Pregnancy and Automobile Collisions
Pregnant woman involved in automobile accidents have a whole host of issues to consider and deal with in the aftermath of a car crash. Besides the annoyance of reporting the claim to the insurance company and beginning the process of getting their vehicle repaired, a pregnant woman’s main concern will obviously be towards the baby’s health. It is imperative that she seek medical care not only for herself—as being pregnant obviously does not preclude one from being hurt in an automobile accident—but also for the life growing inside of her.
A woman’s womb does offer a significant level of protection for the baby inside, but any type of sudden impact or extreme force—whether that be from contact with another vehicle or just from slamming on the brakes—can cause the placenta to separate from the uterus. This is called a “placental abruption” and it occurs when the placenta (the organ in the uterus responsible for nourishing and maintaining the fetus through the umbilical cord) partially or completely detaches from the uterus prior to labor. This can lead to serious problems including blood hemorrhage, miscarriage, or premature delivery. However, in some cases, a placental abruption may have no outward or accompanying symptoms. This condition can deprive the baby of oxygen and necessary nutrients. In extreme cases, it can cause the baby to be stillborn. Common signs of placental abruption include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Uterine tenderness
- Rapid uterine contractions, often coming one right after another
Car Accident and Pregnancy Statistics
According to the CDC, 6,400 adults are injured in car crashes every day; the risk of serious injury and death is reduced by 50% when wearing a seat belt.
- 1 in 7 adults do not wear a seatbelt every time they drive.
- Around 30,000 pregnant women are involved in auto accidents every year.
- There are about 5 times as many fetal deaths due to car crashes than there are infant deaths from car crashes.
- A fetus is 15 times more likely to die from a motor vehicle crash than a child 0-14 is likely to die from a firearm injury.
- On average, 2.9% of women report being hurt in a car accident while pregnant.
- Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of maternal and fetal deaths due to injury
- They are also the leading cause of maternal injury hospitalization.
- On average, 2-14 fetuses a day die from car accidents.
- There are an estimated 3,500 annual hospital visits in the US for a pregnancy-related car accident injuries.
- The risk of fetal injury in a 16 MPH frontal crash at 28 weeks gestation is 26% for belted drivers and 70% for unbelted drivers.
- Pregnant women stay active, continue working, and continue driving a lot further into term than they used to, with a 275% increase over 30 years.
- Babies born prematurely (<25 weeks and <2 lbs.) have a 50% chance of survival, whereas babies who weigh 3 lbs. or more have a 95% chance of survival. ; ;
Trauma and Seatbelts
It is known that trauma is a leading cause of fetal injury and death. Blunt trauma to a pregnant woman’s abdomen can directly, and indirectly harm the fetus and its internal organs. Direct trauma to the abdomen of an expectant mother in an automobile is a cause for great concern and should be immediately followed by some form of medical care and examination by trained medical personnel.
It is vital to the health of both mother and baby, that expectant mothers always wear a properly fastened seatbelt when in a vehicle. A study found that, when compared with women who were not involved in an automobile crash, pregnant drivers “had elevated rates of preterm birth, placental abruption, and premature rupture of the membranes after a single crash” . Unsurprisingly, the same study found that expectant mothers that were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash were three times more likely to suffer a stillbirth than a pregnant driver that was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
How to Wear a Seatbelt When Pregnant
To avoid injuring yourself and your baby, you should always wear a seat belt that is properly fastened. The seat belt should be a three-point restraint (that means it should have a lap strap and a shoulder strap) which are standard in every car. The caveat is, although it may be uncomfortable when pregnant, that it must be worn properly.
Start by making sure the lap belt is under your pregnant belly. It should be low and snug against your hip bones. Never wear the belt across or above your belly. Doing so will definitely increase your chances of experiencing the above conditions.
Once the lap belt is secure, fit the shoulder strap across your chest and off to the side of your belly. If the shoulder belt is uncomfortable for any reason, adjust your seat or the belt so it fits better.
(Most cars built after the year 2000 have the ability to raise and lower the seatbelt at the point it meets the side near the door. Many people do not take advantage of this feature, but it can be quite helpful in making a restrain more comfortable.)
Do not place the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back. Not only is this pointless (besides comfort, see above), and illegal, it is also more dangerous. Imagine that you are in an accident while only wearing the lap belt. Which way will the force move you? The answer, it will bend you in half violently, forcing your pregnant belly to compress.
There are now seat belt positioning devices being sold for use in pregnancy, but I would warn against their use. There are no safety standards for any of these devices, and—by repositioning the seat belt or how it functions—they may put you in an unsafe situation in the event of a crash. A strap pad may be just fine, however. Always ask your doctor or OBGYN first.
Air bags are great safety devices that may play a large role in the safety of you and your unborn child, however, they do not replace the need to wear your seat belt. In fact, an airbag can be dangerous if you aren’t buckled in, as they are designed to work together.
Be sure to adjust your seat as far back from the steering wheel as possible, while still being able to reach the peddles comfortably. Also, tilt the wheel so that if the airbag did deploy, it would hit your chest and not your pregnant belly.
What to do if you are in an accident while pregnant
In the event that an expectant mother is involved in an automobile crash, she should go to the hospital to monitor the baby and undergo an ultrasound. Even if you don’t think you are hurt, it is possible that either mother or baby could have underlying injuries. The risk of injury is actually higher after the first trimester since the fetus is no longer protected by your pelvis.
Keep an eye for these symptoms for the next few weeks:
- Dizziness or Severe headache
- Fever or chills
- Swelling in your fingers or face
- Pain in your shoulders or belly area
- Persistent vomiting not caused by morning sickness
- Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Baby’s movements decrease
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
If you’re pregnant—or someone you love is pregnant—and you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, call the Clearwater injury attorneys at today. We specialize in complicated injury cases like brain trauma, spinal injuries, and fetal disturbance. We will go to any length necessary to make sure that you are compensated for the damages caused by another.
Let us help you maximize your insurance claim by assisting you with the process. As a mother-to-be, you have enough to worry about. Let us handle the insurance company to maximize your claim. Our phone number is (727) 451-6900. Please feel free to contact us with your questions. We are happy to help.