Erb's palsy claims | Fieldfisher
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Erb's palsy claims*

If you or your family have been affected by sub-standard medical care causing Erb's palsy, our team of expert medical negligence solicitors can help you pursue a claim for compensation.

To speak with one of our Erb's palsy solicitors call +353 (0)1 8280 982 or complete our online inquiry form.

We specialise in Erb's palsy claims and have recovered substantial damages for clients. In fact, Johan Verbruggen, Partner and Head of the Medical Negligence Team in Ireland, has Erb's palsy.

Erb's palsy

Erb's palsy (also known as brachial plexus palsy), is a condition that arises from damage to the nerves running along a baby’s neck and shoulder during childbirth. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves controlling movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hand. When these nerves are injured, it can result in varying degrees of weakness or paralysis in the affected arm.

The vast majority of brachial plexus injuries occur when the baby's shoulder gets stuck behind the mother's pubic bone (a complication known as shoulder dystocia). If excessive force (pulling) on the delivered head is used by the doctor or midwife while the shoulder is stuck, this stretches and in some cases, tears the brachial plexus nerves.

Erb's palsy in Ireland

There are approximately 10 babies born every year with Erb's palsy in Ireland. The Central Remedial Clinic is aware of approximately 180 children aged 0 to 18 who are receiving therapy and care for Erb's palsy. 

What is the brachial plexus?

The brachial plexus is a large network of nerves running from the neck to the arm, managing movement and feeling in the arm and hand. Erb's palsy can affect any or all of those five primary nerves. The nerves emanate from the spinal cord at the cervical level. Often, doctors will refer to nerve damage at C5, C6, C7 etc. and "C" refers to the cervical level.

What is shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that arises during birth, particularly those involving a large baby, where the baby's anterior shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother's pubic bone. "Dystocia" mean difficult birth; as such, the term refers to a difficult delivery of the shoulder. Over the years, various manoeuvres have been developed by obstetricians, that enable delivery of the baby without using excessive force. While the incidence of shoulder dystocia is increasing worldwide, the rate of children born with Erb's palsy remained the same. This demonstrates how successful, management of the birth complication has been. 

If medical staff uses excessive force to attempt to free and deliver a baby, it can cause nerve damage to the baby's brachial plexus.

Paralysis can be partial or complete. The damage to each nerve can range from bruising to tearing. Some injuries recover on their own, but some babies are left with a permanent disability that requires specialist treatment.

Signs of Erb’s palsy

A classic sign is an elbow which does not bend and a hand held in a 'waiters tip' (turning backwards) position.
When a nerve is damaged, weakness or paralysis can affect the arm and hand. Signs may also include a limp hand and possible associated Horner’s syndrome where the eyelid droops and the pupil is smaller on the side of the weak arm.

Babies may also have an associated Torticollis, where they face away from their affected arm and cannot face forward easily.

A nerve that has been severely damaged but remains connected may heal, but scar tissue can form at the site of injury. This scar tissue may stop the electrical messages that run through the nerves, preventing them reaching the muscles. A nerve that is completely pulled apart (avulsion) cannot repair itself, meaning the muscles it supplies are paralysed.

Children affected can have an operation to help the nerve and restore some function to the muscle, but will often be left with some weakness in the arm. Around one-in-ten children need surgery to help improve function of the arm.

Erb's palsy and medical negligence

A case can only be pursued if Erb’s palsy was the result of medical negligence in the management of the pregnancy and/or delivery. Other factors relevant to a claim include:

  • Failure to estimate a large baby's weight and size prior to delivery, particularly if there are clinical signs indicating a large baby such as maternal diabetes a history of previous pregnancies with large babies.
  • Failure to perform a caesarean section when there are clinical indications to do so.
  • Failure to recognise and treat maternal diabetes (maternal diabetes often increases the risk of having a large baby).
  • Failure to follow protocols for managing shoulder dystocia (doctors should perform certain manoeuvres if a baby is stuck in the birth canal).
  • Applying unnecessary and excessive traction or force during delivery, resulting in injury.

How much will a case cost? 

If you wish to know the costs involved in investigating a medical negligence claim, and what it costs to take a case for your medical negligence injuries, the best and quickest way to do so, is to call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on +353 1 8280 982  or complete our online inquiry form. One of our Medical Negligence Solicitors will respond as soon as possible to discuss your options. We are mindful that you will have already experienced an injury or loss that has been upsetting or even traumatic and we will work with you, to make this process as easy as possible.

Are there any time limits on bringing a case? 

The limit on bringing a case will not be until two years from your child's 18th birthday.

If you believe your child's injury is a result of medical negligence, our experienced team is ready to guide you through the legal process. To speak with one of our Erb's palsy solicitors call +353 1 8280 982 or complete our online inquiry form.

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.

Medical Negligence FAQs

Medical negligence is where care provided by a medical professional to a patient was below the standard expected, and which has directly caused harm, death or caused a pre-existing condition to become worse. It helps to break it down as follows:

  1. Duty of Care: Healthcare providers (doctors and hospital staff such as nurses and midwives) owe a duty of care to patients to provide treatment in line with accepted standards.
  2. Breach of Duty: A breach occurs when a healthcare professional fails to meet the standard of care expected in a given situation.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty of care has caused the injury/disability/condition that you are taking the case for.

To start investigating whether or not you or a loved one has a medical negligence case, the simplest and best way is to contact our Medical Negligence Solicitors. You do not need to avail of the HSE’s complaints process before engaging with a solicitor.  We offer a free initial consultation to hear from you, about what has happened and we can then give an initial opinion on whether or not you could have a case.

For your case to be successful, we must be able to prove that you received negligent treatment which caused an injury or contributed to making an existing condition worse. On your behalf, our Medical Negligence Solicitors will write to the hospital or doctor for a copy of your records, study them and then ask an expert doctor to conduct an analysis, and provide an independent report on whether or not the duty of care owed to you or a loved one, was breached.

There are time limits for starting a case and the rules are not straightforward. The quickest, easiest and safest way to ensure that you are not out of time, is to speak with one of our Medical Negligence Solicitors.

As a general rule, you have two years from the date that you first became aware that your injury was caused by medical negligence, to start a case.

Where a child has been injured, his parent or guardian can start a case on their behalf any time before the child turns 18. When the child reaches the age of 18, they have until their 20th birthday to start a case for injuries they sustained as a child.

If somebody is unable to handle their own affairs due to a brain injury or mental health condition, there is no time limit to their loved one starting a case, on their behalf.

It is worth repeating that if you are concerned about a time limit on your case, the safest and quickest way to find out is to contact our Medical Negligence solicitors.

Injuries due to medical negligence can lead to permanent physical and psychological disabilities, requiring lifelong medical care, rehabilitation, and support. The aim of compensation is to cover these expenses, ensuring that injured patients or their families have the financial resources to provide the best possible care for them or their child. Additionally, compensation will account for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic damages associated with the injury.

The amount of compensation you or a loved one deserves for your injuries caused by medical negligence will depend on matters such as:

  • The nature and extent of your injury/illness/disability
  • Any expenses you’ve incurred or will incur in future on treatment
  • Any lost wages past, present or in future because of your injuries/disability
  • Your future care needs

If you wish to know the costs involved in investigating a medical negligence claim, and what it costs to take a case for your medical negligence injuries, the best and quickest way to do so, is to call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on +353 1 8280 982  or complete our online inquiry form. One of our Medical Negligence Solicitors will respond as soon as possible to discuss your options. We are mindful that you will have already experienced an injury or loss that has been upsetting or even traumatic and we will work with you, to make this process as easy as possible.

Medical negligence cases rarely go all the way to trial. Generally speaking, cases where the medicine is especially complex, or cases involving a large number of doctors or hospitals are more likely to go to trial. It is important to know that if your case goes to court, we will guide you through the process, and what to expect.

The Health Service Executive is responsible for care provided to public patients at all of the University Hospitals (e.g. Galway University Hospital, Mayo General Hospital, Letterkenny University Hospital). As such, the majority of cases brought in Ireland are against the HSE. However, to ensure that the correct entity, responsible for your injuries is held to account, it is important that you speak with one of our Medical Negligence Solicitors.

Following a serious incident, the HSE may carry out its own review to highlight failings and to recommend change where appropriate. Such a report can highlight serious systemic or individual problems that have contributed to failings and harm which prompts the hospital trust to implement staff training and other improvements to keep patients safe.

Investigating negligence or taking a case against a doctor or hospital should have no impact on your treatment. If you have any concerns about this, we will advise and assist you. We can discuss with you, your rights such as transfer of your care to another hospital if you do not feel comfortable being treated in the hospital where you suffered an injury due to negligence.

While we try and resolve cases as quickly as possible, every effort will be made to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. How long it will take depends on what happened in your case, the complexity of your injury/disability, and the number of doctors or hospitals involved. Thankfully, there have been some recent changes in the litigation process that enables cases to proceed at a faster pace.

If it is confirmed by an expert that you have been injured due to medical negligence, it is important that the nature and extent of your injury/disability is assessed by that expert or if appropriate, another expert so that we and you know as much about your future as possible. In doing so, we will be able to understand your future needs and seek compensation to cover all of those losses.  

Parents or guardians can take medical negligence cases on behalf of their children. We represent children who have birth injuries such as cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy. Our Medical Negligence Solicitors can advise you on how the claim will run and other information such as time limits. 

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