7 Risks to Consider If Your Child Sustained a Brachial Plexus Injury During Birth

The Facts About Brachial Plexus 

Brachial plexus injuries occur when nerves running from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand are overstretched or torn during childbirth. While spontaneous recovery often occurs in mild cases, more severe injuries lead to lasting limitations in movement and function.

Beyond the obvious physical challenges, babies afflicted with brachial plexus injuries and their families commonly confront a host of emotional, psychological, financial and legal hardships. As daunting as these realities are, arming yourself with information is the best way to prepare for the road ahead while equipping yourself to make the best decisions for your child.

Stalwart Law Group has decades of experience guiding clients through birth injury cases. Our team of talented and dedicated attorneys are available to give you personalized and strategic attention. Call our offices today at 310-954-2000for your free consultation. 

Newborn baby and mom in hospital bed after suffering birth injury

7 Risks to Understand: Brachial Plexus

1. Physical Development Challenges

The most immediate concern for a child with brachial plexus impairment is compromised physical development. Injuries can result in varying degrees of arm paralysis, muscle weakness or loss of feeling in the hand or fingers. This impairs their ability to achieve motor skills development milestones like lifting their head, sitting up, crawling or walking.

Physical and occupational therapy become paramount to help stimulate muscle activity and rebuild strength and coordination. Even with rigorous rehabilitation, full functionality may never be restored. Surgery is sometimes required to reconstruct damaged nerves, accompanied by an intensive therapy regimen post-operation.

2. Long-Term Therapy and Rehabilitation

Children with brachial injuries often require years of therapy, rehabilitation, check-ups, tests and repeat surgeries. This mandates immense time, energy and financial commitment until they reach maximum recovery – which for some is never attained.

Depending on the severity of the injury, they may need rehabilitation two to three times a week for several years. This could interfere with school and social development if not managed strategically. Travel and time away from work for parents also take a toll.

3. Life-long Impact on Independence

Due to chronic impairment on one side of their body, children find many activities challenging without assistance. Simple tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth and self-feeding require monumental effort. More complex skills like sports may be unattainable.

While independence should be fostered wherever possible, accepting limitations and dependence on caregivers becomes necessary. Needing help beyond childhood can be emotionally taxing, negatively impacting self-confidence and self-worth.

4. Psychological Stress

Around preschool age, children become conscious of differences between themselves and others. Limited strength, mobilty or sensation in one arm leads to feelings of shame, anger or isolation. Stress surrounding medical procedures and rehabilitation also takes its toll.

Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem often emerge and may persist into adulthood. Ensuring counseling and support groups are built into the care plan aids overall mental health. Surrounding children with empathy and optimism is vital.

5. Impacts on Education

Brachial plexus injuries can introduce barriers to academic participation and performance. Children may tire easily due to overcompensating with their stronger arm. Fine motor challenges like holding a pencil and writing neatly also arise.

Classroom accommodations including electronic note-taking tools, extended time on exams or assignments, and assistive devices for writing often help level the playing field. Still, adaptations should align with the goal of preserving independence wherever viable.

6. Financial Strain

The costs associated with brachial plexus injuries accumulate exponentially given extended care needs. Long-term therapy costs, assistive equipment, home and vehicle modifications plus loss of income due to missed work quickly overwhelm families.

Research indicates the first 18 years of life for a child with a brachial plexus injury costs between $700,000 to $1 million on average. Expenses continue mounting into adulthood with additional surgeries, therapy for pain management or mental health support.

7. Legal Ramifications

When negligence before, during or immediately after birth causes injury to mother or baby the only legal recourse is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Successfully proving malpractice yields financial compensation covering medical costs, loss of future income and more based on extent of injury.

However, litigation is complex. Strict filing deadlines, extensive paperwork, high rejection rates and lengthy proceedings all complicate matters. Still, by age 5, determining recovery likelihood becomes clear. Initiating claims thereafter centers on quantifying life-long effects. An experienced birth injury attorney simplifies the process.

Imagine This Hypothetical Brachial Plexus Scenario 

The day had finally arrived. Maria was 39 weeks pregnant and could hardly contain her excitement to meet her first child. As she and her husband drove to the hospital, joy and anticipation filled their hearts. Little did they know, this day would end far differently than imagined.

Maria's labor progressed steadily through the morning. By early afternoon, the doctor informed her it was time to push. With her husband holding one hand and a nurse holding the other, Maria summoned every ounce of strength in her body and pushed. But something felt wrong. Maria sensed distress in the medical team working to deliver her child.

Then, in what felt like slow motion, her baby emerged - limp, silent and blue. The medical staff swept the newborn to the other side of the room where they urgently worked to resuscitate him. The minutes ticked by in excruciating uncertainty.

Finally, faint cries pierced the tension. Maria's son was alive but there was cause for grave concern. His left arm hung limply at his side while the rest of his body flailed in distress. Maria's joy dissolved into fear and confusion.

In the following hours, Maria and her husband grappled with unfathomable news - their son had sustained a brachial plexus injury during the birthing process. This severe nerve damage in his neck and shoulder resulted in paralysis of his arm. They plunged into the unknown, praying for recovery yet riddled with worry over their baby's future. Little did they know how profoundly this moment would shape their lives for years to come.

Take Legal Action Now

If your child suffered brachial plexus injury resulting from medical negligence, swift action is imperative to exercise your legal rights. Compiling thorough medical records immediately following diagnosis safeguards important documentation should litigation be pursued.

Most states enforce strict one to three year statutes of limitations on birth injury claims. 

Partnering with a birth injury attorney shortly after injury identification ensures deadlines won’t impede securing fair financial compensation down the road. They also facilitate obtaining accurate initial prognoses from additional specialists, which further strengthens legal cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What circumstances commonly cause brachial plexus injuries?

Excessive lateral traction on the neck during difficult deliveries often overstretches nerves. Risk heightens with large babies over 8 lbs, mother's petite frame or improper birthing techniques like excessive pulling. However, brachial plexus injuries still occur under routine deliveries.

2. What early signs indicate a baby likely suffered this birth injury?

Primary indications include no movement in the arm coupled with a clenched hand and bent elbow. Fingers splayed outward unnaturally also signal nerve damage. These manifestations warrant immediate specialist evaluation.

3. What costs are covered through legal proceedings?

Successful verdicts account for all quantifiable expenses tied to the injury, from medical bills and therapy to future income loss and caretaking costs. Awards also may cover harder to quantify suffering and emotional damages.

4. What patient rights support should parents familiarize themselves with?

Becoming well-versed in care recommendations outlined by entities like the American Academy of Pediatrics ensures alignment with gold standard practices. This sharpens ability to self-advocate amid complex systems.

5. Who comprises the optimal care team for brachial plexus injury patients?

At minimum, specialty doctors like obstetricians, pediatric neurologists and orthopedic surgeons collaborate with physical/occupational therapists. Expanding to include mental health expertise boosts comprehensive support.

Selecting a Brachial Plexus Attorney 

Finally, never underestimate the power of surrounding your family with support during this profoundly difficult experience. Seek personal counseling and peer groups to help navigate the turbulence productively. Though brachial plexus injuries irrevocably alter lives, with resilience, adaptation and time, hope persists.

Stalwart Law Group has decades of experience guiding clients through birth injury cases. Our team of talented and dedicated attorneys are available to give you personalized and strategic attention. Call our offices today at 310-954-2000for your free consulation. 

* The articles provided on the Stalwart Law website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as professional legal advice or as a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney.  

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