When a newborn sustains a brachial plexus injury that leads to Erb’s palsy, parents may question whether they should find an attorney to help them file a lawsuit. Since a large number of brachial plexus palsy cases are caused by negligence on the part of the doctor, or another form of medical malpractice, having someone who can provide legal advice and help seek compensation is extremely important.
If your infant is diagnosed with upper arm paralysis caused by shoulder dystocia or another type of birth injury, you may be able to seek damages to help 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.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
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.
The acute symptoms of Erb’s palsy are an inability to raise the arm, and extension and pronation (turning) of the forearm. If left untreated, Erb’s palsy can impede development of the affected arm, causing further complications, such as muscle atrophy, poor circulation, and an increased susceptibility to infection. Severe birth injury cases can cause individuals to lose all use and feeling in their arm.
Birth Injury Leading to Erb’s Palsy
The most common cause of Erb’s palsy is birth injury caused by shoulder dystocia, or distress during a difficult birth when the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped by the mother’s pelvic bone. Obstetricians should understand the conditions that can lead to dystocia, including large babies, small mothers, prolonged labor, or certain health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Women who have a prior history of shoulder dystocia during childbirth are more likely to experience it with subsequent births, as well.
In cases where the risk of shoulder dystocia are 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.
Treatment Costs for Erb’s Palsy
Repairing damage to the brachial plexus nerves that cause Erb’s palsy can be expensive. While some cases of the paralysis can heal on their own, restoring function to the affected arm, many babies will require physical therapy, and possibly even surgery, such as a nerve or tendon transfer. Severe cases may require neurosurgery to repair an avulsion (complete detachment).
These medical costs can add up quickly, as can ongoing care related to the birth injury, even when the child is covered by health insurance. Parents should not have to pay these costs all on their own, especially if the Erb’s palsy came about as a result of negligence or another form of medical malpractice.
How an Erb’s Palsy Lawyer Can Help
An attorney who specializes in brachial plexus injury compensation claims will be able to help you receive an amount that lets you seek the right treatment option for 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 birth injury lawyers and law firms will offer a free case review to help you determine your best chances of receiving compensation for your child’s paralysis.
Filing an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit
It is critically important to talk with an attorney as soon as your child is diagnosed with Erb’s palsy as a result of a birth injury. Deadlines (also called statutes of limitation) for filing a lawsuit differ from state to state, and waiting too long could jeopardize your legal rights.
Also, it’s important to note that it can take as long as two years – or possibly even longer – in some cases for the case to be resolved. In some cases, accepting a settlement may reduce the amount of time it takes to receive money, but settlements may also be lower than you could expect to receive if you take the case to trial. Your attorney will be able to advise you appropriately if and when a settlement offer is made in your case.
How can I pay for an Erb’s palsy attorney?
Many parents are understandably concerned about how much an Erb’s palsy lawyer might cost, especially if they are paying for their child’s treatments. Adding even more financial burden to their family is the last thing they want to do.
The good news is that a reputable brachial plexus attorney will never ask for money up front. Instead, they will take the case on a contingency basis, meaning that they will only receive payment after you have been awarded money through a verdict, settlement, or other judgment.
At the very least, it is worth taking advantage of the free case review so that you can discuss options, including the financial impacts of filing an Erb’s palsy lawsuit.
What if the Erb’s palsy is not permanent?
Even if your child does not experience permanent nerve damage, you may still be able to see compensation for pain and suffering actually experienced, as well as any medical costs tied to treatments, such as physical therapy or surgery.
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.