Birth injury negligence invariably raise fears for the future in any parent’s mind. Not uncommonly, parents worry about to what extent the injury their child suffered was avoidable, and if things could have been different. Very sadly, parents often worry that what happened was in some way their fault.

In our experience, parents often feel uncomfortable about the prospect of litigation. But not infrequently, parents bring claims simply to get answers, and put their own minds at rest.

Shoulder dystocia (the condition that precedes Erb’s Palsy in the setting of birth) is a medical emergency. Sometimes it is unforeseeable. Many parents feel – understandably – that the clinicians who were present saved their child’s life by acting quickly and decisively. They are grateful, and don’t want to do anything that could cast blame on the individuals who were present.

Other parents view “compensation culture” with distaste. Still others believe they are taking money out of the system that could better be used on medical care.


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Whilst this is entirely understandable, six things need to be kept in mind:

1. As shown in recent academic studies, Erb’s palsy is largely preventable through proper, rigorous training by maternity units;

2. As a result, a severe brachial plexus injury is quite possibly a sign of a lack in quick-thinking and clinical skill;

3. If an Erb’s Palsy claim is brought, the focus will rarely fall on the clinicians involved, but rather on their employer. These claims are almost always dealt with from a management and training point of view. Claims seek to understand where a whole system has broken down, rather than point blame at one individual. When there are adverse consequences for a child, it’s not unreasonable for that child’s family to be entitled to find a solution;

4. If you make a claim, you won’t be taking money that would otherwise be used for clinical care out of the system – there is a central fund that is set aside for compensation arising from clinical negligence claims;

5. It is arguably more socially responsible to bring a claim than not. This may sound counter-intuitive. However, by making a claim you are potentially bringing to light significant failings in how a hospital deals with shoulder dystocia. If you don’t raise it as a concern, it could happen to other children and their families. If the claim succeeds, then it is usually possible to receive care funded on a private basis. By extension, you are freeing up precious NHS time and resources for other people.

6. Sometimes, even when mothers do decide to bring a claim, they focus heavily (and rightly so) on the injury to their child, forgetting about any maternal injuries they may have suffered during childbirth. Maternal birth injuries often occur at the same time as Erb’s Palsy, and it’s important for mothers to ensure their claim reflects their own experience as well as their child’s.


Birth injuries affect families in a number of very complex ways. But we believe that by sensitively helping people to get closer to their answers, our medical negligence lawyers can help people understand what happened, and hopefully enable them to move forward, together.


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