Answers to Common Questions About Medical Malpractice in Tennessee
Have questions about what to do if you have been injured in a car or truck wreck in Tennessee or one of the neighboring states? Don’t know how to proceed if a medical error or birth injury has harmed or killed a loved one in Memphis or another Tennessee location? The experienced trial attorneys at the Holton Law Firm have the answers you need. If you do not see your question answered here, contact our office to learn more about your individual case.
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What is Erb's Palsy?
A doctor must meet an expected standard of care each time he cares for a patient, which includes making good decisions during a complex birth. If the doctor who delivered your child used excessive force or pulled the baby from the birth canal by an arm extended above the baby’s head, damage to the child’s nerves can result in Erb’s palsy. This may result in full or partial paralysis on the arm. It’s important to understand this condition, how you can identify it, and how a lawyer can help determine if you have a birth injury lawsuit.
Understanding Erb’s Palsy
Also known as Erb’s paralysis or Duchenne Erb palsy, Erb’s palsy is a condition resulting from injury to a newborn’s upper brachial plexus nerves that control the shoulder and arm. This injury occurs when:
- The nerves are totally severed from the spine
- The nerves are torn at an area not connected to the spine
- The nerves are overstretched
- The nerves were injured but did not heal properly
This type of birth injury usually occurs during a vaginal delivery, and it could be the result of a doctor’s negligence. Common symptoms of this injury include:
- Lack of movement of weakness in arm
- Loss of normal reflexes, startle reflex should be symmetrical
- Awkward positioning of affected arm, extended downward and rotated to the side
- Diminished sensation or function in the arm, or total paralysis
- Poor grip strenth
- Excessive pain
Although not every birth injury is caused by a doctor’s negligence, it’s possible your baby’s Erb’s palsy was preventable. A delivery becomes more complicated and difficult if:
- The baby is large
- The baby has a large head
- The mother has a small pelvis
- The doctor uses a vacuum or forceps to deliver the baby
- The mother is short in stature
- The mother had gestational diabetes
- The delivery results in shoulder dystocia (where the baby's shoulder gets stuck in the pelvis)
These scenarios may lead a doctor to use more force when helping the baby exit the birth canal and pull too hard or pull on the baby’s arm, which is often extended over the baby’s head. This extra force can lead to injuries resulting in Erb’s palsy.
Effects of Erb’s Palsy Could Last a Lifetime
Determining whether you have a potential birth injury lawsuit is important because the effects of an injury leading to Erb’s palsy could last the rest of your child’s life. Many injuries to the brachial plexus will heal spontaneously with no complications. However, other injuries may lead to long-lasting or permanent consequences—which means your baby could need continued medical attention. Common complications associated with Erb’s palsy include:
- Pain. It’s not uncommon that nerve damage results in pain. This may be connected to how the nerves heal and if any scar tissue exists.
- Stiffness. Because the pain limits mobility during the healing process, it’s possible joints and muscles will become stiff and difficult to move, or they may even stay rigid after the injury is healed.
- Permanent disability. The nerves in the brachial plexus could heal improperly, failing to restore connectivity with the brain and losing functionality entirely.
- Loss of feeling. It’s possible that scar tissue or improper healing will result in loss of feeling in the arm.
- Atrophy. Nerves can take a while to heal, and it’s important to keep in mind that some nerves must regrow. As this happens, your baby’s muscle might atrophy—which could mean muscle deterioration or prolonged weakness.
During childbirth, if a baby’s nerves were simply stretched, the injury typically heals more easily. If the baby’s nerves were torn, the injury may be improved by engaging in prescribed physical therapy to keep the joint active and get blood flowing to the area. Additionally, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue if he believes the injury isn’t healing as well as it needs to.
Your Baby Deserves Quality Representation
If your baby suffered injuries during delivery, you should speak with a birth injury attorney. The legal team at The Holton Law Firm can review your case, help determine if you have a birth injury case, and provide superior representation, if necessary. To get started on your case, contact a team member today by calling our toll-free phone number.
Do I need to be concerned about suffering a uterine rupture?
While a pregnancy following a previous C-section is not generally considered to be a high-risk pregnancy, there are some risks to the health of the mother and the baby, most significantly, the risk of uterine rupture. A uterine rupture is a life-threatening medical emergency and expectant mothers should be aware of the risk during pregnancy and delivery.
What Is a Uterine Rupture?
A uterine rupture is a tear along the wall of the uterus, usually along a previous C-section incision or at the site of other uterine surgery. In a complete rupture, the tear goes through all the layers of the uterine wall, resulting in extreme danger to the mother and baby. Uterine ruptures are fairly rare occurrences, especially for women who have not had previous uterine surgery, but are still a concern for women who have had a C-section in the past and are attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).
What Are the Signs of Uterine Rupture?
Uterine ruptures usually occur in the early stages of labor, but they can happen before labor even begins. The initial signs are often overlooked by labor and delivery staff as they focus on other aspects of the delivery. Signs may include:
- Abnormality in the baby’s heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Mother’s rapid pulse
- Signs of shock
- Chest pain
- Slowing or stopping of labor
Doctors and nurses attending to women attempting a VBAC should be watching for these symptoms of a uterine rupture and a C-section should be performed immediately if a uterine rupture is suspected.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Women who have had one previous C-section with a low-transverse uterine incision are considered good candidates for VBACs as the risk of uterine rupture is believed to be less than one percent. However, women who have had multiple previous C-sections, or who had a vertical uterine incision, have a much higher chance of a uterine rupture during a VBAC. If your doctor did not advise you of the risks or did not react quickly enough during your labor and you suffer a uterine rupture, you may have a case for medical malpractice.
Our Attorneys Know What to Do Next
The experienced medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys at Holton Law understand that you have already been through a tough time. We know that the decision to pursue a medical malpractice claim is not an easy one. We will be with you every step of the way to make sure are comfortable with the process and that you and your baby get the settlement you deserve.
My family lawyer talked to me about a potential medical malpractice, and he told me I didn’t have a case. Is it possible that he missed something?
We frequently hear this scenario, especially with complex medical malpractice cases. Many times, a lawyer who doesn’t frequently work medical malpractice cases may miss important details that can make a huge difference. Those same lawyers may have never called a doctor for an expert opinion, and may not know of a reliable expert to review the case. There is a reason that Tim Holton of the Holton Law Firm has been certified as a Medical Malpractice Specialist: he has years of experience in this field. We will give you a free consultation, and put our decades of experience to work, and in the end, we will give you a candid opinion about whether or not medical malpractice has occurred.
A health care provider told me that a previous surgery or treatment from another doctor or nurse caused my injury. How do I find out what the doctor did wrong?
When investigating a potential Medical Malpractice claim, it is essential to obtain a full copy of all medical records about the treatment in question. The medical records will contain all labwork, testing, imaging, diagnoses, and notes by health care providers about the treatment, and will allow an expert in the field to review the treatment for any possible errors. The Holton Law Firm routinely requests and reviews medical records to determine if there was negligence or improper treatment.
Having worked in the field of Medical Malpractice for decades, the Holton Law Firm has many trusted experts who can provide us with opinions about what went wrong in a given scenario.