Understanding Your Rights Regarding Your Child’s Birth Injury
No soon-to-be parent ever wants to consider the possibility of an injury to their newborn. Unfortunately, thousands of parents each year are confronted with the news that their child has suffered an injury during birth. One form of birth injury many parents are all too familiar with is Erb – Duchenne Palsy (“Erbs Palsy”).
Erb’s Palsy is often initially terrifying for parents. Their newborn baby’s arm hang limply from the shoulder. On top of the physical pain and suffering the injury causes the child, the emotional strain on the family can be overwhelming. The worst part is that doctors often fail to reveal to the child’s family the significance of the injury or how it occurred.
Thankfully, Florida has laws in place which allow parents to recover financial compensation for significant birth injuries caused by the negligence or medical mistakes of a physician, nurse or hospital before or during delivery.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy is a condition involving stretching or injury to the nerves of the “brachial plexus” which is a bundle of nerves located between the neck and upper body. Erb’s Palsy occurs when the nerves in the top of the baby’s neck, which normally provide flexibility and support to the arm, are damaged. This may lead to weakness or paralysis of one of the child’s arms. If left untreated, this injury to the child’s nerves prevents the normal development of the child’s arm.
Risk Factors of Erb’s Palsy
There are two main risk factors for Erb’s Palsy. The first is fetal macrosomia, which is when a newborn weighs over 8 pounds 13 ounces. The other is shoulder dystocia, which is when after delivery of the head, the baby’s shoulder gets trapped above the mother’s pubic bone. When this occurs, it requires a skilled obstetrician to deliver the baby without causing it further injury.
Signs Your Child Has Erb’s Palsy
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy include:
- Difficulty moving the arm or pain in movement,
- Holding the arm against the body with a bend at the elbow, or
- Trouble gripping objects or making a fist on one side.
From as early as the day they are born, parents often take note of how well their child can make a fist or grasp reflexively onto fingers or toys.
It can be unclear if a baby has Erb’s Palsy. The condition is sometimes initially misdiagnosed as a clavicular fracture.
The Good News
The good news is that four out of five babies born with Erb’s Palsy will make a full recovery so long as consistent treatment and care are given to the child. For those infants who do not show recovery by three to five months, surgery on the brachial plexus often improves the condition. For many families, these expenses are not covered by private health insurance or Medicaid, but help is available.
How Does an Attorney Prove that Erb’s Palsy was Caused By Medical Negligence?
A problem that prevents many parents from receiving a favorable recovery for their child’s birth injury is that they don’t know why it happened and most doctors and nurses will not educate the parents on the causes of a birth injury. Since most parents are neither provided with the medical records from their obstetrician before the delivery, nor the hospital records during the delivery, they have no knowledge what may have gone wrong that led to the injury of their child. Even if the parents do have access to the medical records it takes an experienced set of eyes to analyze those medical records to detect if anything was done inappropriately prior to or at the time their child was delivered.
In order to prove if your child’s Erb’s Palsy was the result of an avoidable medical mistake, all relevant medical records of the child and the birth and delivery must be obtained by your attorney. Once your attorney obtains the records, he or she will get them reviewed by qualified and experienced medical experts to evaluate whether they believe medical negligence was the cause of your child’s birth injury.
If your attorney and their experts believe medical negligence is the cause of your child’s birth injury, they will begin to advocate on your behalf. Each case is different and your attorney will discuss the specifics of your case with you as the process unfolds.
What Losses Will I Be Able to Recover?
Families can recover the economic loss brought about by medical negligence. In addition to the projected economic losses, in Florida, the child is entitled to recover for physical and emotional pain and suffering and loss of the ability to lead a normal life due to the birth injury. As parents of a disabled child, you also have a claim for all of your emotional damages suffered up to the point of the claim being presented and which you will likely suffer in the future due to your child’s injury.
Additionally, your attorney will hire other experts to evaluate your economic losses, including all of the special medical care, therapies, and assistive equipment and devices your child may require in the future. This is often known as a “life care plan.” It lays out the expected costs to care for your child for the remainder of their life.
We are Here to Help
If you or someone you know is dealing with a child with Erb’s Palsy, we are here to help. We have access to experts in obstetrics, pediatrics, pediatric neuro-radiology, nursing, and pediatric neurology that can determine whether there was a mistake or a series of avoidable mistakes that led to the birth injury of your child. We can also assist you in getting your child to the best doctors to treat any disabilities they may have in order to give your child a better opportunity for successful rehabilitation.
Navigating the medical system to insure your child is getting the best care possible is a very complex undertaking, especially since most parents are trying to navigate the system for the first time. Our experience in handling birth injury cases in Florida lets us provide enormous assistance to you, not only with the legal complexities of bringing a medical malpractice/birth injury case, but also with helping to direct and monitor the care and treatment your child is receiving.