Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury. Sometimes, the name is used interchangeably with the name “brachial plexus palsy.” Like Klumpke’s palsy, Erb’s palsy is a condition caused by an injury to the brachial plexus.
When a child suffers from Erb’s palsy because of an injury he or she sustained during birth due to a physician’s negligence, the physician may be liable for the child’s related damages. The child’s parent may work with an experienced birth injury lawyer to pursue financial compensation for these damages.
What Causes Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is caused by injury to the upper portion of the brachial plexus, the collection of nerves in the upper arm and shoulder that control muscular function in this section of the arm.
Risk factors for a Erb’s palsy include:
- High birth weight;
- Breech position;
- Small maternal size;
- Excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy;
- Long, complex labor; and
- The need for an extraction tool, such as forceps, during birth.
Like other brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy can result from an infant becoming stuck in the birth canal during labor or birth. In many cases, this happens when the infant’s head drops into birthing position, but one of his or her shoulders remains behind the mother’s pelvic bone, becoming trapped and causing the nerves to stretch and tear as gravity and the labor process move the infant’s body downward and out. A doctor who fails to recognize signs of this kind of distress during birth may be liable for the child’s resulting injury damages.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
An infant suffering from Erb’s palsy may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Weakness in the affected arm;
- Slow or halted motor development in the affected arm;
- Paralysis of the affected arm;
- Weak grip strength in the affected arm; and
- A limp, bent arm that remains close to the body.
When a newborn is injured during birth, these symptoms are apparent immediately.
Erb’s Palsy Treatment and Management
The treatment a newborn needs to correct his or her Erb’s palsy depends largely on the severity of his or her condition. Children with less severe injuries can recover with relatively light physical therapy, like stretches and exercises designed to reduce muscle stiffness. Infants with more severe injuries often require surgery to repair damaged nerves. If your child’s pediatrician recommends surgery, having the surgery done promptly will increase your child’s likelihood of making a full recovery. Even if surgery is recommended, your child will also need physical or occupational therapy to develop strength and muscle tone in the affected part of his or her arm.
If your child suffers from Erb’s palsy, he or she will need daily physical therapy. It can take months and potentially a few years for him or her to completely recover. In some cases, a full recovery is not possible. When this is the case, you can actively help your child manage his or her condition through continued physical therapy and pain medication if necessary.
Pursuing Compensation for Damages Related to Your Child’s Injury
When a child suffers from Erb’s palsy due to a physician’s error, the child’s parents can suffer in a variety of ways. They may suffer financially from the additional costs associated with a child’s treatment and disability management later as well as from the wages they miss due to bringing the child for medical treatment and overseeing his or her recovery. In addition to these financial losses, parents of injured children often experience emotional trauma. Parents can pursue compensation for all of these damages, as well as their children’s own damages related to their reduced quality of life because of the injury, through birth injury claims.
Discuss your child’s condition with an experienced birth injury lawyer to determine the most effective course of action for your case. Your lawyer will explain the birth injury claim process to you in detail, and if you choose to pursue a claim, he or she will help you gather and use evidence to support your claim. This evidence may include:
- Photographs of your child’s injury;
- Copies of your child’s medical records;
- Documentation of the time you have spent out of work and your related financial losses; and
- Documentation of your doctor’s recommended treatment prior to and during birth.
When you file a birth injury claim, your lawyer is your advocate. That means he or she is tasked with negotiating with the healthcare provider’s professional liability insurance provider and if necessary, the court. He or she is also tasked with walking you through the legal process of pursuing compensation and advising you on legal actions to take at key junctures in the process.
In Ontario, the statute of limitations for birth injuries is the same as the statute of limitations for other injuries — two years from the date that you knew, or should have known, that your child’s injury resulted from a healthcare provider’s negligence and you understood that pursuing a birth injury claim is a viable option. However, in most cases parents have longer than two years to file a birth injury claim because when an injury victim is a child, the statute of limitations is tolled until one of the following applies:
- The child turns 18; or
- A litigation guardian is appointed for the child.
Work with an Experienced Toronto Birth Injury Lawyer
Knowing that your child was severely injured because of a healthcare provider’s negligence can be one of the most heartbreaking experiences you ever face. Recovering financial compensation for your related damages can not change what happened, but it can make life less stressful for your child and for you. Learn more about your rights as the parent of a child suffering from Erb’s palsy and what you can do to pursue compensation for your damages during your legal consultation with our team of Toronto birth injury lawyers at Preszler Law Firm. Contact our office now to schedule your free consultation with us.