Common Car Accident Injuries
With about 1.7 million of the 6.2 million total car accidents in the US resulting in injuries, more than a quarter of all car accidents end up with injuries, ranging in severity from minor bumps & bruises (known in the legal world as soft tissue injuries) to permanent disability & dismemberment. Here we’ll discuss some of the most common car accident injuries, how they happen, and what to do if you’re facing a similar injury after an auto accident.
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Often seen as a result of rear-end car collisions, whiplash is one of the most common injuries to people who’ve been injured in an auto accident. Delayed onset whiplash, where pain & symptoms of whiplash can take days and sometimes weeks to show up, is also common. In most cases a mild case of whiplash will mean a few weeks of recovery time, but chronic whiplash can last 6 months or more.
Hip injuries often occur in T-Bone collisions when one car hits another from the side, although the force of an auto accident from any angle can be enough to cause significant hip damage. Common hip injuries in car accidents include:
- Hip Dislocation: This can be a very severe and painful injury, usually occurring when the leg gets pushed in or to the side as a result of impact with another car, causing the hip to dislocate.
- Broken Hips: As one of the largest bones in the body and a central part of everyday movement, a broken hip can be incredibly debilitating.
- Hip Flexor Strains & Tears: The hip flexors are a group of muscles surrounding the hip and are very active in walking and other day to day activities. The force of a car accident can be enough to stretch or tear these muscles.
The sudden and violent forces commonly caused by car, motorcycle and other types of motor vehicle accidents can result in broken ribs, bruised ribs and other rib injuries. Learn more about broken ribs and your legal rights to compensation for these injuries.
Back & Neck Injuries:
The type of injuries to the back and neck that can occur when someone is involved in a car crash are wide ranging in both scope and severity. When the force of one car strikes another, the body will often get violently jerked around, which can be jarring to muscles, bones, and ligaments.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many motorists suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a motor vehicle accident. The experience of being involved in a wreck can have lasting effects, including PTSD. Learn more about your rights for suffering from PTSD after a motor vehicle accident.
Soft Tissue/Minor Injuries:
While an injury sustained in a car accident is never a positive thing, if you can walk away with a few bumps & bruises you may want to consider that a win. Many are not so lucky. However, there are still usually issues of insurance, auto damage, and possibly legal actions.
Unfortunately, there are many ways a person can sustain a head injury when they’re involved in a car crash. Even more unfortunately, these can also be some of the most severe, including brain injuries and skull fractures. As the body moves with the force of impact, the head can hit windows, panels, and the steering wheel.
Leg & Knee Injuries:
When one car hits another, the impact can force shins, knees, and other parts of the leg into the dashboard or door of the car. Softer impacts usually leave bruises or cause sprains, while severe car accidents can cause serious breaks, dislocations, and tears.
Arm & Shoulder Injuries:
With one, or hopefully both hands on the steering wheel, arm and shoulder injuries are quite common in auto accidents. The bones in the arm, wrist, and hand can get broken by the force of impact, and dislocated or separated shoulders can occur pretty frequently.
Unfortunately, according to the CDC, accidents (most of which being car accidents), are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 146,571 deaths in 2015. While nothing can ever replace the loss of a loved one, if the accident was caused by someone else, you should be able to seek substantial financial compensation.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
What injuries can happen from a car accident?
Car accidents can cause many serious personal injuries and sometimes death. Drivers and passengers often suffer these injuries when slamming into part of the vehicle during the accident. The common injuries in car accidents include:
- Brain injury: A blow to the skull or an object piercing the skull can cause grievous brain damage; this is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI can be mild, such as a concussion, or severe, leading to serious cognitive and motor problems.
- Neck or back injury: Whiplash is the most common injury, where the neck is stretched and bent beyond its typical range of motion.
- Chest injury: The massive impact of a crash can shatter ribs or the breast bone, especially if seatbelts were not worn.
- Abdominal or pelvis injury: Hip fractures and damage to abdominal organs are common in high speed car accidents.
- Leg and knee injury: Most are crush or impact injuries due to the legs smashing into the dashboard.
- Foot injury: Ankles, feet and toes can be broken in many car accidents.
- Cuts and scrapes: Shattered automotive glass can cause severe lacerations, while airbags and other objects in the passenger compartment can leave scrapes and lacerations.
- Feet, toes and limbs may also be mutilated and require amputation; this is more common with motorcycle crashes.
What is the most common injury in a car accident?
Whiplash is a very common injury, as are many other neck injuries. This is largely because when the force of one car hitting another rattles the car, and passengers in it, the head can tend to snap back & forth or side to side very violently.
Other common car accident injuries include soft tissue injuries – basically cuts, scrapes, bruises & sprains. With more severe crashes, more catastrophic injuries such as broken bones, head injuries, and sometimes fatalities can occur. Wearing a seatbelt is always a good idea and helps make sure the injuries sustained in an auto accident are on the less severe end of the spectrum.
What are the most common fatal injuries in car accidents?
High speed auto collisions frequently cause fatal injuries. Approximately 40,000 people die in auto crashes in the US each year. The most common fatal injuries are:
- Head and brain injuries: A severe blow to the head can cause a skull fracture and fatal brain injury. Some accidents may involve severe head trauma that does not kill immediately, but brain swelling often can be fatal in the days after the crash.
- Neck injuries: A crash with enough force at the wrong angle can cause the head and neck to whip with enough force to break the neck and spinal cord. This is usually fatal.
- Chest injuries: In many head on crashes, the chest can be crushed by the immense force when it strikes the dashboard or steering column, even if the airbag inflates. This can cause severe bleeding and organ damage that can be fatal.
- Burn injuries: Many rear-end crashes lead to a fuel tank rupture and fire that can cause fatal burns.
Not every car accident fatality is immediate. A person could be hospitalized for days or weeks with a head or neck injury or severe burns. Delayed fatalities after a serious accident can be devastating for the family as they must watch their loved one suffer.
What is the leading cause of fatal car accidents?
According to the NHTSA, below are the top causes of fatal car accidents:
- Speeding: Everyone in America seems to be in a rush. Driving too fast for conditions, or more than the speed limit, is the most common cause of fatal car accidents. Driving too fast in adverse weather conditions causes many deadly crashes. Other factors include driving too fast around a curve; not understanding the intentions of another driver; inability to slow in time due to speed; and inability to compensate for maneuvers by other cars due to speed.
- Under the influence: People are legally impaired by alcohol when their blood alcohol level is .08 g/dL or higher. Statistics state that 12% of drivers in fatal wrecks were legally intoxicated. But it is possible to get into a fatal crash even if your BAC is below the legal limit.
- Veering into another lane: Drivers sometimes fail to stay in their proper lane. This can be from distracted driving due to cell phone, falling asleep, or impaired driving. Also, drivers who suffer a sudden medical condition can veer into another lane and cause a fatal crash. Approximately 8.5% of fatal accidents are this type.
- Failure to yield: In 7% of fatal crashes, the driver did not yield right of way. When a driver fails to yield, the chance of a fatal crash rises. This is a common cause of crashes at major intersections.
Is there a pattern of injury in motor vehicle accidents?
There are common injury patterns in car accidents, according to the type of accident:
- In a frontal crash, the occupant, especially if not wearing a seatbelt, will continue to move forward when the vehicle comes to a stop. It is common for the initial point of impact to be the hips and legs, which can cause ankle fracture and dislocation; knee and hip injuries and femoral fractures. The head and cervical spine may strike the windshield and steering column.
- In a side impact crash, the crash victim accelerates away from the side that is hit. This can cause compressive pelvic damage, pulmonary contusion, solid organ injury and rupture of the diaphragm.
- Rear crashes often cause severe cervical spine injury if the head restraints do not fit the person properly.
- Deceleration and acceleration injuries that are common in many types of accidents are aorta tears, the junction of the cervical and thoracic spine, and even between the grey and white matter in the brain.
- In pedestrian accidents, severe lower leg injuries are common due to impact with the bumper of the vehicle. Head and torso injuries also occur when the pedestrian hits the windshield. Ground impact can cause head, spinal and other injuries.
- Motorcyclists and bikers experience serious head injuries when the head hits another vehicle or the ground, although helmets reduce fatal head injuries by 1/3 and the risk of serious facial injury by 2/3. Lower extremity fractures also are common.
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