Legal Options for Parents of Children with Erb’s Palsy
Medical experts estimate that one or two in every 1,000 births result in babies with Erb’s palsy, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). If the child’s condition is related to a medical professional’s negligence, the parents may pursue a medical malpractice claim against the responsible doctor or other medical professional.
Erb’s Palsy Overview
Erb’s palsy is a brachial plexus birth palsy that results from damage to nerves (brachial plexus) that run from the spine to the neck through to the arm. The result of the condition is that the child is born with weakness or paralysis in the arm. Most of these injuries go away on their own, though in some cases, there may be lasting functional impairment.
Many different things can cause Erb’s palsy. Often the condition results from the baby’s neck being stretched during childbirth. This can happen during the delivery of a large baby (maternal diabetes may contribute to a child’s large size), breech presentation, and prolonged labor.
According to the AAOS, there are four different levels of nerve damage for Erb’s Palsy:
- Neurapraxia: Trauma to the nerve that results in weakness in the arm but not paralysis or more serious damage.
- Neuroma: Scar tissue forms and may press on a nerve. Most arm function is retained, although there can be residual impairment in the arm.
- Rupture: In this scenario, the nerve is torn but not torn from the spinal cord. It may be possible to repair the nerve using a graft from a donor nerve. Weakness in the arm can be permanent, and paralysis is possible with rupture.
- Avulsion: During avulsion, the nerve is torn from the spinal cord. Doctors are unable to repair the avulsion but may use a nerve from another muscle to replace the damaged nerve.
Standard of Care & Causation in Birth Injury Cases
Generally, parents need to prove that a doctor or other medical professional violated the standard of care to win a malpractice case. Florida law defines the standard of care as:
“…that level of care, skill and treatment, which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” (Florida Statutes 766.102(1))
Proving fault is difficult. The plaintiff has to show specific actions the doctor or other medical professional took or failed to take that violated the standard of care and led to Erb’s palsy. Hospital records, medical records and other paperwork may help prove this claim. For instance, a medical expert may testify that a doctor used undue force in delivering the child, causing a stretch injury to the brachial plexus nerves in the neck area.
Parents who believe their child’s Erb’s palsy was caused by medical negligence should consult a lawyer to discuss the case in greater detail. Lawyers conduct thorough investigations of the facts surrounding a case to determine if the parents have a legitimate case and, if so, to help establish liability.
Chalik & Chalik is committed to advocating for parents in Florida whose children were victims of birth injuries related to negligent medical care. Contact our office at 855-971-1701 to schedule a free consultation.