Erb's Palsy - Shoulder Dystocia*

Erb’s palsy, a form of obstetric brachial plexus disorder, is an injury that occurs when the nerves in a baby’s upper arm are damaged. It typically affects one or two of every 1,000 babies. The injury usually occurs as a result of a lesion at Erb’s point, the area near the baby’s neck where the fifth and sixth cranial nerves merge to create the upper point of the brachial plexus.

The nerves in the brachial plexus give movement and feeling to the baby’s arm, hand, and fingers. Erb’s palsy is frequently caused by shoulder dystocia during a difficult birth. Infants with this condition usually can’t move the affected shoulder or upper arm, but they may be able to wiggle their fingers.

Sometimes the injury can affect the whole trunk, and usually it affects the spinal cord’s ability to send messages to the arm, wrist, hand, or fingers through normal nerve impulses. Babies with Erb’s palsy often look as if their arm in the affected area is paralyzed.

Erb’s palsy refers only to brachial plexus damage to the upper nerves. If nerves on both the upper and lower ends of the brachial plexus are stretched and injured, the result can lead to a more severe condition known as total or global brachial plexus palsy.

Medical Explanations

Types of Brachial Injuries

Stretch-Leuropraxia/Praxis Injury:

The brachial plexus nerves have been damaged but not torn. Involves a degree of swelling, bruising, compression, or over-stretching. The injury may or may not recover over time.


Scar tissue around the injury preventing the nerve from communicating properly with the muscle; impairing movement. Surgery is usually required.


A more serious condition where the nerves are torn in one or more places but are not detached from the spinal column. Surgery is required for repair.


Most serious. The nerve is actually torn from the spine. The arm (or both arms) is usually completely flaccid and paralyzed. The injuries have permanently damaging consequences that last a lifetime.

Because the symptoms of each type of injury can appear to be similar, it can be difficult to determine the exact nature of the injury from the outset. More than one of these conditions can exist simultaneously.

Erb’s Palsy – some symptoms:

  • Facial paralysis on damaged side
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Paralysis of arm and hand
  • Limited movement abilities
  • Finger and hand paralysis
  • The need of assistance to sit upright
  • Unable to crawl on own without therapeutic devises

Physical Causes of Damage

Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus Medical Negligence Cases usually involve one or more of the following issues.

  • Failure to estimate the baby’s weight before delivery
  • Failure to perform a caesarean section
  • Failure to diagnose and treat gestational diabetes
  • Excessive use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
  • Failure to inform mother of the risks inherent in vaginally delivering a large infant, where a caesarean section may have been properly indicated
  • Failure to perform appropriate delivery techniques to manage shoulder dystocia.
  • Failure to diagnose a small pelvis in mother Failure to diagnose mascrosomia (a baby weighing more than 9lbs)
  • Failure by obstetrician / doctor to diagnose high risk factors which result in an injury to the new born as a result of negligence during the birth process.

Your Legal Options

What You Need To Consider

In the event that you feel that your child suffered a Brachial Plexus injury, Shoulder Dystocia or Erb’s Palsy at birth, we will we will guide you through the process and assist you in obtaining answers to the question – what went wrong. We will advise you as to whether or not we are of the view that medical negligence occurred.

Our medical negligence expert solicitors work with our team of specialist medical consultants whose disciplines include paediatricians, obstetricians and neonatologists. If we are satisfied that negligence occurred we will guide you through the process of filing suit with a view to obtaining financial security for your child both from the time the injury occurred and into the future.

During this process we engage Senior Counsel who have extensive and vast experience in dealing with medical negligence cases and in particular Erbs Palsy, Brachial Plexus and Dystocia litigation. We secure the attendance in court of all our expert witnesses and to give evidence in the case should the claim not be settled in advance.

Talk to Medical Law


Medical Law:   Our Priorities
As experienced solicitors, we know how to pursue these kinds of Erb’s Palsy claims.  We understand the needs of our clients.   We can employ the resources to be effective in complex medical negligence litigation.
Medical Law:  Our Promise to You
We are dedicated to the service of our clients from our initial consultation and case review until we reach a settlement or judgment on your behalf.   Your best interests are our priority.  If you or a loved one have suffered due to medical negligence, we want to help you by finding out, what happened, who was responsible and holding that responsible party or parties to account.

*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with Regulation 8 of S.I. 518 of 2002.

Medical Success

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About Us is a team of experienced solicitors and medical consultants who specialise in taking on medical negligence claims.

The team is headed up by Siobhan Fahy, Solicitor.

We are all well qualified in our respective fields and have years of experience in the area of medical negligence. We seek justice and financial compensation for patients who feel that they have been the victim of medical neglect.

We recognise the dedication of those who serve in our hospitals and health service, but the reality is that our health system is so inadequate that many people find they have become victims of a particular consultant or the Health Service Executive itself. We are here to help.

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