Have you been in a car accident while pregnant in Colorado?
Pregnant drivers and passengers are especially vulnerable to injuries if they are in a car accident. Both the expectant mother and baby can be at risk after an impact, even one that was low-speed, and pregnancy poses unique challenges to assessing, treating, following up, and living with injuries. If you have experienced a car accident in Colorado while pregnant, you must take important steps to ensure your health and that of your baby, and to preserve your legal rights. Contact Vern Ready, an experienced and passionate Colorado personal injury today for critical legal guidance.
What are the risks to pregnant mothers and unborn children during a car accident?
About 200,000 pregnant women are involved in police-reported car accidents in the U.S. annually, and estimates suggest that between 1,500 and 5,000 fetal losses occur as a result. The forces involved in a collision can cause serious harm to both you and your unborn child. Even a low-speed accident can cause injuries to you and the baby. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the risk of adverse fetal outcome was still 12% for properly restrained vehicle occupants, even at a speed of only 18mph. Airbag deployment and seatbelts can also cause abdominal trauma, which can result in serious injury to your baby. If you have been in an accident, even if you think you and the baby feel fine and are uninjured, even if the collision was minor, you should accept a ride in an ambulance to a hospital for a full and immediate medical examination.
- Impact on the abdomen: When you are pregnant, your abdomen is particularly vulnerable during a crash. The incredible forces at play during a crash cause sudden trauma, which can lead to injuries to your uterus, placenta or amniotic sac, which potentially result in placental abruption or miscarriage.
- Placental abruption: This injury is particularly common in car accidents because of the abrupt forces acting upon your body, jerking your womb back and forth, and potentially ripping the placenta fully or partially from the uterine wall. Placental abruption is a very serious medical emergency and is a threat to both your life and the life of your child, especially in later stages of pregnancy. Placental abruption occurs in 5% of low-impact collisions and 30%-50% of high-impact collisions, and can also be caused by seatbelt, airbag, or steering wheel compression.
- Whiplash, head, neck, and back injuries: Pregnant women can be more vulnerable to whiplash, head, neck, and back injuries during a car accident because of the additional weight placed on their anatomy during pregnancy. You may wonder if this means compensation could be decreased because a car accident survivor was pregnant and at greater risk. I cover this in my blog on the eggshell rule. In short, the defendant takes the plaintiff as they find them, even if they are more vulnerable to injury than the average person and cannot decrease or refuse to provide compensation based on a pre-existing condition. Defendants and insurance companies try to exploit this vulnerability as an excuse to lessen or escape their responsibility or offers of compensation, but there are court rules specifically intended to prevent that.
- Seatbelt and airbag injuries: Pregnant women should always consult the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines on seatbelt usage and their car’s manual to understand guidelines around airbags and seat positioning. Even when properly positioned, these safety devices can cause injuries to both pregnant and non-pregnant occupants, including abrasions, bruises, and soft tissue injuries. Pregnant bellies can easily be harmed more seriously.
- Uterine rupture and maternal shock: Although less common, these consequences of a car accident do occur in pregnant mothers and can be extremely serious, even life-threatening. Uterine rupture in particular is one of the most dangerous pregnancy complications and has the highest fetal mortality rate. Uterine rupture occurs when the uterus tears during pregnancy, which can happen in a serious car accident. When this occurs, a fetus can lose oxygen and must be delivered immediately to avoid permanent injury or death. If a pregnant woman is grievously injured in a car accident and loses a large amount of blood, she can go into maternal shock, also called hypovolemic shock. In these cases, the fetus is at extreme risk with a mortality rate of over 80%.
- Direct fetal trauma: Although rare due to the protection provided by the mother’s body and womb, it can occur as a result of head injuries resulting from seatbelt, steering wheel, or airbag impacts. Fetal injuries caused by direct trauma to the fetus (versus indirectly through trauma to the mother) are reported, on average, in less than 10% of accidents involving pregnant vehicle occupants.
- Early labor or premature delivery: Any of the above issues – and other complications – can induce labor or cause medical providers to need to deliver the baby early, possibly by emergency C-section. This can also mean your baby may be premature and require a stay in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
- Birth defects or permanent disability: In some cases, trauma to the mother or baby while in a car accident or as a result of consequences from a car accident can result in a baby’s permanent and lifelong injury or disability. There can be lifelong health issues if a baby is premature, for example, or if a baby experienced a head injury in the womb.
- Death: In the most tragic outcome to an accident, the life of the mother or the baby can be lost. Motor vehicle accidents are among the top causes of death for pregnant women, and often occur at the hands of a negligent or dangerous driver.
What are concerning symptoms following a car accident if you’re pregnant?
Do not delay seeking medical treatment following a car accident. I said it before and I want to emphasize it: even if the accident was minor, even if you feel fine, even if the baby feels fine, go by ambulance to the nearest hospital for a full medical evaluation. Do not wait for symptoms. Depending on your symptoms and stages of pregnancy, this could involve an ultrasound, blood work, or other imaging. Listen to your medical provider’s recommendations and follow any after-care instructions closely.
Concerning symptoms following a car accident involving a pregnant woman include:
- Abdominal pain or contractions
- Pelvic pain or cramping
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
- Lack of or decreased movement of the baby
- Fever or chills
- Loss of consciousness during or after the crash
- Headaches or vision changes, even days later
- Facial swelling
- Vomiting unrelated to morning sickness
What care might I or my baby need after a car accident?
If you are pregnant and experience a car accident, your care and costs may be more than those of a person who is not pregnant, and that care and those costs may involve your child. Some of those potential care scenarios and costs include:
- Emergency room visits: At least one should occur to assess mother and baby after the accident, but more may be needed if you experience symptoms after returning home
- Hospitalization: You may be hospitalized, even as a precaution. Pregnant women following a traumatic event are more likely to require hospitalization.
- Medical equipment and diagnostics: You may require additional medical equipment and diagnostics to assess you and the baby, or to monitor for any complications.
- Complex care: You or the baby may require more complex and specialized care, depending on the extent of injuries sustained. If you require a C-section, for example, the recovery is different and more complex than if you experienced a vaginal birth, which could be a result of the accident.
- Income loss: A car accident survivor frequently experiences some loss of income due to missed work or injury recovery, but a pregnant woman may have additional recommendations for bed rest following an accident, which may prevent her from working.
- In-home care: If your injuries are such that you are unable to care for yourself, your family, or your normal responsibilities at home, you may have to seek in-home care for additional support.
- Emotional distress: A car accident is always a source of stress for a survivor, as you must both recover from the trauma of the event and from any injuries you sustained. Experiencing this kind of trauma during pregnancy can be especially stressful, as you may have anxiety and stress about the harm to the baby.
- Long-term care: If you or the baby experience catastrophic or permanent injuries, you may have long-term care needs, such as therapy, medications, medical devices, or specialists.
In all of these scenarios, if you were injured due to the negligence of someone else, you are entitled to compensation to include the cost of care, even if you are anticipating experiencing it for a lifetime.
Do I need an attorney?
If you or a loved one are pregnant and have been injured due to the negligence of others, contact a skilled attorney immediately. You will need an attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and ensure you get full and fair compensation for your injuries. You can focus on recovering, taking care of your family and loved ones, and rebuilding your life while I fight for you.