Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is caused by injury to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves around the shoulder. This injury can occur when the baby’s shoulders become stuck during labor and delivery. Pulling on the baby’s head can cause these nerves to stretch or tear. Some children with Erb’s palsy require specialized care, and financial compensation obtained through a lawsuit can be crucial in helping to pay for this care and secure justice for the family.

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What Is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy, also known as brachial plexus palsy, is caused by damage to the network of nerves around the shoulder, called the brachial plexus.

This childbirth injury often occurs during difficult deliveries, like when the baby’s shoulders become stuck in the birth canal. In an attempt to deliver the baby, doctors may pull on the baby’s head and cause these nerves to stretch or tear, which can result in a brachial plexus nerve injury or other nerve damage that causes Erb’s palsy.

About 1-2 in 1,000 babies have Erb’s palsy, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

In many cases, this injury may be the result of medical negligence or improper medical care.

If you believe your child has Erb’s palsy, help is available. Our team of registered nurses may be able to help you understand what happened — and help determine whether you can take legal action.

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How to Recognize Erb’s Palsy in Newborns

Symptoms of Erb’s palsy in babies are usually evident shortly after birth. The child’s symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the injury to the brachial plexus nerves.

Signs and symptoms of Erb’s palsy include:

  • Keeping the affected arm bent or flexed at the elbow and held against the body
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis in the affected arm
  • Not moving the lower arm, upper arm, hand, shoulder, or wrist
  • Not reacting to loud sudden noises
  • Weakened grip or lack of grip on the affected side

If your child is showing any of these signs, contact Sokolove Law today. You may be entitled to compensation that can help cover the cost of your child’s treatment.

What Causes Erb’s Palsy in Infants?

In infants, Erb’s palsy is often caused by a brachial plexus injury during difficult deliveries, usually when the infant’s neck is stretched to the side. These kinds of injuries are often the result of a medical mistake by a health care professional, which is known as medical malpractice or negligence.

If you think your child experienced an injury at birth and now may have Erb’s palsy, you may be able to hold the medical professionals responsible and seek compensation that can help improve your child’s quality of life. Contact Sokolove Law today to learn more.

Risk Factors of Erb’s Palsy

There are many risk factors during delivery that can increase the likelihood of a child suffering an injury that causes Erb’s palsy.

Some Erb’s palsy risk factors include:

  • Babies with high birth weights (usually over 8 lbs.)
  • Difficult deliveries like breech deliveries (when the child presents feet- or bottom-first) or cases of shoulder dystocia (when the child’s shoulders become stuck in the birth canal), which may lead a doctor to use excessive force to free the child from the womb
  • The use of medical instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors, which can injure the child if used improperly

What many parents may not realize is that these risk factors may have been known ahead of time and could possibly have been avoided had the delivering doctor or medical professional ordered a cesarean section (C-section), instead of attempting a vaginal delivery of the child.

Erb’s Palsy vs. Cerebral Palsy

Both Erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy can be caused by medical mistakes at birth, though the location of the injury and the symptoms differ.

In Erb’s palsy cases, the brachial plexus nerves are damaged, which can cause paralysis and motor delays in the hand, arm, and shoulders. Cerebral palsy, on the other hand, is the result of damage to the child’s brain and nervous system, which are responsible for controlling movement.

Erb’s Palsy Legal Options

While nothing can make up for the heartache you’ve experienced, Erb’s palsy attorneys with Sokolove Law may be able to help you obtain financial compensation that can help relieve some of the financial burden associated with caring for your child’s condition.

In addition to potentially providing compensation, filing an Erb’s palsy lawsuit may also be able to help families:

  • Hold the medical professionals responsible for their negligence
  • Prevent similar situations from potentially happening to other children
  • Seek justice for their child’s injuries

Learn More About Your Options

If you believe your child’s Erb’s palsy was the result of a medical mistake, an experienced birth injury lawyer can help you understand your legal options.

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Our Past Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit Settlements and Verdicts

Over the last 40+ years, Erb’s palsy attorneys with Sokolove Law have recovered over $717 Million on behalf of families affected by birth injuries, including the following Erb’s palsy settlement amounts and verdicts:

  • $2.75 Million awarded to the family of a child impacted by Erb’s palsy
  • $975,000 for a 6-year-old boy with Erb’s palsy
  • $4.5 Million awarded to the family of a child affected by Erb’s palsy
  • $950,000 for a 5-year-old girl who has Erb’s palsy
  • $1.99 Million for the family of a child with Erb’s palsy complications

Erb’s Palsy Prognosis and Treatment Options

The prognosis and treatment options for Erb’s palsy vary based on the severity of the brachial plexus nerve damage. Taking your child to a doctor or pediatric specialist who can perform a physical examination can help you understand the severity of their injury, as well as what treatment options may work best for their symptoms.

Most babies suffer a mild stretching of the nerve and recover within several months. In fact, 70-80% of newborns with Erb’s palsy will see a full recovery within their first year of life, according to Baptist Health. That number climbs closer to 100% if the child begins treatment within the first 4 weeks of age.

Erb’s palsy therapy and treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy, particularly range-of-motion exercises
  • Occupational therapy
  • Surgical treatments, like nerve transfers, nerve grafts, or removing more damaged nerve fibers
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections to reduce contractures (the tightening of muscles, tendons, and ligaments)

Over time, the cost of treatment and therapy can add up to more than many families can afford. Thankfully, if you work with Sokolove Law, we may be able to help you pursue compensation that can help cover these costs.

Seek Compensation for Your Child’s Erb’s Palsy Treatment

Understandably, families of children who suffer from birth-related injuries are looking for answers. They want to know what went wrong and if it could have been prevented. Parents often struggle with next steps, and many are nervous about contacting an attorney.

While it’s normal to ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, it’s important to trust yourself during this process. Like many of the callers we speak to on a daily basis, most had a normal pregnancy and expected their baby to be healthy — but something went wrong.

If you believe your child may have Erb’s palsy, fill out our contact form or call Sokolove Law today at (800) 995-1212. We’ve recovered over $717 Million for families affected by birth injuries like Erb’s palsy across the country.

Even if your child doesn’t have an official diagnosis yet, we may still be able to help. Our staff of registered nurses have decades of labor and delivery experience and can listen to your story and help you understand what may have happened.

Erb's Palsy FAQs

What’s Erb’s palsy? 

Also known as brachial plexus palsy, Erb’s palsy is a type of injury caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerves, oftentimes during a difficult delivery.

In these cases of Erb’s palsy, a doctor or health care professional may stretch or tear these nerves while trying to pull the baby from the birth canal, something medical professionals should know to avoid.

If you believe a medical error may be responsible for your child’s condition, contact Sokolove Law today. You may be eligible to take legal action and pursue compensation over what happened to your child.

What does Erb’s palsy look like in babies? 

Erb’s palsy can look different in children depending on how severely the brachial plexus nerves were injured. In many cases, the newborn may experience muscle weakness or paralysis in the affected arm. If you believe your child may have Erb’s palsy, you may want to contact a doctor for a diagnosis.

In the meantime, you can speak to one of our registered nurses on staff, even if your child hasn’t been diagnosed. Our nurses have decades of labor and delivery experience and can help you understand what may have happened to your child. Contact us today to learn more.

What should I do if I think my child has Erb’s palsy?

If you believe your child may have Erb’s palsy, you should consult a doctor or medical specialist for a diagnosis and treatment plan. You can also contact our team of registered nurses, who can listen to your story and may be able to help you understand what happened, as well as what your legal options may be moving forward.

Can you sue for Erb’s palsy? 

Potentially, yes. The easiest way to tell if you may be able to take legal action over what happened to your child is to get a free, no-obligation case review. We can review the details of your case and let you know if we may be able to help you seek justice and pursue compensation.

When should I contact an Erb’s palsy lawyer?

If you believe a medical error may have contributed to your child having Erb’s palsy, contact an Erb’s palsy lawyer as soon as possible.

Each state has laws called statutes of limitations that limit how long you have to take legal action in these cases. Once this deadline passes, you won’t have the opportunity to pursue justice over what happened to your child.

How does Erb’s palsy happen in babies? 

Erb’s palsy often occurs during difficult deliveries, when the baby’s neck or shoulders may be stretched to one side. This can damage the brachial plexus nerves that run from the spinal cord through the neck and down the arm, causing the arm weakness and paralysis that characterizes Erb’s palsy in infants.

In cases of Erb’s palsy, what nerves are affected?

In Erb’s palsy cases, the affected nerves are the brachial plexus nerves near the neck, which provide movement and feeling to the arm, hand, fingers, and shoulder. When these nerves are stretched or torn, weakness or paralysis can occur in one or both arms.

If you believe your child has Erb’s palsy as a result of medical malpractice, contact Sokolove Law today. We can help you understand your legal options at no cost or obligation to you.

Can Erb’s palsy affect both arms? 

Potentially, yes — depending on how severely the brachial plexus nerves are damaged, one or both of the child’s arms may be affected, usually with some degree of weakness or paralysis in the affected side.

How common is Erb’s palsy? 

An estimated 1-2 out of every 1,000 babies experience Erb’s palsy, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Can Erb’s palsy be cured? 

In most cases, yes — between 70 and 80% of babies with Erb’s palsy will make a complete recovery within the first year. Nearly 100% of children who begin treatment within the first 4 weeks of life make a full recovery, according to Baptist Health.

How many types of Erb’s palsy are there?

According to Yashoda Hospitals, there are four common types of Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus birth palsy:

  • Avulsion: The most severe case, involving the nerve root separating from the spinal
  • Neurapraxia: A stretch injury to the brachial plexus nerves, with no tearing or major damage
  • Neuroma: Stretching and some damage to the nerve fibers, with scar tissue that can form and press on the healthy nerves nearby, causing discomfort
  • Ruptures: When the nerve itself is ripped or torn apart but where it attaches to the spine is still in tact
Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: November 28, 2021

View 3 Sources
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy).” Retrieved from: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/erbs-palsy-brachial-plexus-birth-palsy. Accessed on September 7, 2021.
  2. Baptist Health. “Erb's Palsy (Erb Duchenne Palsy).” Retrieved from: https://www.baptisthealth.com/services/neurology-care/conditions/erbs-palsy. Accessed on September 7, 2021.
  3. Yashoda Hospitals. "Erb's Palsy." Retrieved from: https://www.yashodahospitals.com/diseases-treatments/erbs-palsy-types-causes/. Accessed on September 7, 2021.