How Can I Prove Medical Professionals Are to Blame for My Child’s HIE During Delivery?

Birth Injury, Legal Help

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Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) in newborns can have serious long-term consequences, including cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, and physical disabilities, as well as associated conditions such as cerebral palsy. If your child experienced this injury during birth and suffered as a result of a medical professional’s actions or inactions, you may be able to bring an action for medical malpractice.

What is HIE and How Can it Happen During Delivery?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a type of brain damage in infants that is caused by a lack of oxygen and limited blood flow to the brain. When the brain does not receive sufficient oxygen, cell death can occur, leading to subsequent brain damage.

HIE can be caused by birthing complications, maternal factors, and neonatal factors that lead to anoxia. In some cases, for example, it may be caused by umbilical cord complications, such as compression of the cord; placental complications, such as an abruption or placenta previa; or uterine complications, such as a rupture.

Infections, or other issues with maternal health, can also lead to HIE, as can risk factors for either premature or prolonged birth. In some cases, HIE is caused by medical malpractice: negligent actions or inactions by medical professionals, which lead to serious consequences.

What Kinds of Medical Errors Can Contribute to or Cause HIE?

While in some cases HIE is not preventable, in others the cause of HIE can be attributed to negligence or malpractice by a medical professional. This can happen before, during, or shortly after birth. Some examples of actions or inactions on the part of medical staff that can contribute to HIE include:

  • Improper monitoring of the fetal heartbeat or other vital information
  • Failure to diagnose or treat a neonatal condition, such as respiratory distress
  • Misdiagnosis of a maternal condition or infection
  • Inadequate or insufficient staffing at the hospital
  • Failing to schedule an emergency C-section in time
  • Using medical tools improperly at the birth
  • Lack of informed consent for a medical procedure
  • Failure to follow up on your valid concerns as a patient
  • Failure to pay attention to warning signs right after birth, such as breathing or feeding problems, seizures, issues with reflexes, lack of alertness or consciousness, issues with muscle tone, and low APGAR scores

There are some potential signs that a medical professional may be to blame for a child’s HIE, whether it’s someone on the team admitting fault, or a blatant medical error having been made. There are also signs that the hospital may be liable, particularly if it failed to adhere to general safety standards or failed to staff the delivery room adequately. Additionally, if your doctor failed to follow up on your concerns, or if you did not have informed consent to a particular procedure that was done, those may be signs of medical malpractice.

How Can You Prove Medical Malpractice Was The Cause of Your Child’s HIE?

To prove medical malpractice, you will need to show liability, causation, and damages: that the doctor or medical professional deviated from the standard of care, directly resulting in your child’s HIE and ensuing medical issues. It isn’t enough to prove that the outcome was less than favorable—you will need to prove that if it hadn’t been for the medical professional’s action or inaction, your child would not have suffered the same serious injuries.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are some of the most complicated claims in personal injury law, usually requiring meticulous investigation of the facts and the evidence. Moreover, these claims often involve lengthy negotiations with the hospital or doctor’s malpractice insurance carrier, attempting to arrive at a fair and reasonable settlement. Rather than going it alone, you should consider consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. They can handle all negotiations and correspondence with the malpractice carrier, as well as prepare a case and present it in court on your behalf.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If the difficulties of your child’s birth could have been prevented or mitigated by competent medical care, you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice against the practitioner and hospital. Consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.

The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have over 40 years of experience with medical malpractice cases. We have a nationally recognized track record of successful verdicts and settlements that demonstrate our commitment to working for justice and fair compensation.

We aim to achieve justice and compensation for victims of birth injury medical malpractice, and there are no fees unless your case is won. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case and understand your rights.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

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