After having a baby, you may feel resigned to the house for a while. Many parents of newborns are cooped up in the house for days or weeks after the birth or adoption learning how to best care for their child and bonding. Yet at a certain point, it is time to venture out. You may run errands, attend a local baby class, or take your child to day care. Whatever your reason for driving, it is best to know what to do if you are in an accident with your infant or young child in a car seat. As an experienced car accident lawyer I’ve seen just about every situation imaginable, and the thing I hear most from my clients is that they wish they were more prepared.
What to Do After an Accident When Your Young Child Is in the Car
After a crash, the first thing you should do is take stock of your condition. Are you OK, slightly injured, or seriously hurt? If you believe you are seriously hurt, try not to move until help arrives. If you feel able to move, then check on your child.
Do not take your child out of the car seat unless absolutely necessary. If your child suffered an injured in the accident, then they should be removed from the car seat carefully by a first responder. You should review their condition while they are in the seat. Your child is likely upset and crying, however this is not necessarily a sign of a serious physical injury.
Call 911. Whether you think you and your child are fine or are clearly hurt, you need to call the police. You want first responders to arrive at the scene to look over your child and you want a police report made regarding the accident.
When paramedics arrive, allow them to take your child out of the car seat and conduct an examination. These professionals are trained to look for injury. They can advise you on whether it is OK to take your child home or whether your child needs to go to the emergency room.
In addition to all of this, do your best to exchange information with the other driver and take photos of the scene. These steps can help you move forward with an insurance claim for your property damage and your and your child’s injuries.
What to Do in the Hours and Days After the Crash
Even though your child may initially look fine after an accident, signs of an injury may arise in the hours and days following a crash. You need to be on the lookout for symptoms that something is wrong, such as:
- Excessive crying/inconsolable
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Bowel irregularities
- Lack of interest in toys
- Loss of consciousness
- Abnormal breathing
- Bleeding from nose, mouth, or ears
- Vision issues
- Speech issues
- Lack of strength
- Bruising on abdomen or back
Trust yourself when it comes to observing your child for signs of injury. You know when something is a little off or seriously wrong. If you are worried, do not hesitate to take your child to the doctor.
Schedule a Doctor Follow up Visit
Whether or not you notice symptoms of an injury, take your child for a follow up with their pediatrician within a couple days of the accident. This ensures another trained professional looks over your child, giving them the chance to see if anything has changed since the accident. This also ensures that there are additional records of your child’s condition after a crash, which may be important for an insurance claim.
Replace Your Car Seat
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends you replace a safety seat after a moderate-to-serious crash. You may choose to re-use the seat after a minor collision. However, according to the NHTSA, an accident is only minor if all of the following factors apply:
- You could drive the vehicle away.
- The door closest to the car seat was not damaged.
- No one in the vehicle at the time of the accident was hurt.
- The airbags did not deploy.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
If you cannot say that all five factors are true, or you simply want peace of mind, purchase a whole new car safety seat. You should also consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the car seat. It may have specific directions on when to re-use or replace the seat. If you and your baby were injured in an accident due to someone else's negligence, you may want to consider speaking to an experienced car accident attorney.
Jared Staver is a personal injury lawyer and parent located in Chicago, IL. He seeks to inform the community about their rights after an accident, and help his clients get maximum compensation. While he focuses on car accidents, truck accidents, and Uber/rideshare accidents he and his firm have many years of experience in all areas of personal injury.