Arm Injuries to an Infant: What are Brachial Plexus Injuries?

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Understanding How Arm Injuries to an Infant Could be Medical Malpractice in Oregon

Brachial plexus injuries, or BPIs, occur quite often, with most instances never being detected. In fact, they are one of the most common birth injuries and usually impose no real burden. But this is not always the case.  Some BPIs could be catastrophic.  While it may be one of the most common injuries, it can also cause permanent deficits for the newborn. Brachial plexus injuries can cause altered sensation, loss of movement and even physical deformities. Some brachial plexus injuries are unavoidable while others are not. In instances where they are avoidable, these injuries occur as a result of Oregon medical malpractice. This is unacceptable and no newborn should have to suffer injury as the result of someone else’s mistake. 

Under Oregon law, medical malpractice is essentially when a healthcare provider’s actions or omissions from action result in foreseeable and unnecessary risks of injury to a patient.  It occurs when a healthcare provider failed to use reasonable care that a reasonably prudent healthcare provider in similar circumstances and with similar training would have done.  This means that a doctor is measured against the reasonableness of another doctor, or a nurse is measured against the actions of another nurse.  It also means that the standard, based on reasonableness, is a flexible standard.  This means that it is measured against the facts of the situation and whether a healthcare provider acted reasonably in that same instance.  Overall, this standard is a standard in negligence.

Any type of birth injury could be the result of medical malpractice, including a brachial plexus injury.  This means that any type of injury could be based on the negligence of another healthcare provider could result in liability for that provider or the practice group or hospital employing that individual.

What are Brachial Plexus Injuries? 

To understand brachial plexus injuries, you must first understand the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that runs from these neck to the shoulders. These nerves control the chest, arm, shoulder and hand muscles. If any of the nerves are damaged, it can greatly affect the newborn’s functioning. As a newborn, it will affect the development of the fingers, hands and arms. These injuries typically occur at birth. Inappropriate use of instruments (i.e. forceps, vacuum extractor) or excessive force are typically to blame for these injuries. The term brachial plexus injury is very broad. There are actually many different types of BPIs. Examples of these injuries include the following:

Erb’s PalsyErb’s palsy is one type of injury that falls under the umbrella of brachial plexus injuries. This injury occurs when there is damage to the brachial plexus nerves. Typically, the upper half of the extremity is impaired by the nerve damage. This type of injury could be temporary, but may cause permanent effects. If permanent, the individual may never be able to move a part of their arm due to severe weakness. 

Klumpke’s Palsy – In the case of Klumpke’s palsy, there is arm weakness due to injury and damage to the brachial plexus nerves. This type of injury most often causes the lower half of the arm to be affected. The injury may be temporary, but could leave the child with permanent weakness. If severe, the child may never be able to move their arm due to the severe weakness. 

Shoulder Dystocia – Shoulder dystocia is somewhat different than era’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. In this case, should dystocia is the cause of the injury which can in turn potentially cause a type of palsy. In addition to palsy, shoulder dystocia can also cause other injuries, including broken bones. This type of injury occurs when the infant’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis. This type of injury can be due to either the babies presentation while trying to exit the birth canal (i.e. breech), or can be due to the baby’s shoulders being too large for the mother’s pelvis. 

How Can Brachial Plexus Injuries be Caused by Medical Malpractice?

While some cases of brachial plexus injuries are due to unavoidable causes beyond the control of the medical practitioner, there are some very unfortunately cases of BPIs that could have been avoided with proper medical care for the mother and infant. Common medical malpractice related causes of BPI include the following:

  • Failure to properly assess the mother and baby prior to delivery to determine if the baby will fit through the birth canal
  • Failing to properly assess and take into account the baby’s position at time of delivery
  • Excessive force on the baby during delivery, including pulling, yanking or grabbing the baby’s neck, head or arms during delivery
  • Delay in performing a c-section when indicated
  • Improper use of extraction tools (i.e. forceps, injections, scalpels) during delivery 
  • Pulling on a baby during contractions
  • Dropping a baby during delivery on their neck, shoulder or head

These are just a few of the many instances in which a BPI can occur during delivery as a result of medical malpractice

How Can Our Oregon Brachial Plexus Injury Medical Malpractice Attorneys Help You?

As previously stated, brachial plexus injuries can be quite life-altering for the newborn and parents, especially if the injury results in permanent deficits. While some BPIs are unavoidable and therefore the fault of no one, there are times when a provider or other healthcare professional makes an error before delivery, during labor and delivery, or shortly thereafter that can cause the injury. While the injury may not be purposeful, it is still negligence.

This is because if a physician adheres to the standards of care and hospital protocols, these unavoidable injuries could have been prevented. Proper assessment of the mother and baby pre-delivery, adequate monitoring during labor and delivery, and safe delivery of the infant can all prevent these injuries. Failure to follow any of these steps properly can lead to permanent nerve damage. 

Our experienced Oregon brachial plexus injury attorneys understand just how serious and avoidable these injuries can be. This is why, if your child was injured during birth and suffered from a brachial plexus injury, we encourage you to call our office today for a free consultation. If your child’s brachial plexus injury is found to be due to medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. Compensation for this type of injury may include the following:

  • Past pain and suffering
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Lost wages from having to take time from work to go to appointments
  • Past, present and future medical bills
  • Physical therapy coverage
  • Occupational therapy coverage
  • Any types of special devices, braces, or other objects to help an individual
  • Punitive damages in rare but exceptional cases of serious medical malpractice, and
  • Other types of serious claims in Oregon due to medical errors, negligence, or gross negligence.

These are just some of the most common types of damages.  Our lawyers could prove liability with any type of these damages due to negligence in Oregon from a healthcare provider’s errors and mistakes resulting in permanent damage to you or a loved one.

Get Help from Our Experienced Law Firm

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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