Despite advances in technology and medical knowledge, there are still many things that can go wrong during childbirth. One of these is Erb’s palsy, also known as brachial plexus palsy. It is an injury sustained only during actual delivery, and involves trauma to the nerves located near the neck called the brachial plexus. The injury occurs when the baby’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery such as a breech presentation (feet first), prolonged labor, or expulsion of a large baby. It may also be due to the improper use of some instrument to facilitate delivery or incorrect technique, in which case the doctor may be liable.
The brachial plexus controls the movement of the arms and hands. Infants who suffer Erb’s palsy may have weakness and numbness in one arm, or partial or total paralysis. The permanence of these effects will depend on the extent of the injury and the availability of treatment.
There are varying degrees of trauma, from mild (neurapraxia) to severe (avulsion). In neurapraxia, the nerves are injured but not torn, so the nerve should heal within 3 months. Avulsion, however, is the complete detachment of the nerves from the spinal cord, which cannot be repaired.
If you believe that your child’s injury was due to negligence, you may be able to file a claim for compensation. It should be noted that it may be difficult to prove negligence as this type of injury can be attributed to factors beyond the attending physician’s control, such as poor maternal health. However, if the circumstances clearly indicate negligence, such as the refusal of the doctor to perform a caesarean section even when the mother requested it, then that is a different matter. Consult with a lawyer experienced in handling Erb’s palsy lawsuits to determine the eligibility of your particular case for a legal claim.