One of the more commonly asked questions following a car crash are, “Are my injuries common?” or “Why does my neck hurt following a car crash?” As such, our accident and injury attorneys created this brief guide summarizing common car accident injuries. When reading this guide please remember that each case is different – even the same (or similar) injuries can vary in severity between clients.
Most common injuries to least common injuries
Back, Neck and Spine Injuries
Back, neck, and spine injuries are very common in car accident cases. The most common injury, “whiplash”, occurs when an individual’s neck is “whipped back” straining ligaments, discs, nerves, muscles, and/or tendons. Oftentimes, clients will complain of injuries to the “base of the neck” and “base of their spine”. Intense headaches are commonplace.
Back, neck, and spine injuries are commonly referred to as “soft tissue injuries”. Soft tissue injuries include injuries to ligaments, discs, nerves, muscles, and/or tendons – not bones. Soft tissue injuries can be easily overlooked (and misdiagnosed by emergency room doctors) because they often occur in car accidents that appear minor, and symptoms may not appear until several days later. Signs of soft tissue injury include muscle soreness or stiffness, bruising, numbness or tingling.
The impact from a car accident can also cause an individual to herniate a disc(s) (or slip or rupture a disc(s)). Discs cushion the spinal column and separate and protect the vertebra while providing flexibility. A car accident can cause a disc to break or slip away from the spinal column – lessening or destroying its ability to cushion the vertebra. A lack of cushion can lead to acute shooting pain, numbness and weakness (especially down an individual’s spine and into their lower leg) as the nerves are compromised or impinged. Additionally, lower back pain can be exacerbated when bending or sitting for an extended period of time. Herniated discs can be extremely painful and may require injections and/or surgery.
In more severe cases, car accidents can injury an individual’s spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can impede the brain’s ability to communicate with the body leading to partial or permanent paralysis and/or lack of motor control or sensory ability. Spinal cord injuries are very severe and require immediate medical attention.
Cuts, Lacerations, Burns
Severe cuts or lacerations may require stitches. Burns are very commonplace in situation where an air bag deploys.
Broken Bones and Fractures
Broken bones and compression fractures (especially in older adults) are less common than soft tissue injuries in car accidents. As a result of sudden, unexpected, and intense impact, the driver (or passenger) does not have time to brace (or protect themselves) from injury. As a result, commonly broken bones in car accidents include: shoulders, wrists, arms, ankles, legs, orbital (from the dashboard or steering wheel), and ribs (from the seat belt). Shoulder injuries are very susceptible to injuries in side collisions. We have also seen a number of older individuals suffering from kyphosis (collapsed vertebra) following car crash requiring a kyphoplasty.
Of note, if a broken bone pierces the skin it is considered a compound fracture (or open fracture); if a broken bone does not pierce the skin is considered a closed fracture.
Compression fractures are fractures in which the bone collapses (especially in short bones such as vertebrae). Symptoms of a compression fracture may include pain and breathing difficulty (similar to the symptoms of arthritis).
Internal injuries (such as a punctured lung) result in internal bleeding and must be treated promptly.
Brain Injuries – Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries
A concussion is caused by a blow to the head and is mild form of traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). Common symptoms from a concussion include: loss of awareness, confusion, vision issues, vertigo, nausea, intense headaches, and/or mild amnesia.
A traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) is a blow to the head which disrupts the function of the brain and is commonly accompanied by swelling in the brain. If the swelling is severe, it may result in permanent injury such as loss of motor functions or possibly death. An individual with a traumatic brain injury may or may not exhibit signs of a concussion – this does NOT mean that the injury is insignificant, however.
ALL BRAIN INJURIES SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY EVALUATED BY A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL EVEN THOUGH THE INJURED PARTY MAY NOT INITIALLY FEEL ANY EFFECTS OR EXHIBIT ANY SYMPTOMS. A CT SCAN IS LIKELY WARRANTED.
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention (especially in cases involving brain injuries) and contact an experienced personal injury and accident attorney to get you compensation for your injuries.