When Medical Malpractice Leads To Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is a nerve injury commonly caused by a difficult childbirth. While some of these birth complications may be unavoidable, many cases of Erb’s palsy are preventable with proper medical care.

  • Medical errors can cause serious birth injuries that last a lifetime.
  • Lifetime expenses for birth injuries can quickly become unmanageable.
  • Our skilled medical malpractice lawyers can help your family.
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What Is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a birth injury which affects the brachial plexus nerve network. This nerve network is located near the neck and is responsible for movement and feeling in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. 

In difficult childbirths, obstetricians and doctors are often forced to pull on the infant’s neck or shoulder. If the infant’s neck is stretched too much to the side, nerves in this network may become damaged and lead to Erb’s palsy. 

This condition and other brachial plexus nerve injuries are frequently caused by shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the infants shoulders are obstructed and cannot pass through the birth canal after the head has already been delivered.

While some brachial plexus nerve injuries may be unavoidable, many are caused by medical mistakes – such as pulling too hard or improper use of delivery tools like forceps and vacuums.

In the majority of cases, this condition is treatable. Many newborns recover from Erb’s palsy on their own, but complications do occur in some cases. In more severe cases, medical expenses can quickly pile up.

If your child’s Erb’s palsy was caused by a medical error, you could recover financial compensation for these expenses in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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Common Symptoms

Erb’s palsy affects the upper section of the brachial plexus region. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms in your child, he or she may be suffering from this condition:

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Loss of feeling
  • Loss of movement in arm and shoulder
  • Partial or total paralysis in affected arm
  • One arm hangs limply at side
  • One arm is bent inward
  • Weak grip

Erb’s palsy is easily identifiable because the condition usually only affects one arm. If you suspect that your child may have this disorder, you should meet with a doctor as soon as possible. Treating this condition promptly is the best way to prevent further complications and ensure a full recovery for your child.

When Are Medical Professionals At Fault?

While some birth complications may be unexpected, many others could be prevented if the cause is identified and properly accounted for before delivery. Medical professionals owe a duty to their patients to follow the commonly accepted medical practices in their field. If a doctor fails to do their job in the way another qualified professional in the same position would and an injury occurs, he or she could be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Common examples of medical negligence which could lead to Erb’s palsy and other brachial plexus injuries include:parent holding newborn baby

  • Failure to order a necessary c-section – Larger than average infants are at a higher risk of being injured during delivery. Doctors can reduce this risk by properly planning for potential complications which could arise. For large infants, a cesarean section often makes the birth go more smoothly and greatly reduces the risk of birth injuries.
  • Use of excessive force – Infants are physically fragile creatures. While difficult childbirths often require the doctor to use some degree of force to dislodge the infant, it’s important for doctors to act as carefully as possible in this situation. If the doctor delivering the child pulls too forcefully on the arms or shoulders, a variety of brachial plexus injuries could arise.
  • Improper use of delivery tools – In particularly difficult childbirths, it may be necessary to use delivery tools like vacuum extractors and forceps. Just like with the use of manual force, exercising utmost care is key in this situation. Misuse of these tools can result in a wide range of injuries, including brachial plexus nerve injuries, cerebral palsy, skull fractures, and more.

In order to determine if a medical professional is at fault for your child’s injury, it’s necessary to have your case reviewed and evaluated by both legal and medical experts. At Lipsig, our medical contacts can investigate your case and uncover medical evidence which could be used in a medical malpractice lawsuit. After gathering evidence, our experienced malpractice lawyers can help guide you through the legal process.

The Recovery Process

Fortunately, Erb’s palsy is less severe than other brachial plexus injuries. With the proper treatment, the vast majority of children with this condition will recover. However, the recovery process is not always easy and is often quite expensive.

Treatment plans vary depending on the severity of the condition, and may involve physical therapy, surgery, or some combination of the two.

Physical Therapy

This is the most common treatment method for Erb’s palsy. A physical therapist will work with you to develop range-of-motion exercises for your baby, which you should then practice with your baby on a daily basis, as often as you can. These exercises are designed to improve range of motion and to prevent stiffness in the joints.

Guiding your baby through physical therapy is a large time commitment. This may add additional expenses related to your injury if you’re forced to take time off of work. Fortunately, lost wages related to a birth injury are recoverable in a medical malpractice claim.


Surgery may be necessary for more severe cases of Erb’s palsy. Your doctor will likely recommend surgery if 3-6 months have passed and your child’s symptoms have still not improved. There are two forms of surgery which are typically recommended in these cases, both of which are designed to repair your child’s damaged nerves:

  • Nerve grafts – Some nerve damage can be repaired by splicing a donor nerve graft from another healthy nerve of the child.
  • Nerve transfers – A nerve transfer can help restore function by transferring a nerve from another muscle group.

Seeking Financial Assistance

Recovering from nerve injuries takes time. In most Erb’s palsy cases, regular rehabilitation exercises are a crucial part of the recovery process. Children often continue to struggle with weakness and impaired range-of-motion as they grow older, so it’s important to schedule regular doctor’s appointments in order to treat your child’s condition as effectively as possible.

This process can take years, and some children are forced to live with symptoms of Erb’s palsy for the rest of their lives. This is always a difficult situation for families to deal with, but it’s particularly frustrating when the disorder could have been easily prevented by proper medical care.

For families affected by a preventable birth injury, a medical malpractice suit can help provide the support your child needs and hold negligent medical professionals responsible for their mistakes. A successful lawsuit can provide financial compensation for damages such as:

  • All medical expenses related to the injury
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life

In the state of New York, you must file a claim for medical malpractice within 2.5 years from the date of your child’s injury. It’s important to act quickly in order to meet this deadline. If you believe your child may have developed Erb’s palsy or another birth injury or disorder due to medical errors, contact Lipsig’s experienced medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe us nothing unless we help you win your claim.

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