nerves. The doctor may also use tools like forceps or vacuum extractors that similarly place too much force on the baby.
What is a Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement?
If you believe that your disabled child suffered a brachial plexus injury because of medical malpractice, you may be in a good position to receive a brachial plexus injury settlement. A settlement starts with a lawsuit. You have the right to file a lawsuit against the doctor, midwife, or hospital you believe to be responsible for your child’s injury. With a lawyer experienced in birth injury cases, you can put together the evidence that will prove that your child will suffer a disability because of the action or inaction of your medical caregiver.
Your case, if made well with strong evidence, could result in a settlement for your child. This is a cash amount, which may be awarded by a judge or jury if your case goes to trial or in a settlement negotiation between lawyers. The amount of the settlement will depend on the severity of your child’s injury and the extent of the medical malpractice or negligence.
What Can a Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement Cover?
If your child has suffered severe brachial plexus damage, you could be facing a lot of expenses now and in the future. Your child may be living with a lifelong disability that causes paralysis in the arm, pain, loss of sensation, or muscle weakness. The brachial plexus injury settlement that you seek could potentially cover a number of expenses associated with the injury:
- Surgeries to try to correct the damage
- Ongoing physical therapy
- Assistive devices, like braces and slings
- Educational interventions
- Mental and emotional therapy
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of wages from the need to stay home with your child
A brachial plexus injury settlement may range from a small amount to cover corrective surgeries, to large amounts that will cover all costs that are expected over a child’s lifetime. How much you are able to get depends on many factors.
An Example of a Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement
There are many examples of parents winning brachial plexus injury settlements for their disabled children. Some are small, while others are very large. One such example was awarded in 2003. The parents of a young girl born in Evanston, Illinois, brought a suit against the hospital, accusing the doctors of using excessive traction during delivery. The baby presented as breech, meaning her bottom was coming out of the birth canal first. The doctors should have recognized this and ordered a Cesarean section.
Because they didn’t, they had to pull on the baby to get her out and this pulling resulted in serious damage to her nerves. She now faces lifelong disabilities, ongoing physical therapy, and multiple surgeries. The family won a $20 million settlement, which will help that child cover the costs that she will face for the rest of her life.
If you believe that your child is owed a brachial plexus settlement, you can hire a lawyer to help you take the next steps. An experienced lawyer will know if you have a strong case and will be able to help you make that case in front of a judge or jury if a negotiated settlement proves to be inadequate.