Focus is on a newborn's feet in the NICU.

There are approximately 10,000 live births every day in the United States, but this does not mean that these deliveries are routine. Medical personnel who are lax or who do not take their roles seriously in the delivery room can risk injury to both mother and child. Some injuries, like hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), can be fatal.

Even if non-fatal, HIE can result in long-term complications and challenges for your child that can take a heavy financial and emotional toll on you and your family. The Elite Litigation Group is a birth injury law firm with skilled attorneys dedicated to helping families in your situation seek justice and resources.

What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, commonly abbreviated as HIE, refers to a birth injury in which the flow of blood or oxygen to the child’s brain is reduced. Because the brain needs oxygen-rich blood to survive and function, even brief interruptions have the potential to cause significant — even fatal — damage.

Permanent brain damage can occur in as little as a few minutes if the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is not restored. Death can follow shortly thereafter. 

A 2022 article stored with the National Library of Medicine estimates that as many as 60 percent of all children diagnosed with HIE will either die or have severe disabilities, such as cognitive problems, cerebral palsy, and cognitive dysfunctions.

Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

There can be several causes of HIE, as the condition can develop before, during, and after delivery. Your medical team must be alert throughout your pregnancy and delivery to situations that could lead to HIE. 

Before delivery, the situations that could lead to HIE include:

  • High blood pressure in the birthing parent
  • Heart disease
  • Low blood count in the child
  • Disruptions in the flow of blood to the placenta

During your labor and delivery, your medical team should be monitoring for signs of:

  • Low blood pressure in the birthing parent
  • Ruptures and bleeding in the placenta or uterus
  • Difficulties with the umbilical cord placement, such as an umbilical cord wrapped around the child’s neck

Finally, certain conditions can develop following delivery that can also lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. These include infections, heart or lung disease, and low blood pressure in the child. Respiratory troubles and cardiac arrest in the child can also disrupt the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and lead to HIE.

Can HIE Result From Medical Negligence?

Some cases of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can not be foreseen. Your doctor may not be able to tell if your child will go into cardiac arrest immediately after birth. If this terrible circumstance comes to pass, your child can still develop HIE even if your medical team provided competent care.

Other cases of HIE are preventable and are the result of doctors, nurses, or others involved in your prenatal care and delivery not providing you with reasonable care. This negligence contradicts their oath to do no harm and can result in extraordinary emotional and financial costs to you and your family.

Failing to monitor your vital signs and those of your child during delivery can be a significant risk factor leading to HIE. Administering certain medications can also raise or lower your or your child’s blood pressure, creating conditions that can lead to HIE.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Whether your child has HIE or not will be determined based on a physical exam supported by other indicators. Some signs and symptoms that can indicate HIE and lead to further tests include a newborn who:

  • Is lethargic and not alert to their surroundings
  • Does not display normal reflexes
  • Experiences seizures after birth
  • Develops breathing problems
  • Is overly tired and sleepy

However, other signs of HIE are vastly different. These can include being overly alert despite not having slept much. They may also be rigid and excessively sensitive to environmental stimuli.

It is critical to keep in mind that these signs do not always display immediately after birth. If there are one or more risk factors in your pregnancy or delivery for HIE, and you notice your child behaving abnormally, tell your doctor right away.

Legal Rights and Options for HIE Victims

If your child’s HIE is the result of medical negligence, you have the right to pursue compensation from the professional or entity whose negligence contributed to the injury. This compensation can cover present and anticipated future expenses related to:

  • Medical bills and hospital procedures
  • Lost wages and reduced earning potential if you are not able to do your previous job because you need to care for your child
  • Cost of additional therapeutic services your child needs
  • Emotional turmoil and stress you experienced as a result of your child’s diagnosis

Some states cap or limit the compensation you can receive for medical malpractice claims. For example, in Colorado, the maximum compensation award is $1 million, of which only $300,000 can be for pain, suffering, and non-economic damages.

This emphasizes the need for retaining an attorney who is intimately familiar with your state’s laws and limits on medical malpractice cases. Doing so helps you pursue the maximum amount of damages allowed by the law and supported by the facts of your case without unreasonable delay.

How Can an Experienced Birth Injury Lawyer Help?

Just because your child suffered harm as a result of HIE does not mean pursuing damages is easy or guaranteed to result in compensation. There are numerous challenges that can arise and delay or derail your quest for compensation. 

However, your knowledgeable birth injury lawyer can provide valuable services that can make the process easier, less daunting, and more likely to be successful.

First, your lawyer can thoroughly investigate your claim by gathering important records and speaking with witnesses of your birth injury incident. Knowing what evidence is available puts you in the strongest negotiating position possible for a settlement.

This investigative role includes speaking with expert witnesses and other medical professionals. Their informed opinions can be crucial to establishing whether your child’s HIE was avoidable. This information will play a significant role in determining whether you are best served by seeking a settlement or taking your case to trial.

Next, an attorney will assist you by preparing and filing your birth injury lawsuit. Drafting your claim and ensuring that the damages you seek are adequate requires a careful evaluation and understanding of your present and future losses. 

An attorney who has assisted other families through this difficult process will know the questions to ask and records to seek to ensure your legal rights are fully protected and pursued.

Finally, your attorney can assist you by attempting to negotiate a fair settlement with the doctor, medical staff, and insurance companies. These and other entities responsible for paying you damages will attempt to settle your claim for as little as possible. It can take an attorney who is skilled in negotiation to insist you receive a fair settlement.

How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for HIE?

In Colorado, the law affords you only two years from the date of your child’s birth injury to file a medical malpractice claim. Other states may have even shorter time frames within which you must file your lawsuit. 

Missing these deadlines by even a day can have significant adverse consequences for your legal rights. You may find that your case is dismissed despite having strong evidence showing malpractice is to blame for your child’s HIE injury.

Working in tandem with an experienced birth injury attorney as soon as possible is the best way to prevent this outcome. At Elite Litigation Group, our seasoned legal staff will ensure your claim is filed in a timely manner and pursued with diligence.

Contact the Elite Litigation Group Today

A birth injury lawyer working on a contract at his desk. Next to him is the scales of justice, a gavel, and a book.

Hearing that your child has hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can be devastating news, but this does not mean there is nothing you can do about it. Contact the Elite Litigation Group right away to learn about your legal rights.

Our team is prepared and dedicated to spring into action on your behalf and fight for you and your family. We are committed to fighting for your rights at every turn to get you the justice you deserve.

Schedule a free consultation.


Deveci, M., et al. (2022). Mortality Related Factors on Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathic Patients Treated with Therapeutic Hypothermia: an 11-Year Single-Center Experience.

Livesay, J. (2023). How Many People Are Born a Day? Examining Birth Rates and Why They Fluctuate.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy.

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We know what happened to you is unimaginable. Our only goal is to help you and your family on this painful journey and fight for your rights. When you need skilled, experienced, and compassionate representation, the Elite Litigation Group is here for you. With years of experience and multiple office locations serving nationwide, our personal injury attorneys are ready to serve you and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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Kyle Bachus
Founding Partner
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Darin Schanker
Founding Partner
Maaren Johnson personal injury attorney at Bachus & Schanker, LLC
Maaren Johnson
Equity Partner
Personal injury attorney Corey Holton from Bachus & Schanker law firm
Corey Holton
Equity Partner


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…there was a point when I wanted to give up… Bachus & Schanker did not give up on me. They just kept pushing through and letting me know that we’re on a team and that they’re there for me, to support me and help me in any way I need.

Thank you for giving me a second chance, for helping me with a second chance and thank you for not giving up on me.

When you go through an accident, so many people you find give up on you and you don’t matter anymore to them and that wasn’t the case with Bachus & Schanker.

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