An accident can be devastating enough but even more so when a pregnant woman is involved. Not only her life may be at stake but that of her unborn child. Injuries caused to the woman can affect the unborn child both in the womb and after birth. In addition, although the fetus is protected somewhat by being in the mother’s womb, it can suffer serious injuries also.
When an expectant mother or her unborn child suffers injuries in an accident caused by negligence, the family may be able to collect fair compensation. However, California has specific laws regarding injury to a fetus versus a child that has been born.
Fetal Death or Injury Caused by an Accident
The law on what civil actions may be taken in the event of injury or death of a fetus vary depending on the state. In California, death of a fetus is not actionable because the child has not yet been born. Neither can the parents place a lawsuit for the emotional and psychological damage caused by the death of their unborn child.
In other words, the infant must have been born to file a claim, and it does not matter whether that child was premature or born full term. However, a claim may be filed in certain instances, which are listed below:
- Placental abruption: This happens when the placenta holding the fetus is separated from the inner uterine wall. This causes heavy bleeding in the mother and affects the fetus’s oxygen level. The child may be a live birth and then died or suffered a disability caused by an accident.
- Preterm labor: Preterm labor is defined as occurring before 37 weeks of gestation. Many babies who are born prematurely must spend time in neonatal intensive care. Infants who are born preterm may face physical and mental disabilities.
- Congenital disabilities: Injuries that occur directly to a fetus by an accident can result in birth defects such as cerebral palsy, hemiplegia caused by brain damage or other serious problems.
- Membrane rupture: When the sac that holds the baby and amniotic fluid separates prematurely, it can result in brain bleeding or lung problems as well as infection in both the mother and child.
- Coup or contrecoup injuries: These types of injuries are most likely to occur in traffic accidents. A coup injury happens when a moving object strikes the unborn infant, forcing its brain to hit against the wall of the skull. In a contrecoup injury, the head itself is moving and strikes against a stationary object. This can result in shaken baby syndrome in a fetus.
- Spinal cord injuries: A study by the National Institute of Health reported that spinal cord injuries in a pregnant woman, although rarer, can cause abnormalities in the baby when it is born. This is particularly true if the damage occurs during the first trimester.
Statistics on Car Accident Pregnancy Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of injuries to pregnant women. Researchers at the University of Michigan reported that pregnant women are in around 170,000 car accidents every year. Trauma to pregnant women caused by car accidents accounts for 3,500 emergency room trips and approximately 116,000 accidents that result in injuries.
Accidents and Fetal Injuries
Traffic collisions are the leading cause of fetal injuries and fatalities resulting from an accident. However, any type of negligence can contribute to an unborn child’s demise or injury. This can include loose carpeting on a staircase that can make the mother fall or medical malpractice.
A defective product or auto part can cause an injury to a pregnant woman, such as an unstable dresser that falls on her or faulty brakes that don’t stop a car in time to avoid a collision. For whatever the reason, if there is a problem with the infant after it is born that is due to negligence, the family may be able to obtain financial compensation.
Since birth defects and lifelong health problems can result from an accident that affects the fetus after he or she is born, it can cause a lifetime of expensive treatments and care.
Reducing Injuries to Pregnant Women
Although injury to a pregnant woman can happen in a number of ways, to lower the risk of injury to the woman and her unborn child in a motor vehicle accident, the following measures may help:
- Obey the rules of the road: Most injuries and fatalities occur in traffic accidents because the rules of the road were not followed.
- Let someone else drive whenever possible: Being behind the steering wheel is the worst place an expectant mother can be in a motor vehicle because of the abdomen’s proximity to the steering wheel.
- Check how far the steering wheel is from the mother’s breast bone when she is driving. A steering wheel that is closer than 10 inches from the mother’s breast bone increases the risk of abdominal and chest injuries.
- Tilt the steering wheel up in the direction of the chest, so that it will not contact the abdomen if a crash occurs. This adds further protection to the fetus.
- Ensure that the lap belt is lying low along the hips, not across the abdomen.
- The shoulder belt should be placed across the chest but not over the abdomen. The main idea is to keep the abdomen clear of any obstructions that could harm the fetus.
- Do not turn the airbags off. They add additional protection for both the mother and fetus in the event of a collision.
Compensation After a Car Accident While Pregnant
One of the most disturbing situations is when a pregnant woman is injured in an accident. Not only is there concern for her but also her unborn child. If you’ve experienced a car accident while pregnant, the Law Offices of David Azizi can provide you a free review of your important injury claim to help you achieve justice and fair compensation. For a trusted car accident lawyer, contact us online or call (800) 991-5292.