According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were about 1,100 children killed and 140,000 children injured in car accidents in the United States in 2020. This means that there is an average of three children killed and 380 children injured per day across the country.
These statistics are extremely disturbing. Since car accidents can cause life-altering injuries for adults, it is no surprise that they can be even worse for children. The main reason for this is because children’s bodies are much smaller than adults. Their bodies (and brains) are not fully developed, they have softer bones, and they are a lot lighter in weight than adults. Therefore, if they suffer the same injuries that adults do, the effects are much more severe.
It can also be challenging for younger children to accurately explain where their injuries are, what hurts, or even understand that their pain is not normal. This can make it extremely difficult to identify children’s injuries without immediate medical care, which may cause a delay in them receiving the proper treatment.
Why using child safety restraints correctly is so important
Since children are also shorter than adults (usually), they are more likely to be crushed or hit in the neck or head with an object in a car crash. This is why car seats and booster seats are required for children; not only do they keep the child secure and increase the effectiveness of seat belts, but they also provide additional support to your child’s neck and head. The NHTSA reported that car seats and restraint systems reduce child traffic fatalities by more than 70 percent for infants and over 50 percent for toddlers.
But adults should know that the restraint system isn’t foolproof, and children can still suffer harm in unexpected ways. For example, say you are taking your child out somewhere when it is cold. You button your children into a big, puffy coat to keep him or her warm, and then snuggle the child into the car seat. It’s an act performed by parents across the country every cold day of every year.
But that big, warm coat? It can make the child seat less effective:
The NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that parents take puffy coats off in the car seat, the puffiness of the coat and a crash will compress underneath the harness, creating about two to three inches of space.
Research has found that as little as six millimeters of extra for movement creates critical brain, neck, and spine injuries. It’s really important that parents don’t use regular coats in the car seat.
We point this out not to scare you, but you impress upon you the importance of using child safety restraints correctly. Seat belts, car seats, and booster seats save children’s lives, but we must take the proper precautions when we use them.
How injured can a child be in a Charlotte car accident?
Seriously injured. Bone breaks can include damage to growth plates, which can lead to permanent physical deformities. Brain trauma of any kind can exacerbate over time, meaning a “mild” brain injury in a child can end up being a severe brain injury by the time he or she reaches adulthood. Any injury which requires surgery poses additional risks to children because of the anesthesia. Spinal cord trauma or limb loss at any age is devastating, but for a child, it means a lifetime of new prosthetics and adaptive technologies. And of course, there is also the mental trauma that comes along with an injury.
Again, we’re not trying to scare you. But we believe that parents should know the true dangers of car accidents for their kids, because a broken leg may not just be a broken leg, and that “bump on the head” can turn out to be something else down the line. As injury lawyers, our job is to look at the “down the line” portion of your case, because we’re not just fighting to get the immediate medical bills paid: we’re looking to ensure that your child is able to have some level of safety and security throughout the entirety of his or her life. To do this, we’ll review and analyze crash reports, medical records, and your employment records, and work with your doctors, educational advisors, and life care planners to determine what your child will potentially need to live comfortably, and to recover as best he or she can.
Establishing the cause of your child’s injuries in a Charlotte car accident
One of the leading causes of car accidents is driver negligence, so the first thing we do is attempt to establish what act of negligence caused the crash. Typically, that takes the form of:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Distracted driving
- Aggressive driving
- Drowsy driving
- Not checking blind spots (resulting in a collision with your car, or hitting a child who is walking or riding a bike)
Of course, not all wrecks are the result of poor driving behaviors. Your child may be injured as a result of:
No matter what the root cause of the accident was, we can use it to establish liability in your case. Sometimes that liability is shared by multiple parties, which can make a claim or lawsuit more challenging. Rest assured that our Charlotte car accident lawyers are well-equipped to handle these complicated cases.
Four safety tips to protect your child during a car accident
While you cannot always prevent accidents when your child is in the car, we have a few safety tips that you can follow to help reduce their risk of severe injury in the event of a crash:
- Make sure that your child’s car seat is properly installed and that they are buckled in correctly. You should also make sure that the car seat has not been recalled or expired. There are a lot of free resources in North Carolina to help you, which you can learn about here.
- Do not allow your child to ride up front. In Charlotte, it is recommended to keep your child in the backseat until they are 12 or 13.
- Place your child in a car seat that is recommended for their age group. Rear-facing car seats are for infants, forward-facing car seats are for children 1-7 years old, and a booster seat can be used until the child is 12 years old. However, this can depend on the child’s height and weight.
- Try not to become distracted by your child while driving. They may want to talk, play, or even begin crying. However, it is important that you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel to prevent an accident from occurring. If your child needs you, pull over somewhere safe and stop the vehicle completely.
- Try not to drive in the middle of the night with your child in the car. Many parents who cannot get their children to sleep will take them for a ride. However, if you are very tired, you may fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident.
- Obey all traffic laws: drive the speed limit, come to complete stops at stop signs and red lights, and use your turn signals. Not only will it make you more visible on the road, but you’ll be modeling good behavior for your kids.
As parents, you should go the extra mile to protect your child from harm and danger. When your child is injured due to someone else’s negligence, reach out to Price, Petho & Associates for help. We know that you may be feeling lost and confused, but our car accident lawyers will help you navigate the complex legal system and determine how much compensation you need to help with your child’s recovery process. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Charlotte, Rockingham, and Rutherfordton.
Attorney Doug Petho is the owner and founder of Price, Petho & Associates. His primary focus is the litigation of plaintiff’s personal injury suits, and he has successfully tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict involving car accidents, trucking accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and work-related accidents. Contact his office in Charlotte today.