Erb’s palsy, which is also known as a brachial plexus injury and by other names, is a condition most often occurring in babies at birth. The condition is caused by damage to a set of nerves termed the brachial plexus. This damage affects the arm as the nerves provide movement and sensation to the arm. Most babies born with this damage and condition heal naturally. They just need time and maybe a little physical therapy.
The rest of the babies born with Erb’s palsy do not completely recover and do not heal naturally. These babies face a lifelong disability that may be moderate or could be as severe as the complete paralysis of one arm. Injuries to the nerves that cause Erb’s palsy may happen by accident, but too often they occur because of some degree of medical negligence. An Erb’s palsy settlement can provide families with the compensation needed to cope with this medical condition. You can seek a settlement too if you think your child’s Erb’s palsy was the result of poor medical care.
Erb’s Palsy and Disability
The brachial plexus is a group of five nerves that control the arm. They provide sensation to all parts of the arm as well as coordinated movement to each muscle in the arm. They connect smaller nerves in all parts of the arm to the spinal cord and the run through the bones of the neck. Any pulling motion on the arm, shoulder, neck, or head, that stretches the head and shoulder away from each other could potentially damage these nerves.
In babies this damage can easily be caused during delivery. Any kind of pulling motion that stretches the nerves to an excessive degree can cause the damage. For instance, a baby that is large or is presenting as breech, may be pulled on during delivery in such a way that the head and neck are stretched and the nerves damaged. Any long or difficult, complicated labor presents a greater 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 repaired 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 lack of actions can be shown to have caused the damage to the nerves, the parents may be able to win an Erb’s palsy settlement for their child.
Medical negligence or malpractice can cause Erb’s palsy in a number of ways. Sometimes it occurs because a doctor failed to recognize that a labor and delivery were going to be difficult and complicated. If the doctor had recognized it, he or she could have made the important 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 the damage as well if used inappropriately.
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 possibly 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 when a lawsuit is filed. An Erb’s palsy settlement is compensation that a child receives from a doctor, other medical caregiver, 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 a trial it is likely that your lawyer and the hospital’s representatives would 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 injury, 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. In another case a child received $2.1 million after her parents proved that the midwife pulled on her arm too hard as she came out of the birth canal.
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, your own lost wages from staying home to care for your child, and even money that covers your and your child’s emotional trauma.
If you hope to get an Erb’s palsy settlement for your child, make sure you take the rights 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 the case for your child and you stand the best chance of success in receiving an Erb’s palsy settlement.