Getting into a car accident is traumatic. Even if no one is hurt, just the sound of the metal-on-metal impact is jarring. However, when a vehicle driver or passenger is injured, the experience can scar those involved for a long time, if not a lifetime. This trauma is especially true when a child suffers injuries from an accident. Regardless of who is at fault, the drivers of all vehicles involved in an accident may experience more profound anxiety and guilt when a child is transported from an accident by ambulance. And yet, what happens at the hospital, in the emergency room, at the urgent care center, or in the doctor’s office after the accident is as important as everything that happened before the child was injured, if not more so. Here’s what to know about car accident injuries affecting children, the unfortunate realities when pediatric auto accident trauma is inadequately diagnosed or treated, and what a child’s parents can do to hold negligent parties accountable after negligence occurs.
Common Types of Child Car Accident Injuries
The most common injuries to children in motor vehicle accidents are head, shoulder, and neck injuries. These injuries occur when the impact of a car with another car or a car with a tree, light pole, or fence causes the child’s head to forcibly thrust forward and back, causing soft tissue damage when muscles in the area strain and ligaments stretch. Depending on how the vehicle hit another vehicle or immovable object, the neck and shoulder muscles injured vary. For instance, a child passenger in a car that gets T-boned may suffer harm when the child’s head lurches side to side or hits the side passenger window. In addition, hitting their head or suffering whiplash, a child could experience a traumatic brain injury, concussion, bruises, and skull fractures. Any type of brain injury could lead to temporary or permanent cognitive, developmental, and behavioral difficulties.
Older children who can sit in the front seat are more susceptible to neck and nose fractures from airbags. However, younger children in car seats may suffer head and neck injuries when a car seat is not secured correctly or does not work as designed. In addition, all children, regardless of age, may suffer cuts and scarring from broken glass when a window or windshield shatters, or suffer broken teeth, or facial trauma when they hit their face against the seat in front of them or from the airbags. Injuries to the face can leave scars that cause children self-esteem problems. Other injuries resulting from seat belts or car seat restraints can be severe. Children suffer spinal injuries, rib fractures, punctured lungs, and internal injuries. In addition, they may break their wrist, hand, foot, and pelvis bracing for impact or from a seat belt. More severe fractures over the body occur if the child is ejected from the car.
How are Children Affected by Car Accident Injuries?
Some injuries are lifetime injuries. When a child is thrown from a vehicle or suffers direct impact from another car hitting the passenger side, they can become incapacitated for a time or the rest of their life. Injuries to the spine can cause paralysis or other forms of nerve damage. A child can lose a leg or arm when a car tumbles down an embankment, if not their life. Even if a child’s physical injuries are not severe, they can still suffer damage in the aftermath of a car accident. The fear that they experience during an accident may take days, months, or years to resolve. Some accident victims suffer psychological problems that require treatment. They may be reluctant to ride in cars because of the trauma. As a result, their social relationships and school grades may suffer.
Negligent Medical Care for a Child Injured in a Car Accident
Fortunately, medical professionals can help accident victims when they are at their most vulnerable. A child rushed to a hospital from a car accident depends on immediate treatment from emergency room doctors and nurses. A baby may end up in the pediatric ward in intensive care. However, doctors may not know what is wrong with a child unless a child’s injury is apparent. Young children often cannot express or explain their pain. They may be in shock and not even feel pain as the adrenaline courses through their system. And a baby’s crying could be mistakenly attributed to fear generated from the accident. The same difficulties in diagnosing a child occur when parents take their child to their family doctor after an accident.
When they do not ask the right questions of the parents, like how the accident occurred and what the parents observed about the child’s behavior and reaction, doctors may miss diagnosing internal injuries, like bleeding or bruises, or brain injuries if they overlook the possibility of whiplash or head trauma. A thorough physical examination and a battery of tests and scans are typically necessary to accurately assess whether the child has hidden injuries that may cause permanent damage or death if left untreated. In other words, a doctor who merely relies on a child’s reported symptoms, neglects to order and follow up with tests, or fails to take the psychological impacts of a car accident into consideration may commit malpractice. Moreover, when medical professionals perform their duties at a level below the established standards of practice for their profession and status, they may be held liable for malpractice when a pediatric patient suffers harm.
Post-Traumatic Stress among Children Injured in Motor Vehicle Crashes
Young children who experience trouble learning or paying attention weeks or months after a car accident may see a doctor through their worried parents’ insistence. A family doctor who diagnoses Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and prescribes medication may miss the actual cause of the ADD symptoms and make the problem worse as the child suffers further anxiety and ill effects of medication for a condition they do not have. A family doctor who knows through the child’s medical history that the child survived a car accident and fails to consider post-traumatic stress as a source of anxiety and concentration difficulties, may commit negligence that injures the child. The more prolonged undiagnosed stress and anxiety persist in a child, the longer they cannot cope at school and in social situations. They may become isolated and fall behind in school, more stressors that can worsen a child’s anxiety and post-traumatic symptoms.
Finding the Best Legal Help for Your Child’s Car Accident Injury Case in New Jersey
If your child’s doctor missed a diagnosis or misdiagnosed your child’s condition after a car accident or otherwise failed to properly treat your child’s injuries, you should speak with a legal professional who can guide you. A medical doctor who fails a child post-accident by inexcusable neglect may be liable for the child’s damages, including the pain and suffering and injuries that they suffered due to medical negligence. They may also be accountable to the parents for the child’s medical, rehabilitative, and therapeutic costs. Our New Jersey pediatric injury and malpractice attorneys are extremely familiar with the complexity of medical malpractice claims and lawsuits involving children of all ages.
Our lawyers can prepare you for successfully filing and pursuing your child’s medical malpractice claim, including investigating the circumstances of the medical treatment and the liable parties. We can identify and engage with the most qualified medical experts for your child’s condition and course of treatment, demand settlement of your child’s claim from the responsible parties, and if necessary, litigate your lawsuit by taking the case all the way through trial, whichever strategy is best-suited to compensate you and your child for all of your damages. Get in touch with us today by calling 866-708-8617 or filling out our easily accessible form to receive a free consultation. Our legal team is committed to best serving your and your child’s needs in the midst of plaguing questions or doubts in the days ahead.