A large number of Erb’s palsy (brachial plexus injury) cases are caused by medical negligence by an obstetrician or other health provider during childbirth. Parents whose infant or young child has been diagnosed with upper arm paralysis caused by shoulder dystocia may be able to seek damages to pay for treatments and care that otherwise would not be available. Speak with an Erb’s palsy attorney today to understand your rights and help you get the money you need to care for your child.
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Why Parents Are Filing Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits
Erb’s palsy (also called Erb-Duchenne palsy) is an uncommon form of paralysis caused by damage to the upper trunk of cervical nerves attached to the spinal cord, known as the brachial plexus. These nerves (C5-C8) control the upper arm muscles, including the deltoids, biceps and brachialis. Erb’s palsy is distinct from Klumpke’s palsy, which damages nerves that control the lower arm and hand.
Birth Injury Leading to Erb’s Palsy
The most common cause of Erb’s palsy is shoulder dystocia, which happens when the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped by the mother’s pelvic bone. Obstetricians should understand and be aware of the risk factors that can lead to dystocia, including:
- Large babies
- Small mothers
- Prolonged labor
- Certain health conditions, including obesity and gestational diabetes
Women who have a prior history of shoulder dystocia during childbirth are more likely to experience it with subsequent births, as well.
If the risk of shoulder dystocia is high, doctors should recommend a cesarean section (c-section) instead of a vaginal delivery to avoid potential birth trauma. Doctors and other medical staff who fail to recognize the symptoms of shoulder dystocia or who do not recommend a c-section may be held liable for medical malpractice. Erb’s palsy claims filed by parents are almost always related to negligence or another form of malpractice.
Symptoms Mentioned in Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits
- Inability to raise the arm
- Extension and pronation of the forearm
- Developmental impediment
- Muscle atrophy
- Poor circulation
- Susceptibility to infection
- Loss of feeling
How an Erb’s Palsy Lawyer Can Help
A brachial plexus injury attorney can help you receive compensation to pay for treatment of your child’s injury. Compensation can come from several avenues, including:
- Medical insurance: Your attorney can help convince your insurer to pay claims they previously rejected.
- Social Security Disability: If your child’s injury leads to a disability, your lawyer can help you file for Social Security benefits for ongoing care.
- Birth Injury Lawsuit: Erb’s palsy brought on as the result of birth trauma could be grounds for a birth injury lawsuit.
Experienced Erb’s palsy lawyers will offer a free case review to help you determine your best chances of receiving compensation for your child’s paralysis.
Erb’s Palsy Settlements and Verdicts
Unfortunately, cases of Erb’s palsy happen all over the United States – statistically, 1 or 2 babies in every 1,000 will have a brachial plexus nerve injury leading to Erb’s palsy. As a result, dozens or hundreds of brachial plexus palsy lawsuits are filed each year, some of which result in settlements or favorable verdicts for the plaintiff. Here are a few notable stories.
Alex Sims – Las Vegas, Nevada
After being induced for labor, Sims overheard the on-call doctor, Dr. Frank DeLee, talking about attending happy hour (her regular doctor was out of town). According to video of the birth, conversation with the nurses in the room confirmed that the doctor had just come from a bar, where he was drinking tequila and possibly other alcoholic beverages. In addition, Dr. DeLee was wearing bermuda shorts and no shoes. During the birth, Sims’ son Jason suffered a brachial plexus injury, causing permanent Erb’s palsy. Sadly, this was not the first time Dr. DeLee had caused problems, as Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners records showed he had paid more than $2.7 million in total to at least six other families due to similar birth injuries.
Libbey Bryson – Flint, Michigan
In 2013, Bryson won $12.9 million from a jury verdict in her case against Genesys Regional Medical Center over her daughter’s brachial plexus injury. The injury, which led to Erb’s palsy, required Bryson’s infant daughter to undergo multiple surgeries when she was six months old and three years old, neither of which were able to restore use of the affected arm. During labor, the child’s shoulder became stuck on Bryson’s pubic bone while exiting the birth canal, and in her lawsuit, Bryson claimed the doctors used excessive force to free her. Instead, Bryson argued, the medical providers should have ordered a cesarean section or used another, safer technique. The jury ultimately agreed with her, although the total amount of the award was later reduced to about $3 million, the bulk of which the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld in April 2018 after Genesys appealed the verdict.
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Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit FAQs
Find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Erb’s palsy lawsuits below.
Is My Family Eligible to File an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?
The vast majority of Erb’s palsy cases affecting young children are related to injuries sustained during childbirth. While circumstances vary from person to person, you may be able to file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit on behalf of your child if you meet the following criteria:
- Your child’s paralysis stems from an injury caused during childbirth
- The statute of limitations has not run out in your state – laws vary greatly from state to state, so you consult with someone who is familiar with the rules in your location
Note that you may be able to get compensation even if your child does not experience permanent nerve damage. Damages can be awarded for pain and suffering actually experienced, along with medical costs like surgery, physical therapy, and prescriptions.
During your free consultation, your lawyer will help you understand the criteria for a successful lawsuit. He or she will also help you research similar cases and collect evidence for your own case, if you decide to file.
What Compensation Is Eligible for Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits?
Cases of Erb’s palsy are treated as medical malpractice, allowing patients to seek a number of different economic and noneconomic damages:
- Medical expenses, including prescriptions, surgeries, and other medical care
- Therapy costs, including physical, occupational, or psychological
- Lost wages of the caregiver (parent or other guardian)
- Pain and suffering, whether physical, mental, or emotional
- Lower quality of life, such as an inability to enjoy certain activities
It is important to keep a hold of receipts, invoices, insurance statements of benefit, and other records of your child’s medical history related to the Erb’s palsy diagnosis. If you travel to see specialists, you should also keep records of your travel expenses, including transport, lodging, and food.
For an estimate of how much you could receive from an Erb’s palsy settlement or verdict, discuss your case with an experienced law firm today.
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