It is estimated that four percent of the US population is pregnant at any given time, so statistically four out of every injured clients may be pregnant. Women expecting a child do everything they can to protect their unborn child. Unfortunately, no amount of precaution can eliminate the risks women face in their daily lives. However, what happens if a woman is involved in a car accident while pregnant? Does the unborn child have a higher risk of injury? What compensation could the pregnant mother be owed by the person who caused the collision? How can you or that person make a claim?
Here are the answers to these and other questions we often hear from our clients who were pregnant when they were in a car accident.
Can a Car Crash Affect Your Pregnancy?
The short answer is yes for injuries to the mother and injuries to the child. In fact, New Jersey certain injuries to a fetus are specifically written into New Jersey’s automobile injury laws.
An injury to a pregnant woman is unique in that the expecting mom is more concerned about her child’s potential injures than her own. Being pregnant carries with it its own set of complications and often causes back and abdominal pain and discomfort. To determine if such pain is related to a car accident XRAYS and other radiology tests are necessary. That is the first problem, proper diagnosis without imaging. Although in utero injuries are rare, injures to the expectant mom are common. These injuries to the neck and back are often caused by the seatbelt. Most common injuries to a pregnant mom are to their necks and lower back. Seldom is there an injury to an unborn child, however sometimes pregnancies are lost because of a car wreck.
Studies have found that car accidents account for 1,500 to 5,000 miscarriages each year. Even if a pregnant person doesn’t miscarry, their unborn child may suffer fetal trauma causing permanent disabilities.
The most common injuries from car accidents during pregnancy include:
- Placental abruption happens when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall. Around 5 percent of pregnant people in low-impact accidents and as many as 50 percent of those in high-impact accidents suffer placental abruption.
- Uterine rupture is a medical emergency with a high fetal mortality rate. It is not common but occurs when the uterine wall tears or rips. Most cases result from seat belts or deployed airbags.
- Maternal shock occurs when the pregnant person sustains severe injuries. The body copes with blood loss by rerouting blood to essential organs, which deprives the fetus.
- Direct fetal trauma is an injury the fetus suffers directly rather than as a side effect of the mother’s injuries. About 10 percent of car accidents involving pregnant people result in direct fetal trauma. Head injuries caused by impact with a steering wheel, airbag, or seat belt are most common.
- Emotional and Psychological Injuries to the Expecting Mother are common and often remains a question after birth as the child develops through childhood. Mothers often worry and wonder if any developmental problems suffered by a child can be attributed to a past motor vehicle accident.
Accident injuries sustained by fetuses may lead to disabilities later in life. For example, head trauma often causes developmental or intellectual delays. If you are in a car accident while pregnant, watch a child’s development closely for signs of injury after birth.
Can a Car Accident While Pregnant Cause Brain Damage to a Fetus?
Placental abruption can cause brain damage by restricting blood flow to the developing baby. It is a medical emergency and often requires a C-section to avoid further injury to the infant.
Uterine rupture, while uncommon, can also cause brain damage and cut off oxygen to the fetus. Like placental abruption, it often needs an immediate C-section.
The abdominal wall and uterus often provide sufficient protection. However, direct impacts can cause fetal head trauma. The fetus’s head is most at risk for direct fetal trauma, causing damage that may manifest as long-term disabilities later in life.
Can a Seat Belt Injure a Fetus After a Crash?
A seat belt can cause injuries in higher-impact crashes, including placental abruption, uterine rupture, and direct fetal trauma. However, it is more dangerous not to wear a seat belt than to use it. Wear the seat belt as recommended but ensure the lap belt secures below your belly and snuggly across your pelvic bone and hips.
Are Airbags Dangerous While Pregnant?
Like seat belts, airbags may pose a danger in some circumstances. But there is no higher risk of fetal distress or injury when airbags deploy. Keep 10 inches of space between the steering wheel and your breastbone. If possible, angle the steering wheel to face your chest rather than your belly.
What Are Some Warning Signs to Watch Out for After a Car Accident While Pregnant?
If you were in a car accident while pregnant, watch out for the following:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Urgent or painful urination
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Swelling in your face or fingers
- Chills and fever
- Severe headaches
- Changes in the baby’s movement
Not all fetal injuries will manifest symptoms in the parent. It is a good idea to visit the doctor after a car accident – regardless of how you feel or what symptoms you may have experienced.
Once your baby is born, keep an eye on their development. Let your pediatrician know you were in a car accident while pregnant so they can assess your child’s development more thoroughly. The consequences of head injuries are often not apparent until the child is older.
What to Do If You’re in a Car Accident While Pregnant
If you haven’t already, see your doctor. Even if you don’t feel injured, it is a good idea. Once you are home, watch out for symptoms that may indicate a fetal injury.
Follow through with any additional treatment your doctor recommends. If left untreated, injuries like neck and back pain can worsen during pregnancy and even leave you with permanent pain and disability.
As your healing and pregnancy progress, document your experience in a journal. Note any unusual pain or mental stress. These items can be compensable through an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Should You Hire a Lawyer If You Were Involved in a Car Crash While Pregnant?
Pregnancy complicates injuries. Your baby may have suffered long-term damage you aren’t yet aware of. An insurance company will likely fight you if you file a claim for your child’s developmental problems years after the accident. The limited window to file a lawsuit set by the statute of limitations can also present its own challenges. The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the more they can do for you.
You will likely face stress after a crash while pregnant. That could affect your baby’s development and cause birth complications later. One way to manage this stress is to delegate insurance claims and settlement tasks to an attorney.
Your attorney can sue the careless driver and their insurance company for your harms and losses associated with the car accident, including:
- Your medical bills and neonatal diagnostic tests
- Medical treatment for you and your unborn child
- Money for your temporary and permanent pain and suffering
- Money for your lost wages from being unable to work.
- Delivery related complications
- Future medical care for your baby
- Money for your emotional distress and PTSD
New Jersey has a unique law that affects people subject to the Limitation of Lawsuit Threshold, also known as Limited Tort or the Verbal Threshold. This New Jersey law can limit a person with non-permanent injuries right to bring a lawsuit. However, the law plainly states that the loss of a fetus is a permanent injury and will allow the woman who suffered the miscarriage to sue for the loss of the pregnancy and all other injuries.
Your claim can become complex quickly, especially if your child shows effects from the accident later. Rather than fight the insurance company on your own, contact Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. for a free consultation with a compassionate car accident lawyer at 1-800-LAW-2000.
We can meet with you in our locations in New Jersey and New York City, over the phone, or through video chat. With more than 40 years of experience, we have secured over $800 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients. Let us put our skills, resources, and knowledge to work to help demand the financial recovery you need to get life back on track for you and your child.
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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.