When you’re in a car accident, your body is subjected to huge forces. These forces, caused by the rapid deceleration of your vehicle, can crush, stretch and tear vulnerable parts of your body. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the more common injuries caused by a car accident. Knowing what kinds of injuries often result from a crash can help you to be alert for symptoms that can arise days or weeks after you’ve been in an accident. In addition, knowing how badly you can be hurt in a car accident can also help to make you a little more safety conscious when you drive.
From a legal perspective, auto accident injuries are broken up into two categories: impact injuries, and penetrating injuries. During an accident, your body will come into contact with several different parts of the vehicle – dashboard, door, and gear shift are a few examples. These would cause impact injuries.
Penetrating injuries would be caused by glass or objects cutting and scraping you during the impact of the accident. Impact injuries are caused by the force of the accident itself, as well as from your body coming into contact with the interior surfaces of the car.
Soft tissue injuries are the most common injuries to occur during a car accident. Your body’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments are highly susceptible to the force that occurs in an accident as they are soft and pliable. Besides soft tissue injuries, there are literally hundreds of types of injuries that can occur. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the more common ones.
Whiplash is an impact injury that damages the soft tissue of the neck and upper part of the back. When the impact occurs in a car accident, your head will either fly forward and then whip back, or the opposite will occur – your head will fly back, then forward. This stretches and tears the ligaments in your neck and upper back. Whiplash is known for being extremely painful and slow to heal.
The impact that creates whiplash can also create other back and neck injuries, depending on the rate of impact, as well as the direction your vehicle is hit from. Many of these injuries are not immediately present and will pop up later, sometimes within weeks, sometimes months later. It is not uncommon for a car accident victim to suffer bulging, herniated, or slipped disks due to the impact and jostling during an accident, Depending on where they occur on the spine, these injuries can lead to extreme nerve pain, loss of feeling, and immobility.
Lacerations and scrapes also occur frequently during a car accident. If you think about the things you generally have within your car – sunglasses, your phone, maybe a briefcase or purse, CDs in hard plastic cases, loose change – it all becomes weaponry when the force of a crash occurs. These things being thrown around in your car with force can cause cuts, bruises, and scrapes when they contact your body.
Your airbag and flying broken glass can also cause injury during an accident that may require stitches and account for serious blood loss.
Head injuries are extremely common in car accidents. Your head may hit the dashboard or another part of the car during the impact, and this could result in a concussion. A concussion is actually a brain injury where the brain impacts the inside of the skull causing damage. It can occur because of an impact or because of whiplash, or both. Signs may not be immediately apparent, but include confusion, dizziness, nausea, and slowed reaction time. You may or may not lose consciousness. The inability to answer easy questions is also a sign. Many times, after a head injury has occurred, the first responder will ask questions such as, “What is your name?”, or “What year is it?” in an attempt to diagnose how bad the concussion is.
Other head injuries that may occur include whiplash, as we’ve already discussed, and cuts or scrapes that occur from objects or loose glass flying around the car. Depending on the severity of these injuries, blood loss may be an issue, as the head tends to bleed more than other areas of the body. Broken bones of the face can also occur as there are many bones that comprise the skull that are susceptible to injury, such as your orbital bone around your eye, the cartilage of your nose, your cheekbones, and jaw.
Extremity (arm and leg) injuries can occur in both the impact injury category and the penetration injury category. Your arms can fly around and hit things they wouldn’t normally hit, such as a door handle or glove compartment thrown open in the accident. Broken bones and deep lacerations will often happen due to the sheer force of the accident.
Legs have the same potential for injury. Knees can hit the dashboard, or console, and severe penetration injuries have been reported which include a gear shift or handle embedded in the leg tissue. Depending on the severity of the impact, legs can be completely crushed.
Chest injuries are common due to the steering wheel being directly in front of the driver’s chest, and the force the driver may be thrown into it. Bruising is likely, and broken ribs may occur that make breathing difficult. There is also a chance for internal organ injury as the ribcage protects the heart, lungs and other organs. A broken rib can penetrate a lung or other organ and create a serious and possibly deadly injury.
Deep bruising and broken bones may also occur to any occupant of a vehicle due to the pressure exerted on the seat belt during an accident. This can affect the ribcage and clavicle (collarbone).
After any car accident that is anything more than a mild fender-bender, immediate medical care and treatment should be sought. An ambulance may need to be called to transport you to the emergency room where they can care for your immediate severe injuries and assess the damage your body has undergone. It’s important to follow up with your physician after your accident to make sure that your healing is going well and that you don’t have any additional injuries that were not immediately apparent.