The brachial plexus is a fragile network of nerves which connects the brain to the shoulder and controls all the functions of the arm, wrist and hand. When the brachial plexus gets damaged, the signals sent from the brain can get jumbled up while travelling through the nerve system and result in a lack of control (or lack of movement) in the affected limb. Likewise, messages transmitted from the limb to communicate pain, heat and cold can also be misinterpreted as they pass through the brachial plexus.
Brachial plexus injuries occur most frequently during the birth process, when excessive force is applied to the head in an attempt to manoeuvre the shoulders clear of the mother’s pelvic bone. The injuries can be slight or severe, and it will be apparent that an injury has occurred if your infant exhibits paralysis or a lack of control in one arm. A neuropraxia brachial plexus injury – where the nerve is stretched, but not torn or ripped – offers the best chance of recovery and will often heal by itself. However, this can be an emotionally traumatic time for any parent.
If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury during their birth, you could face months of anxiety -hoping and praying that the damaged nerves will regain their full function, and your child is able to enjoy a full, healthy life with the full use of their arm. For most worried parents, the sigh of relieve occurs within the first eight weeks of the baby’s life, but for others, a brachial plexus injury at birth can mean a life of permanent disability, social isolation and dependence on others for economic support.
Claiming for Brachial Plexus Injury
Although there may be mitigating circumstances for excessive force to be used during the delivery of a child, the most common brachial plexus injuries happen when birth complications such as shoulder dystocia occur. Shoulder dystocia is regarded to be a medical emergency, as there is a risk that the umbilical cord will get trapped and the baby will fail to receive a supply of oxygen from the mother and suffer brain damage or death as it is, as yet, unable to breathe independently.
Nonetheless, procedures exist for instances of shoulder dystocia which prevent the need for an excessive pulling of the head. If your midwife or obstetrician lacks the skills (or fails to display the skills) to safely cope with birth complications, and your child suffers a brachial plexus injury as a result, you are entitled to make a brachial plexus injury compensation claim against the Health Service Executive, the medical centre at which your baby was born or the midwife/obstetrician who was in charge of the birth.
A brachial plexus injury is regarded to be caused by medical negligence, and therefore the Injuries Board Ireland will decline an application for an assessment of brachial plexus injury compensation claim. Instead, you should engage a solicitor who – with assistance from expert medical professionals – will construct the strongest possible brachial plexus injury claim on your behalf. A brachial plexus injury compensation claim is usually made by the parent acting as the child’s “next friend”, and will be prepared for litigation in court if necessary, although claims for brachial plexus injury compensation are often settled by negotiation before a court appearance is necessary.
Further Information about Brachial Plexus Injury Compensation
Many mothers often feel guilty when their child has sustained a brachial plexus injury – feeling that they were in some way responsible for the injury to their child – and frequently reluctant to sue their doctor or health service provider when their child has been diagnosed with a birth brachial plexus injury. We understand that making a claim for brachial plexus injury compensation represents an acknowledgement that your child may never recover the full use of their arm, but you need to ensure that you have sufficient funds to continue with physiotherapy and provide your child with financial security.
Consequently, we have established a free medical negligence claims advice service which you are invited to call if your child has been diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury. The number to call is and our lines are open from 8.00am to 10.00pm seven days a week. You are under no obligation to proceed with a brachial plexus injury compensation claim once you have spoken with us, and no pressure will be put on you to do so. Instead, we will provide impartial and helpful advice which will enable you to make an informed decision about your child’s future.
We may be unable, on the initial conversation, to determine whether you have a brachial injury compensation claim which is worth your while to pursue – we would rather not speculate until we have spoken with your family GP or other expert medical practitioner. We can however explain the processes involved in making a brachial plexus injury compensation claim in greater depth, and provide you with information about how long your claim may take to process and how much brachial plexus injury compensation you may be entitled to receive.