Brachial plexus injuries are most commonly sustained by new born babies during delivery, when excessive force has been used to try to dislodge a shoulder which is trapped behind the mother´s pelvic bone. The injury affects the nerves between the top of the spinal cord and the shoulder, and damages the nerves in such a way that they are unable to transmit signals from the brain telling the arm, hand and fingers to move. The nerves are also unable to transmit to the brain sensations such as pain, cold and heat. This birth complication is known as shoulder dystocia, and occurs approximately once in every two hundred births. Most infants who have suffered a brachial plexus injury only show minor symptoms which heal within several weeks as the nerves repair themselves. However, some children suffer a lifetime of disability when the nerves have become completely severed in a brachial plexus injury and, where the injury has been caused by inappropriate actions by the delivery team, you are entitled to claim for brachial plexus injury compensation.
Anticipating and Preventing Brachial Plexus Injury
A brachial plexus birth injury occurs more frequently to large babies, and your midwife or obstetrician should be aware of the potential for injury if your baby is/was more than 4.5Kg. Shoulder dystocia is also more likely to occur in women who have experienced this complication in previous deliveries or who have suffered from diabetes during their pregnancy. These are again factors that your delivery team will be aware of prior to the delivery of your baby, and for which they should be prepared. Should shoulder dystocia occur during the birth, this is regarded as a medical emergency. Medical staff have a number of options to cope with this situation including repositioning the mother, pressing on the mother´s abdomen to release the trapped shoulder, trying to manoeuvre the baby within the birth canal or performing an episiotomy. All of these actions are preferable to using excessive force on the head and risking a brachial plexus injury.
Severe Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Amounts to Medical Negligence
Despite the risk to life during a shoulder dystocia complication, medical staff usually have sufficient skill and experience to prevent a severe brachial plexus injury. Where they fail to demonstrate that skill and, through their lack of care, cause a serious injury to your child, this amounts to medical negligence. The Medical Council defines medical negligence as “the failure of a registered medical practitioner to meet the standards of conduct for duties relating to the medical profession”, and with the opportunity to anticipate and prevent a potential brachial plexus injury, there is little excuse for such an injury to occur. Claims which involve medical negligence in Ireland are not dealt with by the Injuries Board, but instead you will have to engage a solicitor to act on your behalf. Your solicitor will compile the strongest possible claim for brachial plexus injury compensation with assistance from medicals experts who will be able to testify that the brachial plexus injury sustained by your child could have been avoided. The case will be prepared to go to court, but the majority of such claims are usually settled by negotiation beforehand.
Consequences of a Brachial Plexus Injury
The consequences to a child of a brachial plexus injury may be both social and economic. The inability to manoeuvre or control the actions of their arm, hand, wrist or fingers may make it hard for them to find friends when they are young or employment when they grow up. Your solicitor will take these factors into account when preparing a brachial plexus injury claim, however no amount of compensation can truly make up for the loss of a limb´s function. The brachial plexus injury claim will be made against the Health Service Executive, the medical centre at which your child was born or the obstetrician who was in charge of the delivery. It is likely that, once the negligent party´s insurers are aware of the brachial plexus injury claim, you will be approached with an offer of compensation in return for early settlement. It is important that you advise your solicitor of this offer to ensure that it is a fair amount and adequate for your child´s brachial plexus injury.
Find Out more about Brachial Plexus Injury Compensation
If your child has sustained a brachial plexus injury during their birth, and you would like to know more about making a brachial plexus injury compensation claim, you are invited to call our free medical negligence injury claims advice service. Our service enables you to speak with an experienced solicitor in total confidentiality and find out more about making a claim for brachial plexus injury compensation. We understand that this is a very upsetting situation for you to be in, and no pressure will be put on you to proceed with a brachial plexus injury compensation claim, however it is beneficial for you to be aware of your rights and entitlement to compensation. Our lines are open seven days a week from 8.00am to 10.00pm, or you can contact us via the call-back button at the side of the page and one of our helpful team will get back in touch with you at a convenient time.