Improper delivery techniques or the failure to properly measure the size of a full-term fetus are common causes for injuries to a child’s shoulder and arm during childbirth. The pressure put upon the child’s neck and shoulder by a physician, forceps or vacuum extractor can quickly damage the delicate nerves that control the arm. This is referred to as a brachial plexus injury that can leave the child with nerve damage and a condition called Erb’s Palsy.
Causes Of Birthing Brachial Plexus And Erb’s Palsy
Brachial is a term that is used to refer to the arm and Plexus is used when discussing a network of nerves. The brachial plexus is the nerves that control the use of the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand muscles. Brachial plexus injuries can happen from many different types of injuries throughout life, however, in birthing it is often due to poor techniques or preparation by the delivering doctor.
When a child is being delivered, there are several factors that can contribute to a brachial plexus injury. The babies weight and size needs to be evaluated by the doctor to ensure that the birth canal is wide enough to accommodate the child. Also, breech deliveries and prolonged labor can factor into higher risk for brachial plexus injuries.
The most common cause of brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy is shoulder dystocia. When the shoulder of the baby becomes wedged behind the pelvic bone of the mother, the child must be carefully dislodged. When excess force is used to pull the head down the birth canal, the neck and shoulder can be stretched, causing a brachial plexus injury. The combination of the shoulder wedge and excess force is the cause of most of these injuries.
Erb’s Palsy Disabilities
When a severe brachial plexus injury occurs, it may result in Erb’s Palsy. This particular form of the injury refers to loss of function of both the upper and lower arm. When a child is delivered and the trauma of the birth has caused Erb’s Palsy, the arm or arms affected will often be bent at the elbow and held against the body. The child may have limited grip and have trouble moving the arms affected. Some children recover from the injury in several months, however, others are not as lucky and have permanent disabilities including:
- Paralysis. Children with Erb’s Palsy may have partial or full paralysis of the affected arms. If the root of the nerve is completely separated from the spinal cord, they may have no function in the arm at all.
- Weakness. Nerves that are damaged can cause weakness in the arm, wrist and hands. This can also cause atrophy over time.
- Muscle contractions. Abnormal muscle contractions can occur, causing a tightening of the muscles that may be permanent.
These disabilities can make life difficult for the child and cause them pain and discomfort for the rest of their lives. For the family, it can mean excessive medical costs for specialized treatments and care. When these injuries are due to the error of the delivering physician or midwife, it only reasonable that they compensate the family and child for the pain, suffering and large medical costs that they must bare.
How are Brachial Plexus Caeses Valued in Illinois?
In the following section, we summarize cases involving brachial plexus injuries from various jurisdictions across Illinois. This will help you see their complexity and how these venues evaluate these cases.
$850,000 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This Illinois lawsuit was brought on behalf of a newborn. The case was filed in Winnebago County. Her lawyers contended in the complaint that her doctors used too much force during delivery. The result of that was a brachial plexus injury. That left the child with a weakened arm and shoulder. Also, she had scapular winging which had to be treated. In the future, she would endure disability, discomfort, and pain because of it all. They merged all of these into one large claim when seeking compensation. That helped them when seeking a significant value from a jury. For their part, the defendants weren’t able to muster much of a response. The facts were bare. Had excessive force not been used, the child would have had a brachial plexus injury and everything that came with that. This made a settlement more likely than a verdict. All sides settled for $850,000. That sum came from the doctor personally. The value totaled all of the kid’s past, present, and future pain and costs from the incident.
$2,814,338 ILLINOIS VERDICT.
The parents of a child filed this case. The kid was born at Northwestern Hospital in 2007. He had brachial plexus. The reason that problem arose involved a fair amount of controversy. The child’s parents made the case that he became stuck in the mom’s birth canal. Then, he got shoulder dystocia because of that blockage. At that point, they continued, the doctor didn't perform the standard maneuver to remove him. For instance, reasonable doctors would have selected a C-section to resolve the issue. He did not and they boy got brachial plexus because of it. That condition meant damage to his arm and nerves. The family already spent north of $100,000 cleaning up this accident. They argued they’d have to spend more in the future. They packed more into this claim value as well: disability, future pain, future costs, etc. The defendants failed to see their error. They replied that they operated within standard guidelines and that event was a natural occurrence that couldn’t be avoided. However, the jury disagreed. They awarded the plaintiffs $2,814,338 in damages.
$1,600,000 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
Despite the simple nature of the events involved here, the effect was long-term and severe. The child was born with brachial plexus. This produced permanent damage to his nerves and the area around his shoulder and arm. It happened because the doctor who delivered him used traction. Apparently, he used too much traction and that force caused the injuries. The child’s parents brought a claim to seek compensation for this harm. They calculated over $200,000 in medical bills. They also projected sizable long-term costs, pain, and changed circumstances due to the accident. The value of their claim was north of $1 million in their opinion. This should all be put on the shoulders of the defendants they reasoned. The two entered discovery and that went on for several months. However, the matter never got to trial. Medical malpractice issues like this are fairly black and white. The area of fault was clear, it rested on the defendants. The family received $1.6 million in settlement.
$600,000 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This incident actually involved the U.S. government. That’s because the federal government gave money that paid for the doctors’ salaries. The events occurred in 2012. The location was Mt. Sinai Hospital. A woman presented there for the delivery of her child. Subsequently, she claimed the doctors aggressively took the baby out which broke his clavicle and gave him brachial plexus. The doctors argued they didn’t know the kid had shoulder dystocia. Also, they claimed there was no way for them to know that. Anyways, the child would have reduced functioning in his arm and long-term pain. The plaintiffs proceeded without hesitation towards trial. Eventually, the defendants saw that as futile. All sides settled privately for $600,000. The government paid $350,000 and the hospital paid $250,000. The child’s damages were pain, disability, ad medical bills (about $70,000) among other things. This summed up to give them the case value that they obtained in the settlement.Seeking Legal Action For Brachial Plexus & Erb’s Palsy
We understand how frightening it can be to learn your child has been injured during their birth. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, we have worked with many families who have suffered with their child as they face an unknown future and possible disabilities due to a medical error. Our team of Chicago birth injury attorneys works with medical experts and counselors to determine the full extent of medical care that will be needed for our clients that have children that have suffered brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s Palsy. If your child was injured during birth, please contact us for a free consultation to discuss the possibility of obtaining compensation to help with your child’s medical treatment and care.
Here are some useful resources for families facing a situation with a child who has Erb’s palsy or a shoulder injury at birth: