Negligence Solicitors
Compensation Claim
Medical Negligence Law
Neonatal Conditions
Birth Injury


Address 1
Address 2
Address 3
Phone Number
Negligence Date
Negligence Details

Erbs Palsy Solicitors - Medical Negligence Compensation Claim Lawyers

Erbs Palsy can be a devastating injury with serious long term problems and disability. Claims are often complex and technical and it is essential that you are properly represented to ensure that you establish liability and obtain maximum compensation for your child. We can help you take the guesswork out of choosing an experienced erbs palsy solicitor.

Our medical negligence solicitors have offices situated in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, and Sydney. Do yourself justice - give us a call.

If you would like legal advice at no cost about claiming compensation for erbs palsy just use the helpline, complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices and a specialist medical negligence solicitor will telephone you with no further obligation. Following a review of the circumstances of the injury and of the medical records you will be advised whether your child has a reasonable claim and if so, what steps you should take to protect your legal right to receive compensation. Our erbs palsy solicitors use no win no fee arrangements to represent their clients which means that if your solicitors don't achieve settlement then they doesn't get paid their professional costs and the client does not receive a bill for legal costs.

Medical negligence compensation claims arise as a result of failure by a health care provider to treat and care for a patient with a reasonable degree of skill and care. If a doctor or nurse was careless, lacked proper skills or disregarded established rules which caused injury during your child's delivery then they may be found to be negligent. Hospitals can be liable to pay compensation for the incompetence of their employees, including doctors, nurses and technicians.

Brachial Plexus Injury - Erbs Palsy

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves, emanating from multiple positions along the spinal cord, passing across the shoulder and radiating over the chest which controls movement in the arms and hands. Damage to this network of nerves may be caused as a result of an accident but is most often a birth injury caused by a difficult delivery that has necessitated the use of more force than would be ideal. If you need legal advice just call our helpline to speak to an Erbs palsy solicitor now at no cost.

The most common injury to the brachial plexus nerve network is Erbs palsy which is caused by damage to particular nerves as they exit the vertebra of the spine. The word ‘palsy’ is an old medical term which means ‘paralysis’ and is used for many other forms of injury where there is nerve damage or nerve irritation or brain damage that results in reduction or loss of movement and muscle control. Erbs palsy may result in a limp or paralysed wrist, hand and fingers with reduced sensitivity and less than adequate control of the entire limb. A child suffering from this condition will usually hold their arm in an unusual position and may have the hand and fingers turned upwards in the ‘waiters tip’ position.

Children with brachial plexus injuries are affected in different ways including:

  • lack of muscle control and feeling in an arm or hand
  • little control over the wrist and hand
  • reduced control of shoulder or elbow muscles

The four main types of brachial plexus injuries are:

  • avulsion occurs when the nerve is torn from the spine
  • rupture occurs when a nerve is torn but not close to the spine
  • neuroma occurs when scar tissue puts pressure on the nerves
  • praxis occurs when the nerve has been damaged but not torn

Clinical malpractice may be associated with the following risk factors;

  • failure to perform a caesarean section
  • failure to estimate a large baby's weight prior to delivery
  • failure to recognise and treat maternal diabetes
  • failure to follow protocols for shoulder dystocia
  • failure to inform of the risks in vaginal delivery of a large baby
  • applying unnecessary and excessive traction during the delivery

Established Protocols

Erbs palsy is usually caused by the tearing of the brachial plexus nerves as a result of the use of excessive force during birth, often precipitated by a medical emergency such as shoulder dystocia which puts the lives of both mother and child at risk. There are established medical protocols for dealing with this emergency situation and a failure to follow the optimum course of action which subsequently causes injury may well result in an Erbs palsy claim for compensation, alleging medical negligence for any disability caused to the child.

Medical Negligence

This is a relatively rare condition in Australia occurring in approximately 1 in 2,000 births. A high percentage of the diagnosed cases do result in allegations of medical negligence and a subsequent Erbs palsy claim although it must be noted that not all of these claims succeed. The fact that the treatment offered by a medical practitioner does not work, does not necessarily mean that the medical practitioner is negligent. To prove medical negligence it is necessary to show that the physician failed to take reasonable care. Provided that a doctor acted in a way that was widely accepted by a significant body of other doctors it is difficult to show the presence of medical negligence. The court will determine what amounts to a reasonable standard of care after considering written evidence in the form of medical records and after hearing expert witness opinion from specialist medical consultants.

Erbs Palsy Medical Overview

Also known as brachial palsy or brachial plexus palsy or Erb-Duchenne paralysis

Erb's palsy is a birth trauma caused by the damage to the collection of nerves called the brachial plexus, located in the underarm and shoulder of the infant. It is caused by the abnormal pulling on the brachial plexus in the birth process. It occurs when there is shoulder dystocia or a misfit between the shoulders and the women's pelvis.

A difficult delivery with a large infant and a small pelvis is the main cause of Erb's palsy. The head fits through the pelvis but the shoulders do not fit through and the infant becomes stuck. If the doctor or midwife pulls too hard on the head and shoulders of the infant, it can stretch or tear the nerves in the shoulder or underarm area of the infant, resulting in nerve damage and Erb's palsy. It usually occurs on just one side of the body but can, in rare circumstances, where the doctor pulls on both sides of the shoulders, it can occur on both sides of the body. It can also be caused by pressure placed on the upraised arms of an infant born in the breech position.

Erb's palsy or brachial plexus palsy can occur in different forms. It can affect only the upper arm of the infant in which the infant can't raise or rotate at the upper arm. It can also affect the upper arm and the rotation of the lower arm. In a variant of Erb's palsy, called Klumpke paralysis, the hand is affected. There is also an eyelid droop on the opposite side of the body in Klumpke paralysis in some cases.

Risk factors for brachial plexus palsy or Erb's palsy include having a large infant greater than 9 pounds or so, having a breech delivery in which the shoulders get stuck in the birth canal. It can also occur if there is shoulder dystocia, in which the shoulders do not fit in the birth canal after the head has gone through.

The symptoms of Erb's palsy are often found soon after birth, often within the first few hours after birth. They involve the absence of a Moro reflex on the side of the body affected with Erb's palsy, an arm that is held against the side of the body and flexed at the elbow. There is a decrease in the hand grip on the side of the body affected by Erb's palsy and a loss of spontaneous movement on the lower arm, upper arm or hand of the affected side of the body.

Doctors can test for the presence of Erb's palsy by revealing a lack of a Moro reflex on the affected side of the body. The infant may have paralysis or extreme weakness noted on the arm of the affected side of the body. Doctors need to rule out the presence of a pseudoparalysis of the arm, which is when the infant has a clavicular fracture or collar bone fracture that impairs mobility of the upper arm due to pain in the fracture site.

The treatment of Erb's palsy may simply be watchful waiting. Erb's palsy can spontaneously get better if the nerves are allowed to rest and heal. Doctors simply pin the arm to the side of the baby's body and allow the nerves to heal and regenerate. If the nerves are torn, watchful waiting may not be enough and the infant will still have problems by six months of age. Surgery on the nerves might restore the function of the nerve and tendon transfer surgery may be required to allow different tendons to make the arm work than normally used. Some practitioners recommend gentle massage and exercises directed at increasing the range of motion of the arm while the nerves are healing. This can be done with or without surgery to the affected arm.

Most infants resolve their brachial plexus palsy within six months of the delivery. If there is not spontaneous return to normal functioning, then the doctor may wish to consider surgery to the affected area.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here