Medical Malpractice/Erbs Palsy in New York & New Jersey
Erb’s palsy is a birth injury caused by nerve damage to the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is the system of nerves responsible for controlling sensation and movement in the hand, arm, fingers, and wrist. When brachial plexus nerves undergo trauma during labor or delivery, the areas they control can lose their functionality. With Erb’s Palsy, an injury to the nerves of the newborn’s neck can cause a loss of control in the upper arm and shoulder. Sadly, Erb’s Palsy and its related injuries are usually due to some form of medical negligence during the birthing process.
When an obstetrician’s error leads to brachial plexus injuries that cause Erb’s Palsy, it is essential for parents and carers to understand the legal options available to them. With a reputable birth injury lawyer in your corner, you and your family can receive the financial compensation you need to cover the costs of your child’s current and future medical care, physical rehabilitation, and other expenses.
Contact the New York and New Jersey medical malpractice and Erbs Palsy attorneys at Metro Law to speak with a lawyer. Our consultations are always free and completely confidential.
The Basics of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is the number one form of brachial plexus injury. It occurs in roughly two out of every 1,000 infants. This condition, named for Wilhelm Heinrich Erb, renowned German neurologist and an eminent physician of his time, affects the brachial plexus; a network of nerves that begins in the neck and stretches the entire length of the arm and into the fingers.
When these nerves are damaged, the consequent palsy may be provisional or permanent. Erb’s Palsy is often due to an injury in the upper webbing of the brachial plexus, near the newborn’s neck. This portion of the brachial plexus is found where the fifth and sixth cranial nerves join.
Since sensation and movement in the fingers, hand, and are controlled by the brachial plexus, an injury to this important neural network can seriously impair the function of the associated area. Erb’s Palsy specifically pertains to a palsy that impacts the upper arm or shoulder.
When the lower portion of the brachial plexus is harmed and the forearm and hand are impacted, it causes a different brachial plexus condition called Klumpke’s Palsy.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
If your baby has Erb’s Palsy, you should notice any combination of symptoms, including:
- Disproportionate weakness in one arm
- Favoring one arm
- Lack of mobility in one arm
- One arm appearing limp or floppy
- Cradling one arm against their side
- Apparent numbness or lack of sensation in their upper arm
- Partial or total paralysis in one arm
- Atrophied muscles in the affected arm
How Does Erb’s Palsy Happen?
One of the most frequent causes of Erb’s Palsy is the mishandling of shoulder dystocia during the birthing process. Shoulder dystocia happens when the baby becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone.
If shoulder dystocia should occur during labor, your doctor needs to recognize the situation immediately and correctly use one of the proper methods to resolve the situation and avoid causing an injury to the mother or child. Failing to do so could result in brachial plexus injuries and other kinds of birth trauma.
Another possible source of injury to the brachial plexus nerves is if the newborn is drawn from the birth canal at an odd angle. This could happen if one of the baby’s arms is over their head, or if their head is facing one direction and their arm is pulled in the opposite direction. In instances where the infant’s shape and size don’t fit through the birth canal, a condition known as cephalopelvic disproportion, using undue force to remove the baby from the birth canal can also result in brachial plexus injury.
In addition, should an obstetrician fail to perform a timely cesarean section, particularly in cases dealing with abnormal birth presentations, like breech births, the baby’s shoulder or arm can be hyperextended as they are tugged from the birth canal. Unnecessary or improper use of vacuum extractors or forceps might also be responsible for brachial plexus nerve damage.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
Shoulder dystocia is one of the most typical causes of Erb’s Palsy. Shoulder dystocia is a complication during childbirth where the infant’s shoulder becomes wedged underneath the mother’s pelvis and is unable to pass through.
In most cases, the medical team overseeing your labor and delivery should be able to recognize the signs of shoulder dystocia and take the required precautions to avoid any injury to your baby. The risk of Erb’s Palsy, however, rises considerably if this problem is not handled properly.
Erb’s Palsy most often develops on account of the negligent actions of a healthcare professional. This can include:
- Failing to properly diagnose or manage the mother’s diabetes during pregnancy.
- Improper use of abdominal pressure in childbirth as it could worsen shoulder dystocia.
- Failing to control and monitor the mother’s weight during pregnancy.
- Failing to correctly assess the weight and size of the newborn during the third trimester.
- Improper use of traction, vacuum extractors, or forceps on the baby’s neck and head during delivery.
- Failing to offer the mother the option of a cesarean section when various risk factors are present.
- Failing to properly manage and/or diagnose shoulder dystocia during delivery.
- Members of the delivery team who are not properly trained and qualified to assist with the delivery.
- Failing to deliver a post-due-date infant in a timely fashion.
Can You Recover From Erb’s Palsy?
The prognosis for Erb’s Palsy is based on the seriousness and exact area of brachial plexus injury. In minor cases, Erb’s Palsy can correct itself with the aid of physical therapy. The faster your baby is treated for Erb’s Palsy, the better their chances are of regaining most of their function.
In about 70% to 80% of all Erb’s Palsy cases, the child is able to recover inside of a year. In some cases, however, children who develop Erb’s Palsy will experience substantial, life-long complications. These can include limited mobility, loss of control, uncontrollable muscle reflexes, and lack of sensation, in the affected arm.
Treatment of Erb’s Palsy
In most cases, Erb’s palsy is correctable, and your child should be able to recover full function of their hand, arm, and shoulder. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical. Obtaining the appropriate treatment during the first year or two of your baby’s life will significantly improve the acuteness of your son’s or daughter’s disability later in life.
Based on the degree of damage to the nerves, your baby’s Erb’s palsy treatment might include:
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Nerve grafts
Treatment for Erb’s palsy can be costly, but these expenses are recoverable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Am I Eligible to File an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, only the victim is able to file a medical malpractice suit in New Jersey and New York. In the event that the patient is incapacitated or a minor, however, then a parent or legal guardian is able to file on their behalf. If you are the parent of a child with Erb’s palsy, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit on behalf of your minor child.
In certain birth injury cases, the defendant’s insurance company will voluntarily negotiate a fair settlement with the victims before filing a lawsuit becomes necessary. Insurance carriers know how expensive a trial can be, particularly if your lawyer builds a strong case.
There are some insurance companies, however, who will challenge the fact that the medical provider was negligent. Although trials are costly, no physician wants their malpractice on record. You will be facing seasoned insurance claims adjusters along with aggressive defense attorneys.
If the insurance carrier rejects your claim, you will need a New York or New Jersey brachial plexus injury attorney who has experience taking these kinds of cases in court. At Metro Law, we have nearly four decades of experience in trying cases. Our legal team has successfully litigated countless medical malpractice suits.
Why Should I File an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?
If your newborn was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:
- How did this happen?
- Could it have been prevented?
- What does my child’s future look like?
The best way to get answers to these and any other questions you may have is by filing a birth injury lawsuit, which can also help with:
Discovering the Cause of the Injury
One of the most crucial aspects of a birth injury claim is the period of discovery. Our personal injury lawyers will gather medical records, get statements from witnesses, and consult with medical professionals in order to figure out why the injury happened and if it could have been prevented had different actions been taken.
A good physician will be aware of and monitor for certain risk factors that can cause Erb’s palsy before and during labor and delivery, and take appropriate measures to prevent the injury.
These risk factors include:
- Shoulder dystocia; one or both shoulders get lodged in the birth canal
- Use of vacuum extractor
- Use of forceps
- Protracted labor
- Breech birth
- Extreme maternal weight gain
- High infant birth weight
- Mother’s who have narrow hips or are petite in build
If a physician or attending nurse failed to provide the necessary level of care to guarantee your baby’s safe delivery, our Erb’s palsy attorneys in New York and New Jersey can help you get justice.
Recovering Compensation for Your Damages
If medical malpractice is responsible for your infant’s injury, we will pursue compensatory damages that will help your child live the full life they deserve.
In addition to the medical bills associated with a birth injury, new parents will also have to deal with numerous other expenses, such as:
- Physical therapy
- In-home nursing care
- Special needs schooling
- Decreased quality of life
Even though no amount of money can heal your baby or undo the emotional trauma you experienced, a verdict recovery or settlement will help ensure that your child can enjoy a happy future in spite of their injury.
Medical Malpractice Birth Injuries and Erb’s Palsy
When Erb’s palsy develops in a newborn, it is most often due to force applied to the infant’s head during a difficult childbirth. This is usually done by a doctor or other medical professional when they push the baby’s head to one side, stretch their neck with excessive force, or use other improper techniques that stretch, compress, tear, or rip the nerve roots around the brachial plexus. This injury is almost always preventable.
To show that your child sustained injuries caused by medical negligence, you will have to prove that:
- Your child’s injury took place during delivery.
- Your child was injured because the physician failed to follow approved protocols or otherwise caused or failed to prevent the injury and, by extension, failed to maintain standards of care.
- Your incurred expenses as a result of the injury.
While medical records pertaining to your baby’s delivery and ensuing injury will be helpful to your case, the most significant evidence usually comes from the testimony of medical experts. This is what helps our lawyers understand how the nurse or doctor should have handled your newborn’s delivery, including any problems they encountered.
This also helps us confirm the standard of care that you and your child should have received and how their injuries were caused.
What Deadlines Apply to My New Jersey or New York Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?
The timeline that governs birth injury cases in New York and New Jersey is complicated. The state has a deadline on both the filing of medical malpractice claims and a rule that allows the deadline to be tolled when the victim is a child. These and various other regulations make it hard to specify exactly how long you have to bring the negligent doctor or hospital to account.
Speak With a New York or New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Child’s Erb’s Palsy
An experienced New Jersey Erb’s palsy attorney can construct a strong medical malpractice claim with help from medical professionals and successfully pursue financial compensation for you and your family. Your best shot at holding the hospital, nurse, or doctor responsible for the negligence that injured your child is by filing a civil suit or claim with help from a medical malpractice lawyer in New York or New Jersey. Contact Metro Law at (973) 721-9984.