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In hospital, babies who are born prematurely, unwell or who are small for their gestational age will need specialist neonatal care.

This usually takes place in a neonatal unit (NNU) or special care baby unit (SCBU) or a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), depending on the treatment, monitoring and breathing support needed by the baby.

Do all newborn babies who need care on NICU, NNU or SCBU have a claim for negligence?

Newborn babies are admitted to the neonatal unit when they have or are at risk of a condition or complications which need specialist care, observation and treatment. Most commonly, a newborn baby may need neonatal unit care if they: 

  • need help with breathing and keeping up their oxygen levels by ventilation or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP);
  • are at risk of hypoglycaemia, needing help with feeding and monitoring to maintain healthy blood sugar and nutrition;
  • need heart-rate monitoring;
  • have jaundice, needing phototherapy to avoid developing kernicterus;
  • are recovering from or need treatment for infection;
  • are recovering from surgery or other treatment;
  • have suffered HIE (hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy - brain damage from oxygen deprivation) and need therapeutic cooling;
  • were born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy;
  • had a low birthweight. 

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Types of birth injuries which might lead to a claim

A newborn baby may have a medical negligence claim if they have suffered serious injury from:

  1. perinatal asphyxia or HIE (oxygen deprivation immediately before, at or after birth);
  2. meconium aspiration during and immediately after birth;
  3. kernicterus from untreated jaundice;
  4. delayed treatment of infection, such as group B strep or meningitis;
  5. untreated hypoglycaemia;
  6. vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) or haemorrhagic disease of the newborn;
  7. hypocarbia.

Neonatal brain injury claims solicitors frequently asked questions

Perinatal asphyxia or HIE

Perinatal asphyxia is the name given to a baby’s lack of oxygen or breathing problems around the time of birth.

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Meconium aspiration

Meconium is the medical name for a newborn baby’s first faeces. It is normal for a baby to pass meconium soon after birth.

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Kernicterus is a rare but serious complication of jaundice. Jaundice is a yellow colouring of the skin.

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Infection - Group B streptococcus/meningitis

Severe neurological disability, such as cerebral palsy, can be caused by infection in pregnancy, during labour and birth, during the neonatal period (immediately after birth) or in the child’s infancy.

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Hypoglycaemia means low blood sugar (glucose). Neonatal hypoglycaemia is a common condition in newborn babies who are unable to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the first few days of life before they are feeding regularly.

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Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) or haemorrhagic disease of the newborn

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) or haemorrhagic disease of the newborn, is a rare blood clotting disorder. It affects 1 in 10,000 newborn babies. It is caused by a shortage of Vitamin K.

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Hypocarbia – injury from over-ventilation

Newborn babies who are unwell or premature sometimes need help to breathe. After initial resuscitation, they may be moved for intensive care to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) where their breathing will be controlled by a ventilator machine. 

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Can older children, teenagers or young adults claim for neonatal negligence?

Negligent neonatal care of a newborn baby can cause severe disability which lasts far beyond the baby’s first few weeks. The injury may not be obvious straight away. Depending on when the damage to the child becomes apparent, our client families may come to us at different stages of their child’s development.

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Previous Cases

  • £24.3 million settlement in a neonatal brain injury claim arising from untreated neonatal hypoglycaemia. The settlement includes guaranteed lifelong annual payments of over £300,000pa to provide for the costs of high levels of care.
  • $23 million settlement in a claim for kernicterus brain injury arising from community midwives’ negligent treatment of our client’s neonatal jaundice in the first few days of his life.  Interim payments of £1,350,000 met the USA resident child’s urgent needs during the claim after we secured an admission of liability. We pursued the claim arising from our client’s negligent UK-based treatment under English law, and valued his compensation to meet his needs in the USA.
  • £18.4m compensation settlement for a severely disabled child whose cerebral palsy was caused by negligent failure by neonatal staff to treat his HSV-infected forceps grazes on his scalp.
  • Settlement providing a £3.1 million lump sum plus lifelong yearly payments of up to £133,250pa for a child who suffered a brain injury when midwives failed to recognise and treat his neonatal hypoglycaemia. During the claim a £1 million interim payment paid for a behaviour management programme and a more suitable home, enabling the boy’s specialist needs to be met whilst he lived at home with his family.
  • £7m settlement in a kernicterus brain injury claim arising from delays by a community midwife and a GP in referring a newborn baby to hospital for treatment of jaundice.
  • £3.6 million settlement for a child who suffered meningitis brain injury when obstetric and neonatal staff at the hospital where he was born failed to diagnose that he was suffering from an infection, resulting in delayed  antibiotic treatment.
  • £13.3 million settlement for a teenager with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy caused by negligent hospital treatment of necrotising enterocolitis and excessive ventilation (hypocarbia) in the days after his premature twin birth. He has retained intellect but significant physical disability from the neonatal brain injury. Interim payments of £875,000 helped meet our client’s urgent needs whilst we worked towards settlement of the claim.
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Meet your specialist team

Our specialist Neonatal brain injury claims solicitors team are considered leaders in the field and have a significant amount of expertise.
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Susan Brown


Julie Marsh headshot

Julie Marsh


Richard Money-Kyrle headshot

Richard Money-Kyrle


Sita Soni headshot

Sita Soni

Senior Associate - solicitor

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Vanessa Wand

Senior associate - solicitor

Rachel Makore headshot

Rachel Makore

Associate - solicitor

Tara Pileggi-Byrne photo

Tara Pileggi-Byrne

Associate - Solicitor

Alpa Rana headshot

Alpa Rana

Associate - solicitor

Fran Rothwell

Fran Rothwell

Associate solicitor

Ben Ireland headshot

Ben Ireland


Alice Carley headshot

Alice Carley


Audrey Elmore headshot

Audrey Elmore

Medical records coordinator

Nicky Melville headshot

Nicky Melville

Professional support assistant

Susan Brown photo
Julie Marsh headshot
Richard Money-Kyrle headshot
Sita Soni headshot
Vanessa Wand photo
Rachel Makore headshot
Tara Pileggi-Byrne photo
Alpa Rana headshot
Fran Rothwell
Ben Ireland headshot
Alice Carley headshot
Audrey Elmore headshot
Nicky Melville headshot

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Neonatal brain injury cases

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