Car accidents are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 636 children aged 12 and younger were killed in car crashes in 2018. More than 97,000 children suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents that same year.
According to the CDC, U.S. emergency rooms treat approximately 150 children every hour for crash-related injuries. These injuries range from relatively minor to severe, and they are made all the more serious simply because the injured are children. While it may seem as though providing medical treatment to a child is like treating a smaller version of an adult, that is not the case. In fact, depending on their size and stage of development – and the nature of the injury – a child injured in a car crash may suffer serious trauma that requires extensive medical intervention and ongoing treatment. Those injuries may leave the child with physical, mental, and emotional scars that last a lifetime.
The cost of providing medical and other care for a child who has suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident can be exorbitant. If your child was injured in an accident, a South Carolina child injury attorney may be able to help you secure the monetary compensation needed to cover the costs of your child’s care.
Common physical injuries children suffer in car accidents
Even a seemingly minor motor vehicle crash may severely injure a child. Children may suffer serious injuries if they are not properly secured and either make contact with the seat in front of them or are ejected from the vehicle during the crash.
Some automobile safety features such as airbags may actually injure a child who is sitting in the wrong place in the vehicle – the front seat, for example, when their age and size indicate they should be sitting in the backseat. A front seat airbag may break the nose or even the neck of a small child who is sitting in the front passenger seat.
Other injuries commonly experienced by children involved in car crashes include:
- Cuts and scrapes, especially from broken glass
- Broken or fractured bones
- Soft tissue damage such as sprains and contusions
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Any of these injuries may have serious, long-term consequences for a child. While adult may suffer a broken or fractured bone, a child may break or fracture a growth plate. This often requires surgery to ensure it the growth plate heals properly and the bone is able to grow correctly. Cuts from broken glass may cause scarring without the treatment of a plastic surgeon – and even then, a physical reminder of the crash may remain for years to come.
The most serious injuries a child typically faces in a car accident are those involving the head, neck, and spinal cord. A child who suffers a concussion or traumatic brain injury may be left with temporary – or even permanent – cognitive difficulties and developmental or behavioral problems. Injuries involving the neck and spine could leave a previously healthy, able-bodied child partially or fully paralyzed.
Serious injuries require expensive, long-term care
For children who are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, the result can be devastating not only for the child, but for their family as well. Depending on the type of injury and the severity, the child may need surgery or other invasive treatment as well as ongoing care such as physical or cognitive therapy. Raising a child is already expensive; the cost of raising a child who now requires special medical treatment and care – possibly for the rest of their life – can crush a family financially.
Additionally, traumatic brain injury or spinal injuries during childhood may inhibit the child’s ability to function as a fully independent adult later in life. They may require part- or full-time care from a healthcare professional or a loved one.
Children may also suffer emotional wounds from car accidents
Experts often speak about the resiliency of children and their ability to bounce-back from certain experiences. However, being in a motor vehicle accident may be traumatic for a child and has the potential to affect their mental and emotional well-being. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a child may even suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result.
The signs that a child is struggling with PTSD or other anxiety caused by the motor vehicle are not always obvious, but some common symptoms may include changes in the child’s behavior or demeanor such as:
- Clinginess to parents or loved ones
- Excessive worrying or anxiety
- Flashbacks to the accident
- Loss of confidence
A child exhibiting these symptoms may need to speak with a therapist or counselor, which insurance may or may not cover. Even if those costs are covered by insurance, copays and deductibles may be too expensive for the parent or caregiver to shoulder. That is why it is best to speak with a car accident attorney who can help ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your child’s injuries.
Even when properly restrained, your child may be at risk
Seatbelts and child safety seats are required by law because they provide necessary protection in the event of an accident or near accident. However, in the event of a motor vehicle crash, a child may be injured by the very seat belt or child restraint system that is intended to protect them.
Even the correct safety restraint system may cause injuries to a child’s chest or pelvis during an accident. For instance, when a safety harness or belt tightens quickly to keep the child in place during a crash, that tightening may cause injuries such as bruises, fractured ribs, lung injuries, or internal bleeding.
Additionally, a child may be injured if:
- The wrong child restraint system is used. It is vital that parents and caregivers select and use the appropriate child safety seat or seatbelt based on the child’s age and size.
- A child restraint system is used incorrectly. It is equally important that parents and caregivers secure children properly in the appropriate child safety seat or seatbelt. Failing to do so could result in the child coming unsecured during a crash and being ejected from the vehicle.
- The child restraint system fails. It is also not unheard of for a child restraint system to fail during a motor vehicle crash. If this occurs, the manufacturer may be liable for any injuries your child suffers in the accident.
Injuries from a car crash can change the course of your child’s entire life. They may need surgery, physical therapy, cognitive or behavioral therapy, and ongoing medical treatment and care for years – possibly the rest of their life. If your child was injured in a motor vehicle accident, the child injury lawyers at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can help. We have experience handling child injury claims in South Carolina and securing the maximum compensation for our clients. Call us at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our South Carolina child injury attorneys.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood