Car Accident While Pregnant: Can You Sue for Complications?

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Nearly half of all car accidents result in injuries. If you’re pregnant, a car accident can be especially traumatic. Harm from the crash may cause pregnancy complications.

A crash, even a low-impact one, can damage the health of an unborn baby. Even minor trauma early in pregnancy increases the chance of premature birth. Severe trauma may create a 40-50% risk of death to an unborn child.

Our Greenville car accident lawyer explains whether you can sue for complications if you are in a crash while pregnant.

What Injuries Can Occur from a Car Accident While Pregnant?

Injuries to the unborn child and pregnancy complications that can occur from a car accident include:

Premature birth

Uterine contractions before 36 weeks, along with cervical changes, is premature labor.

When premature birth occurs, there is an increased risk of complications for the baby, including low birth weight. Premature birth increases the likelihood of developmental delay, breathing and feeding challenges, problems with the senses, and cerebral palsy. It can be fatal.

Miscarriage, fetal death, stillbirth

Miscarriage is an unexpected death before a child has gestated 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, an unexpected death is a stillbirth. Direct injury to a fetus may cause fetal death.

Pelvic fracture, a common injury in car accidents, frequently results in the death of the child, with as many as 35% of cases of maternal pelvic fracture resulting in miscarriage.

Internal injury

A car accident victim may suffer the impact of another vehicle, or they may hit the steering wheel or seats in their own vehicle. They may be thrown from the vehicle.

Internal injury may harm the child. Penetrating injury may cause fetal mortality in up to 73% of cases.

Placental abruption

When the placenta separates from the uterine wall, it is a placental disruption. The baby may not receive the oxygen and nutrients they need. The mother may suffer heavy bleeding. When a pregnant woman suffers a serious injury in a car accident, an abruption may cause complications up to half the time. The rate of abruption complicating a minor injury is lower, at just 1-6%.

Uterine rupture

A tear in the uterine wall is a uterine rupture. It may occur during labor, or it may result from car accident trauma. A tear may be complete or incomplete. Severe blood loss may occur, resulting in risk to the unborn child. A history of medical procedures involving the uterus or prior trauma may increase the risk of rupture. Warning signs may include abdominal pain, contractions, fast heart rate, and low blood pressure.

Maternal shock

Shock is the decrease in blood flow throughout the body. The unborn child may not get enough oxygen. Maternal shock may be a large contributor to fetal mortality.

Why Are Pregnant Mothers at Risk From Car Accidents?

There are several reasons why car accident trauma may be especially harmful for pregnant women. The mother may not be able to use the seat belt properly. A seat belt shoulder harness should cross the front of the shoulder bone and lay diagonally over the chest. The lap belt should be horizontal across the stomach. It may be impossible for a pregnant woman to wear a seat belt correctly.

In addition, the mother’s protruding stomach may be especially susceptible to blunt force trauma. It may be a place of impact where the body absorbs force. For the mother and child, the result may be devastating.

What Are the Mother’s Legal Rights after a Car Accident While Pregnant?

If a mother is hurt in a car accident while pregnant, they may claim financial compensation.

They have the right to claim a payment for injuries that they have sustained, including those relating to pregnancy complications.

To receive compensation for pregnancy complications, you must:

  • Prove the party at fault for the accident
  • Identify your injuries, complications you suffer, and harm to the child
  • Show that the accident caused the harm
  • Calculate your damages available under the law
  • Collect your compensation

Damages for pregnancy complications can be significant. A car accident while pregnant harms a child at the start of life. The payment amount should fairly reflect the damage to the life that has occurred.

How does a pregnant mother get compensation for a car accident?

South Carolina law recognizes multiple scenarios for car accident compensation while a mother is pregnant.

The first scenario is an injury to the mother but a child that is born healthy. In this case, the mother may claim compensation for the increased expenses during pregnancy. She may claim for the physical pain that she endures from needed procedures and mandatory rest. She may seek additional compensation for the emotional anguish of complications.

Alternatively, a child may be born alive but injured. Once a child reaches the status of a viable person, they may have a cause of action for tortious injury. The claim arises immediately upon the infliction of the injury. Damages may not be known until birth. Fowler v. Woodward, 244 S.C. 608 (1964).

Sadly, another situation may happen where the car accident causes the loss of the unborn child.

South Carolina law recognizes a wrongful death claim where a viable child doesn’t survive car accident injuries.

In the Todd v. Sandidge Construction Company, 341 F.2d 75 (4th Cir. 1964), the court allowed a wrongful death claim where an unborn child was eight months gestated and then killed in a car accident. Hall v. Murphy, 236 S.C. 257 (1960) (where the child lived four hours before dying of prenatal injury to the mother), but compare Crosby v. Glasscock Trucking Co., 340 S.C. 626 (2000) (no recovery for a nonviable fetus in wrongful death).

Get Legal Help

If you suffer pregnancy complications in a car accident, seek medical attention. Then contact Bobby Jones Law. You may deserve significant financial compensation, including for harm to your child. Contact us for legal help.

Source: Krywko, et all., Preganny Trauma, StatPearls Publishing, 2022

See Rushton, The Tortious Loss of a Nonviable Fetus: A Miscarriage Leads to a Miscarriage of Justice, South Carolina Law Review, for a discussion of South Carolina law regarding the viability of an unborn child as a legal standard for wrongful death compensation.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
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