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Birth injuries can have lasting effects on a child’s life, with brachial plexus injuries being among the most common. Found in 1 to 3 cases per 1,000 live births, these injuries can occur when the nerve bundle that powers the arms and hands is damaged, typically due to the improper use of forceps or vacuum devices during delivery.

Klumpke’s and Erb’s palsy are two types of brachial plexus injury, each with unique symptoms and complications. Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower arm, leading to wrist and hand movement issues, whereas Erb’s palsy affects the upper arm, making shoulder and elbow movements challenging.

Understanding these forceps injuries and how they might be caused by medical negligence can help you hold a provider responsible and get your child the long-term care they need.

What are Klumpke’s and Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s and Klumpke’s palsy are traumatic birth injuries affecting a baby’s arm movement and strength. Erb’s palsy is more common, happening in around 0.9 to 2.6 per 1,000 live births. These conditions have varying effects and causes:

  • Erb’s Palsy: This condition is caused by injury to the upper brachial plexus, often due to the baby’s neck being stretched to one side during a difficult delivery. The vacuum extractor injury usually occurs when excessive force is applied to the baby’s head, neck, or shoulders, particularly in cases of shoulder dystocia, where the shoulders have difficulty passing through the birth canal.
  • Klumpke’s Palsy: Klumpke’s palsy results from damage to the lower part of the brachial plexus. It typically happens when the baby’s arm is abnormally stretched above the head during delivery, such as in a breech birth or when manually extracting the baby from the birth canal. This stretching can affect the nerves that control the hand and wrist.

Side Effects and Complications

Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy both result in similar health challenges, impacting an infant’s ability to move their neck, shoulder, and arm. Below are the potential health outcomes associated with each condition:


Condition Side Effects and Complications
Erb’s Palsy ●      Limited range of motion in the affected arm and shoulder

●      Muscle weakness or paralysis in the upper arm

●      Development of muscular atrophy over time due to lack of use

●      Possible permanent disability or deformity if not treated early

●      Joint stiffness and contractures due to an imbalance in muscle growth.

Klumpke’s Palsy ●      Weakness or paralysis in the hand and wrist

●      Difficulty with grip and fine motor skills

●      Possible Horner’s syndrome, characterized by a drooping eyelid, smaller pupil size, and lack of sweating on the affected side of the face

●      Abnormal hand posture, often referred to as claw hand, due to unbalanced muscle tone

●      Potential for permanent nerve damage leading to lifelong challenges


Treatment for these conditions can require physical and occupational therapy to improve mobility and strength or surgical intervention for nerve repair. If your child’s injuries have long-term consequences, you may also need adaptive devices, home modifications, and in-home caregivers.

These costs can add up for you and your family. One study of surgical treatment of brachial plexus injuries found that the median indirect cost was $801,723. Another 2021 study on the economic cost of caring for a child with disabilities found that the annual economic impact can be up to $69,500, depending on the severity of the child’s needs.

Did Medical Negligence Cause Your Child’s Birth Injury?

Subpar medical care can cause a range of birth injuries, including Erb’s or Klumke’s palsy. However, it may be difficult to know if the doctor’s actions caused the harm or prove it in a medical malpractice claim.

If you suspect your child suffered a brachial plexus injury due to a medical provider’s actions, speak with a Chicago baby birth injury lawyer from Beam Legal Team as soon as possible. We can review the following elements to determine the cause of harm to your baby and help you seek compensation:

  • Evaluate Your Medical Records: Our legal team reviews your child’s medical records to identify deviations from standard care practices. This involves examining notes, orders, and actions documented before, during, and after delivery to identify potential errors or oversights.
  • Analyze the Delivery Process: We carefully review the entire delivery process, paying close attention to techniques like the use of forceps or vacuum extraction, the timing and decisions made by the medical team, and interventions used. This helps us determine if the birth injury could have been avoided through proper care and compliance with medical guidelines.
  • Investigate Staff Action: Our investigation extends to the actions and qualifications of all medical staff involved in the birth. We look for evidence of inadequate training, negligence, or failure to act upon signs of distress, which could establish a direct link between the healthcare provider’s actions and the injury.
  • Consult Our Network of Experts: We consult with medical experts, including neonatologists, obstetricians, and pediatric neurologists, for an authoritative assessment of your case. These experts can offer insights into how the injury occurred and whether it resulted from medical negligence, bolstering the case with expert testimony.

Get Experienced Legal Guidance for Your Birth Injury Claim

At Beam Legal Team, we’re focused entirely on birth injury claims. Our dedication to this area means we know the complexities inside out, allowing us to fight passionately for your family’s rights.

We can use our extensive network of medical experts and winning legal strategies to fight for the settlement you and your child deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation to get the compensation you need for all current and future medical costs for your child.

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