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Shoulder Dystocia

Sleeping InfantIf your child experienced shoulder dystocia during delivery, and is injured as a result, negligence or other forms of substandard care may be the cause. The Los Angeles birth injury lawyers at Ellis Law will investigate the circumstances of your child’s injury, review the medical records, and secure expert medical advice concerning the quality of care provided by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel. If medical professionals in the delivery room failed to provide proper care, or acted negligently, you may be able to obtain compensation by filing a birth injury lawsuit.

Ellis Law’s birth injury attorneys in Los Angeles can help

Our personal injury attorneys will consult medical experts to evaluate the severity of a child’s disability, and assess the types, duration and costs of future medical treatment. We will also calculate future earnings that a severely disabled child will likely forfeit. Though many birth injury cases end with out-of-court settlements, we are prepared to present a case to a jury for maximum impact, should the suit go to trial.

At Ellis Injury Law, we are committed to protecting the rights of innocent victims of medical malpractice, and to helping grieving families recover to the greatest extent feasible. Be assured that we charge no fees unless we win your case. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation, and see if filing a claim in California is the right course of action for you and your injured child.

Shoulder dystocia

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “[s]houlder dystocia can be one of the most frightening emergencies in the delivery room.”

Shoulder dystocia occurs when an infant’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone as the infant moves down the birth canal, thus preventing the infant from emerging completely from the mother’s body. A number of procedures may be used to correct the condition and permit delivery of the infant. However, if physicians and nurses do not act swiftly or carefully enough, the newborn and/or the mother may be injured – sometimes severely.

Ellis Law has decades of experience representing victims in birth injury lawsuits in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. We can help obtain compensation for families whose infants were injured by substandard medical care during a delivery involving shoulder dystocia. Damages recovered may be used to pay medical bills, and to compensate for lost earnings and for future medical care and treatment.

Risk factors and corrective measures

One highly experienced obstetrician calls shoulder dystocia “[t]he greatest nightmare an obstetrician is likely to face.” Another expert physician explains that shoulder dystocia is “an unpredictable emergency, and you have a relatively short period of time to alleviate it, and there’s a risk of neonatal injury.”

Exact numbers of births that involve shoulder dystocia are difficult to obtain, as precise definitions of the condition vary. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, between 1 and 4% of deliveries involve shoulder dystocia. Given that roughly 4 million babies are born annually in the United States, this means that between 40,000 and 160,000 newborns experience shoulder dystocia every year.

Predicting the occurrence of shoulder dystocia is very difficult, but certain risk factors have been identified.

Risk factors for shoulder dystocia include:

  • Maternal diabetes (gestational or pre-existing)
  • Prior delivery with shoulder dystocia
  • Post-term pregnancy
  • Short stature (less than 5’ tall)
  • Obesity (over 200 lbs.)
  • Previous large infant
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Infants with higher-than-average birth weights

However, many deliveries involve shoulder dystocia where neither mother nor infant displays any risk factors. Because predicting the condition is so hard, doctors, midwives and nurses must rely on immediate and careful responses in order to prevent birth trauma or injury. Corrective procedures may include repositioning of the mother, internal rotation of the infant or, in some cases, an emergency Cesarean section.

Time is of the essence in a shoulder dystocia situation. Prolonging the period during which the infant is stuck in the birth canal can increase the risk of injury. On the other hand, it is critical for medical personnel to act carefully and deliberately. Unfortunately, birth injury can often result from shoulder dystocia.

Birth injuries caused by shoulder dystocia

Roughly 20% of infants who experienced shoulder dystocia will be injured as a result.

Birth injuries linked to shoulder dystocia include:

  • Brachial plexus injury, including Erb’s palsy
  • Fractured clavicle
  • Fractured arm
  • Contusions and lacerations
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Shoulder dystocia can injure mothers as well. The most common injuries are excessive blood loss, and lacerations of the vagina or vulva. In some instances the mother suffers bladder atony (inability to empty the bladder completely of urine, making urination extremely painful), fistula formation, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) or incontinence.

Medical treatment for infants and mothers who suffered birth trauma may be lengthy, complicated, and expensive. If doctors, nurses, midwives or other medical staff provided substandard care during delivery, families may wish to pursue a birth injury lawsuit to obtain compensation. Ellis Law can help guide you and your family during this difficult time and present all options, so you can make the best and most informed decision about whether litigation is right for you.

Filing a birth injury lawsuit in California with Ellis Law

Many times hospitals, doctors, and their insurance companies seek to settle birth injury cases immediately after filing. At Ellis Law, our decades of experience in birth injury lawsuits in Los Angeles and LA County—and the many six- and seven-figure recoveries we have obtained for our clients—often lead defendants to offer generous settlements before trial. In those circumstances, we will consult with you to determine whether you wish to accept the settlement and avoid the emotional impact of the courtroom.

If a case does go to trial, we know how to prepare and present the facts clearly and effectively, and demonstrate in precisely what ways the medical staff failed to exercise proper care. We will do our utmost to obtain the maximum compensation possible, so that you can be assured that your infant will receive ongoing medical treatment and whatever other care may be necessary for the rest of their lives.

We encourage you to contact us if your child has been injured as a result of shoulder dystocia. We will review your legal options so that you may make a fully informed decision. Call us toll-free at 1-800-INJURED or in the Los Angeles Area at 310-641-3335, to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

  1. Medscape, “Shoulder Dystocia,” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1602970-overview#a01
  2. American Family Physician, “Shoulder Dystocia,” April 1, 2004, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0401/p1707.html
  3. American Family Physician, “ACOG Releases Practice Pattern on Shoulder Dystocia,” May 15, 1998, http://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0515/p2546.html
  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Shoulder Dystocia: A Rare but Frightening OB Complication,” in ACOG Today, August 2005 at 8, http://www.acog.org/~/media/ACOG%20Today/acogToday0805.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140218T1432580961
  5. Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports, “Births: Final Data for 2012” (December 30, 2013), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_09.pdf