As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your children. While you're pregnant, you do everything you can to protect your unborn child. There's always a risk of injury to an unborn child, but when that injury or death is the fault of someone else, the parent may be able to recover damages as a result.
Auto accidents, even small fender benders, can injure or kill a fetus. Although states are not required to track fetal deaths when reporting accident data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports between 800 to 3,200 fetuses are killed each year in auto accidents.
One concern pregnant women have is whether or not to wear a seatbelt when traveling in a car. It's not only uncomfortable, but there's a fear that if you're in an accident the seatbelt itself will cause damage to your unborn child. The overwhelming consensus is that women should always wear a seatbelt while pregnant. Although the seatbelt can cause injury to your unborn child, the risk of injury significantly increases if you are not properly restrained.
Types of Fetal Injury Resulting from Car Accidents
- Placental Abruption (partial or full)– This happens when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus, interfering with the supply of food and oxygen to the fetus. According to the NHTSA, placental abruption is the most common cause of fetal loss in automobile crashes.
- Premature Rupture or Laceration of Membranes – This is when the fluid filled sac around the baby breaks or tears before labor.
- Preterm Labor – When the auto accident causes the mother to go into labor prior to 37 weeks.
- Miscarriage – When the baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Stillbirth – When the baby dies in the womb past 20 weeks of pregnancy
How to Wear a Seatbelt During Pregnancy
- The lap belt should be placed under the stomach and across the hip/pelvic bone, as far up on the thigh as possible. Lap belts should only rest on your body's bony structures, not on your abdomen.
- The shoulder belt should go across your shoulder and between your breasts – again, on the bony structures of the body.
- The steering wheel should be tilted up toward your collarbone and away from your stomach. The steering wheel hitting your abdomen is a common cause of placental abruption.
- Airbags should be kept on during pregnancy, but you don't want them too close to your belly. You should tilt your seat or move it back so there is at least 10 inches between the steering wheel, where the airbag is housed, and your breastbone.
A device some women wear during pregnancy is the Dreambaby Bump Belt. It attaches to the lap belt and helps hold it securely under the belly in the correct position. You can read more about the Dreambaby Bump Belt here.
Losing an unborn child in an auto accident or any other traumatic event is devastating for parents and families. Cases involving injuries or death of an unborn child are often very complex both legally and factually but can be pursued successfully. If you have any questions about this type of case, feel free to contact us to discuss it in detail at no charge.