Bringing a new baby into your family is a cause for great joy. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of sadness and worry when your newborn suffers a birth injury.
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when a baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen. It is associated with a number of conditions, including cerebral palsy, seizures, and developmental issues. If your baby’s HIE was caused by medical malpractice, you may be able to file an HIE lawsuit.
Did Medical Malpractice Cause HIE?
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) happens when an infant’s brain is deprived of oxygen for a period of time. It may happen during fetal development, during labour and delivery, or after an infant is born.
There are a number of different causes of HIE. During pregnancy, HIE may be caused by:
- Problems with blood flow to the placenta
- Maternal diabetes with vascular disease
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Fetal infections
- Severe fetal anemia
- Heart disease
- Lung malformations
During the birthing process, HIE may be caused by:
- Placental abruption
- Uterine rupture
- Umbilical cord problems
- Excessive bleeding from the placenta
- Abnormal position of the fetus
- Prolonged labour
- Very low maternal blood pressure
Finally, after delivery, HIE may be caused by:
- Severe prematurity
- Lung or heart disease
- Trauma to the brain or skull
- Very low blood pressure
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac arrest
When any of these issues arise before, during, or after birth, the brain may be deprived of oxygen. Once this occurs, brain cells start to die. The risk of severe harm increases the longer the brain is deprived of oxygen.
In many situations, the root cause of HIE is medical negligence. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to meet the standard of care for the profession – and that failure causes harm to the patient.
Proper monitoring of the mother and fetus can alert medical professionals to signs and symptoms of complications that could lead to HIE. In particular, a fetal heart rate monitor should be used to check the baby’s heart rate and other vital signs during labour and delivery. If necessary, prompt intervention through a cesarean section (c-section) or other procedure can reduce the likelihood of an infant developing HIE.
Examples of medical negligence that may cause or increase the severity of HIE include:
- Failure to promptly respond to signs of fetal distress
- Errors in fetal heart rate monitoring
- Failure to properly manage a high-risk pregnancy
- Failure to intervene in a breech birth
- Failure to appropriately intervene when issues arise related to the uterus, placenta, and/or umbilical cord
Once the baby has been born, it should be immediately checked for signs of HIE using the Apgar score. If they show signs of oxygen deprivation, cooling therapy should immediately be administered to stop the progression of brain damage and minimize the risk of long-term disabilities. A failure to immediately administer cooling therapy to a baby that shows signs of HIE may also be considered a form of medical malpractice.
If you are dealing with HIE that you believe was caused by medical negligence, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault medical professionals. Our team of HIE lawyers can work with you to help you determine if you have a claim against the doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare professional.
Filing an HIE Lawsuit
If your child starts to show signs of HIE, you may wonder what your rights are and whether you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault provider(s). As described above, there are many potential causes of HIE. If you believe that your child’s HIE was caused by or made worse by medical malpractice, then you may be able to file a lawsuit.
Birth injury cases are a specific type of litigation where parents seek to recover financial compensation on behalf of themselves and their child. A settlement or verdict at trial can help with the high costs often associated with birth injuries such as HIE.
Financial compensation will not solve all challenges associated with raising a child who has been diagnosed with HIE. Many children with HIE have related conditions, such as cerebral palsy. They may require significant care, both in their childhood and throughout their lives. Parents often struggle with limited support, services, and resources.
Obtaining financial compensation through an HIE lawsuit can reduce financial strain and provide the opportunity to pay for therapies and treatments that may help your child live their fullest life. It can also alleviate some of the burden of providing full-time care by yourself, allowing you to go back to work or pursue other passions.
An HIE lawsuit may result in compensation for:
- The cost of future care, including therapy, attendant care, case management, equipment, medical supplies, medication, and home renovations
- Loss of income or earning capacity, which compensates your child for what they would have earned if they had not suffered a birth injury
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Compensation for the parents’ time
A seasoned HIE lawyer can help you determine whether you have a viable case, and if so, what your case may be worth.
How a Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help
After your child suffers a birth injury like HIE, you may be overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, and just dealing with your own emotions about what happened. You might not have even considered filing a lawsuit because you are stretched to the limit providing care for your child and figuring out your new normal.
In this situation, it can be difficult to contemplate taking on something as big as filing a lawsuit. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. An HIE lawyer can advocate for you, taking on the insurance companies on your behalf.
The process starts with a free initial consultation. During this appointment, you can explain what happened during your pregnancy, labour and delivery, and afterward. Your lawyer will listen to you and offer advice about your options.
If you choose to hire a birth injury lawyer, they will immediately begin investigating your claim. This may involve reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, and consulting with medical experts. At the same time, they will research the law in your province to build the strongest possible claim for compensation.
Most birth injury lawsuits are resolved via settlement, which means that you may not ever have to set foot in a courtroom. Throughout the process, your lawyer will keep you updated about your case. Having a seasoned lawyer to advocate for your rights will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on what is truly important: your family.
Help for Families Dealing with the Effects of HIE
In some cases, HIE is not caused by medical negligence. However, if a medical professional failed to appropriately monitor and/or treat a mother or baby before, during, or after labour and delivery, they could be responsible for any injuries that result.
If your baby has been diagnosed with HIE or a related condition, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault provider. Contact BILA today at 1-800-300-BILA or via our online contact form for more information about a potential legal claim and to discuss your child’s birth injury case.
How Much Is My HIE Case Worth?
It depends. The value of any birth injury lawsuit depends on the severity of the injury and the culpability of the medical professionals. Generally, a case involving a baby with a more serious case of HIE who will require lifelong care will be worth more than a case involving less severe brain damage.
The best way to find out if you have a potential HIE lawsuit and to get an idea of the value of the claim is by consulting an experienced birth injury lawyer. Call BILA to schedule a consultation with a birth injury lawyer in your province.
How Do I Know If My Baby’s HIE Was Caused By Medical Malpractice?
It can be hard for most parents to know whether their baby’s HIE was caused by medical malpractice or by simple misfortune. A close review of medical records related to your pregnancy, labour and delivery, and postnatal care is required. An experienced birth injury lawyer can examine these records using their knowledge of medical negligence and an understanding of the type of events that typically cause HIE.
If medical negligence caused your baby’s HIE – or made the condition worse – then you may be able to file an HIE lawsuit. An experienced birth injury lawyer can help you with the process.
Does HIE Always Cause Permanent Disability?
HIE is often associated with significant disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. The main indicator of the severity of HIE is the length of time that a baby’s brain was deprived of oxygen. Immediate treatment with cooling therapy can help to minimize the brain damage caused by HIE.
Some babies with mild HIE events suffer few long-term consequences. However, if a baby was deprived of oxygen for a longer period of time, it may have permanent disabilities – or even die. If your child is disabled from HIE caused by medical malpractice, reach out to BILA to schedule a free consultation.