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scottsdale • phoenix
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Phoenix Shoulder Dystocia Lawyer

An obstetrician or certified nurse midwife is a professional who is trained to handle all types of situations that may arise during the birthing process. One fairly unusual and often dangerous occurrence is shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia during delivery is a medical emergency that must be handled carefully. The likelihood of shoulder dystocia increases if the mother naturally suffers from gestational diabetes, if labor has been induced, and if the mother has had previous deliveries with shoulder dystocia, or if the mother is obese. However, when the obstetrician fails to anticipate a difficult delivery, a Phoenix shoulder dystocia lawyer at Knapp & Roberts can help you receive full compensation for your loss.

What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s head has been delivered, but the anterior shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This requires additional manipulation by the physician to remove the baby from the birth canal.

Shoulder dystocia happens during the second stage of labor as the uterine contractions push the baby into the birth canal: the baby’s head has come through the pelvis, but one or both of the shoulders get stuck behind the bony structure. This can happen for various reasons:

  • The mother’s pelvis is unusually small
  • The baby is large relative to the mother’s pelvis
  • The baby is not in the usual position
  • Higher fetal weight. In infants with a birth weight between 5 pounds, 8 ounces and 8 pounds, 13 ounces, there is a 0.6 to 1.4 percent chance of shoulder dystocia. Between 5 and 9 percent of infants with a birth weight exceeding 9 pounds, 14 ounces will experience shoulder dystocia.
  • Maternal diabetes. Shoulder dystocia is more likely to occur in infants born to women with diabetes.
  • Use of a vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery. When a medical professional uses these tools to help bring a baby out of the birth canal, this increases the chance of the shoulder becoming lodged behind the pubic bone.

Unless the delivery team corrects the dystocia quickly, the baby could suffer severe brain damage within minutes or develop permanent impairment due to brachial plexus injuries.  The mother could experience vaginal tears or even die from hemorrhaging.

Therefore, when shoulder dystocia occurs, speed is imperative.  Failure to provide adequate emergency assistance during labor when shoulder dystocia occurs could leave the physician, hospital and other responsible care providers open to legal action.

Anticipating and Overcoming Shoulder Dystocia for a Healthy Delivery

Prior to the beginning of labor, taking measurements of the mother’s pelvis and the baby’s size can alert the doctor to a possibility of shoulder dystocia and may indicate the need for a Caesarian delivery. If the problem has not been anticipated and a vaginal delivery has progressed to the delivery of the baby’s head, a skilled practitioner will be familiar with several different maneuvers that can bring about a healthy delivery.

Time is of the essence in a delivery with shoulder dystocia, and the physician or midwife must act quickly and deliver the baby in six minutes or less, or the baby could suffer lack of oxygen or damage to the central nervous system.

If the doctor or midwife panics and uses excessive and inappropriate force to try to pull the baby out, injury is likely.

Possible Injuries to a Baby during Delivery with Shoulder Dystocia

The consequences of shoulder dystocia depend on how quickly the problem is resolved and on how the doctor is able to extract the child. If the doctor or midwife has failed to anticipate cephalopelvic disproportion and the baby has come through a difficult delivery, there is a possibility of other types of damage as well:

  • Difficulty breathing, necessitating resuscitation
  • Fractures of the infant’s collar bone (clavicle) or humerus
  • Brachial plexus injury or Erb’s Palsy, nerve damage in the shoulder causing weakness and restriction of motion in the shoulder and arm
  • Paralysis of the arm
  • Umbilical cord compression, which can cause a number of serious medical emergencies, including deprivation of oxygen to the baby’s brain;
  • The inability of the child’s chest to expand properly;
  • Severe brain damage in the baby;
  • Contusions; and
  • Lacerations.

Possible Injuries to the Mother

This delivery complication can cause injury to the mother as well as the baby:

  • Tearing of the perineum
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Uterine rupture

Treatment of Erb’s Palsy Resulting from Shoulder Dystocia at Birth

If your baby is suffering from Erb’s palsy, he or she will require intensive physical therapy and exercises to improve the range of motion in the shoulder, elbow, hand, and wrist beginning at about three weeks of age, to prevent permanent joint contracture or stiffness. Sometimes surgery is an option in a younger child, but surgical complications are high.

Nevertheless, the injury may be permanent, and the child may never have full use of the arm and shoulder. The affected arm may always be smaller than the unaffected one, which in addition to functional problems can affect the child’s body image and self-esteem, necessitating psychological treatment in addition to physical therapy.

Compensation Available in a Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit

Treatment for shoulder dystocia complications can be lifelong and costly. However, a successful lawsuit requires proving a doctor or medical professional deviated from the standard of practice for their field. This means a medical professional must have acted contrary to a reasonable physician with the same background acting under the same circumstances.
If a victim of shoulder dystocia, or their representative, can prove a medical professional was negligent, there are various damages that may be recovered. The amount of compensation available depends upon the type and severity of the injury.

Damages may include any of the following:

  • Any related medical bills;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Scarring or disfigurement;
  • Diminished quality of life;
  • Lost wages;
  • Disabilities;
  • Legal fees;
  • Out-of-pocket costs; and
  • Punitive damages.

Liable parties can include any number of health care entities, not just the delivering physician. A skilled should dystocia injury lawyer can help determine what party or parties may be responsible on a case-by-case basis.

Finding the Best Phoenix Shoulder Dystocia Injury Lawyer

If your doctor or midwife failed to anticipate a difficult delivery that could have been prevented by a timely Caesarian section, or if he or she mishandled a vaginal delivery and caused permanent injury to your child, you may be able to recover damages for the cost of medical treatment, physical and psychological therapy, and your child’s pain and suffering and diminished quality of life. Proving negligence can be difficult and requires a well-versed Phoenix personal injury lawyer, with access to medical professionals who can identify where the obstetrician or midwife breached the expected standard of care that resulted in the injury.

Free Medical Malpractice Case Analysis

In Phoenix, Scottsdale, and the surrounding area, you will find the experienced legal assistance you need at the Arizona law firm of Knapp & Roberts. Our highly skilled Phoenix medical malpractice attorneys are committed to justice for your child and to deterring carelessness and negligence by holding doctors, hospitals, and staff accountable when they fail in their duty to provide competent care to mothers and babies. We will fight for a recovery large enough to provide the best care for your baby, both now and in the future, so your child can achieve a happy and productive life after suffering this serious birth injury.

Call Knapp & Roberts today and tell us about your delivery and your baby’s injury. We will do a thorough case analysis at no cost to you, and will advise you as to your legal options. Your child deserves justice, and we will do everything the law allows to ensure it!

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.