The Most Common Birth Injuries Within the Realm of Personal Injury Law

Photo of author

( — May 5, 2017) — Being pregnant is quite arguably one of the most exciting, yet, terrifying times in the life of a young mother or couple. The promise of a perfect being is an awesome anticipation, but sometimes childbirth does not go as perfectly as hoped. There are times when a fetus is injured either in utero or during childbirth, and the repercussions can be substantial and costly, both financially and emotionally.

There are some common birth injuries that are involved in personal injury law. Occurring during the birth or immediately after, the effects of birth injuries can be far-reaching and life-altering. If you think that your child was injured through the negligence of the clinicians during delivery, you do have recourse for your child’s injuries and whatever disabilities that may result. According to a team of Atlanta personal injury lawyers, the most common types of childbirth injuries that happen during or just after delivery are Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Palsy and Cerebral Palsy. The results of both injuries can have consequences for your child’s future that must be compensated.

Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Palsy)

Occurring in only about two of every 1000 live births in America, Erb’s Palsy is an injury that is sustained to the child’s brachial plexus. The brachial plexus affects a group of nerve fibers that run from the spinal cord to the arm and controls the movement of the hands and arms.

When a delivery is more complex, the nerves can be damaged. In a more difficult delivery, sometimes more pressure needs to be applied to the baby’s neck, shoulder, or head, because the shoulder area gets “stuck.” Known as “shoulder dystocia,” this condition typically results when a baby is larger than normal or has a higher than average birth weight.

Erb’s Palsy can also result from the use of a vacuum device or forceps during delivery, which is much more caustic and can cause injury. The consequence is that the brachial plexus is “overstretched” to the degree that the nerves themselves are ruptured or torn.

Symptoms of Brachial Palsy are the baby’s inability to move or use their arm, limited mobility of the hands or fingers and/or complete loss of sensation or feeling of the fingers and hands. It’s hard to diagnose at delivery, because the baby will often hold the arm close to the body. But the damage becomes evident early on because they have very little control over the movement of their arms, hands, and fingers.

The complications of Erb’s Palsy typically result from the physician’s negligence by

  • Not recognizing the incident of shoulder dystocia when delivering.
  • Not performing a cesarean section when warranted due to the weight or size of the baby.
  • Using excessive force during delivery of the baby’s shoulder, neck or head at the time of delivery.

The consequence of Erb’s Palsy is that a child is usually not able to flex or rotate their arm fully. If the brachial nerves are completely torn, the damage is likely to be permanent. If the nerves are not torn but rather just swollen or highly bruised, the condition will likely resolve with therapy, immobilization for healing, or special exercises. There are times when surgery is needed for repair.

Cerebral Palsy

Many different disorders fall under the cerebral palsy classification. It is a number of disorders that can affect a baby’s brain and the function of their body movements. The injury can be sustained during delivery or in the womb, and sometimes even after the child has been delivered. Cerebral Palsy is the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain.

The injury can be due to

  • The physician not administering the proper amount of oxygen support during cesarean section or delaying a cesarean section for too long.
  • Harmful drugs used during pregnancy.
  • A baby’s brain bleeding excessively post-delivery resulting from head trauma.
  • An excessively premature birth.

The symptoms of CP might not show immediately, but they typically surface as higher movement development begins. The baby might show an inability to reach their milestones like rolling over, smiling, or crawling. They also might have low muscle tone, unusual postural movements, or involuntary movements.

If you notice that your child’s development is lagging or see signs that something is not right immediately post-delivery, it is important to investigate the delivery procedure and to ensure that your delivery was handled correctly for your well-being and your child’s future.