If a child is pulled with too much force during birth, they could be diagnosed with Erb’s palsy. This condition damages nerves in the brachial plexus that provide the sense of touch and provide movement in the arm. While Erb’s palsy isn’t always avoidable, in some cases it is caused by medical negligence. This guide on Erb’s palsy claims will explain when you may be able to claim compensation on behalf of your child to help them deal with any suffering or disability sustained due to medical negligence.
Our team of specialist advisors can help you to understand your options by reviewing your case in a no-obligation consultation. They’ll explain how Erb’s palsy claims work and provide free legal advice. If you have a strong enough claim, a medical negligence solicitor from our team may agree to represent you. Should that happen, they’ll manage everything on your behalf but you won’t need to pay legal fees upfront because of their No Win No Fee service.
Please continue reading our guide for more information on Erb’s palsy claims or call our team today on 0800 6524 881 to speak to a specialist.
Table of contents
- What Is Erb’s Palsy?
- How Does Erb’s Palsy Occur?
- How Is Erb’s Palsy Treated?
- Am I Eligible To Make An Erb’s Palsy Compensation Claim?
- What Types Of Negligence Can Lead To To Erb’s Palsy Claims?
- How Much Compensation For Erb’s Palsy Could I Claim?
- Time Limits For Claiming Erb’s Palsy Compensation
- Starting The Erb’s Palsy Compensation Claims Process
Erb’s palsy is a condition where nerves in the brachial plexus are torn, bruised or stretched which can cause weakness or paralysis in the affected arm.
The brachial plexus consists of five nerves that start in the vertebrae in the neck, under the collarbone and down the arm via the armpit. This network of nerves provides feeling and movement to the arm by conducting signals from the spine to the chest, shoulder and arm.
The severity of Erb’s palsy is variable from case to case. Some children will suffer mild and short-term problems while others will have to deal with severe and life-long disabilities.
Erb’s palsy can cause:
- Weakness or paralysis in one arm.
- Arm numbness.
- Reduced grip or hand limpness.
- A backwards-facing hand.
- A small pupil or drooping eyelid on one side of the body.
- One arm shorter than the other or differently shaped arms (caused by a lack of muscle use).
The main classifications of Erb’s Palsy are:
- Neuropraxia. Usually, neuropraxia will mean a good prognosis as a nerve will be stretched but not torn.
- Neuroma. Again, the nerve is stretched but not torn. However, the stretching is more severe and could lead to the formation of scar tissue with long-term damage.
- Torn or ruptured nerves. Where surgery will be required to repair the nerves.
- Avulsion. The most serious form of Erb’s palsy where the nerve is completely severed from the spine. Operations to repair the nerve may be possible by grafting healthy nerves but the chance of long-term problems is much higher.
Usually, Erb’s palsy occurs when a child is extracted during vaginal delivery. It is caused by excessive pulling of the baby’s shoulders and head. Where the baby’s head is proportionately larger than the mother’s pelvis, there is an increased risk of brachial plexus damage. The risk of Erb’s palsy also increases when:
- The baby is positioned incorrectly.
- Forceps or other extraction tools are used.
- The second stage of labour is lengthy.
If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy and you believe it was caused by negligence during labour, please speak to our team today.
As Erb’s palsy can affect babies differently, there are several approaches to treating the condition including:
- Physiotherapy. This can reduce stiffness in the arm if your child cannot move it on their own. Physiotherapy can also prevent the abnormal development of the shoulder and arm.
- Nerve surgery. Usually, nerve repair surgery will be considered when your baby is around 4 months old before any muscle wastage is too severe. Surgery involves grafting pieces of nerves from other parts of the body onto the brachial plexus.
- Shoulder surgery. Where the shoulder doesn’t develop properly, manipulation or injections might be prescribed. For more serious cases, an operation may be needed to move the shoulder into the correct place.
- Occupational Therapy (OT). OT can be used to help your child learn how to use their arms for certain tasks such as writing and playing.
Erb’s palsy compensation claims must be based on medical negligence. That means that before a medical negligence solicitor from our team takes on an Erb’s palsy claim, they’ll need evidence of:
- Negligence: where the care provided by a midwife, doctor, nurse or paediatrician during labour was substandard; and
- Causation: it can be proven that Erb’s palsy was caused as a direct result of that negligence.
Whether you’re claiming against the NHS or a private medical provider, birth injury claims can become quite complex affairs. That’s why we’d always suggest that you take on specialist legal representation. If you work with a specialist solicitor on our team, they’ll use third-party specialists and their legal skills to try and present as strong a case as possible.
Some examples of when you may be able to claim compensation for Erb’s palsy include when the medical professional who treated you didn’t:
- Let you know about any potential birth injuries.
- Use the right amount of force during delivery.
- Use the correct tools.
- Realise there was a risk of nerve damage.
- Consider a caesarean section delivery.
- Try to reposition your baby if it was trapped.
During the claims process, a medical expert will be consulted by your solicitor. If they believe that things should have been done differently, you may be able to claim compensation for your child’s suffering.
When claiming compensation for Erb’s palsy, you will need to think about how your child has suffered already and whether their life will be affected in the future. Some of the things that could be covered by the claim include:
- The physical pain caused to your baby during delivery plus any ongoing suffering.
- The cost of a professional carer or your time if you stopped working for any length of time to support your child’s needs.
- Modifications to your home or vehicle if aids such as hoists, lifts or handrails will make it easier to cope.
- Travel costs.
- Medical expenses including private physiotherapy.
- Loss of earnings if your child’s injuries will limit their ability to work in the future.
It may take many years for your child’s prognosis to be fully understood so a court may decide to award interim payments to help you deal with the financial impact of their injuries until the claim is finalised.
Realistically, it’s not possible to say how much compensation for medical negligence your child might receive because no two Erb’s palsy claims are the same. However, after your claim has been reviewed in full and your solicitor has received medical reports, they may be able to offer a compensation estimate.
Importantly, for birth injury claims, courts sometimes award a lump sum payment plus an annual payment for the rest of your child’s life. If you work with a medical negligence solicitor, they’ll provide as much evidence as possible to try and ensure your child receives the maximum compensation possible.
Usually, medical negligence claims have a 3-year time limit. However, the limitation for cases involving children doesn’t start until their 18th birthday. Therefore, Erb’s palsy claims can be started by a litigation friend at any time before that date.
As mentioned earlier, Erb’s palsy claims can sometimes take a while to be finalised if the full impact of your child’s injuries is assessed. However, it’s a good idea to begin your claim as soon as possible. If liability is agreed upon early, NHS Resolution (the body that deals with claims against NHS hospitals) could agree to pay interim payments while the claim progresses.
This could make it easier for you to deal with a reduced income or cover the cost of a carer.
To make it easier for you to take on specialist legal representation, our team of solicitors offer a No Win No Fee service for Erb’s palsy claims they accept. That means that:
- There are no legal fees to pay upfront.
- You don’t pay for your solicitor’s work if the claim fails.
- A success fee will be deducted from any settlement to cover the cost of your solicitor’s work.
If you’d like to discuss claiming compensation for Erb’s palsy please call our team on 0800 6524 881. There’s nothing to lose by calling as you’ll receive free legal advice and there’s no pressure to proceed.
Our live chat service is available if you’d like to know anything else about the process of making an Erb’s palsy claim.