When there is a complication during childbirth, a mother should expect that she is surrounded by competent and caring medical professionals. Unfortunately, many birth injuries happen as the result of a doctor’s negligence, which could lead to severe and even life-threatening injuries for both an infant and their mother.
If your child was suffered a Michigan brachial plexus injury at birth, a compassionate lawyer might be able to help. It is essential that the circumstances of an injury be investigated, so that fault can be determined. A skillful attorney could work tirelessly to gather evidence and present a persuasive case on your behalf.
How do Nerve Injuries Happen at Birth?
The brachial plexus is a collection of nerve fibers that run from the spinal cord through the neck and down into the arm. Unnecessary force, often due to shoulder dystocia during delivery, is usually the reason for birth injuries to the brachial plexus in Michigan. If the newborn is pulled from the birth canal with one arm over its head or if they are large, the risk for these types of injuries increase.
Damage to this area of nerves could cause several conditions, such as Erb’s palsy, which is a physical disability that can cause disfigurement, poor development, and leave the child unable to use their arm. Newborns may also be diagnosed with Klumpke’s palsy, a partial palsy of the distal root nerves of the brachial plexus. It can cause developmental problems, paralysis, pain, and numbness in the lower forearm and hands. Furthermore, a child might experience the following as a result of a brachial plexus injury:
- Permanent disability
- Muscle atrophy
- Loss of feeling
- Stiff joints
Cause of Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy
Many of these injuries are classified as either Erb’s Palsy or Klumpke’s Palsy. Erb’s Palsy, for example, is one of the most common and serious of all shoulder dystocia injuries, a type of trauma which results from a newborn’s shoulder becoming stuck behind the mother’s cervix during delivery. This results in damage to the nerves connecting the arm and shoulder from the use of excessive force by the obstetrician, to release the stuck shoulder of the newborn. More specifically, when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, the baby’s head delivers but the shoulders do not follow.
Erb’s Palsy is one of the most difficult obstacles that can occur during delivery, because it carries with it the potential for high-risk complications. When the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck during delivery, the physician must perform a particular delivery maneuver to avoid the placement of pressure on the shoulder. If this procedure is done improperly or not performed at all, Erb’s Palsy can occur and the nerve tissue between the arm and shoulder is stretched, partially torn, or completely ruptured.
These affected nerves are referred to as the “brachial plexus nerves” and emerge from the spinal cord, travel across the shoulder, along the arms, into the hand and ultimately, to the fingers tips. The injury which results to these nerves can cause the victim to suffer potentially permanent, partial or complete paralysis of the arm. When this condition could have been prevented with proper medical care, however, it might give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
While there are numerous potential symptoms for Erb’s Palsy, some are more common than others. These include:
- No muscle control and no feeling in the arm or hand
- The ability to move but with little control
- The use of hands but not of the shoulder or elbow
- The entire arm may be paralyzed with the hand and fingers hanging limp
- Facial paralysis on the affected side
- Inability to sit up without assistance
- The inability to crawl without the use of therapeutic devices
Many of these symptoms can improve with appropriate medical intervention, like physical therapy, while others are permanent. These conditions have a significant impact on a child’s self-esteem, the ability to engage in regular childhood activities, and often later on a person’s ability to obtain gainful employment.
How to File a Lawsuit in Michigan
There are inherent risks involved in the delivery of children, which means that not every poor result is due to a medical professional’s malpractice. However, if a child suffers from a brachial plexus injury, it may have been caused by the negligent act of a doctor, nurse, hospital or medical staff during the delivery. Some acts performed by health care providers that are considered malpractice and, therefore, may be the grounds for legal action include:
- Failing to recommend a C-section if there is sufficient risk of shoulder dystocia
- Applying excessive lateral traction to the baby’s neck if shoulder dystocia occurs during vaginal delivery
- Failing to determine that the baby’s shoulders are too large to fit through the birth canal
- Failing to properly estimate the weight of the baby
For example, a properly trained physician should recognize the risk factors for Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy before the birth of the baby. Common risk factors include high birth weight, mother’s diabetes, a heavy mother, pregnancy beyond 40 weeks, and others should be monitored. The failure to recognize these potential risks or act accordingly upon their discovery may, therefore, constitute negligence or medical malpractice.
These lawsuits for a brachial plexus injury or other condition in Michigan seek compensation for both the child and the parents. To this end, a compassionate attorney could help to establish how these injuries have impacted a person’s life.
Can a Case Settle?
If a plaintiff and their Michigan attorney have enough to possibly convince a jury that the defendant was, indeed, negligent and caused a brachial plexus injury at birth, a settlement might be negotiated. In a settlement, both sides come together and agree on an amount that the defendant could pay the plaintiff in return for the plaintiff dismissing the lawsuit. Whether or not a case settles can depend on many factors, however, such as the evidence, the doctor’s insurance company and attorneys, and the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The Time Frame for Filing a Claim
One of the most important facts for potential plaintiffs in a birth injury lawsuit to be aware of is the statute of limitations. This is a mandated and defined time period that victims or their guardians have to file a lawsuit after a medical professional’s error causes an injury. Under Michigan Compiled Laws § 600.5851, if a child is under the age of 8 and was injured during birth, a claim can be filed within two years of the incident or by the child’s 10th birthday. This difference is determined by which time period is longer.
Furthermore, a mother looking to pursue compensation for their own injuries must adhere to a two-year statute of limitations as well. Because of this, consulting a Michigan lawyer who is familiar with brachial plexus injury cases might be essential.
How an Attorney Might Help with a Michigan Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Claim
Any family who was impacted by a brachial plexus injury in Michigan should consider reaching out to a compassionate lawyer for help. Depending on the circumstances of an injury, you might be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement and disability, and other associated costs.
A dedicated attorney at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. could work to secure the compensation you deserve, so that you can focus on spending time with your family.
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