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Newborn Shoulder Injuries Can Cause Permanent Damage

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Illinois Boy Recovers $8 Million in Damages for Birth Injury

When a baby’s delivery is delayed or the infant becomes lodged at birth, serious complications and injuries can arise. A more common injury in this situation is to the nerve bundles in the infant’s shoulder, which can become pinched, stretched, or pulled. As a result, movement problems arise in the shoulder, arm, and hand. At other times a collar bone or arm bone can break. And in certain situations, the child can be deprived of oxygen, leading to brain injury or death by asphyxia.

On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit announced a multimillion-dollar reward to an Illinois boy who suffered a shoulder injury at birth after his mother pleaded with the obstetrician of her fear in delivering a large baby. The delivery method the doctor chose ultimately left the boy with a shoulder injury and permanently disabled. Medical experts agreed he would be unable to do certain types of work in the future, resulting in the recovery of over $8 million in damages for noneconomic injuries and lost earnings. The lower court carefully considered the evidence and comparable cases and reached reasonable figures, given the child’s injuries, the Seventh Circuit said.

Unfortunately, preventable shoulder injuries at birth are tied closely with inadequate medical care provided before and during delivery. When used in certain situations, excessive force and improper maneuvers can cause significant harm and a lifetime of medical bills, disabilities, and repercussions for the child.

Shoulder Dystocia Injuries Can Be Avoidable

Brachial plexus nerve injuries can occur during birth and trigger a condition called shoulder dystocia. It is estimated that 2 to 5 children per 1,000 births suffer this injury when their shoulder becomes stuck against the mother during vaginal delivery. Unfortunately, brachial plexus injuries and fractures to the collarbone and arm can be common when health care providers do not assess or prevent possible harm. In some cases, these injuries can cause temporary or permanent damage to the nerves running through the arm and down the shoulder.

Identifying a Baby at Risk of Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia can be anticipated, and many times prevented when a mother’s risk factors are addressed early on. According to the March of Dimes, some risk factors for shoulder dystocia include:

  • Preexisting diabetes or gestational diabetes
  • Having a history of shoulder dystocia in a previous pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with twins, triplets or other multiples
  • Excessive weight gain or obesity during pregnancy
  • Delivering a large baby (macrosomia) that weighs more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth
  • Mother with a history of having large babies

Some medications used to induce labor, assisted vaginal births, and an epidural may also increase the chance for a shoulder dystocia injury.

The Chicago birth injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti have successfully handled many cases involving shoulder dystocia injuries to newborns. We understand the risk factors associated with the birth injury and the standard of care that physicians should employ when trauma occurs.

Contact a Chicago Birth Injury Lawyer for Help

When injuries to an infant occur during labor and delivery, they can cause emotional, physical, and financial demands on parents as well. A family may be able to seek damages to cover the high costs of medical care and treatment and compensation for a loss of quality of life.

If you suspect medical negligence may have contributed to a birth injury to a newborn during or after labor, please contact Levin & Perconti at 877-374-1417, or in Chicago at 312-332-2872 for a FREE consultation.