Can a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Be Due to Medical Malpractice?
When a child is born with a brachial plexus injury, it is natural to wonder if medical errors or negligence contributed to the injury. Such injuries can happen when a baby’s shoulders are large relative to the size of the mother. When the baby gets wedged in the birth canal during the delivery process, the baby’s brachial plexus nerves can stretch or tear.
Types of Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control shoulder, arm, and hand movement. There are essentially four types of nerve injuries:
A stretching of a nerve, akin to a mild muscle strain, which usually heals on its own within a few months.
A stretching of a nerve that not only damages the nerve fibers but results in the development of scar tissue that presses on other nerves. This can result in permanent loss of some or all function in the affected arm.
A rupture, or tearing apart, of the nerve. It may be possible to reconnect the severed nerve with surgery.
A disconnection, or severing, of the nerve from the spinal cord. Permanent damage is very likely, although surgery may be able to restore some function.
The impact of a brachial plexus injury ranges from being unable to feel and move the entire arm from the shoulder down to being able to move some parts of the arm such as just the shoulder or just the hand. A child may have lifelong problems with moving their shoulder, elbow, arm, wrist, and/or hand.
Indications of Medical Malpractice in a Brachial Plexus Injury
Of course, the size of the baby and the mother are not anyone’s fault. However, medical malpractice may enter into the equation if:
The baby was known to be oversized or in a breech position before labor began, and the obstetrician or midwife failed to warn the mother of the risk of complications during a vaginal birth.
The baby was clearly oversized or in a breech position at the time of delivery, and the medical team had plenty of time to order delivery via cesarean section before the baby had the chance to become wedged in the birth canal.
The delivery team used excessive force to extract the baby, resulting in nerve damage. Note that a baby of any size can sustain a brachial plexus injury during birth if the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal in a bad position.
The delivery team failed to quickly recognize the signs of a brachial plexus birth injury and/or failed to take appropriate measures to reduce the long-term effects of any birth injury.
Determining if you have a valid claim: In order to determine whether doctor or staff errors contributed to a child’s brachial plexus injury, your lawyer will have to obtain all related medical records and have them reviewed by an independent medical expert. Only if the independent expert is willing to testify to specific errors can you move forward with a medical malpractice claim.
Statute of limitations for birth injuries: The severity of some birth injuries may not become obvious until months or even years later. Illinois law, therefore, allows you to file a related medical malpractice claim up to eight years after a child’s birth.
Talk to a Skilled Cook County Birth Injury Lawyer
Medical malpractice before, during, or just after birth can result in costly, long-term injuries to a child. To learn if your child’s case is actionable, discuss the circumstances of the birth and the resulting injuries with an experienced Orland Park birth injury attorney. Call Schwartz Injury Law at 708-226-9000 for a free initial consultation.