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Erb's Palsy Claims

Newborn Erb's palsy & brachial plexus palsy claims

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Claiming for Erb's palsy

Following a traumatic birth, there’s naturally a lot of concern for both mother and baby. Fortunately, in the UK, the majority of patients receive an excellent standard of care and don’t experience unnecessary complications. However, there are times when medical negligence does happen and during birth, it can cause catastrophic injury to mother and baby. One injury that can arise as a result of a traumatic birth is permanent nerve damage to the baby’s arm in the form of Erb’s palsy. This condition will arise if an undiagnosed shoulder dystocia occurs during the second stage of labour. Application of force to free the baby from a life-threatening situation can result, if not properly managed, in permanent nerve damage to the baby’s arm.

Knowing that your baby may need to undergo treatment and could have a lifelong condition due to mistakes made by those responsible for your care can leave you feeling vulnerable. If you’re unsure of where to get the answers you’re looking for and don’t know where to turn, Your Legal Friend can offer you help. Our specialist medical negligence solicitors have extensive experience in supporting those affected by medical mistakes. Using their expertise and understanding, our team can help you build a case against those responsible for your baby’s Erb’s palsy and give you the best possible chance of securing financial compensation.

We know that compensation can’t undo the damage that has already been caused to you and your baby. But it can help you better understand why you were let down and secure you the finances to cover additional treatment or equipment that may now be needed. We understand that medical negligence claims are difficult and personal but you will be able to rely on our team to represent and work with you from the very beginning of your claim through to negotiating a settlement if necessary.

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Our medical negligence team has years of experience working on a wide variety of medical malpractice cases so we understand just how difficult a decision it can be to bring a medical negligence case.

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That’s why we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts, to guarantee the best results for you.

Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan who has a wealth of experience in leading complicated, high-value medical negligence cases.

Laura is recognised within the legal profession as a leader in the field of medical negligence and serious injury compensation.  Laura has acted in a wide range of cases over her 17 years of practice and has particular expertise in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth or surgical errors, and in managing claims that have resulted in the death of a loved one. Laura has achieved a number of large settlements including £5.4 million for a 7 year old and £4 million for an 11 year old child.

Laura’s expertise and dedication to her clients is recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession in which she was praised for the efficiency of her approach to case handling and described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.

Laura has been a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel since 2005 and accredited as a Senior Litigator in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since 2006.  Laura is also a member of the specialist lawyers panel for Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK’s leading charity committed to patient safety and justice.

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For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors, call us now on 0151 550 5228(calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

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The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.

Laura Morgan

Director of Medical Negligence

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Your questions... answered

Can I claim for Erb's Palsy if my baby was affected?

If you have experienced a traumatic birth that’s injured your baby, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. In order to be successful, you’ll need to show that Erb’s palsy was caused by mismanaged delivery probably due to a delay in recognising shoulder dystocia. In some cases, the effect of Erb’s palsy can be lifelong and your child may require surgery or other treatment.

Can I claim if I was affected as a baby?

Yes. If you’ve been living with the effects of Erb’s palsy following a traumatic delivery and would like to make a claim as an adult you can do so. You will need to follow the same processes as a parent suing on behalf of their baby – proving that medical negligee caused the Erb’s palsy and that you suffered as a result. Your time to claim will run from the date you became aware that your injuries were due to a mismanaged delivery.

How much compensation will I get?

Every medical negligence claim is different and each is given a value that considers how much your child has been affected. This means that it’s not possible to say exactly how much you could receive in compensation should you decide to take your child’s case forward. Every year the NHS pays out millions to those affected by medical negligence, including those affected during a traumatic birth and in individual cases the amount can be hundreds of thousands, reflecting the suffering that victims have endured.

When you choose to instruct Your Legal Friend, we’ll assess your child’s case and place a value on it. Those that were affected by delayed diagnosis or treatment resulting in permanent and complete paralysis, for example, would receive more compensation than someone who was able to make a full recovery through surgery and other treatment. 

Read less

How long do I have to make a claim?

Should you have a case you would like to take forward, you must do so within three years from the ‘date of knowledge’, the date that you first realised that mistakes had been made.

If you’re unsure how long you have to make an Erb’s palsy medical negligence claim, our team are on hand to offer you their expert advice and insight. We’ll work with you to identify exactly when your ‘date of knowledge’ occurred and explain how to take the next steps.

What is Erb's palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a form of obstetric brachial plexus disorder that damages the nerves in the upper arm, resulting in a potentially lifelong condition. There are five primary nerves within this area of the body and in Erb’s palsy cases just one or all of them may be affected. These nerves are used for the movement and feeling within the arm. The damage sustained to the nerves can result in partial or complete paralysis of the limb.

In some cases, babies affected by Erb’s palsy can recover without treatment as nerves outside the spinal cord are able to repair themselves over a period of months. However, if an entire nerve is damaged or broken, it will not grow back into the muscle. In some cases, intervention is required to limit the impact the condition will have. Treatment that is delivered quickly has a better chance of limiting the damage that has been caused.

There are a number of factors that determine how severe the Erb’s palsy will be, including:

  • How many nerves have been affected
  • Which of the nerves have been damaged
  • How badly the nerves have been damaged, this can range from being stretched to a nerve being torn away from the spinal column
Read less

What causes Erb's palsy?

The most common cause of Erb’s palsy is a difficult childbirth. For instance, if the infant’s head and neck are pulled to the side during the birth or if excessive pressure is placed on the shoulders, it can cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves and result in Erb’s palsy.

While it is typically caused by a difficult labour, there are risk factors that could increase the chance of Erb’s palsy occurring, including:

  • Small maternal size
  • Large infant size
  • Improper use of birth tools, such as forceps
  • The baby being born in the breech position
  • Labour that lasts a long time
  • The mother being diabetic

While linked to birth, similar injuries can occur at any age following trauma to the head and shoulders.

Other causes can be:

Excessive force

The most common cause of Erb’s Palsy is when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother's pubic bone during childbirth -a condition known as “shoulder dystocia.” The baby's head emerges but the body does not follow at the next contraction.

Concern over oxygen deprivation can lead to excessive force being applied to the baby’s head in the attempt to speed up delivery. Induced or prolonged labour can also be additional factors.

Foetal distress

Around four in ten of babies with complications associated with nerve injuries to the neck may have experienced foetal distress.

Previous births

Complications are possible if a mother has previously given birth to a child with shoulder dystocia. 

Read less

Is Erb's palsy considered a birth injury?

Erb’s palsy is commonly recognised as a birth injury, although it can occur in other circumstances too. If Erb’s palsy has been caused during labour it can be considered a birth injury.

In some cases, damage to the nerves during birth is unavoidable but it can also be the result of medical negligence. If you believe your baby has been affected by medical negligence, resulting in stress being placed on the brachial plexus, you may be able to make an Erb’s palsy medical negligence claim. We’ll work with you to assess how poor standards in the care you received affected you, reflecting this in the compensation amount we place on your case.

Read less

What are the symptoms of Erb's palsy?

Spotting the signs of Erb’s palsy in infants can be difficult as many are not obvious. The symptoms that you may notice in your baby may include:

  • Inability to move arm or shoulder– Erb’s palsy can cause both temporary and permanent damage to the nerves. One of the most common symptoms of this is the inability to move the affected arm.
  • Weak reflexes – The nerves in the arm are responsible for the feeling as well as movement. You may notice that your baby doesn’t respond as expected to touch or that their reflexes are absent entirely or weaker, including when they grip.
  • Arm bent toward the body– The damage caused to the nerves can mean that keeping the arm bent towards the body is the most comfortable position. You may notice your baby is holding their arm in a strange, unnatural way or that it is limp.
  • Loss of feeling – Feeling in the arm can be lost. This means that when you touch or squeeze your baby’s arm they don’t react at all.
  • Pain – Erb’s palsy can be painful, especially when the affected area is touched. It can be difficult to understand a baby’s cry but if when you’re moving their arm to dress them they cry out, it could be a sign that nerve damage has occurred.

If you notice these signs you should speak to your doctor or health visitor about your concerns.

Read less

How is Erb’s palsy diagnosed?

When the symptoms of Erb’s palsy are noticed, tests can be conducted in order to see whether nerve damage has occurred and how extensive it is. These may include:

  • X-rays– The symptoms of Erb’s palsy can often be mimicked by other conditions, such as issues with bones or joints. An x-ray can help to rule out other potential causes.
  • Electromyography (EMG) – An EMG is used to measure the amount of electrical activity in a muscle when it contracts and relaxes. It can be used as a way to measure whether nerve damage has been caused.
  • Nerve conduction studies (NCS) – This is done in conjunction with an EMG to measure how much nerve damage has occurred within the affected area.
  • MRI – MRI scans provide medical professionals with an image. It can be used as a way to see how much the affected nerves have been damaged and provide additional information that may be required for treatment. 

How is Erb’s palsy treated?

Not all cases of Erb’s palsy require treatment. Where the damage is only minimal, the nerves can often repair themselves over several months. However, it’s still important for a diagnosis to be made so that the progress can be monitored.

Where the damage to the nerves is more extensive, a quick diagnosis can improve the likelihood of treatment working. Failure to deliver treatment when it’s needed can result in permanent paralysis in the affected limb that can have a significant impact on the child’s life.

Treatment options that may be used alone or in combination with others include:

  • Physiotherapy

Physical therapy can be used following surgery to ensure that movement is restored to its fullest possible. It can also sometimes be used alone to support natural recovery. Your physical therapist will be able to advise on how long a full recovery should take and what to expect, as well as providing exercises that can be done at home.

  • Occupational therapy

If your child is affected by Erb’s palsy they may find daily routines a challenge. Occupational therapy works with each child on an individual basis to help them deal with tasks such as tying their shoelaces, eating, and simply playing. In some cases, an occupational therapist may also advise on specialist equipment that could be useful.

  • Hydrotherapy

A form of physical therapy, hydrotherapy can be used to take the stress off the musculoskeletal frame, allowing infants and children affected to build up muscle strength while reducing pain.

  • Nerve Grafts

Where the nerve has been significantly damaged, a nerve graft may be recommended. This is where a sensory nerve is taken from another area of the body and grafted on to the damaged nerve. This can help stimulate the nerve fibres to grow and connect with muscles. The surgery has a high chance of allowing patients to regain the full use of their arm.

  • Tendon/muscle release

Surgery can be used to remove one end of a working tendon and stitch it to a paralysed muscle, therefore allowing a patient to move the muscle that has been affected.

Most babies fully recover from Erb’s palsy within six months and surgery is usually only considered after this point.

Read less

What effect does Erb's palsy have as the baby grows?

If medical professionals fail to diagnose Erb’s palsy and then take the necessary action in regards to treatment, a child affected by the condition can suffer from lifelong complications, including permanent weakness or complete paralysis of the limb.

What are the risks of Erb's palsy?

If Erb’s palsy is extensive and remains undiagnosed or treatment is delayed, one of the key risks is that the damage caused will be permanent. When treatment is delivered effectively, the prognosis for Erb’s palsy is very good. However, without treatment, those affected could find that their limb is paralysed and that treatment options are no longer viable.

When is Erb's palsy considered to be caused by medical negligence?

Sometimes Erb’s palsy is unavoidable and even when it’s caused during delivery it may not be considered medical negligence. However, there are cases where Erb’s palsy can be considered medical negligence.

There are compensation cases of medical negligence causing Erb’s palsy in the news:

  • A teenager sued the NHS after a traumatic birth left him with long-lasting nerve damage after too much force was used by a doctor.
  • A woman developed Erb’s palsy after doctors went ahead with a natural birth when a Caesarean section should have been performed.
  • City Hospitals Sunderland paying out £175,000 to a mother whose son was left with Erb’s palsy, which was initially missed, following a traumatic birth.
  • Three of a child’s nerves being severed from the spinal column in one arm during birth trauma.
Read less

What are the statistics on Erb's palsy?

For every 1,000 births, around one or two children are born with Erb’s palsy, although this figure is decreasing as medical advancements are made. The rate of recovery for Erb’s palsy is high, around four in five children will go on to make a full recovery and many will notice improvements in their condition within the first month.

Conditions related to Erb’s Palsy

Klumpkes palsy: Another type of injury affecting different nerves, which causes weakness of the wrist and finger and of the small muscles of the hand.

Horners syndrome: Damage caused to the sympathetic nervous system often associated with injuries to nerves in the neck producing symptoms including a drooping upper eyelid, elevation of the lower lid, a constricted pupil, and the appearance of a slightly sunken eye.

If you have experienced a traumatic birth that’s injured your baby, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. In order to be successful, you’ll need to show that Erb’s palsy was caused by mismanaged delivery probably due to a delay in recognising shoulder dystocia. In some cases, the effect of Erb’s palsy can be lifelong and your child may require surgery or other treatment.

Yes. If you’ve been living with the effects of Erb’s palsy following a traumatic delivery and would like to make a claim as an adult you can do so. You will need to follow the same processes as a parent suing on behalf of their baby – proving that medical negligee caused the Erb’s palsy and that you suffered as a result. Your time to claim will run from the date you became aware that your injuries were due to a mismanaged delivery.

Every medical negligence claim is different and each is given a value that considers how much your child has been affected. This means that it’s not possible to say exactly how much you could receive in compensation should you decide to take your child’s case forward. Every year the NHS pays out millions to those affected by medical negligence, including those affected during a traumatic birth and in individual cases the amount can be hundreds of thousands, reflecting the suffering that victims have endured.

When you choose to instruct Your Legal Friend, we’ll assess your child’s case and place a value on it. Those that were affected by delayed diagnosis or treatment resulting in permanent and complete paralysis, for example, would receive more compensation than someone who was able to make a full recovery through surgery and other treatment. 

Read less

Should you have a case you would like to take forward, you must do so within three years from the ‘date of knowledge’, the date that you first realised that mistakes had been made.

If you’re unsure how long you have to make an Erb’s palsy medical negligence claim, our team are on hand to offer you their expert advice and insight. We’ll work with you to identify exactly when your ‘date of knowledge’ occurred and explain how to take the next steps.

Erb’s palsy is a form of obstetric brachial plexus disorder that damages the nerves in the upper arm, resulting in a potentially lifelong condition. There are five primary nerves within this area of the body and in Erb’s palsy cases just one or all of them may be affected. These nerves are used for the movement and feeling within the arm. The damage sustained to the nerves can result in partial or complete paralysis of the limb.

In some cases, babies affected by Erb’s palsy can recover without treatment as nerves outside the spinal cord are able to repair themselves over a period of months. However, if an entire nerve is damaged or broken, it will not grow back into the muscle. In some cases, intervention is required to limit the impact the condition will have. Treatment that is delivered quickly has a better chance of limiting the damage that has been caused.

There are a number of factors that determine how severe the Erb’s palsy will be, including:

  • How many nerves have been affected
  • Which of the nerves have been damaged
  • How badly the nerves have been damaged, this can range from being stretched to a nerve being torn away from the spinal column
Read less

The most common cause of Erb’s palsy is a difficult childbirth. For instance, if the infant’s head and neck are pulled to the side during the birth or if excessive pressure is placed on the shoulders, it can cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves and result in Erb’s palsy.

While it is typically caused by a difficult labour, there are risk factors that could increase the chance of Erb’s palsy occurring, including:

  • Small maternal size
  • Large infant size
  • Improper use of birth tools, such as forceps
  • The baby being born in the breech position
  • Labour that lasts a long time
  • The mother being diabetic

While linked to birth, similar injuries can occur at any age following trauma to the head and shoulders.

Other causes can be:

Excessive force

The most common cause of Erb’s Palsy is when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother's pubic bone during childbirth -a condition known as “shoulder dystocia.” The baby's head emerges but the body does not follow at the next contraction.

Concern over oxygen deprivation can lead to excessive force being applied to the baby’s head in the attempt to speed up delivery. Induced or prolonged labour can also be additional factors.

Foetal distress

Around four in ten of babies with complications associated with nerve injuries to the neck may have experienced foetal distress.

Previous births

Complications are possible if a mother has previously given birth to a child with shoulder dystocia. 

Read less

Erb’s palsy is commonly recognised as a birth injury, although it can occur in other circumstances too. If Erb’s palsy has been caused during labour it can be considered a birth injury.

In some cases, damage to the nerves during birth is unavoidable but it can also be the result of medical negligence. If you believe your baby has been affected by medical negligence, resulting in stress being placed on the brachial plexus, you may be able to make an Erb’s palsy medical negligence claim. We’ll work with you to assess how poor standards in the care you received affected you, reflecting this in the compensation amount we place on your case.

Read less

Spotting the signs of Erb’s palsy in infants can be difficult as many are not obvious. The symptoms that you may notice in your baby may include:

  • Inability to move arm or shoulder– Erb’s palsy can cause both temporary and permanent damage to the nerves. One of the most common symptoms of this is the inability to move the affected arm.
  • Weak reflexes – The nerves in the arm are responsible for the feeling as well as movement. You may notice that your baby doesn’t respond as expected to touch or that their reflexes are absent entirely or weaker, including when they grip.
  • Arm bent toward the body– The damage caused to the nerves can mean that keeping the arm bent towards the body is the most comfortable position. You may notice your baby is holding their arm in a strange, unnatural way or that it is limp.
  • Loss of feeling – Feeling in the arm can be lost. This means that when you touch or squeeze your baby’s arm they don’t react at all.
  • Pain – Erb’s palsy can be painful, especially when the affected area is touched. It can be difficult to understand a baby’s cry but if when you’re moving their arm to dress them they cry out, it could be a sign that nerve damage has occurred.

If you notice these signs you should speak to your doctor or health visitor about your concerns.

Read less

When the symptoms of Erb’s palsy are noticed, tests can be conducted in order to see whether nerve damage has occurred and how extensive it is. These may include:

  • X-rays– The symptoms of Erb’s palsy can often be mimicked by other conditions, such as issues with bones or joints. An x-ray can help to rule out other potential causes.
  • Electromyography (EMG) – An EMG is used to measure the amount of electrical activity in a muscle when it contracts and relaxes. It can be used as a way to measure whether nerve damage has been caused.
  • Nerve conduction studies (NCS) – This is done in conjunction with an EMG to measure how much nerve damage has occurred within the affected area.
  • MRI – MRI scans provide medical professionals with an image. It can be used as a way to see how much the affected nerves have been damaged and provide additional information that may be required for treatment. 

Not all cases of Erb’s palsy require treatment. Where the damage is only minimal, the nerves can often repair themselves over several months. However, it’s still important for a diagnosis to be made so that the progress can be monitored.

Where the damage to the nerves is more extensive, a quick diagnosis can improve the likelihood of treatment working. Failure to deliver treatment when it’s needed can result in permanent paralysis in the affected limb that can have a significant impact on the child’s life.

Treatment options that may be used alone or in combination with others include:

  • Physiotherapy

Physical therapy can be used following surgery to ensure that movement is restored to its fullest possible. It can also sometimes be used alone to support natural recovery. Your physical therapist will be able to advise on how long a full recovery should take and what to expect, as well as providing exercises that can be done at home.

  • Occupational therapy

If your child is affected by Erb’s palsy they may find daily routines a challenge. Occupational therapy works with each child on an individual basis to help them deal with tasks such as tying their shoelaces, eating, and simply playing. In some cases, an occupational therapist may also advise on specialist equipment that could be useful.

  • Hydrotherapy

A form of physical therapy, hydrotherapy can be used to take the stress off the musculoskeletal frame, allowing infants and children affected to build up muscle strength while reducing pain.

  • Nerve Grafts

Where the nerve has been significantly damaged, a nerve graft may be recommended. This is where a sensory nerve is taken from another area of the body and grafted on to the damaged nerve. This can help stimulate the nerve fibres to grow and connect with muscles. The surgery has a high chance of allowing patients to regain the full use of their arm.

  • Tendon/muscle release

Surgery can be used to remove one end of a working tendon and stitch it to a paralysed muscle, therefore allowing a patient to move the muscle that has been affected.

Most babies fully recover from Erb’s palsy within six months and surgery is usually only considered after this point.

Read less

If medical professionals fail to diagnose Erb’s palsy and then take the necessary action in regards to treatment, a child affected by the condition can suffer from lifelong complications, including permanent weakness or complete paralysis of the limb.

If Erb’s palsy is extensive and remains undiagnosed or treatment is delayed, one of the key risks is that the damage caused will be permanent. When treatment is delivered effectively, the prognosis for Erb’s palsy is very good. However, without treatment, those affected could find that their limb is paralysed and that treatment options are no longer viable.

Sometimes Erb’s palsy is unavoidable and even when it’s caused during delivery it may not be considered medical negligence. However, there are cases where Erb’s palsy can be considered medical negligence.

There are compensation cases of medical negligence causing Erb’s palsy in the news:

  • A teenager sued the NHS after a traumatic birth left him with long-lasting nerve damage after too much force was used by a doctor.
  • A woman developed Erb’s palsy after doctors went ahead with a natural birth when a Caesarean section should have been performed.
  • City Hospitals Sunderland paying out £175,000 to a mother whose son was left with Erb’s palsy, which was initially missed, following a traumatic birth.
  • Three of a child’s nerves being severed from the spinal column in one arm during birth trauma.
Read less

For every 1,000 births, around one or two children are born with Erb’s palsy, although this figure is decreasing as medical advancements are made. The rate of recovery for Erb’s palsy is high, around four in five children will go on to make a full recovery and many will notice improvements in their condition within the first month.

Klumpkes palsy: Another type of injury affecting different nerves, which causes weakness of the wrist and finger and of the small muscles of the hand.

Horners syndrome: Damage caused to the sympathetic nervous system often associated with injuries to nerves in the neck producing symptoms including a drooping upper eyelid, elevation of the lower lid, a constricted pupil, and the appearance of a slightly sunken eye.