A car accident can cause severe injuries to any part of the body. Even a seemingly minor accident can result in catastrophic injuries, which may not show up for days or weeks from the moment of impact.
The severity of a car accident injury will depend on several factors, such as:
If you are involved in a car accident, you should always accept medical care at the scene of the collision and at any time unusual symptoms occur. It is also important to schedule an appointment with your primary physician after a collision.
Most car accident injuries fall into two broad categories:
The following are the most common car accident injuries:
Car accidents are a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which can cause long-term disability or even death. A TBI occurs when a person’s head is injured by a forceful blow, such as hitting their head violently on the car’s roof, or an injury that pierces the skull and brain.
TBI can affect virtually every part of the person’s daily living, such as thinking, cognition, hearing, and movement. Many people with a TBI will need lifelong care and help, and some may never recover their pre-accident capabilities.
In an accident, the body is often violently thrown about the vehicle or is twisted into unnatural positions. Depending on the circumstances, a person can end up with spinal cord injuries that result in full or partial paralysis:
Back injuries are relatively common in car accidents, especially if the person is forcefully hurled back and forth or against a stationary object. A back injury may not always be felt right away. Sometimes, back problems take days, weeks, or even months to surface.
A significant consequence of back injuries is that they can plague the sufferer for years or a lifetime. They may go away, and a particular motion or activity will make them flare up again. Keep a close eye on your back health after an accident, even if it was a minor one.
It is nearly impossible to control the body in an accident. Internal injuries are common, as the body may smash against the steering wheel, steering column, or other interior parts of a vehicle in a collision. In some cases, the person may be ejected from their car and their body can slam against the ground.
Internal injuries are not always readily apparent. Sometimes, they take a few hours to become painful or swollen enough to be noticed. Other times, blood loss from internal bleeding signals quick distress. Always get checked for internal injuries after an accident. Many internal injuries require emergency treatment.
Even a seemingly minor accident can fracture or break bones. Commonly broken bones are legs, arms, wrists, ankles, ribs, and the pelvis. The breaks and fractures may be simple and require only a cast for healing. Others can be severe and require surgery and the use of pins and other devices for repair.
In an accident, a person’s extremities can be amputated, or the injuries may be severe enough to require surgical amputation. When that happens, a person may be facing lifetime disabilities, including the inability to earn income or earn it at the level they had before the injury.
Even at low speeds and with seat belt use, whiplash is a common injury after an accident. The abrupt movement of the head can damage the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck, resulting in whiplash.
In addition, cervical problems such as disk injury and dislocation can also arise in the neck after an accident, sometimes requiring surgery.
By their very nature, vehicles run hot. If a driver is exposed to hot fluids, chemicals, steam, or hot surfaces, they can be quickly burned. Also, it is not uncommon for a car to catch fire in an accident, elevating the chance for a severe burn injury.
Severe burns will often require skin grafting and may disfigure a person for life. Even a slight burn in an accident should be treated to prevent future complications.
Broken glass and forceful impact against windows, the dashboard, an airbag, or any other hard surface can leave a driver with horrible gashes and lacerations. Some of these may require plastic surgery to correct, and many will result in lifelong scars and facial disfigurement.
Due to the position of the knees in a vehicle, a crash could send them into the steering column or dashboard, or they could be injured by a smashed exterior that traps the knees. Tears of the meniscus, tendons, cartilage, or muscles around the knee are common, as are kneecap and other bone injuries.
Like the knees, the feet and ankles are well-positioned for injury in a car accident. Sprains and fractures are relatively common, while amputation of toes and feet can happen in serious accidents.
Shoulders are commonly injured when a driver or passenger tries to brace themselves in an accident, such as against the steering wheel or dashboard. The shoulders will often lock into place, absorbing excessive force from the impact. Other times, the shoulder itself will hit a stationary object, causing fractures, rotator cuff injuries, and other damage.
Much like shoulders, a person may use their hands to brace themselves during impact from an accident. As a result, broken wrists are standard, as are fractured fingers and deeply bruised or lacerated hands.
Broken glass, torn metal, and objects flying around in the car can easily cause gashes, cuts, scrapes, lacerations, and bruises anywhere on the body.
Road rash is also common. Road rash is a term used to describe the deep, painful abrasions from the skin being dragged or skidding on the pavement.
Muscles, tendons, and ligaments through the body are susceptible to injuries in a car accident. There could tears, sprains, strains, bruising and other injuries that are often very painful and could be recurring or long-lasting.
Even minor accidents can be traumatic and have long-lasting mental and emotional effects. A person could suffer debilitating thoughts and emotions that last for years due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may need mental health counseling and other support to help them drive again or rid themselves of persistent negative emotions.
Several injuries may take hours, days, or even weeks to surface. That is why it is critical to try and get them diagnosed before they can cause considerable pain and damage.
After a car accident, always accept medical help from the emergency medical technicians on the scene, no matter how you feel. They are trained to find a problem you may not yet feel. Within days of the accident, also visit your primary care doctor. Again, they are trained to spot damage.
Always seek medical treatment after an accident whenever new symptoms appear, even months later. There is a good chance that new pain or other illness could be related to the accident and require emergency treatment.
The body is designed to protect itself from pain in an accident. Adrenaline often kicks in, often delaying the sensations of pain and injury. That is why it is critical to get checked by a medical provider after an accident, regardless of symptoms.
The following are common injuries that may have delayed symptoms:
You can take specific steps to help ensure that an insurer will fairly cover your losses or that you will have a strong case if a lawsuit is needed. The bottom line is that you suffered damages caused by another person, and you deserve justice.
These tips are good to remember and follow as much as possible if you are in an accident:
If you have been injured in a collision due to no fault of your own, our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can review your case and protect your rights. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.