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When a Child Is Injured in a Car Accident Personal Injury

Little girl sitting in a child safety seat inside the car

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require children to be restrained when riding in a vehicle. These laws have saved many young lives, but some children (particularly those four and older) still ride without proper safety mechanisms.

Children may also be injured or killed by a motor vehicle while as pedestrians while walking, biking, or engaging in other outdoor activities.

Quick facts:

  • Of the 38,824 traffic fatalities in 2020 in the U.S., 1,093 (3%) were children 14 and younger.
  • 139,042 children were injured in traffic crashes in 2020.
  • On average, 380 children are injured and 3 are killed in traffic crashes each day.
  • Georgia has the fourth-highest number of child traffic fatalities (55) even though it has the 8th largest population.

No matter your child’s age, whether they ride in a car seat or are a teenager riding their bike from school, they deserve to feel safe and protected while on the road. When the unthinkable happens, we encourage you to reach out to a personal injury lawyer. They can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, freeing you to focus on making sure your injured child gets the best possible care.

Below, we’ll discuss how many children are injured in car accidents, improper car seat usage, how to tell when a child has been injured in a car crash, and how to reduce the risk of injury for child vehicle passengers overall.

Child Injuries From Car Accidents Statistics

In 2020, more than 600 children ages 12 years and younger were killed in car crashes in the U.S., and more than 63,000 were injured. Of the children killed in these wrecks, 38% (nearly 4 in 10) were not buckled up.

Children in rural areas are at a higher risk of severe injury and death due to crashes. This is most likely due to a lower use or misuse of age-appropriate restraints and the remoteness of the accident location from a hospital.

Drunk driving is a significant threat to child passengers as well. Nearly 1 in 4 child passenger deaths for ages 14 and younger involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In many cases, the child was not restrained by the driver before the accident.

Injuries Due to Improper Car Seat Use

When car seats and booster seats are installed or used incorrectly, it can make them less effective at reducing injuries for children in crashes. In a 2011 study, researchers estimated that 46% of car seats and booster seats were used incorrectly.

The most common errors were:

  • Incorrect angle for rear-facing car seats
  • Loose installation
  • Loose harnesses
  • Harness strap behind child’s arms, legs, or back in forward-facing car seats
  • Improper lap belt position for booster seats
  • Improper shoulder belt position for booster seats

More recent studies indicate that car seat and booster seat misuse could be 85% or more in some areas.

Proper installation and usage significantly reduce fatal injuries for infants, toddlers, and young children. Children 12 and under should be properly buckled in the back seat as the force of the front passenger airbag could be lethal.

Growth and weight should always be taken into consideration when transitioning a child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat.

Most Common Injuries to Children During a Crash

Children are much more vulnerable to injuries during a wreck compared to adults. Common injuries vary by age group, with infants more at risk for concussions and toddlers at a higher risk of cuts and head trauma.

Overall, according to the NHTSA, the most common injuries to children during a crash include:

  • Head Injuries, Concussions, and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) - This is the most common car accident injury for young children and the most dangerous. 70% of infants and 51% of toddlers injured in crashes suffer head injuries.
  • Chest Injuries - Because of how small and thin children’s bones are, they are more likely to suffer injuries to their ribs, airways, heart, and lungs.
  • Stomach Injuries - Injuries to the bowels and intestines were common among children ages four to seven years old.
  • Broken Pelvis - Infants are at a higher risk for broken hips and pelvic fractures.
  • Psychological Trauma - Children have a harder time understanding and processing what happens during and after a crash. They may become afraid of cars, playing outside, or suffer behavioral changes such as nightmares, moodiness, and wetting the bed.

Signs a Child Has Been Injured in a Crash

With adrenaline and stress surging through a person, it can be difficult to notice a child’s injuries. The child may be unable to communicate that they are in pain or understand something is wrong internally. They may only cry or claim to be in pain but cannot pinpoint the source. In the case of head trauma, the child may act sluggish, confused, or become unresponsive.

Get professional medical help at the scene of the wreck or seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. Broken bones and internal bleeding can be deadly if the injury goes unnoticed.

How to Reduce Children’s Risk of Injury in a Crash

We can reduce the risk of serious injuries and death by making sure children are properly buckled in car seats, booster seats, and seat belts that are appropriate for their age and size. If you need help knowing how to install and use car seats and booster seats, contact a certified child passenger safety technician. These services can be hands-on or virtual and are usually free.

One of the best ways to protect children in a car is to keep them out of the front seat. The force of an airbag deploying can kill young children, even if they are wearing a seat belt. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front.

Parents and guardians can set a good example for children by always wearing their seat belts. Drivers who buckle up are more likely to make sure child passengers wear their safety restraints, which protects them in case of a crash.

From 1975 to 2017 an estimated 11,606 lives were saved by child restraints for children under 5 years old in passenger vehicles. By being conscientious of children’s safety and making sure they are always appropriately buckled in, we can save more lives in the future.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

A child injured in a car accident is a parent’s worst nightmare. Your little one is hurt and in pain. You might be injured as well. With so much uncertainty and stress, the last thing you need to worry about is the cost that comes with helping them heal from their injuries.

Let us take care of the medical bills and the insurance company, so you can take care of your family. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers can help you file a personal injury claim on behalf of your child so you can have peace of mind.

Don’t delay. Contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates for a free and confidential consultation right now.


CDC - Motor Vehicle Crashes: A Leading Cause of Death for Children

NHTSA - 2020 Child Traffic Safety Face Sheet

Georgia Motor Vehicle Crashes

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