Case study: £1.5m in compensation for child with brachial plexus injury

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Some of the most serious brachial plexus injuries happen when the arm is forcefully pulled or stretched. There are many causes of this type of injury, but one of the most common is childbirth, where excessive force is used to deliver the baby’s head and shoulders.

Our medical negligence solicitors recently helped a young boy claim compensation for brachial plexus injury, which he sustained during birth.

Excessive traction used during birth

Our client’s mother approached our specialist erb’s palsy solicitors after realising that her son, Peter, may be eligible to claim compensation for the injuries he sustained during birth.

During her pregnancy with Peter, his mother had attended all of the scans and they showed a baby of normal size. However, during her labour, it became apparent that Peter was quite a big baby and, due to this, they took his mother to theatre to monitor her progress.

Peter’s head was delivered first, but due to his size, his shoulders became stuck (shoulder dystocia). Multiple attempts were made to deliver his body, including the use of a ventouse (vacuum cup) and forceps. The McRoberts position (a manoeuvre often used in this situation) was not adopted, nor was an episiotomy.

It was unclear from the records how long there was between the delivery of Peter’s head and his body, but the degree of trauma our client suffered to his head and neck was disproportionate to the amount of traction required to deliver a baby, even under these very difficult circumstances.

When Peter was born, he was floppy and not breathing on his own, so he needed help from machines. He also had a wound to his head as a result of the attempted delivery.

Peter recovered fairly well in NICU and was breathing independently. However, a lump on the side of his neck was noted and, after further investigation, it was found that he had suffered a severe brachial plexus injury that affected the nerves found at C5, C6 and C7.

Physical and psychiatric injuries due to brachial plexus injury

During the first 10 years of his life, our client underwent five separate procedures to try and improve the long-standing impact of his birth injuries, all of which only helped a little. Peter was unable to raise his right arm above shoulder height and had restrictive movement in his right shoulder. He also had significant scarring on his back due to the amount of surgery he required. Peter also suffered significant psychiatric damage as a result of his erb’s palsy and visible disability, which led to multiple attempts on his own life.

The Defendant hospital denied liability for several years, maintaining that the appropriate manoeuvres and force was used to safely deliver our client. However, once our medical negligence solicitors served their reports to the hospital, they admitted liability.

Admission of liability

Because our client was still relatively young and developing, a stay was put in place for a few years until he had matured sufficiently for medical experts to evaluate his condition and prognosis. Once this time had passed, our team carried out expert meetings and produced joint statements to present to the Defendant.

Whilst the hospital admitted liability for Brachial Plexus injury, they disputed our claim for potential loss of earnings. The Defendant argued that, as Peter was still technically a child, future earnings were uncertain and therefore, a Smith v Manchester award (a name given for an award for loss of earning capacity where the loss cannot be specified) would be more appropriate.

Our medical negligence lawyers argued that it would be possible to consider more specific future earnings losses as our client was a high achiever in a top school and, statistically speaking, would very likely end up in a high-paying professional job.

Securing compensation for future loss of earnings

A compromise was reached and the claim settled for £1,575,000. Although no amount of compensation could make up for Peter’s mental and physical suffering, the amount we secured could go towards further treatment and rehabilitation, as well as make up for any future earnings lost as the result of our client’s ongoing and lifelong disability.

Get in touch with our erb’s palsy solicitors

If believe that your baby was injured as a result of negligence during their birth and this contributed to erb’s palsy, you may be eligible to claim compensation.

For a no-obligation initial chat, call our medical negligence solicitors on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

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