Pregnancy & Car Accidents: Dangers, Risks, and Legal Options

Car accident victims need to understand their legal rights after a car accident. Pregnant women may face unique situations after a car accident because there is the potential for injury to two victims. The unborn child can be injured in an accident along with the mother.

Car accidents can cause catastrophic injuries for a mother and unborn child. Because the woman is pregnant, car accident injuries could be more severe. In some cases, both the mother and the unborn child could sustain life-threatening injuries.

In addition to spinal cord injuries, whiplash, broken bones, brain injuries, and other common car accident injuries, a pregnant woman may sustain one or more pregnancy-related injuries in a car crash.

Potential pregnancy-related injuries you could sustain in a car accident include:

Injuries to Your Unborn Child

The force of the collision from the car wreck could cause direct injury to your unborn child. Brain damage may occur if your baby’s brain is jolted and shifts within the skull. The force of the impact on your abdomen could break bones or cause other injuries. If the injuries are severe, you could experience a miscarriage. 

Placental Abruption

Your baby receives nutrients and oxygen through the placenta. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta becomes detached from the uterine wall. Damage to the placental before delivery could result in stillbirth, brain injuries, tissue damage, cerebral palsy, or other permanent impairments. 

Uterine Injury

During pregnancy, the uterus is enlarged, which could increase the risk of injuries to the uterus during a car accident. A mother and unborn child could experience life-threatening conditions from a uterine injury.

Monitoring for Signs of Injury After a Car Accident

A pregnant woman should contact her physician immediately after a car wreck. The doctor generally wants to examine the mother and the unborn child to determine the extent of the injuries from the car crash. 

However, there are some signs and symptoms that indicate the pregnant woman may need emergency medical care. 

Symptoms that generally warrant an immediate trip to the emergency room include, but are not limited to:

  • Contractions
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Changes in the baby’s movements
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Physical trauma to the abdomen
  • Painful or urgent urination
  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting 
  • Swelling
  • Fever or chills

A mother may notice injury symptoms immediately after the car accident. If there is any doubt about whether you were injured or the severity of your injuries, it may be best to go to the emergency room by ambulance. Prompt medical attention could prevent additional injuries or a miscarriage.

Because seat belts and airbags can cause specific injuries in a car accident, some women may hesitate to use these safety devices while they are pregnant. However, the NHTSA recommends that women who are pregnant continue to use airbags and seat belts when riding in a car.

Some steps that pregnant women can take to prevent injury from airbags and seat belts include:

  • Adjust the seat in an upright position to prevent a gap between your shoulder and the seat belt
  • Position the seat as far back from the steering wheel as you can while allowing you to reach and operate the pedals safely
  • Wear your lap belt below your stomach so that it crosses your hips and pelvic bone
  • Do not drive a vehicle if your abdomen touches the steering wheel
  • Position the shoulder belt so that it crosses the center of your chest

If you are worried about wearing a seat belt or leaving the airbags in the “on” position, talk to your physician. Your doctor may have additional instructions for riding or driving a car safely during pregnancy.

What Compensation Can a Pregnant Woman Receive After a Car Accident?

In most cases, a pregnant woman should be entitled to the same types of damages in a car accident case as other accident victims. 

You could recover compensation for your:

  • Medical expenses and bills, including treatment for injuries to your unborn child
  • Loss of salaries, wages, benefits, and other sources of income
  • Decreased earning potential
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Emotional and mental trauma and distress
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Other out-of-pocket financial losses

The value of your car accident claim depends on numerous factors. You may want to consult with a personal injury lawyer before settling your claim. 

If you sign a settlement agreement, you release the parties from any further liability for your claim. You could also release the parties from any liability for future damages related to injuries to your unborn child. Having a lawyer review the settlement agreement before you sign it is in your best interest and the best interest of your child.

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