Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. The brain relies on a steady supply of oxygen and blood and as soon as the oxygen supply is cut off or limited, it can begin to cause damage to the brain. Within just a few minutes, damage to the brain may become permanent.
During pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, the baby goes through a transition between getting blood and oxygen through the umbilical cord to breathing on its own. This can be a crucial time for the baby and birth complications can disrupt the steady oxygen supply to the baby's sensitive brain.
Doctors and medical personnel are supposed to be on alert during childbirth to watch for signs of oxygen deprivation or distress to the baby. Failure to diagnose or treat oxygen deprivation can lead to permanent brain damage. If the doctor is negligent and causes an HIE birth injury, the patient and the patient's family may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages caused by medical negligence. The following information is for families and medical error victims in Baltimore and Maryland.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Birth Injury
What is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy? Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. injuries. Hypoxia involves reduced blood oxygenation to the brain. Diminished blood supply to the brain, or ischemia, can cause the brain cells to begin to die, causing brain damage.
The damage caused by a lack of oxygen can begin within minutes. Initially, the body may try and shift blood and oxygen away from other parts of the body to preserve the brain and heart. However, unless oxygenated blood is restored quickly, brain damage may become permanent. Continued oxygen deprivation can lead to a coma or brain death.
Hypoxia can be caused by a lack of oxygenated blood from the mother while the baby is connected through the umbilical cord. After delivery, hypoxia can be caused by the baby's inability to breathe oxygen through the air. During or immediately after delivery, signs and symptoms of HIE may include:
- Meconium staining
- Abnormal heart rate
- Low Apgar score
- Difficulty feeding
- Breathing problems
- Low muscle tone
- Abnormal reflexes
If the child survives an HIE injury, they may be left with permanent brain injury. Some of these medical conditions caused by a lack of oxygen include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurodevelopmental delays, cognitive impairment, and motor impairment.
Time to File an HIE Birth Injury Lawsuit in Maryland
Each state has its own laws and time limits for medical malpractice claims. One of the most important limits to understand is the statute of limitations (SOL). The statute of limitations is the time limit an injury victim has to file a lawsuit. If the injury victim files the claim even one day late, their claim may be denied and they may get no compensation.
In most cases, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland is the shorter of:
- 5 years from the date of the injury; or
- 3 years from the date of discovery of the injury.
This means if a patient is injured on January 1, 2020, and finds out about the injury on the same day, the patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit up until January 1, 2023. However, if the patient was injured on January 1, 2020, and did not discover the injury until 4 years later, the maximum amount of time to file the claim would be up until January 1, 2025. Even if the injury victim found out about the injury 10 years after the treatment, it would be too late to file a claim.
Birth Injury Statute of Limitations in Maryland
Under Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article § 5-109, an action for damages for an injury arising out of the rendering of or failure to render professional services by a health care provider, shall be filed within the earlier of:
- Five years of the time the injury was committed; or
- Three years of the date the injury was discovered.
However, there is an exception to this rule for most birth injuries. If the claimant was under the age of 11 at the time the injury was committed, the time limitations shall commence when the child reaches the age of 11. In most cases, this would mean a child who suffers a birth injury has until the child reaches age 14 to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
For example, it would not make sense for a baby who is injured in an accident to be required to file a lawsuit by the time they reach age 5. The law gives children until age 11 to start the clock on filing a birth injury claim that occurred when they were a child. If an OB/GYN failed to properly treat a baby causing an HIE injury, the baby who suffered the birth injury may have until age 14 to get compensation for their injuries.
Why is there a time limit on filing birth injury claims?
It may still seem unfair and ridiculous to consider an 11-year-old mature enough to understand their medical and legal rights and limitations. However, these laws put a time limit on the ability of injury victims to seek compensation for their losses and damages caused by medical errors. The healthcare industry and insurance companies want to limit the amount of time to file a claim to protect their financial interests and they lobby lawmakers to put laws into place to restrict the amount of time a birth injury victim can seek compensation.
HIE Birth Injury Attorneys
At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate brain injuries caused by HIE and oxygen deprivation and determine if the damage was caused by malpractice. Our aggressive Baltimore trial lawyers have helped our Maryland families recover millions of dollars in compensation related to birth injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.