Brachial Plexus & Shoulder Dystocia Injury

Brachial Plexus & Shoulder Dystocia Injury Lawyer for Michigan Birth Injuries 

Infant brachial plexus injuries (BPI) are almost always caused by medical providers pulling, twisting, or using too much pressure on an infant’s head and neck during difficult deliveries.  The result is often the loss of muscle function or even full paralysis of a child’s arm.

Physicians and nurses are trained to handle deliveries where the infants shoulder or arm gets stuck in a way to keep the baby safe.  When they fail to meet this standard of care, it is the child and their family who suffer.  Along with physical pain and suffering, severe brachial plexus or shoulder dystocia injuries can result in lifelong damage, substantial medical bills, and emotional frustration for those injured, as well as their parents and caregivers.

If you suspect that a medical professional caused or contributed to your child’s birth injury, we invite you to call us to schedule a free consultation.  As experienced Michigan brachial plexus lawyers for birth injuries, we can review your child’s medical records to help determine whether medical malpractice may have occurred.  If a doctor caused harm to your child, we can tenaciously fight in seeking to get full compensation to cover pain and suffering, expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation, and therapy, and for other damages.

How Much Does a BPI Birth Injury Lawyer Cost?

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we understand how expensive care can be for a brachial plexus injury and that most families do not have the financial resources to cover unexpected treatments.  Therefore, we represent our birth injury clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we do not charge a fee unless we are successful in recovering compensation.  Further, we advance all litigation expenses while a case is ongoing (these costs are typically repaid from a settlement or trial award).

What is the Brachial Plexus?

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the shoulders, arms, and hands.[1]  A brachial plexus injury occurs when this network of nerves is stretched, compressed, or torn from the spinal cord, impairing movement or causing lifelong paralysis.

What Are the Symptoms of a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury?

Signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury vary greatly, depending on the severity and location of the damage.  In some cases, children can experience electric shock or burning sensations that shoot down an arm, along with numbness and weakness.  Typically, these symptoms only persist for a few seconds or minutes.

When a nerve root is torn from the spinal cord, as is the case in severe brachial plexus injuries, a child will typically experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to use arm, hand, or shoulder muscles
  • Weakness
  • Complete loss of feeling and movement in an arm (including the shoulder and hand)
  • Severe pain

What Are the Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries?

Brachial plexus injuries are categorized according to the type of nerve injury and pattern of nerves involved.  The following are the four types of injuries:

  • Stretch (Neurapraxia)
    • Nerve is stretched, but not torn
    • Usually occurs outside of the spinal cord
    • Most common type of BPI
    • Nerves usually recover on their own within three months of a child’s life
  • Rupture
    • Nerve is torn, but not at the point of attachment to the spine
    • Occurs outside of the spinal cord
    • Common BPI
    • May require surgery
  • Avulsion
    • Nerve roots are torn from the spinal cord
    • Occurs at the spinal cord
    • Less common BPI (10% – 20% of cases)
    • Cannot be surgically repaired – damaged tissues must be replaced through a nerve transfer
    • Can result in difficulty breathing or a droopy eyelid (signifying Horner’s syndrome)
  • Neuroma
    • Nerve attempts to heal, but scar tissue forms and interferes with nerve function
    • May require surgery with nerve reconstruction and/or secondary tendon transfer[2]

Injuries to the brachial plexus can result in the following conditions:

  • Erb’s Palsy. With Erb’s Palsy, a child typically has weakness involving muscles of the shoulder and biceps, requiring physical therapy beginning at three weeks of age to prevent stiffness, atrophy, and shoulder dislocation.
  • Total Plexus Involvement. This condition occurs when all five of the brachial plexus nerves are damaged, restricting all movement at an arm, hand, or shoulder (or all three).
  • Horner’s Syndrome. This condition occurs when the sympathetic chain nerves are injured (usually in the T2 to T4 region).  A child may experience drooping eyelids, miosis (small eye pupils), and anhidrosis (diminished sweat production in the face).
  • Klumpke’s Palsy. Klumpke’s palsy is rare in babies and children, but it can still occur.  It involves damage to the lower nerve roots of the brachial plexus and affects the muscles of a hand.

Does a Brachial Plexus Injury Cause Permanent Damage?

Some infant brachial plexus injuries heal with little or no lasting damage; however, many injuries cause temporary or permanent problems, such as:

  • Joint Stiffness. If a child experiences paralysis of a hand or arm, joint stiffness can occur, making movement difficult.  Stiffness can persist even if the paralysis is only temporary.  For that reason, physical therapy may be necessary throughout the recovery process to help an infant regain flexibility and mobility.
  • Pain. Nerve damage often results in chronic pain that may require medication or other medical intervention.
  • Numbness. Because children often experience numbness in their hands and arms after a BPI, the risks of burns or other injuries increase significantly.
  • Muscular Atrophy. Nerve damage can take years to resolve; consequently, a child may not have full use of a limb for significant periods.  During that time, lack of use can cause muscles to break down.
  • Permanent Disability. Even with surgical intervention, many children experience permanent muscle weakness and paralysis.

If a child has brachial plexus palsy, it is essential to exercise the joints and functioning muscles daily, beginning when the infant is only a few weeks old.  This helps prevent joints from becoming permanently stiff, and it also to strengthen muscles.[3]

How Do I Know If My Doctor is To Blame for My Child’s Brachial Plexus Injury?

Brachial plexus injuries can be avoided when physicians and medical staff follow proper procedures before and during delivery.  Brachial plexus injuries are almost always due to malpractice, making the physician and other medical providers (such as medical personnel and hospitals) legally liable for the mistakes or substandard care provided.  If your child was injured by improper treatment or medical errors, you deserve to have an experienced Michigan birth injury lawyer fight for the rights of your child.

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we have decades of legal experience and have successfully handled numerous Michigan birth injury cases.  We have the resources to aggressively pursue a claim to its fullest extent against the most powerful hospitals and insurance carriers to get clients the justice their children deserve.

Call Us at 248-591-2300 for a Free Consultation to Discuss the Facts of Your Case

If medical malpractice is suspected as being the cause or a contributing factor for brachial plexus or other injuries, we retain and work with physicians, nurses, and other medical experts who meticulously review medical records to better evaluate whether medical malpractice in fact occurred. Our experienced birth injury lawyers can sit down with you, review your medical records, and explain your options.  If we believe we can help you and your child’s case and agree to undertake representation, there is no upfront cost and we will only be entitled to a fee if compensation is secured.

[1] Brachial Plexus Injury, Mayo Clinic,

[2] Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries, Boston Children’s Hospital,

[3] Brachial Plexus Injury, Mayo Clinic,

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