If your baby appears to have weakness or immobility in one or both arms, the child may be suffering from a birth injury-related condition called Erb’s palsy.
You should take your child to a doctor without delay in order to be tested, diagnosed and started on a course of treatment. You should also protect your legal rights by meeting with an experienced birth injury lawyer.
The reality is that Erb’s palsy often results from preventable mistakes that doctors, nurses, midwives and other medical professionals make during labor and delivery and, perhaps, during a woman’s pregnancy.
About Our Erb’s Palsy Lawyers
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys have extensive experience with investigating and litigating birth injury cases. We can review your case and determine whether medical negligence contributed to your child’s condition. We will aggressively seek the answers and justice you deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation. We can meet at our offices in Chicago or Waukegan or at a location that is most convenient for you. You will pay no fees for our services unless we obtain a financial recovery for you.
Our Law Firm’s Experience with Birth Injury Cases
If you believe that your child suffers from Erb’s palsy due to medical malpractice, it will be important for you to work with a law firm that has a deep background in this area of the law. Look no further than Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.
We have a record of working with clients in Chicago and throughout Illinois in a broad range of birth injury cases. We can bring to your case our strong grasp of the medical and legal issues that are often involved with birth injuries.
Our experience includes:
We secured this verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Due to the alleged negligence, the child suffered permanent brain damage and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals later upheld the verdict.
We obtained this settlement behalf of a child who suffered brain injury at birth due to a doctor’s alleged negligence in using a vacuum extractor device. The settlement is the largest ever in Dekalb County and believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the history of Illinois.
Our firm secured this verdict in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of a child who sustained injuries to his left shoulder and arm at the time of his birth due to alleged medical negligence. The verdict was reported to be the largest in Illinois history for a brachial plexus injury.
Although our firm is proud of the results we have obtained for our clients in these prior birth injury cases, they should be not interpreted as a guarantee of a specific result in your case. The value of a case depends on many factors. Contact us today to discuss the unique facts and legal issues in your child’s case.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
As you move forward, it will be important for you to have a basic understanding of Erb’s palsy, a condition which results from injury to the brachial plexus.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) explains that the brachial plexus consists of nerves which pass from the spinal cord, through the vertebrae located near the neck and go to the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. When these nerves are damaged, two types of conditions can result:
- Erb’s palsy – Damage to the upper nerves in the brachial plexus. This is the most common condition.
- Klumpke’s palsy – A less common condition that results from damage to the lower nerves of the brachial plexus.
Erb’s palsy may occur if the upper nerves in the brachial plexus sustain one or more of the following types of nerve injuries:
- Neurapraxia – When the nerve is pinched or “shocked,” but it is not torn.
- Neuroma – When the nerve is stretched but not torn, creating scar tissue.
- Rupture – When the nerve tears due to stretching.
- Avulsion – When the nerve is torn from the spinal cord.
The extent of a child’s Erb’s palsy will depend on the severity of the nerve injury that he or she has sustained. The nerve injury typically results from the child’s neck being stretched during labor or delivery. In many situations, the injury is entirely preventable and results from medical negligence.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Erb’s Palsy?
A child may suffer from Erb’s palsy if complications arose during delivery such as a breech birth (when the child’s feet pass through the vagina first) or shoulder dystocia (when the child’s shoulders become lodged inside the mother).
According to the AAOS, signs and symptoms of Erb’s palsy appear in the shoulders, arms and hands. They include:
- Lack of muscle control
- No sensation
- Total or partial paralysis.
The condition may be diagnosed at birth or after symptoms appear in the weeks and months following birth.
In addition to performing a physical examination, a pediatrician or other doctor may conduct a series of tests before diagnosing a child with Erb’s palsy. Those tests include X-rays, ultrasounds or electromyogram (EMG) or nerve conduction study (NCS) tests.
The sooner Erb’s palsy is diagnosed, the better off your child will be in the long run. If left untreated, Erb’s palsy can lead to complications such as permanent tightening of the muscles or joints (contractures) or permanent partial or total paralysis.
How Is Erb’s Palsy Treated?
If your child is diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, doctors may suggest a combination of surgical and non-surgical forms of treatment.
The condition may be treated surgically if the child has suffered a severe form of brachial plexus injury such as a nerve rupture or avulsion. Doctors may perform surgery to repair the nerves. The most commonly used surgical techniques are:
- Nerve grafting – When a portion of a different, healthy nerve from the child’s body is used to bridge the damaged nerve portion.
- Nerve transfer – When the nerve is completely replaced by a different nerve from the child’s body.
If a child successfully undergoes surgical treatment for a brachial plexus injury, the child may recover some feeling and function in the affected limb.
A doctor may also order a child to undergo physical therapy in addition to or as an alternative to surgical treatment. The goal of the therapy will be to increase the child’s muscle strength and range of motion.
Treatment may be needed for many months or years. Parents may find themselves facing expensive medical bills and many other significant burdens as they provide care for their child.
Can Erb’s Palsy Result from Medical Malpractice?
Erb’s palsy may arise from medical errors that occur during a woman’s pregnancy or during labor and delivery. One or more medical professionals may be responsible for making these mistakes, including doctors, nurses and midwives.
A doctor may fail to obtain a thorough obstetrical history of the mother while providing care and treatment to her during her pregnancy. Due to this failure, the doctor may fail to learn that the mother has a history of suffering from diabetes, delivering large babies or experiencing difficulty during delivery. The doctor may in turn fail to take special measures or precautions at the time of delivery.
Additionally, during the third trimester, the doctor should conduct an ultrasound in order to determine the size and position of the child. If the doctor fails to conduct this test or to evaluate the test results property, it may lead to a difficult delivery and conditions which can increase the risk of a brachial plexus injury.
For example, if the doctor determines that the delivery is later than expected or that the child’s size may be a concern, the doctor may need to perform a Cesarean section, or C-section.
During labor and delivery
One medical error that can occur during labor and delivery is the failure of a doctor to assign or request qualified medical staff to help manage the delivery.
Without the proper personnel on hand, the complications which can arise during delivery such as a breech birth or shoulder dystocia may be improperly handled. The child may suffer a brachial plexus injury as a result.
Even otherwise qualified medical professionals can make mistakes during delivery that damage the brachial plexus such as:
- Putting excessive force on the head or neck during delivery
- Placing too much pressure on the abdomen
- Misusing forceps or a vacuum extractor.
It is important to note that not all medical mistakes amount to medical malpractice. The key issues will be whether a medical professional failed to meet the relevant standard of medical care, and whether that failure led to the brachial plexus injury that caused your child to suffer from Erb’s palsy.
A medical expert can review the facts of your case and work with your lawyer to analyze these issues.
Generally, before a medical malpractice claim is filed in Illinois, a lawyer must provide a “certificate of merit” stating that the lawyer has consulted with a medical professional who meets specific qualifications and who has found “reasonable and meritorious cause” for the filing of the lawsuit. The doctor must also prepare a written report that is attached to the lawsuit.
How Can a Lawyer Help If Your Child Has Erb’s Palsy?
If you believe that your child suffers from Erb’s palsy due to the negligence of a medical professional, the legal team of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., wants to help you. When you are ready to take action, get in touch with us. We can:
- Provide a free and confidential consultation – We will take the time to listen to you and learn what happened during your pregnancy and your child’s delivery. We also will want to know how your child’s life and your family’s life have been impacted by your child’s Erb’s palsy.
- Conduct an immediate investigation – We can gather and analyze the medical records of the mother and child as well as any other evidence that bears on your case such as eyewitness accounts. A thorough investigation can reveal evidence that establishes who committed preventable medical errors and as well as how those errors caused your child to suffer a brachial plexus injury.
- Consult with medical experts – We can review your case with knowledgeable medical experts who can help us to determine the relevant standard of care, whether that standard was met in your case and, if not, whether that failure caused harm to your child. We can also seek input from experts who can assess the care and treatment that your child will need as he or she moves forward in life.
- Pursue a full and fair settlement – We will carefully prepare a settlement demand that seeks a recovery for all your past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages you and your family have suffered due to your child’s Erb’s palsy.
- Go to trial, if necessary – If the medical professionals involved in your case challenge liability or the amount which is sought in damages, it may be necessary to take your case to trial. Our legal team has extensive experience with litigating cases in Illinois state courts and federal courts. Our goal will be to present the technical details of your child’s birth injury case to the jury in terms they can understand and relate to and to make a compelling case for your recovery.
- Handle resolution of your case – We can take all steps to resolve healthcare liens that may be attached to your recovery and to disburse the compensation you are due.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we represent clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will pay no legal fees unless we obtain a financial recovery for you.
What is Klumpke’s Palsy?
Klumpke’s palsy, also known as Dejerine-Klumpke palsy, is an injury of the lower brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is an arrangement of nerve fibers running from the spine through the neck, the armpit region and into the arm. It controls movement of the hands, arms and shoulders.
Klumpke’s palsy refers specifically to injuries that involve the muscles of the forearm and hand – often causing paralysis of the forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. In some cases, other symptoms may accompany the impaired arm/hand functions, including eyelid drooping and pupil dilation in one eye.
What Causes Klumpe’s Palsy?
Klumpke’s palsy results when excessive force is applied to the baby’s head and neck in an attempt to dislodge the baby’s shoulders during delivery. Pulling and twisting of these delicate areas can stretch, tear or rupture the nerves in the brachial plexus.
The damage is typically permanent; injuries associated with Klumpke’s palsy may not respond as favorably to physical therapy and motion exercises as other brachial plexus injuries. Surgery may be an option in certain cases.
How Does Klumpke’s Palsy Compare to Erb’s Palsy?
Unlike Erb’s palsy, a true case of Klumpke’s palsy is very rare – although often the term is used in conjunction with injuries that affect the entire brachial plexus region.
What Klumpke’s palsy does share with Erb’s palsy is a common cause: delivery complications arising from shoulder dystocia. When the baby’s shoulders become lodged against the mother’s pubic bone and are too large to pass through the birth canal, there are very specific maneuvers that a doctor can safely attempt to remove the baby.
If these procedures are followed, the chance for traumatic injury is lessened. However, when medical practitioners neglect to follow these steps or aren’t skilled in performing them, the implications can be severe.
Can Medical Professionals Prevent Klumpke’s Palsy?
Trained medical professionals understand the risk factors for shoulder dystocia, and an experienced obstetrician can prevent most circumstances in which Klumpke’s palsy could occur.
In particular, breech births have been associated with shoulder dystocia injuries involving Klumpke’s palsy, and most doctors recommend caesarean sections for breech deliveries to avoid such potential complications.
While birth injuries may happen despite the best medical care, most instances of Klumpke’s palsy could have been prevented. If the obstetrician does not pay attention to known risk factors for shoulder dystocia, or fails to properly manage delivery complications, the doctor may have acted negligently.
Contact Our Chicago Erb’s/Klumpke’s Palsy Attorneys
If your baby suffers from Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy as a result of a birth injury, the hard-working lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help you to explore your legal options. We work with families in Chicago, Waukegan and throughout Illinois. For more information or to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, please contact us today.