A brachial plexus injury occurs when the brachial plexus nerves (a group of nerves that go from the spine, throughout the neck and arms) experience trauma. For infants, these types of infants generally occur during delivery when a physician pulls or tugs too hard while trying to pull the baby out. Although brachial plexus injuries most often occur during a difficult and stressful delivery, there are several maneuvers that doctors can utilize to reduce the risk of the infant getting hurt. Therefore, most infant brachial plexus injuries happen due to medical negligence and carelessness.
Brachial Plexus Injuries and Medical Malpractice
In some cases in point, a brachial plexus injury may occur through no fault of anyone. However, as aforementioned, since these injuries can usually be avoided with the correct safety precautions and measures, it’s commonly caused when a physician doesn’t exercise the utmost care when delivering a baby. When doctors injure an infant, whether knowingly or unknowingly, there is a good chance that they may be liable for medical malpractice. Brachial plexus injuries that fall under medical malpractice are generally caused by:
- The physician pulling the infants arms, shoulders, and/or head too roughly during delivery
- Failure to scheduled an emergency C-section for a large infant, which could have eliminated the need to pull and tug the infant with force
- Improper use of birth-assisting tools, such as a vacuum extraction tool or forceps
One of the primary reasons that brachial plexus injuries are considered avoidable is that the signs that the injury has the potential to occur are usually there prior to delivery. For instance, most infants who experience brachial plexus injuries are large for their gestational age, weigh more than the average baby their age, and/or are in the breech position.
Physicians should be aware of these issues beforehand and take the proper measures to ensure the delivery is as safe as possible. Failing to perform an emergency C-section, for example, or failing to apply medical maneuvers to deliver the baby without causing injuries may be considered medical negligence and consequently fall under medical malpractice.
What Is A Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement?
A brachial plexus injury settlement is a way for the responsible party who caused the baby’s injuries to compensate the victims, which in cases such as these, would be the baby as well as those who are responsible for the baby’s care, such as parents or legal guardians.
In order to begin the settlement process, the parents or legal guardians must start a lawsuit against the defendant (ex: the physician and/or hospital). Once the lawsuit has been initiated, the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s attorneys will share case evidence and other important documents so that both side understand what they are against. In most cases, if the evidence shows overwhelming proof that the defendant is at fault, a settlement agreement is worked out. This process can take anywhere from many months to a few years or more. Since no two cases are alike, there is no certain way to determine how long the discovery phase of a lawsuit will last.
How Much Compensation Can I Receive From a Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement?
Since each case is unique, there is not set value of brachial plexus injury settlement amounts. Many factors will influence the amount of compensation you’ll receive, including the state you live in and how severe the injury was. For example, some infants who experience a brachial plexus injury will have minimal damage and heal with physical therapy, while others may need invasive surgery and a lifetime of rehabilitative therapy. Some babies may never recover from their injuries and will have long-term limited use of the affected limbs.
When deciding on a settlement amount, the following are generally factored in:
- Medical costs and expenses: Surgery, medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, costs of travel to and from medical appointments, more
- Medical-assistive devices, such as braces, splints, casts, etc.
- Home accommodations (if needed)
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and anxiety
- Lost wages (should a caregiver need to leave to care full-time for the infant)
Examples of Brachial Plexus Injury Settlements
The following cases are among a few of the many brachial plexus injury settlement cases in the United States. Although, as previously mentioned, settlement amounts will differ depending on each lawsuits, these cases can give you a general idea of types of settlement amounts according to the specifics in each claim.
Harvey, Illinois $500,000 Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement
In 1997, a baby girl suffered a brachial plexus injury at the Ingalls Memorial Hospital, in Harvey, Illinois. According to medical documents, the infant’s mother had a normal delivery, yet suffered the brachial plexus injury, along with six broken rib bones, due to inappropriate force used by the attending physician.
The lawsuit was unusually long, lasting close to 10 year. In 2007, an Illinois judge granted the plaintiff a $500,000 settlement amount.
$2 Million Brachial Plexus Settlement
In a confidential case, the parents of an infant who experienced brachial plexus injuries during birth were awarded $2 million for their birth injury lawsuit. According to medical records, the infant, a boy, was delivered by a medical intern who had no prior experience in dealing with a difficult delivery.
During delivery, the baby experienced shoulder dystocia, a medical term meaning that an infant’s shoulders are lodged in the mother’s pelvic area. Instead of using medically-appropriate maneuvers to dislodge the baby’s shoulder, the intern applied too much pressure and pulled too harshly, resulting in brachial plexus nerves tearing.
Chicago $20 Million Brachial Plexus Injury Settlement
In 2003, the family of an infant girl who sustained several birth injuries successfully won their lawsuit, resulting in a $20 million settlement.
According to reports, mother Kimberly Ault was admitted into the Evanston Hospital in 1998 to deliver her daughter, Kelsey Ann. Although the baby was in the breech position, physicians failed to carry out an emergency C-section. Instead, a normal delivery was carried out, resulted in the baby’s head becoming lodged in Ault’s pelvic area.
Per court documents, the physician delivering the infant “applied excessive traction or pulling prior to delivery.” Consequently, the baby was born with severe brachial plexus injuries, requiring surgery two months later at the Children’s Hospital in Texas.
For more detailed information on brachial plexus injuries, including causes, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment options, refer to our article Brachial Plexus Injury.