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Erb’s palsy is a condition caused by damage to a set of nerves termed the brachial plexus. An Erb’s palsy settlement can provide families with the compensation needed if the child’s injury was caused by medical negligence. A settlement begins with a lawsuit and can help the family cover treatment, therapy, and other ongoing costs for their child’s care.
Erb’s Palsy and Disability
The brachial plexus is a group of five nerves that control the arm. The nerves provide sensation to all parts of the arm as well as coordinated movement to each muscle in the arm. They also connect smaller nerves in all parts of the arm to the spinal cord and run through the bones of the neck.
Forceful pulling on the arm, shoulder, neck, or head that stretches the head and shoulder away from each other can damage these nerves.
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In babies, this damage can easily occur during delivery. Any pulling motion that stretches the nerves to an excessive degree can cause damage.
For instance, a large baby or breech position requires manipulation by the doctor or midwife. If they pull too hard on the baby, they can stretch the head and neck and cause nerve damage.
Any prolonged or painful, complicated labor presents a higher risk of brachial plexus damage.
If the damage is enough to cause any loss of sensation in the affected arm, any numbness or paralysis, or even muscle weakness, the condition is called Erb’s palsy. For most babies, the damage is just mild stretching, and it heals within a few months.
Some babies will need surgery, though, to repair torn or separated nerves. Tears and avulsions—complete separation of the nerve from the spinal cord—are typically never fully restored, and these children will live with a disability.
The cause of Erb’s palsy is simple: the nerves get stretched and damaged. However, determining who, if anyone is to blame, is sometimes trickier.
When medical negligence can be proven, when a doctor or other caregiver’s actions or failure to act can be shown to have caused the damage to the nerves, parents of the injured baby may be able to win an Erb’s palsy settlement.
Medical negligence or malpractice can cause Erb’s palsy in several ways. Sometimes it occurs because a doctor failed to recognize that labor and delivery would be difficult and complicated.
If the doctor had realized it, they could have made the critical decision to perform a Cesarean section, which most likely would have prevented the nerve damage that caused permanent Erb’s palsy.
The other most common instances of malpractice causing Erb’s palsy are specific actions the doctor or other person delivering the baby takes to get it through the birth canal. This may include pulling too hard on an arm or head.
For instance, the baby’s head may get stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. If the doctor pulls too hard on the arm to try to release the baby, that action can cause brachial plexus damage. Instrument use, such as the use of forceps or vacuum extractors, can cause damage as well if misused.
Getting an Erb’s Palsy Settlement
If you gave birth to a baby that now has Erb’s palsy, you are facing the fact that your child may be living with a disability for the rest of his life. This means having the expense of surgery, possibly multiple surgeries, physical therapy, assistive devices, and potentially emotional therapy as well.
Living with a disability isn’t easy. It presents many physical and emotional challenges.
A settlement is monetary compensation given to a plaintiff from a defendant after filing a lawsuit. An Erb’s palsy settlement is compensation that a child receives from a doctor, other medical caregivers, hospital, or medical center because of malpractice that caused the condition.
A lawsuit over your child’s injuries is more likely to be settled out of court than to go to trial, as the latter involves more time and costs.
Before resorting to litigation, your lawyer and the hospital’s representatives would likely negotiate a settlement.
Compensation from an Erb’s Palsy Settlement
If you decide to go forward with a lawsuit, and you and your representation can prove medical malpractice contributed to your child’s injury, you stand a good chance of winning a settlement.
The amount you may receive will depend on the extent of the damage, the actions or inactions that caused the injury, and your child’s prognosis.
For example, one girl received a $1.25 million settlement for a brachial plexus injury at birth that left her permanently disabled in one arm with restricted movement.
The compensation that you may receive from an Erb’s palsy settlement could amount to enough to ensure that your child won’t have to worry about expenses in the future.
You may be eligible to receive money that covers medical expenses for your child, adaptive devices for the home, and your child’s school.
You could also get compensation for lost wages and even money covering emotional trauma.
If you hope to get an Erb’s palsy settlement for your child, make sure you take the proper steps. Not filing on time or making mistakes with documents can cost your child the money she needs for her future.
Consult with a lawyer, one that is experienced in birth injury cases, as soon after you realize the extent of your child’s injuries as possible. This will ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines and that all witnesses to the birth will remember the details.
Let your lawyer help you and make a case for your child, and you stand the best chance of success in receiving an Erb’s palsy settlement.
- Erb's Palsy - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). ScienceDirect.com | Science, health and medical journals, full text articles and books.
Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/erbs-palsy
- Erb’s palsy – Who is to blame and what will happen? (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). National Institutes of Health.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724163/
- Woman Used Daughter’s Medical Settlement for Liposuction, Prosecutors Say. (2016, February 26). The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia.
Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/nyregion/woman-used-daughters-medical-settlement-for-liposuction-prosecutors-say.html?_r=0