Birth Injuries/Erb's Palsy
Birth injuries are a subsection of medical malpractice and involve cases in the delivery of children. This birth injury occurs when the fetus (baby) is being delivered and the fetus’ shoulder cannot clear the pelvic bone and the gynecologist must rotate the fetus to try to get the shoulder into the birth canal. This is also called “shoulder dystocia”.
If this difficult procedure is not performed properly or anticipated, the infant can sustain nerve damage to its shoulder and arm. There are different degrees of injuries from nerve damage. Some can be so severe that the infant has no use of the arm or hand (sometimes resulting in amputation) to cases where the infant has partial use of the arm and has to undergo significant physical therapy to gain as much use of the arm after the injury as possible.
This situation arises during delivery when a baby’s head delivers first but the shoulders then become stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. A doctor’s failure to handle the situation properly can result in devastating injuries to the baby. There are maneuvers designed to deliver the baby safely when shoulder dystocia occurs. These maneuvers should not be used on the baby’s head. If the head is used to maneuver the baby, or the baby’s head is pushed downward, the spinal cord nerve roots in the neck can be stretched to the point of rupturing them. The result is Erb’s Palsy or brochial plexus palsy where the function of the baby’s arm and even hand can become severely impaired or paralyzed.
In prosecuting an Erb’s Palsy case, the attorney must retain expert obstetricians, pediatric neurologists, and possibly surgeons to determine the cause of the infant’s injuries. These professionals must testify if the case goes to trial. The testimony of these doctors is a great expense at trial. If necessary to calculate the infant's damages, the attorney must retain expert accountants and financial analysts to establish lost wages, cost of care and other monetary costs. These losses can be substantial and to prove the cases, expert accountants and financial analysts are needed for the cost of care and lost wages (limiting fields that the injured infant can work). Since you are dealing with an infant, these losses exist for the rest of their life and can run in the millions of dollars.
The end injury to an infant can be loss of most movement of the arm, or loss of all of movement to the whole arm. If loss of all movement has occurred, the infant’s arm may have to be amputated. A dead dangling arm can be more of a disability than no arm at all. If loss of movement occurs quick and constant physical therapy can lead to restoration of some of the movement in the arm.
In calculating the infant damages, you not only collect for the loss of use of the arm, but the attorney must retain expert accountants and financial analysts to establish lost wages, cost of care and other monetary costs (i.e. certain career choices will be eliminated due to the injury). These losses can add up in the millions.
As with medical malpractice cases, these cases involve significant investment for experts and time to prosecute and evaluate the case. If your child had been injured during birth, call the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.