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Medical Malpractice

Erb’s Palsy: What You Need to Know

September 29, 2023

Birth injuries are more common than people realize and one of the more common birth injuries that children experience is a condition known as Erb’s palsy. Many of these injuries, including Erb’s palsy, are caused by medical negligence. If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, you should therefore consult with an experienced Erb’s palsy lawyer to discuss whether you have a medical malpractice claim. 

What Is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is an injury to the group of nerves known as the brachial plexus that results in muscle weakness or paralysis of the arm or shoulder. The injury is caused by traction or pulling on the neck of the baby during the birthing process, causing stretching or tearing of the brachial plexus nerves. Because the nerves of the brachial plexus connect the arm to the spine, the injury can result in a loss of sensation or movement of the arm. Erb’s palsy is also sometimes referred to as Erb-Duchenne paralysis.  

The injury can range in severity and typically manifests in one of four ways: 

  1. Neuropraxia – the nerve is stretched but not torn, the least serious type of Erb’s palsy
  2. Neuroma – the nerve was torn, healed but has left scar tissue that puts pressure on the nerve tissue and disrupts its function
  3. Rupture  – the nerve is torn, but not from the spine
  4. Avulsion – the most serious type of Erb’s palsy, where the nerve tears away from the spine

The severity of the injury will determine the treatment required and whether a full recovery is possible. While some cases will be resolved on their own, many require treatment, and some will require surgery. Failure to properly diagnose the injury or get the treatment you need could lead to permanent damage. If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, you should contact an Erb’s palsy lawyer to discuss what can be done to ensure that your child’s health is protected.d 

Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

Because Erb’s palsy is most common in newborns, parents have to look carefully for potential symptoms of the injury. Your baby may be experiencing tingling or numbness in the affected arm but cannot communicate that to you. Similarly, their lack of motor control makes it difficult to diagnose a loss of mobility. As a result, you should seek medical advice if your baby appears to exhibit any of the following symptoms: 

  • Paralysis or limpness of the arm, elbow, or shoulder
  • The “waiter’s tip” position, where the palm of the hand faces upward with the fingers curled

Trust your instincts and have your baby evaluated if you suspect that they are suffering from Erb’s palsy. 


Although initial detection relies on the parent’s observation, there are thankfully diagnostic tests that can be performed. There are two types of diagnostic tests that can be performed: 

  1. EMG or electromyography – testing that can evaluate nerve and muscle response
  2. Imaging tests – medical imaging such as MRIs, CT scans, and myelograms; an x-ray may be performed in order to rule out the possibility of broken bones

These tests must be performed by medical professionals but can be used to determine whether your child is suffering from Erb’s palsy with relative certainty. If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, you may want to consider reaching out to an Erb’s palsy lawyer to discuss your options. 

Is Erb’s Palsy Caused by Medical Malpractice? 

Erb’s palsy is typically caused when the doctor or nurse has to move the baby’s head to one side during birth in order to get the shoulders out of the birth canal. Excess pressure on the head and neck can cause stretching or tearing of the nerves. 

If this situation was avoidable, then the doctor, hospital, or other healthcare provider may be held liable for medical malpractice. For example, you may have a medical malpractice claim if your healthcare provider failed to do any of the following: 

  • Diagnose and treat prenatal conditions or risk factors that would likely result in a difficult delivery
  • Warn you that the delivery may be difficult, explain the various risks and your options
  • Order an emergency c-section or failed to perform a c-section in a timely fashion
  • Did not induce labor

If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, the best thing you can do for your child is contact an experienced Erb’s palsy lawyer. They can evaluate your case, determine whether you have a medical malpractice claim, and then help you get the compensation your child deserves. 

Talk to an Erb’s Palsy Lawyer at Ragain & Clark Today

The Erb’s palsy lawyers at Ragain & Clark have been helping families dealing with birth injuries for over 30 years. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, contact us today at 307-388-6400 (Worland) or 406-651-8888 (Billings).


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