What Should You Do If You’re in a Car Accident While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman driving in the highway.

Pregnant woman driving in the highway.If a pregnant woman is involved in a car accident, there is cause for concern for both the expectant mother and her unborn child.  The good news is that most of the time, the unborn baby is unharmed.  But injuries to the baby and even miscarriages are possible. If you were pregnant when were in a car crash, you have the right to hold the at-fault party accountable for any injuries you’ve sustained, as well as any injuries to your unborn child. The Atlanta auto accident lawyers at Butler Kahn have decades of experience helping car crash victims, including pregnant mothers. Our firm is committed to providing the help you need. When you hire us, you will work directly with one of our Atlanta car collision attorneys. They’ll be with you through every step of the legal process. If you think we could help with your situation and you’d like to talk with us about it, contact us by phone or online. It costs nothing to speak to our lawyers and our conversation will be completely confidential.

What Should You Do If You’re in a Car Accident While Pregnant?

If you’re in an accident during your pregnancy, call 911 immediately and seek emergency medical care. Even minor accidents can have effects on unborn children. You should still call your healthcare provider even if you don’t think you suffered serious injuries. They can assess your condition, check on your baby, and advise you on what to do next.

Risks During the First and Second Trimesters of Pregnancy

While there are health risks if you’re involved in a car accident at any point in your pregnancy, those risks are somewhat less pronounced in the early stages. During the first trimester (the first 12 weeks or so of the pregnancy), traveling in a car is generally safer than when you’re further along. If you are involved in a car crash in the first trimester, the fetus has greater protection from the effects of a crash and is less susceptible to sudden stops and jolts. During the second trimester (the next 12 weeks of the pregnancy), the fetus is still fairly well protected from the effects of a crash, but you could sustain greater injuries yourself. If these injuries are severe enough, they could end up having an impact on your unborn child. While the dangers from a car accident are reduced in the first and second trimesters, any car accident when you’re pregnant could raise serious health concerns. If you’re involved in a crash, you should get to the ER as soon as possible and see your obstetrician.

Possible Pregnancy Complications After a Collision

Whether your unborn baby is hurt depends not only on the phase of your pregnancy, but also on the severity of the accident.  Unsurprisingly, severe car accidents are more likely to cause injuries than minor collisions. Some of the possible health complications from being involved in a car accident while pregnant include:

  • Miscarriage
  • Early labor
  • Severe bleeding, both internally or externally
  • Birth defects
  • Maternal shock, which occurs when a mother loses so much blood that the heart cannot function properly. When this happens, the body will redirect blood and other nutrients away from the fetus to the mother, putting the fetus in jeopardy.
  • Contrecoup injuries, which occur when your body is violently forced in one direction before abruptly snapping back in the other direction. This puts intense stress on your body and can harm the fetus.
  • Placental disruption, which is when your placenta prematurely detaches from the wall of the uterus. This can put your unborn child in extreme danger and can lead to fetal death.
  • Uterine rupture, which is when a collision causes a spontaneous tear of the uterus. These injuries are fatal to the unborn child in nearly all instances.

Car Accident Symptoms to Look Out for When Pregnant

If you’re involved in a car accident while you’re pregnant, here are a few warning signs to watch out for:

  • Losing consciousness during or after the accident
  • Pain in your pelvic region
  • Any fluid discharging from your vagina
  • Bleeding from your vagina
  • Severe headaches
  • Facial swelling
  • Chills and/or fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting that does not seem to be related to morning sickness
  • Any change or cessation in your baby’s movements

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of serious underlying injuries to you, your child, or both. Seek emergency medical treatment right away and call your obstetrician if you experience any of these symptoms.

Ways for Pregnant Drivers to Protect Themselves and Their Unborn Babies

Most women are not able to stop driving during their pregnancy. Driving for work, for school, for family, or for other reasons is often a practical necessity. If you need to travel in a car while you’re pregnant, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear your seatbelt properly. Place the lap belt under your abdomen and above your hips. This will prevent the seatbelt from constricting your developing child if you’re in a crash. Wear the shoulder belt normally, across your chest and above your abdomen.
  • Do not deactivate your airbags. The airbags in your vehicle were designed to work hand-in-hand with your seat belt to keep your body stable and safe in the event of a collision.  Keep the airbag on.
  • Move your seat back away from the steering wheel when driving. You want to do everything you can to keep from being pressed into the steering wheel in the event of a crash.

Should I Wear My Seat Belt when Pregnant?

Yes, absolutely.  Your seat belt will help to keep you and your baby safe. Some people wonder whether the seat belt can hurt an unborn baby, but when a pregnant woman wears a seat belt correctly, the risks of the seat belt harming the baby are minimal.  A far greater risk to the safety of the unborn baby and expectant mother would be getting thrown around the inside of the car during the accident.  If the mother is not belted, then in a severe collision, she could be thrown forward into the steering wheel, thrown sideways into the passenger seat, or even ejected from the vehicle in a rollover.  Those risks are much greater than any risk created by the seat belt itself. As shown in the diagrams below, a pregnant mother should wear the lap part of the belt low across her pelvis, across what doctors call the “iliac crest.”  The shoulder part of the belt should be worn normally, across the chest and typically between the breasts. [su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/rIj8g8tZBsY” “width=100%” title=”Should I Wear My Seat Belt If I’m Pregnant?”]

Should I Turn the Airbags in my Car Off if I am Pregnant?

No.  The airbag is designed to work with your seat belt to keep you safe and secure in the event of a car accident. The biggest risk to an unborn baby (or an expectant mother) in a car accident is a forceful impact with something inside the car.  Airbags help to prevent that.  For example, if a mother’s abdomen is thrown against the steering wheel or against the side of the car during a collision, there is a chance that the baby could be hurt.  Airbags help to cushion that impact, and help to keep everyone safe. Although airbags can cause minor discomfort after a collision, like burn marks or small abrasions, those issues are slight.  The bigger issues that airbags prevent, like hard impacts with surfaces inside the car, would be much more dangerous to mother and child.  So although airbags alone won’t keep a mother or baby safe, airbags work with the car’s seat belt system to minimize the chance of injuries in an accident.

What to Do After the Crash

If you are involved in a crash while you’re pregnant, here are the steps you should take to give yourself the best chance of recovering compensation:

  • Follow your doctor’s orders exactly as they’re given. Not only does ignoring your doctor’s instructions put you and your unborn baby in danger, but it could also give the insurance company ammunition to argue for a lower payout.
  • Save all your medical records, bills, and pay stubs. This evidence helps demonstrate the nature of your injuries and offers a record of the financial losses you’ve sustained.
  • Preserve whatever evidence you can from the accident scene. Take pictures if you can and try to remember as much as you can about the details of the crash.
  • Start a journal and monitor your daily pain levels. To get compensation for the pain you’ve endured as a result of the accident, you’ll need to show how your injuries have impacted your daily life. Writing down the details of the accident can help preserve them for future reference.
  • Get help from a car accident attorney. Under Georgia law, you have two years to file a lawsuit in a personal injury case. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the faster they can start building your case to seek the compensation you deserve.

Compensation for Injuries to the Unborn Baby in a Car Accident

If a car accident causes injuries to an unborn baby, the at-fault driver, their insurance company, or whoever caused the injury can be held accountable for those injuries. If a child is born with birth defects caused by an accident, then after the child has been born, a claim for those injuries can be made.  The Supreme Court of Georgia has addressed this issue several times.  In 1995 in a case called Peters v. Hospital Authority of Elbert County, the Court wrote that “[s]ince 1951, Georgia law has recognized that a child born after sustaining a tortious prenatal injury may bring anaction to recover damages for the injury sustained.”  265 Ga. 487, 487-88.  That means that, for example, if a car accident broke the arm of an unborn child, then when the child is born, a claim can be brought on the child’s behalf by the parents.  The parents could collect, on behalf of the child, for past medical bills, future medical bills, the temporary loss of the use of the arm, and other components of damages. After the child is born, the parents may collect on the child’s behalf for the pain and suffering that the baby experienced in the womb.  The federal trial court in Atlanta addressed this issue in a case called Durden v. Newton County and determined that “[t]o recover for prenatal pain and suffering, the child must be born alive.”  No. 1:14-CV-01163, 2015 WL 71446, at *3-4 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 5, 2015).

Compensation for a Miscarriage Caused by a Car Accident

Sometimes the worst happens and an unborn baby is lost because of a car accident.  In that circumstance, the parents can bring a wrongful death claim under Georgia law if the pregnancy was far enough along at the time of the collision. Georgia law recognizes a point in the pregnancy called the “quickening,” which generally refers to the time when the unborn baby is capable of moving around in the womb such that the mother, or another person placing their hand on her abdomen, can feel the movement.  The Georgia Court of Appeals described it by saying that “the concept of quickening necessarily contemplates proof of the kind of movement that a mother potentially could feel, such as the movement of an arm or a leg.”  Citron v. Ghaffari, 246 Ga. App. 826, 827-28 (2000).  The quickening might occur at different points in different pregnancies, but it typically occurs “around the sixteenth week and at times as early as the tenth week of pregnancy,” according to the Georgia Supreme Court in a case called Kempson v. State.  278 Ga. 285, 286 (2004). If a miscarriage occurs and an unborn baby is lost after the “quickening,” then in Georgia, the parents can bring a wrongful death claim arising from the death of the fetus.  The compensation available in a wrongful death claim is “the full value of the life” that was lost, measured from the point of view of the person who died.  Those can be big numbers – and appropriately so, since life is precious and irreplaceable.

Compensation for Injuries Suffered by Pregnant Mothers in Car Crashes

Here are a few of the things you could be compensated for if you’re involved in a car accident while pregnant:

  • Your medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • The physical pain you’ve endured
  • Emotional pain and anguish
  • The cost of any future medical care you or your child may need

Still, have questions about your rights after being involved in a car crash while pregnant? We’re here to help. Contact Butler Kahn for a free case review. We’ll discuss your legal rights and options and explain how we can help you seek the compensation you deserve.

Picture of Matt Kahn
Matt Kahn is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer and a partner at the law firm Butler Kahn. Matt has dedicated his career to fighting for individuals and families who had been harmed by the negligence of others. At Butler Kahn, he has had the honor of helping families who have lost children in motor vehicle accidents and people who were critically injured. He helped a family secure a $45 million settlement to provide lifetime care for their son, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. Matt is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star and by Best Lawyers as One to Watch. He has received an Avvo 10.0 Top Attorney rating. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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