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Brachial Plexus Injury & Erb’s Palsy

baby reaching for father's fingerMedical malpractice attorneys serving northern New Jersey, including Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Middlesex, and Essex counties.

It is estimated that roughly 7 in 1,000 live births result in birth injuries. Despite the world-class medical care we receive in this country, instances of gross negligence still occur.

Many of the brachial plexus and Erb’s palsy birth injury cases are preventable. Babies too large to proceed with vaginal birth, improper use of forceps and vacuum deliveries have all been linked to injury to newborns.

It can be all too easy to settle for the doctor’s explanation of how “nothing could have been done differently,” but only the hiring of a medical malpractice lawyer and digging into what actually happened will give you the peace of mind you need to move past this devastating obstacle and focus on your child’s rehabilitation.

The New Jersey birth injury attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh have more than 25 years of experience representing the interests of plaintiffs going up against hospitals, doctors and other negligent parties in a court of law. You may be entitled to compensation totaling in the hundreds of thousands to the millions of dollars. It costs nothing to have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer look into what happened on your delivery day.

Brachial plexus injury overview

Shoulder dystocia – when a child’s shoulders get caught on the mother’s pubic bone — is one of the most frightening emergencies in the delivery room, according to American Family Physician. Doctors initially try to maneuver a large or poorly positioned baby around during the pushing phase, but may resort to the use of vacuums, forceps or excessive force and twisting to get the infant out. Brachial plexus injuries occur when the bundle of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the neck, shoulders, arms and hands becomes damaged. This type of birth injury ranges from mild to severe.

Symptoms of brachial plexus injury may include:

  • Lack of movement in the arm or hand
  • An arm flexed at the elbow, clutched against the body
  • Decreased grip in one hand
  • The lack of Moro reflex in one arm

A diagnosis can be made using EMG, nerve conduction, MRI and CT scan tests, as well as visual observation.

Prognosis for brachial plexus birth injuries

Typically, diagnosis and surgical intervention happen right away, although there are circumstances where delaying three or four months and allowing some spontaneous recovery may be advisable. Specialized surgeons are needed to perform complex brachial plexus surgeries. In recent years, the Hospital for Special Surgery has found that long nerve grafts can fully restore function in the majority of patients.

Long-term physical therapy is then needed to strengthen the recovering muscles and maintain joint flexibility. Pain management may also be needed, depending on the type of injury. Fewer than 10 percent of babies born with Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries have permanent injuries, but the ordeal can still traumatize the family and result in exorbitant medical bills.

Cases arising from medical malpractice

Our medical malpractice attorneys have consulted a team of medical experts who tell us there are several steps a doctor can take to relieve shoulder dystocia, without injuring the mother or the baby. Positioning the baby with the “McRoberts Maneuver” can relieve more than 40 percent of all cases. When combined with applying “suprapubic pressure,” at least half of all shoulder dystocias can be alleviated without incident.

Medical malpractice can often be proved in cases involving:

  • Large babies who weighed more than 10 pounds and were forced into a vaginal birth
  • Mothers with particularly small birth canals that were not properly examined prior to delivery
  • The improper use of forceps or vacuums during delivery
  • Excessive use of force, causing stretching or lesions to the nerve sheath
  • Failure to monitor for breech, occiput posterior or occiput transverse presentations

At Eisbrouch Marsh, a team of qualified medical experts will review your case to assess whether a “reasonable standard of care” was exercised in the birthing of your baby. The courts essentially want to know: What would another doctor – given the same background, expertise and education – have done in this situation?

If gross negligence can be proven through expert testimony and the examination of medical records, then your family may receive a settlement or jury award to help you pay for the ongoing medical expenses, as well as compensation for the mental anguish the hospital or doctor’s negligence caused.

Damages awarded in a birth injury lawsuit

New Jersey birth injury lawsuits often seek damages for:

  • Past, present and future medical expenses
  • Permanent impairments and disability
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional harm
  • Loss of future employability and earnings
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Punitive damages

The Physician Insurers Association of America reported that nearly 60 percent of brachial plexus injury lawsuits result in the plaintiffs receiving an average of $301,000 in monetary compensation. This number is four times the median payout for other types of medical malpractice lawsuits.

“The potential for monetary payout far in excess of the median is possible,” they report, citing a case where a child suffered residual weakness in one arm and the verdict for the plaintiff totaled more than $3 million, including $20,000 for past pain and suffering, as well as $2 million for future pain and suffering and $1 million for lost earning potential.

Recent headline-grabbing cases involving birth injury malpractice include:

  • $77.4 million awarded to a New York woman whose son suffered palsy, seizures, blindness and severe disability requiring round-the-clock care after doctors failed to respond to signs of distress at St. John’s Riverside Hospital.
  • $130 million given to a Long Island family after a little girl was left unable to walk or talk due to brachial plexus injuries sustained at the Orange Regional Medical Center in 2002.

Often out-of-court settlements occur in advance of a trial for undisclosed sums.

New Jersey birth injury lawyers

There are several questions you should ask an attorney prior to hiring the firm to investigate your case:

  • What birth injury lawsuit experience does the firm have? Personal injury and medical malpractice are broad fields. You want an attorney who has investigated and won birth injury cases, specifically. Going up against hospitals and doctors is no room for amateurs. These generally well-respected members of the community will not go down without a fight – and the best legal ammunition money can buy.
  • How long will it take to resolve the case? The best birth injury attorneys are sensitive to your situation and understand that you have already been waiting a long time to get the answers and compensation you need to move forward. He or she should be able to give you a general guideline as to how long it takes for these claims to progress, whether it’s six months or several years.
  • Will this birth injury lawsuit likely go to trial? Experienced lawyers can usually tell right away whether a case will go straight to settlement or be dragged through court. Even though each case is unique and dependent on myriad factors, skilled NJ lawyers can often predict what will happen next.
  • How much will a medical malpractice lawsuit cost me? The initial costs associated with hiring an expert legal team should be nothing at all. However, you will be subject to a fee for services from a portion of the settlement or jury award. This amount should be clearly stated in advance.
  • What is the process for filing a birth injury claim in NJ or NYC? You want a lawyer who will maintain communication with you throughout the entire process, from signing authorizations and early discovery, through depositions and court hearings. 

It can be daunting to go up against an entrenched medical establishment, but a NJ brachial plexus injury attorney at Eisbrouch Marsh is a valuable asset.

Eisbrouch Marsh injury attorneys will:

  • Help you obtain detailed medical records of your delivery
  • File all paperwork completely
  • Fight to secure maximum compensation
  • Negotiate pre-trial settlements or prepare trial testimonies and documents
  • Lend a sympathetic ear during your time of need

Speak with an Erb’s palsy lawyer New Jersey trusts

Filing a birth injury lawsuit can never undo the damage that has been done. However, it is important that negligence be taken to task so that the same mistakes do not continue happening to others. The monetary compensation you receive can help your family pick back up and look toward the future.

Call Eisbrouch Marsh at 201-342-5545 to speak with a dedicated NJ medical malpractice lawyer today. The consultation is free and there are no legal fees unless you recover compensation. We serve all of northern New Jersey, including Paramus, Hackensack, the rest of Bergen County, as well as all five boroughs of New York City and Long Island.

  1. American Family Physician – Shoulder Dystocia http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0401/p1707.html
  2. CUP – Potentially Avoidable Injuries To Mothers and Newborns During Childbirth http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb74.jsp
  3. Right Diagnosis – Statistics About Birth Injuries http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/b/birth_injury/stats.htm
  4. NY Daily News - Disabled Brooklyn boy awarded $25 million in untreated jaundice case against New York Methodist Hospital http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/methodist-hospital-malpractice-article-1.1522103
  5. Hopkins Medical – Surgery for Brachial Plexus Injury http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/specialty_areas/peripheral_nerve_surgery/treatments/brachial_plexus_surgery.html