Car accidents can cause any number of different injuries, to virtually any part of your body, depending on the circumstances of the crash and the severity of the impact. But if you take a closer look at the range of insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits related to auto accidents, you'll see that certain injuries crop up more than others. This article discusses the most common car accident injuries.
Brain and Head Injuries - In a car accident, one of the most common injuries suffered by drivers and passengers is a closed head injury, which can range from a mild concussion to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even when there is no physical sign of trauma (i.e. cuts or bruises), the brain is at risk of being jostled inside the skull because of the impact of a car crash, so that bruising and other injuries can result.
Neck Injuries - Another common form of injury from a car accident is neck injuries, which can occur in more mild forms such as whiplash and neck strain, but also as more serious injuries like cervical radiculopathy and disc injury.
Back Injuries - The impact of a car accident and the resulting torque on the bodies of drivers and passengers can cause back injuries such as a sprain, strain, fracture, disc injury, thoracic spine injury, lumbar radiculopathy, and lumbar spine injury. Like neck injuries, sometimes the symptoms of even the most serious back injuries can take some time to show up after an accident, and just as often a back injury can cause longlasting pain and discomfort.
Face Injuries - In a car accident, injuries to the face can be caused by almost anything -- including a steering wheel, dashboard, airbag, windshield, side window, car seats or shattered glass. These injuries range in severity from scrapes and bruises, to laceration and fractures, even Temporomandibular disorders of the jaw (TMJ) and serious dental injuries.
Psychological Injuries - Injuries caused by car accidents aren't limited to the physical. Especially after serious car accidents involving severe injuries and even loss of life, drivers and passengers may suffer short or long-term psychological injuries such as emotional distress, and may even develop conditions that closely resemble post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD after a car accident.
Q: Is there always a direct relationship between the severity of the car accident and the seriousness of the injury?
A: No. Major accidents usually cause major injuries and minor car accidents often result in little or no injury. But you've probably heard about car crashes where a car was totaled but the driver (miraculously) walked away unharmed. And, you have also probably heard about the opposite situation, where a relatively minor car accident resulted in major injuries that caused a lifetime of problems for the driver or passenger.
Q: Are all car accident injuries obvious right away?
A: Many are, of course. But some are not. As a result of the trauma of the car accident, your body reflexively produces hormones called endorphins, which act as painkillers. Because of the excitement of the accident and the production of endorphins, you might not know right away that you have been injured.
Q: So what should you do if you suspect that have been injured in a car accident?
A: The first thing you should do is get medical attention -- which means treatment for injuries you suspect you have, and also a precautionary examination for injuries that may not be so obvious -- even if it was a fairly low speed impact or a small damage collision. For more information, check out these steps to take after a car accident.
Updated by: David Goguen, J.D.