In 2018, there were over 6.7 million car accidents in the United States, and over 2.7 million persons were injured. Almost any type of injury can occur in a car accident, and the types of injuries can vary greatly depending upon a number of different factors as no two collisions are exactly the same. It is possible to sustain both short-term injuries, which resolve with prompt treatment, and long-term, long-lasting injuries that often require serious and repeated medical interventions.
Before discussing the most common types of car accident injuries, it is worth noting the main factors that contribute to both the type and severity of these injuries.
Speed. Whether the accident occurred when the vehicles involved were travelling at high speeds or low speeds is a major factor.
Position of the Occupants. An occupant’s body can be facing the front, side or even toward the back of the vehicle at the time of the collision, and often the position of the occupant’s head alone can be a big factor in the injuries sustained.
Direction of Impact. Was the vehicle struck from the side, front, rear or at an angle?
Seatbelts. Were the occupants wearing seatbelts and wearing them properly? If so, this, along with whether and what type of airbags were deployed, can act to mitigate the injuries suffered in a crash.
When describing the common types of vehicle accident injuries, they are usually categorized as impact or penetrating injuries. An impact injury occurs as a result of some part of the body making violent contact with the interior of the vehicle. For example, a car accident may cause a vehicle passenger’s knees to strike the car’s dashboard, or the driver’s head to strike the side window. A penetrating injury happens when an object, usually one already in the car, enters the victim’s body.
Now let’s look at the most common injuries resulting from a vehicle accident.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue, also referred to as connective tissue, is comprised of muscles, ligaments, tendons and other supportive tissue in the body. The physical forces at work during an accident, even a low-speed accident, are enough to bruise soft tissue and cause serious injury. The most common type of soft tissue injury is referred to as whiplash, where the initial impact of the accident forces the body violently in one direction and then back again, much like cracking a whip. While many people think of whiplash as affecting the neck and upper spine, whiplash injuries can injure the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the mid- and lower back as well. In addition to whiplash, contusions, bruises, cuts, sprains and joint dislocations are also soft tissue injuries.
Cuts and Scrapes
Lacerations, (open wounds to the skin), scrapes or abrasions are types of soft tissue injuries that commonly occur in a car accident. Most often it is loose objects in the vehicle, such as purses, pens and pencils, GPS devices, books, packages, phones and coffee mugs, that fly about at the time of impact and cause both impact and penetrating injuries. Cuts and scrapes can be relatively minor or can require immediate medical attention and possibly stitches. A deploying airbag can also cause minor cuts and scrapes in an accident.
As discussed above, the head is often thrown about violently in a car accident, leading to whiplash as well as cuts and bruises to the face. However, more serious injuries can occur when the head strikes the interior of the car, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, window or door pillar. This can result in what is called a closed head injury. Closed head injuries are the result of the brain striking the inside of the skull, and the result can be mild, such as a concussion, or more severe. The most severe form of closed head injury is called a Traumatic Brain Injury, where brain tissue has actually been damaged or destroyed, resulting in a loss of brain function and often requiring long-term rehabilitation.
In addition to bruises and contusions to the chest, a vehicle occupant may suffer broken ribs, a fractured sternum or more serious complications such as organ damage and/or internal bleeding. Chest injuries are most commonly caused by impact with the steering wheel, the dashboard, other areas within the vehicle and, in some cases, an air bag or shoulder belt, but the latter often only cause minor injuries. The fear of injury should never prompt you to disable your vehicle’s airbag(s) and all occupants should always wear a seatbelt; these devices have been proven to save lives.
Injuries to the Arms and Legs
As mentioned above, the position of the occupants of a vehicle often determines the types of injuries sustained in an accident. Both driver and passengers often have limited leg room, which results in injuries to the legs and knees when they impact the dashboard or the seats in front of them. Also, the direction of the impact often determines the severity of the injuries, as passengers on the side of vehicle that is struck may suffer more serious arm and leg injuries as those limbs strike the interior of the car.
Though not as immediately apparent as the injuries already discussed, many vehicle accident survivors experience emotional pain in the wake of the event. The symptoms of emotional trauma can include anxiety, depression, moodiness and irritability, sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional withdrawal and more. Left untreated, emotional trauma can interfere with your daily functioning and can, in some cases, become debilitating.
It is important to note that some injuries, both physical and emotional, may not appear until days or even weeks after a vehicle accident. That is why it is imperative to seek medical help right away if you begin experiencing pain or other symptoms at any time after an accident.
If you or anyone you know has been injured in an automobile accident of any kind, the attorneys at Alexander & Associates, LLC, have a wealth of experience in dealing with insurance companies and in protecting your right to receive the compensation you’re entitled to. Our attorneys handle all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving automobiles, motorcycles and all types of truck accidents.