Can a Car Accident Cause a Miscarriage?

A car accident can be a traumatic event with potential serious physical consequences. For pregnant women, this risk is even graver as it could potentially lead to a miscarriage. The sudden impact, stress and trauma associated with a car accident can induce complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage.

A miscarriage, defined as the loss of pregnancy before the 20th week, is a devastating event for any expectant parent. It’s critical to understand the correlation between car accidents and a miscarriage to encourage necessary safety measures and prompt medical attention following motor vehicle crashes.

Rear end car accident with a man and woman talking - Can a Car Accident Cause a Miscarriage?

Types of Car Wreck Injuries Which Can Lead to a Miscarriage

There are several types of injuries sustained in a car accident that can lead to a miscarriage. Each type poses a unique risk to the mother and the unborn child. Here’s an overview of injuries and their prevalence from one study:

  • Placental Abruption:  This condition occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before the baby is born. It cuts the baby off from the mother’s blood supply and can result in a miscarriage if not treated urgently. Placental abruption is the most common cause of miscarriage in motor vehicle crashes, occurring in between 1% to 5% of minor collisions and 20% to 50% of severe collisions.
  • Uterine Rupture or Laceration:  Severe trauma during a car accident can cause the uterus to rupture or get lacerated. This poses a serious risk to both the mother and the fetus and can lead to a miscarriage. Uterine injuries are relatively uncommon, occurring in less than 1% of pregnancy trauma cases.
  • Direct Fetal Injury (DFI):  In some cases, the fetus can be directly injured during a car accident, typically in high-impact collisions. This occurs in less than 10% of auto crashes that lead to a loss of pregnancy.
  • Premature Delivery:  Stress and physical trauma from a car accident can induce early labor, resulting in a premature delivery. Premature birth, defined as delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy, presents a range of health risks for the baby, including respiratory distress syndrome, brain hemorrhage, and long-term developmental issues.

It’s important to seek medical help immediately following a car accident if you’re pregnant, even if you feel okay. Early diagnosis of any potential issues can be critical to the health of the mother and baby.

How Common are Miscarriages Caused by Auto Accidents?

It is difficult to confirm the exact prevalence of miscarriages caused by auto accidents. Given 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage in the early part of pregnancy, establishing causation is difficult. However, one study estimates 1,500 to 5,000 fetal losses occur in the United States every year due to automotive crashes.

Other scholarly articles and research papers also support this finding, echoing the sentiment that motor vehicle accidents present a substantial risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. However, the statistical prevalence of miscarriages resulting form car accidents are likely highly underreported. Physicians frequently refrain from providing opinions on causation, so fetal death certificates often fail to document the potential role of recent maternal involvement in crashes as a cause of death.

How Best to Prevent a Miscarriage in a Car Accident

To best prevent a miscarriage in a car accident, several safety measures must be adhered to:

  • Seat Belt Usage:  Pregnant women must always wear a seat belt when in a moving vehicle. The lap belt should be placed under the belly across the hips, while the shoulder strap should rest between the breasts and to the side of the belly.
  • Correct Seating Position:  It is recommended to keep the seat in an upright position and maintain as much distance as possible from the dashboard or steering wheel to prevent direct impact during a collision.
  • Airbags Should Remain Activated:  Contrary to some misconceptions, airbags don’t pose a risk to pregnant women and should remain activated. They provide an additional layer of protection in the event of a crash.
  • Avoid Driving When Fatigued or Unwell:  Pregnant women should avoid driving when feeling tired, nauseous, or unwell to prevent accidents caused by impaired concentration or sudden illness.
  • Defensive Driving:  Adhere to traffic rules, avoid speeding, and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Defensive driving strategies can significantly reduce the risk of collision.

Remember, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately after an accident, regardless of how minor it may seem. Some conditions and complications may not show symptoms immediately but could pose a significant risk to both the pregnant woman and the unborn child.

Wrongful death lawyers for miscarriages resulting from car accidents

Wrongful Death Before Birth: Complete State by State Analysis

There are 4 primary standards applied by different U.S. states regarding the possibility of suing for the wrongful death of an unborn child. These standards are as follows (with links to the relevant statute or case precedent available by clicking on the state name):

  1. Conception Standard: 15 states allow a cause of action at any stage of the fetus’s development, disregarding the parameters of viability or quickening. Those states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia.
  2. Quickening Standard:  The quickening standard requires detection of fetal movement prior to death to consider a wrongful death lawsuit. The quickening standard is used by Connecticut, Georgia, and Mississippi.
  3. Viability Standard:  This standard is applied when assessing the fetus’s ability to exist independently outside of the mother’s womb. As of 2024, 25 states utilize this standard for legal action. The viability standard is used by: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  4. No Standard or Uncertain:  In 7 states, you either cannot make a wrongful death claim for an unborn child, or there are no specific standards concerning wrongful death lawsuits of unborn children. Those states where you cannot make a claim include: California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and New York. In Wyoming, there is no agreed upon standard in case law.

Can You Sue for the Death of Your Unborn Child After a Car Crash?

Yes, it is possible to sue for the wrongful death of an unborn child after a car crash in several U.S. states. As shown above, the specific laws vary from state to state.

For example, in Texas the law regards a fetus as a separate individual when it comes to wrongful death claims. The Texas Wrongful Death Act allows parents to sue for the loss of their unborn child from fertilization to birth. In contrast, California does not allow for wrongful death claims regardless of the fetus’s viability.

As of 2024, there are 15 states that allow for wrongful death claims on behalf of a fetus from conception. Further, 3 states have a “quickening” standard that requires detection of fetal movement prior to death. There are 25 states that recognize a cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child by applying a viability standard. Six states do not allow for wrongful death claims on behalf of a fetus. Last, the state of Wyoming has no clear standard.

This brief overview of state laws underscores the importance of consulting with a legal professional who is familiar with the specific laws and statutes in your jurisdiction in the event of such a tragic incident. It’s crucial to understand your rights and potential legal remedies to make an informed decision about pursuing a lawsuit.

How Do You Prove Your Miscarriage Was Related to Your Auto Accident?

Proving that a miscarriage was directly related to an auto accident can be a complex process requiring strong evidence and expert testimony. Here are a few steps that may be involved:

  1. Medical Evidence:  The most crucial piece of evidence will be your medical records. These should include a documentation of your pregnancy prior to the accident, any records of treatment received immediately after the accident, and subsequent medical records showing the miscarriage. The timeline and the nature of the injuries can help establish a link between the accident and the miscarriage.
  2. Expert Testimony:  Medical experts can provide testimony or written reports explaining how the trauma from the car accident could have caused the miscarriage. This could include obstetricians, emergency room doctors, or other medical professionals familiar with the effects of trauma on pregnancy.
  3. Accident Reports:  An official police report documenting the accident can provide further evidence of the incident. This may include details about the severity of the collision, which could support the claim that the accident was traumatic enough to cause a miscarriage.
  4. Witness Statements:  If there were any witnesses to the accident, their statements can provide additional context and support your claim. This could include passengers in your vehicle, bystanders, or other drivers who witnessed the accident.

While this evidence can help build a strong case, the specific requirements to prove causation will depend on the laws in your jurisdiction. It’s important to consult with a lawyer who can guide you through the legal process and help you gather the necessary evidence.

What Damages Can You Recover When Your Unborn Child Dies in a Car Wreck?

When pursuing a lawsuit for the wrongful death of an unborn child, the recoverable damages typically fall within two categories:

  • Economic damages (also known as special damages), which refer to the tangible financial losses and expenditures associated with the loss, such as medical expenses and loss of income.
  • Non-economic damages (also known as general damages), which cover non-monetary damages such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

The specifics of what can be recovered often depend on the laws of the particular state where the lawsuit is filed. Certain states may also permit punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar negligent behavior in the future. Nonetheless, it’s important to consult with a legal expert to understand the full range of potential damages that may be claimed in your unique case.

Can the Pregnant Woman Claim No-Fault Insurance Benefits?

Yes, a pregnant woman involved in a car accident can generally claim no-fault insurance benefits. No-fault insurance, also known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), is designed to pay for medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident.

This means that if a pregnant woman is injured in a car accident, her medical costs, including those related to any complications with her pregnancy resulting from the accident, can be covered up to the limit of the policy. However, it’s important to note that no-fault insurance laws vary greatly by state, so the coverage and benefits may differ.

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the specifics of your policy and local regulations. For comprehensive information, always consult with an insurance expert or legal professional in your jurisdiction.

Call Us for Help if You Lost Your Unborn Child in an Auto Accident

If you or a loved one has tragically suffered the loss of an unborn child due to a car accident, please know that you are not alone. Our compassionate and experienced legal team is here to guide you during this difficult time. We understand the emotional pain and confusion you may be experiencing, and we’re committed to fighting for the justice your unborn child deserves.

Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. We’ll listen to your story, provide legal advice tailored to your situation, and explain your rights and options moving forward. Call us today – you don’t have to navigate this challenging journey alone.

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