A car accident is bad enough if it is just you in the car. But when your child is in the car, you have another person to worry about, and maybe prioritize ahead of yourself. It’s not enough anymore to worry about your own injuries and how they affect your quality of life- you now need to worry about that for your child as well.  

For this article, the assumption is that the child is a passenger in the accident. For more information on teen drivers, visit our Teenage Drivers page.  

What Should I Do If My Child is in a Car Accident? 

After getting into a car accident with your child, there are a few steps you should follow.  

  1. Assuming your child(ren) are in the backseat, turn around and check on them. Make sure they are conscious. Additionally, make sure that if your child is young enough to be in a car seat, they are not laying in a puddle or any sort of water- children in car seats may become submerged in water without being able to remove themselves.  
  2. Do a quick check for injuries on yourself. Make sure that you are not injured badly.  
  3. Pull as far over to the right as possible and call the police.  
  4. Before they arrive, ask your children what hurts. If they complain that they cannot feel a body part, or if they are trapped under something, wait for the paramedics arrive. You do not know what injuries they have, and moving them could be dangerous.  
  5. Gather information from the other driver including name, license plate number, and other insurance information. Collect the names and contact information of eyewitnesses if possible.  
  6. Give a report to the police. Be as detailed and thorough as possible. Record the police officer’s name and badge number. 
  7. Go to a hospital to make sure you aren’t injured, even if you don’t feel any pain. Have your children see a doctor as well, even If they aren’t showing signs of injury.   
  8. File a claim with your insurance company and contact a personal injury attorney. 

What Happens When a Child Is Involved In a Car Accident? 

Your insurance, and the other driver’s insurance, will treat accidents involving children differently than other types of accidents. As the parent, you will receive separate compensation for any medical bills your child may have. While your child has the right to compensation for injuries, emotional distress, job loss, loss of future wages, and disability, they will not be able to negotiate for themselves. Either you will have to negotiate on their behalf as a parent, or you may hire a personal injury attorney to negotiate on behalf of both you and your child.  

Additionally, in Arizona, if your child’s settlement is over $10,000, you will need the signed approval of a judge. If your child’s settlement is under $10,000, approval is not required.  

How Can a Car Accident Affect a Child’s Development? 

A car accident, even a minor one, can affect your child in many ways. Here’s a list of the most common ways that a child’s development may be affected.  

  • Depression: Even if children aren’t physically injured, they may still be depressed. It is estimated that approximately 15- 20% of children who are involved in car accidents experience depression, even months after the accident.  
  • PTSD: Another common affect of the accident may be PTSD. A pediatrician will be able to formally diagnose the child and will give parents guidance moving forward. Here are the signs of PTSD based on age group. If your child is experiencing any of these, please see a pediatric doctor. 
    • Age 5 and Younger: Reverting to behaviors for younger children like thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of darkness, separation anxiety, and excessive clinging. 
    • Ages 6 – 11: Disruptive behaviors, withdrawal, short attention span or inability to pay attention, problems sleeping, nightmares, school problems, stomach aches, headaches, or general changes to behavior.  
    • Ages 12 – 17: Problems sleeping, nightmares, issues at school or changing academic performance, reckless behavior, peer issues, changes in usual behavior, stomach aches, depression, or suicidal thoughts.  
  • Injuries: Injuries during the crash may also impact your child for a long time- perhaps even decades if the injury was bad enough. While the most common injuries sustained by adults during car accidents are whiplash, concussions, and broken bones, for children the most common injuries are head injuries and concussions, broken bones, chest injuries, and back injuries. 

How Many Minors Die In Car Accidents Each Year? 

Each year, approximately 4,000 children in the US die in a car crash, accounting for about 1/5 of all child deaths. In Arizona in 2020, 45 minors (children under 18) were killed as passengers in car accidents. 4,707 more were injured.  

Resources Near You 

If you and your child have been in a car accident, here are some resources in the Phoenix Valley.  

Phoenix Children’s Hospital 

Raising Arizona Kids 

Arizona Child Psychology  

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At the Thompson Law Firm, we have more than 10 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their personal injuries from car accidents, including children in car accidents. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office. 

If you have been in a car accident that is not your fault, contact Thompson Law Firm in Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in the greater Phoenix area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Maricopa, Globe, and Queen Creek. 

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