What to do if You’re in a Car Accident While Pregnant
A person never plans to be in a car crash, and these types of accidents never discriminate. Crashes can involve both new teen drivers and experienced older drivers, small cars and semi-trucks, and insured and uninsured vehicles. It doesn’t matter who you are, how experienced a driver you are, where you’re at, or any other factor – car accidents can happen to anyone. One class of auto accident victims that poses a significantly greater risk of injury or complications include pregnant drivers and vehicle occupants. If you’re in a car accident while pregnant, it’s important to take extra precautions as to your health and wellbeing, as well as your legal rights and potential insurance claims, not only on your behalf but the behalf of the unborn child.
This article addresses the complications a pregnant person might face when involved in an auto accident, the steps to take following a collision, and the nuances of no-fault insurance law that may affect a claim for benefits. Before we begin, however, it is important to point out a few important things to keep in mind.
First, medical professionals and/or the auto no-fault law often use a variety of terms to refer to an unborn child (embryo, fetus, and unborn child, for example). For the purposes of this article, and to avoid any confusion, we are using only the term “unborn child.” Also, it is important to remember that this article is intended to provide helpful information only and should not be relied on as a substitute for appropriate professional or medical advice. Any decisions regarding your medical care or other sensitive matters should always be made in close consultation with an appropriate medical or professional services provider. Hopefully, this article will help you determine how and when to do so.
Why a Car Accident While Pregnant is Especially Harmful
During an accident, the human body experiences sudden movements and blunt force trauma that often cause serious bodily injuries requiring immediate medical attention. However, much less understood is that it doesn’t actually take a serious accident to inflict severe or even life-threatening, injury. Given the initial shock experienced during an accident, an accident victim will often “feel fine” after a collision, and therefore does not seek any further medical attention until long after an accident. As a result, serious injuries can often go unnoticed initially and become more serious until they are eventually detected. As a result, post-accident medical care should always be obtained – no matter how minor the accident.
This is even more important in the context of expecting parents and unborn children who are involved in an accident. An expecting parent and unborn child are especially at risk of suffering a variety of life-threatening injuries, including:
- Pre-term labor
- Birth defects
- Internal bleeding
- Placental abruption
- Creation of a high-risk pregnancy
- Cause pre-term labor or birth defects
If you are in a car accident while pregnant, chances are you will be are transported to the emergency department of the nearest hospital via ambulance. However, it is often the case that a person will NOT be seen by an obstetrician on short notice after presenting to the emergency department of a hospital. Even if a pregnant person reports feeling fine after an accident, a thorough exam should always take place. Catching complications and injuries early will allow a pregnant car accident victim to address those issues immediately, which can have a significant impact on the health of both the parent and the unborn child. Depending on the situation, this could require not only emergency-room triage but also hours of fetal monitoring followed by additional appointments with an obstetrician or other specialists.
No-Fault Benefits Available to Victims of Auto Accidents
Unfortunately, all of this can become quite overwhelming, not only from a physical and mental perspective but also financially — especially for those who do not have health insurance. Fortunately, the cost of this auto-related medical care is covered by Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system. Under the no-fault law, accident victims can receive auto no-fault insurance benefits for things such as:
- Allowable expense benefits consist of “all reasonable charges incurred for reasonably necessary products, services and accommodations for an injured person’s care, recovery or rehabilitation.”
- Work loss benefits compensate for “loss of income from work an injured person would have performed during the first three years after the date of the accident if he or she had not been injured.”
- Replacement service benefits are payable for expenses “reasonably incurred in obtaining ordinary and necessary services in lieu of those that, if he or she had not been injured, an injured person would have performed during the first three years after the date of the accident, not for income but for the benefit of himself or herself or of his or her dependent.”
- Survivor’s loss benefits are comprised of several components, which include after-tax income, lost fringe benefits, and replacement service expenses.
In general, to claim these benefits, an injured person generally must take specific steps toward making an insurance claim very soon after the accident. The failure to do that correctly could result in a complete loss of these and other insurance benefits. Below are some simple steps that will help expecting parents better understand how to protect their right to benefits following an accident, as well as the rights of an unborn child.
Purchase Adequate no-fault insurance.
For decades, Michigan auto no-fault auto insurance automatically provided unlimited lifetime medical benefits for accident victims. Unfortunately, that came to an end with the passage of recent changes to Michigan’s no-fault law. Now, under the new no-fault law, insurance companies are no longer required to provide lifetime benefits, and a person may choose to purchase as little as $250,000 in medical coverage – which falls far short of paying for all the potential medical expenses incurred by victims of serious accidents. However, these recent changes to the no-fault law did not eliminate the ability to purchase lifetime medical coverage, and it remains available for a reasonable increase in insurance premiums. While paying less may appear to be an attractive option, it can have disastrous results. As a law firm that sees the impact of these catastrophic events in our work, we strongly recommend that people pay a little extra on their premium and continue their current lifetime, uncapped allowable expense coverage.
Additionally, we recommend purchasing what is referred to as “uncoordinated” insurance. With uncoordinated auto insurance, your no-fault insurance is primary and pays first if you are injured in a car accident. On the other hand, a coordinated insurance policy means your health insurer and/or disability insurer pays first – making your Michigan no-fault benefits secondary and posing the risk of depleting your health insurance.
Click here to read the ins and outs of buying adequate no-fault insurance under the new law.
Notify your insurer when you have been in an accident and file a no-fault claim.
It is also incredibly important to notify your insurer in writing when you have been in an accident and to file a no-fault claim. The no-fault act contains two strictly enforced time limitations when handling claims for no-fault PIP benefits, the one-year notice rule, and the one-year back rule. These rules must be carefully followed to properly bring a no-fault claim, and failure to observe these procedures and time limitations for no-fault claims can result in a loss of benefits. The one-year notice rule requires that a plaintiff provide written notice of an accident to their insurance company within one year of the date of the accident. This written notice must include the name and address of the claimant/injured person as well as the time, place, and nature of the injury. Assuming written notice has been given to the insurance company within one year of the accident, a claimant must be prepared to take legal action if a particular expense is not paid by the insurance company within one year of the date the expense is incurred. The one-year back rule dictates that if legal action is commenced, the claimant may not recover benefits for any portion of the expense incurred more than one year before the legal action was commenced. However, it is important for pregnant car accident victims to know that these time frames may be tolled in the cases of children and unborn children. Therefore, we recommended that people in a car accident while pregnant seek the advice of an attorney to make sure the rights of herself and her unborn child are fully explained.
Be diligent about seeking medical care and remember that no-fault benefits are payable for all reasonable and necessary expenses associated with the auto-related medical care for you and your unborn child.
The Michigan No-Fault Act requires insurance companies to pay “allowable expenses,” which are defined as “all reasonable charges incurred for reasonably necessary products, services, and accommodations for an injured person’s care, recovery, or rehabilitation.” It is important for pregnant car accident victims to know that these benefits are very broad. Therefore, it is extremely important to be diligent about seeking all the medical care you need for yourself and your unborn child. Those who are in a car accident while pregnant should be seen by emergency personnel following an accident, by an obstetrician following emergency care, and by any other recommended specialist to ensure the safety and health of both parent and child.