Posted on 01/25/2022

Is Medical Negligence Responsible for an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?

Is Medical Negligence Responsible for an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit?

Sometimes during a long or difficult delivery, a doctor might use forceps or vacuum extractors to pull the baby out of the mother’s womb.

However, when a doctor uses excessive force or an incorrect technique, a baby’s shoulder, neck, or head can become injured, causing nerve damage in their shoulder and arms.

In many cases, this nerve damage is temporary and resolves itself. But in certain cases, the nerve damage is severe enough to cause lifelong disability in an infant’s arm and hand. 

When this occurs, it’s known as Erb’s Palsy, and it affects roughly two out of every 1,000 babies born.

If your infant’s arm has been disabled by a negligent doctor during delivery, your case could qualify for an Erb’s palsy lawsuit. 

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What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s Palsy is also known as brachial plexus palsy, characterized by arm weakness and a loss of motion in an infant’s arm.It’s a form of birth injury caused by excessive mechanical force during a prolonged or difficult delivery

Palsy means weakness or paralysis. In Erb’s Palsy, the weakness is caused by damage to the nerves in an infant’s shoulder and spinal cord, called the brachial plexus. 

Children and infants with Erb’s Palsy often have an arm rotated in towards the body with limited mobility. An infant may be able to move their fingers, but cannot move their shoulders.. 

Is Erb’s Palsy Related to Cerebral Palsy?

Both Erb’s Palsy and Cerebral Palsy are common forms of birth injuries caused by complicated, traumatic, or delayed delivery.

Cerebral Palsy isn’t a specific disorder, but a general term covering many disorders that affect an infant’s brain, body, balance, and posture. While Cerebral Palsy can be the result of a doctor’s negligence, it’s possible to occur without a doctor’s negligence.

However, Erb’s Palsy is almost always the direct result of a doctor’s negligence, caused by excessive mechanical force. 

During some difficult deliveries, a doctor may quickly pull the baby from the birth canal using forceps or vacuum extractors. However, an inexperienced doctor may injure the baby’s neck and nerve bundles, causing Erb’s Palsy or a brachial plexus injury.

What Causes Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s Palsy is almost always the result of excessive force caused by doctors during delivery. There are four main types of brachial plexus palsy, depending on the amount of damage done to the nerves:


This is the most common type of Erb’s Palsy, caused by a stretched nerve, but not a torn nerve. It causes paresthesia, the tingling pins and needles sensation, and usually clears up within a few months.


Neuromas are similar to neuropraxia, nerve damage caused by a stretched nerve. However, In neuromas, scar tissue forms as the nerve heals itself, resulting in an impartial healing process.


Ruptures result when the nerves are completely torn. Torn nerves do not repair themselves, and a nerve graft will be necessary to repair the nerve fibers back together.


Avulsions are the most severe form of nerve injury, resulting from a nerve that’s been torn from the spinal cord directly. Nerve surgery will be necessary, however, a torn nerve cannot be reconnected to the spinal cord. This will leave lifelong paralysis and weakness in the affected arm.

What are the Risk Factors for Pregnant Women?

Because Erb’s Palsy is caused by difficult or prolonged labor during pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of a difficult deliver, including:

  • Large infant size
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Small pelvis
  • Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Having a C-Section
  • Using forceps or vacuum extraction tools

What are the Symptoms?

Erb’s Palsy is quickly recognizable as it can severely affect an infant’s arm and hand mobility and strength.

The symptoms range from the severity of the condition, particularly depending on the amount of nerve damage caused during pregnancy.

The most common symptoms include:

  • A limp arm that hangs by its side
  • An inward-facing hand position (known as the Waiter’s Tip position)
  • Limited mobility and an inability to raise the shoulder
  • Numbness and paralysis in the warm
  • Weakness in the arm

What are the Treatments?

If an infant is believed to have Erb’s Palsy, the first treatment option is non-surgical daily physical therapy. This requires parents to physically move their baby’s arms and perform range-of-motion exercises.

However, if after 3- 6 months your baby’s arm mobility is not improving, surgical treatments may become necessary. 

Surgery will need to be performed using a microscope, called microsurgery, to allow surgeons to correct nerve damage through performing a nerve graft or nerve transfer. 

Even after successful surgery, it still takes several months or years for nerves to fully repair, which can delay a child’s development.

When to File an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit

If you suspect your newborn infant’s arm was damaged due to excessive force during delivery, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Trained and competent doctors, nurses, and delivery room personnel should be trained properly to deliver babies safely without unnecessary complications. 

While certain birth injuries such as Cerebral Palsy can sometimes be the result of natural complications during pregnancy, Erb’s Palsy is almost always the result of medical negligence.

Caring for a child with Erb’s Palsy requires many hours of support and therapy from a family, including expensive surgeries to repair nerve damage. 

Your family shouldn’t pay the price for a doctor’s negligence. 

Contact a Medical Malpractice attorney today who can review your case and give you the financial compensation you deserve through settlement.

Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers at Grover Lewis Johnson 

Grover Lewis Johnson is a leading law firm in Michigan specializing in medical malpractice lawsuits.

We want to help you win your medical malpractice case so you can afford to pay your child’s ongoing care and any existing or outstanding financial bills associated with their Erb’s Palsy.

We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won’t have to pay us until your case is won or settled. If for any reason we do not win your case or reach a settlement, you won’t owe us anything.

At Grover Lewis Johnson, we carefully review and select every case we work on to ensure you have a great chance at reaching a financial settlement early on in the litigation process.

If you suspect your child’s Erb’s Palsy was caused by a negligent doctor, don’t wait, contact us today to speak with one of our Medical Malpractice experts.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels