Any car accident can be traumatic and stressful. But when you are pregnant, all of this is compounded two-fold. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that car accidents are a top cause of injury and death for pregnant women and a leading cause of traumatic fetal death.
As our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys can explain, crashes can present unique and scary complications for both mother and child. Knowing some of these unique risks and what should be done immediately after can help empower victims and increase your chances for fair compensation from negligent drivers.
See a Doctor – Even if You Feel Fine
First thing’s first: If you’re in a crash, get to the doctor right away, even if you aren’t transported to a hospital via ambulance. This is a critical precautionary measure for both you and your unborn child.
Serious injuries, such as placental abruption, may not be immediately apparent to the mother but can have swift and severe consequences for the unborn child if not treated right away. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, placental abruption is a serious complication that occurs when the placenta (through which the baby receives oxygen and nutrients) separates partially or entirely from the inner wall of the uterus prior to delivery. The result is the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients, and it might also cause the mother to suffer heavy bleeding. Left untreated, it can be fatal or very dangerous for both mother and baby.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Internal pain.
- Intense headache.
- Balance issues.
Even if you don’t think there are any pressing medical issues going on, make it a point to get to the doctor within a few hours if possible or the next day at the latest. It’s plausible some symptoms may not show up right away or the doctor could catch something you’re not even aware of.
Another reason this is important from an injury lawyer’s perspective is that personal injury protection (PIP) insurance in Florida will be capped at $2,500 (rather than $10,000) if the injuries sustained are not deemed emergent in nature. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the treatment needs to happen immediately after the crash, but the sooner you are seen by a physician the better your chances of challenging this argument by insurers.
Potential Complications for Pregnant Women and Babies in Florida Crashes
Placental abruption isn’t the only serious possible health consequence for pregnant women involved in crashes. Others may include:
- Miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is more likely for women less than 20 weeks into the pregnancy if subjected to physical trauma. Stillborn births are more common after 20 weeks of gestation for the same reason.
- Head injury and brain trauma. A fetus can suffer brain damage even if there was no physical contact because they don’t have the muscles/skeletal structure to withstand the major momentum shifts that occur in a crash. These type of contrecoup injuries can cause permanent disabilities or even death.
- Premature labor/birth. Even relatively minor accidents can result in stress that can trigger premature labor and birth. The good news is we are better equipped medically than at any time in history to handle this, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the baby or mother or that it’s without risk. In fact, premature babies often suffer a long range of delays, disabilities and long-term medical conditions.
The Born Alive Doctrine
An expectant mother who sustains crash-related injuries is going to quickly have mounting medical bills. She has the right to be compensated for the treatment she receives if the other driver was at-fault. (PIP should kick in regardless of fault because Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to crashes.) But what about the baby?
It’s important to mention the Born Alive Doctrine, predicated on the 1997 Florida Supreme Court case of State v. Ashley. Essentially, a child who is injured prior to birth and then born alive is entitled under the state and federal constitution to be compensated for those injuries. If a child suffers prenatal injuries due to another’s negligence, the child has a legal cause of action once he or she is born alive.
However, if the child is stillborn or miscarried, the child has no independent legal right to sue. In that instance, the mother can only bring claims for her own losses, though this can include pain and suffering, mental and emotional trauma and loss of life enjoyment.
As it plays out in most crash cases, the born alive doctrine can have a significant impact on the amount of damage recovery. Most bodily injury insurance coverage plans are in the form of something like a “20/40 policy.” What that means is insurers will pay a maximum of $20,000 per person but no more than $40,000 for the entire crash. If a pregnant woman is injured in a crash and the fetus dies prior to birth, the maximum recoverable is $20,000. If the child survives and is born alive, the maximum recoverable is $40,000.
Of course, that may not be enough in either case to cover the full extent of damages, particularly if the crash was violent. This is why it’s strongly recommended that Florida motorists carry uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) policies to make up the difference.
Our experienced, compassionate West Palm Beach injury lawyers can help evaluate your case, explain your rights and serve as a staunch advocate in helping you to recover the maximum amount of damages and hold negligent drivers accountable.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Injuries to Pregnant Occupants in Automotive Crashes, 1998, Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine
More Blog Entries:
Understanding Comparative Negligence in Florida Injury Lawsuits, Jan. 30, 2021, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog