Can I File a Medical Malpractice Claim for Shoulder Dystocia?

From the moment the pregnancy is confirmed to the much-anticipated labor and delivery, parents’ main concern is that the baby is born healthy, and with no major complications. However, there are a range of things that can go wrong during the childbirth process that can cause serious, permanent injuries to the baby and the mother. Shoulder dystocia is one example of a birth injury that can occur without any warning. In extreme cases, the consequences can be fatal. If you or your baby suffered severe injuries resulting from shoulder dystocia, and you believe that negligence was involved, contact a medical malpractice lawyer.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs when the baby’s head comes out during a vaginal delivery, but the shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. Healthcare professionals must take immediate steps to ensure that the baby is delivered quickly and safely. If your physician failed to take the necessary steps or perform the recommended maneuvers to resolve shoulder dystocia during your delivery, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. The following are examples of malpractice claims resulting from shoulder dystocia:

  • Failure to anticipate shoulder dystocia: While shoulder dystocia is a rare condition, doctors are still expected to be able to anticipate the condition and take immediate steps to treat it. Women who have a history of the following issues may be at a higher risk for shoulder dystocia:
    • Diabetes or gestational diabetes
    • Baby has a higher-than-average birth weight
    • Obesity
    • History of shoulder dystocia is a previous pregnancy
    • Pregnant with multiple babies
    • Delivered past the due date
    • Forceps or a vacuum was used to deliver the baby
  • Excessive force: This is often the result of a lack of experience. Birth injuries caused by excessive force are generally caused by the improper use of forceps, vacuum extractors, or the physician’s hands.

The mere fact that shoulder dystocia occurred does not prove that the physician was negligent. You must be able to provide evidence that the physician failed to provide the standard of care, which resulted in your baby’s injuries.

What Injuries Are Caused by Shoulder Dystocia?

Unfortunately, there are a range of injuries that complications from shoulder dystocia can cause, both to the baby and the mother, including the following:

  • Brachial plexus injuries: These injuries occur when a doctor pushes or pulls the baby’s head too aggressively during childbirth, or from shoulder dystocia. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the shoulder that send signals from the brain to the arm. If the nerves become injured, the arm can lose the ability to function.
  • Erb’s palsy: If there is nerve damage to the brachial plexus, it can cause weakness or paralysis of the arm or shoulder.
  • Klumpke’s palsy: This condition stems from nerve damage in the lower brachial and can cause the forearms and hands to become paralyzed. It can also cause stiff joints and muscle atrophy.
  • Cerebral palsy: Temporary loss of oxygen to the baby’s brain from trauma caused by shoulder dystocia can impair the brain’s ability to control bodily movements.
  • Permanent disfigurement: If there is too much strain on the baby’s head or shoulder in an effort to address shoulder dystocia, it could cause permanent disfigurement, including an abnormal or stunted development of the baby’s arm or shoulder.
  • Loss of arm or shoulder: Too much trauma to the shoulder could result in the permanent loss of use of the injured arm or shoulder.
  • Fetal distress: This can occur when the baby does not receive enough oxygen or nutrients from the mother due to shoulder dystocia, or if the umbilical cord becomes tangled.
  • Death: If the baby becomes stuck, and the medical team is unable to resolve the issue quickly enough, or the baby experiences too much trauma, it could result in the infant’s death.
  • Peritoneum and Vaginal Tears: The mother can also experience serious injuries associated with shoulder dystocia, including peritoneum and/or vaginal tears, which can lead to fecal or urinary incontinence.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If you are dealing with a devastating birth injury, and you believe that negligence was involved, it is crucial that you file a medical malpractice lawsuit as soon as possible. This process can take time, from identifying expert witnesses to collecting key evidence. In Maryland, medical malpractice claims must be filed within five years of the date that the injury occurred, or within three years of the date that you discovered the injury, whichever comes first.

What Damages Am I Entitled to in a Shoulder Dystocia Malpractice Claim?

The costs associated with a shoulder dystocia can accumulate very quickly, particularly if you or your baby suffered permanent injuries. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit will pursue the financial compensation you deserve, including the following:

  • All medical expenses associated with the injury
  • Lost wages if your child requires around-the-clock care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In Maryland, there is a cap on the damages that you are entitled to receive for pain and suffering, also known as non-economic damages. For 2022, the cap on non-economic damages is $905,000. There is no cap on economic damages. If the shoulder dystocia injury results in a fatality, the cap on a wrongful death lawsuit is $1,380,000. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will address all of your questions and concerns and pursue the best possible settlement on your behalf.


Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Those Affected by Shoulder Dystocia Injuries

If your child suffered a shoulder dystocia injury, and you believe that negligence was involved, you are strongly urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will thoroughly examine the details of your case, determine whether negligence was involved, and assist you with every step of the claims process. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.