Car Accident Lawyers Minnesota – Premature Birth of Baby


Here is one case car accident attorney Pam Rochlin worked on for a Minnesota crash: The crash occurred on Second Street Southwest in Rochester. Pam’s client was traveling in the left lane of Second Street Southwest when the other driver pulled out of a stop sign at one of the cross streets. The other car entered the right lane of westbound Second Street Southwest and then immediately moved into the left lane, where our client was located. Our client forcefully slammed on her brakes and her vehicle came to a violent stop. However, the other vehicle still hit the passenger side of our client’s car. Pam is a woman lawyer who represents women injured in a car accident in MN.

Rochester police responded to the scene and issued a citation to the other driver for failure to drive with due care.


The force of the impact caused Pam’s client, who was 32 weeks pregnant at the time of the car accident, to suffer a ruptured placenta. When our client slammed on her brakes, she felt the seatbelt lock hard and grab tight against her abdomen.  This caused the baby’s placenta to rupture.

Immediately after the crash, our client was worried about the condition of her baby, so she pushed on her stomach to get the baby moving to make sure he was okay. She remembers being very shaky and nervous at the scene. After she felt the baby moving, our client got out of her car and talked with the other driver. Then later she spoke with the police officer. By the time the police officer arrived, our client had relaxed a bit and could still feel the baby moving, so she assumed that everything was okay.


Pam’s client went home that evening and still felt shook up from the car crash and worried about the pregnancy. However, she was relieved that she didn’t feel any pain anywhere. Unfortunately, the following day, she started noticing contractions. At the time she didn’t put together that the accident the day before may have started the contractions. She just assumed that what she was experiencing were Braxton-Hicks contractions, which is normal at this point in her pregnancy.

Because this was her first pregnancy, she had no experience with contractions or labor before. The contractions worsened over the course of the next day and evening. When her husband suggested calling the doctor, our client was worried that they would think she was complaining, so she decided to wait until the next day.


Unfortunately, the contractions after the car accident continued the next day,. Therefore, she called the clinic in Minnesota and spoke with a nurse who offered her the option of coming in for an evaluation. Because our client’s baby shower was planned for that day, she told the nurse she would like to attend the baby shower and then see how she felt afterwards. The nurse said that was fine.

Our client went to the baby shower but noticed the contractions were closer together in time. A friend at the shower – who is a nurse – became concerned and starting timing the contractions. She told our client that she was in premature labor and needed to get to the hospital immediately. By the time our client got to the hospital in Rochester, she was dilated to 3 centimeters and 10% effaced.


Our pregnant client was admitted to the hospital for premature labor from the car accident. A Neonatology consult was requested, in part because of the premature birth of the baby, but also because there were some concerning fetal signs. Our client and her husband met with a practitioner from the Neonatal unit regarding the potential delivery of their premature baby. The nurse told our clients that a pediatric team would be present in the delivery room.  Then, immediately after the baby’s birth, the baby would be handed over to the pediatric team and taken to the resuscitation room. The initial focus would be on the baby’s breathing.

Car Accident Preterm Labor
Car Accident Preterm Labor

She also told our clients that if the baby needed extra support, it would be transported to St. Mary’s Hospital. The nurse practitioner also explained that the most common reason that a premature baby must remain hospitalized after birth is that they have an inability to feed from a bottle or breast. Therefore, she described, the baby would likely initially require a PIV or umbilical lines for fluids.


The nurse also told our clients that babies at this gestation often require a NG tube for adequate nutrition. She said that the baby would most likely need to be hospitalized for at least 3 to 5 weeks. Finally, the nurse practitioner told our clients that because this was a preterm labor because of the car crash, the baby could require blood work and antibiotics to treat any possible infection.

This was very hard for our clients to hear. Because our client’s pregnancy had been normal with no complications, they were unprepared for the possibility of their baby being born early. This would not have happened but for the car accident. This made the entire labor experience more frightening for our client.  Instead of feeling excitement and anticipation about the baby being born, she was scared and worried about his health given his premature status.


The delivery was a frightening experience for our client because the baby’s heartrate dropped significantly and the doctors had reach into the birth canal and physically pull the baby out. He was immediately transported after birth (so our client was not able to hold him) to the resuscitation room for medical care. After delivery of the baby, our client began bleeding profusely and it became apparent to the doctors that she had a ruptured placenta from the auto accident.

Placenta abruption is a serious condition in which the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before the baby is born and can cause harm to the baby, premature birth or a stillbirth.

Following his delivery, the baby was immediately rushed to the resuscitation room where he was placed on a CPAP machine, given antibiotics, and an IV was placed for fluids. His initial Apgar was 8. Initial assessments included respiratory failure requiring CPAP, respiratory distress syndrome Type 1, hypoglycemia, suspected sepsis in newborn, and placenta abruption.

The baby was admitted to the Intermediate Special Care Nursery for continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring, PIV infusion and to start enteral/nasogastric feeding once off the CPAP. Because our client planned to breastfeed him, the hope was that they could get the baby off the respirator to try breastfeeding. Otherwise, they would need to have our client express milk for The baby’s feeding.


After 12 hours, the baby was transitioned off of the CPAP onto respiratory assistance. Attempts were made to try and get the baby to breastfeed, but he was unable. The baby remained on continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring throughout.

Our client was discharged from the hospital and was told by doctors (particularly given the placenta rupture and loss of blood as a result) that she should go home for the night. Our client says that going home without the baby was “the hardest thing I have ever done.”

The next morning when she got to the hospital, she was again struck by the number of tubes, lines, cardiac wires that the baby was hooked up to. She couldn’t hold him or touch him, and felt like he almost wasn’t real. Because she had not been able to hold him since the delivery, she didn’t feel the strong love that she was expecting to feel. She then felt guilty for not having those “motherly feelings.”


The baby was hospitalized in the Neonatal ICU at Mayo Clinic/Methodist Hospital for 13 days. During that time, our client spent most of her time at the hospital, even sleeping there many nights. She wanted to be with her baby as much as possible, but was unable to hold him and nurture him like she had planned.  He needed to remain in his bed most of the time in order to maintain his respiratory status and to improve his bilirubin levels.

Neonatal nurses continued to try to get the baby to breastfeed. Unfortunately, as is the case with many premature babies who have not yet developed that sucking reflex, he had difficulties latching onto his mother’s breast. The doctors and nurses suggested they try a bottle to learn latching, then possibly transition to the breast.


This was a hard decision for our client, as she worried that if they gave her baby the bottle, he would never breastfeed.  She still very much wanted to have that bonding experience with him. The nurses continued to work with our client and the baby to get him to breastfeed, but he was unable to latch on. Our client continued to pump her milk so that he could have breastmilk.

Prior to discharge it became apparent that the baby was not going to latch onto our client’s breast because of the premature birth delivery caused by the auto accident. This was emotionally very hard on our client, as she had been looking forward to that special bonding experience with him. However, she was hopeful that she could continue to express milk for him so that he could be on breastmilk for as long as possible. As a woman lawyer with children of her own, Pam Rochlin understands these issues after a woman is injured in an accident.


Despite reaching his developmental milestones and appearing well, the baby is still at risk of problems in the future associated with his premature birth from the car accident. Research funded by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) shows how preterm birth affects children’s brains, stress and behaviors for years. Infants born preterm – defined as 32 weeks of gestation or less, face many challenges.

According to the NICHD, because their brains and other organs are not fully developed, these infants require medical treatments after birth. The NICHD notes that as they get older, these children may have problems linked to the stress and pain they experienced during sensitive infant development periods. These problems from being born prematurely can include issues with visual memory (such as remembering pictures), poor planning skills, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In one study, researchers examined 18-month-old children who were born preterm (24 to 32 weeks of pregnancy, and full term children. They measured the level of cortisol – a hormone that helps the body deal with stress – after a simple test in which the children stacked and sorted toys with their mothers. The study uncovered abnormal patterns in cortisol-based stress responses among the preterm groups compared to the children at full-term gestations. Children with the most abnormal stress responses were also most likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression in their daily lives.


In 2 studies, researchers used brain imaging to investigate cognitive deficits – problems with mental processes such as attention, memory and problem solving – in 7-year-old children who were born preterm. These cognitive problems usually became noticeable during elementary school, even in preterm children with normal intelligence. The study found that preterm children had more trouble remembering pairs of simple shapes that briefly appeared on a screen, even just a moment later.

The second study examined preterm children’s brain waves in the cortex while the children were not performing any specific task. Researchers found that some of the brain waves of preterm children were slower than those of other children. The type of slowing the researchers saw has been linked to a variety of brain disorders, including schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.


One study examined the cardiometabolic risk factors of adults who was born preterm. This study (published in 2015) examined the physical fitness levels of 23 year olds who were born early preterm (less than 34 weeks), late pre-term (34 to 36 weeks) and full term. The results of the testing showed that both early preterm and late preterm birth participants had lower muscular fitness levels than those who were born full term. This was felt to likely predispose them to cardiometabolic and other chronic diseases in the future.

A 2015 study showed that premature babies are more likely to be introverted, neurotic adults, who struggle with relationships and careers. University of Warwick researchers compared the personalities of 200 young people born prematurely with another 197 born in the same maternity units who were born at term. The study found that those born prematurely scored significantly higher for the personality traits of introversion and neuroticism. They were also more likely to report higher levels of autistic spectrum behaviors.

The life-long impacts of the baby’s premature birth and neo-natal care because of this car crash are not fully known. Most likely, the effect will not be known fully until he reaches adulthood. The risks he faces associated with his premature birth are substantial and we expect a jury to compensate commensurately.


Our top MN car accident lawyer has represented many women injured in crashes for the past 25 years. Pam Rochlin has been voted a Minnesota Super Lawyer and is the former president of Minnesota Women Lawyers – an organization with over 1300 members. If you have been injured in a car accident, call us and speak with a best woman personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Our car accident lawyers have experience with many types of car accident injury cases, including injury to a pregnant woman that causes premature delivery of the baby.