7 Common Car Accident Injuries

car accident injuries

The kinds of injuries sustained in car accidents are dependent on the particular circumstances of each crash. The size and weight of the vehicles involved, the speed at impact, the weather and road conditions, and the positioning of occupants within a vehicle are all factors that can influence the type and severity of injuries resulting from a car accident.

Certain types of accidents – like rear-end or head-on – happen frequently enough that similar kinds of injuries are experienced by the people involved. The nature of a person’s injuries can affect the amount of damages they are able to recover after a car crash in Pennsylvania. Listed below are seven of the most common car accident injuries.

Bruising, Lacerations, Muscle Soreness

Some scrapes and general soreness are to be expected after a car accident because the body was put through stress it was not prepared to handle. These types of injuries require some treatment and usually heal without permanent effects.

However, it is still a good idea to see a medical professional for evaluation to make sure there are no internal injuries.


A whiplash injury is damage to the soft tissue around the spinal column at the back of the neck. The damage is done when the head is thrown forward rapidly at impact and then subsequently snapped backward rapidly.

The motion resulting in a whiplash injury is often the result of a rear-end or front-end impact. Vehicle speeds at impact affect the severity of a whiplash injury. Most whiplash injuries heal within a few weeks to months without permanent damage.

Broken Bones

The human skeleton was never intended to withstand the force of impact from a car crash. Fractured bones are a frequent car accident injury. Some of the more common bone breaks that require medical treatment after car accidents include:

  • Spinal vertebrae of the neck and back
  • Collarbone (clavicle)
  • Pelvis
  • Upper and lower legs
  • Skull
  • Facial bones
  • Breastbone (sternum)

Some breaks can be caused by the motion of the body during a crash and others are caused by a crushing force impacting the body.

Internal Injuries

The same force that causes bones to break can also result in other types of internal injuries to softer tissues. A broken bone may cause further injury by penetrating an organ. The body may be crushed in such a way that internal organs become damaged and can bleed. Internal bleeding can become life-threatening very quickly as blood is diverted away from other parts of the body.

Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries can be significant even if there are no broken bones. The vertebrae of the spine are separated by discs that act as cushions between them. The force of a car accident can damage the rubbery exterior of a disc, making it bulge or rupture and put pressure on the nerves running down the spinal column, causing pain, numbness, and muscle weakness.

Pressure on the spinal cord can result in damage that interferes with motor function and can cause permanent impairment or loss of use below the point of injury. A spinal cord injury is serious because damaged nerve cells in the spinal cord do not heal or regenerate.

Head and Brain Injuries

Head injuries can happen even if the head does not actually come into contact with anything during an accident. Brain injuries may occur as a result of the violent motion the head is subjected to during a crash or other acute event. The brain can be slammed against the inside of the skull, damaging the delicate tissue.

The severity of a brain injury is generally determined by the symptoms experienced after the injury. In mild brain injuries, such as concussions, there is slight damage to brain tissue but it is usually not significant enough to cause a person to lose consciousness. Losing consciousness indicates a moderate to severe brain injury. Extended periods of unconsciousness, such as being in a coma, indicate a severe brain injury.

An injury to the brain may cause it to hemorrhage. Bleeding in the brain can result in significant impairment and even death. Pigments in the blood are toxic to brain cells and cause inflammation and cell death. Brain injuries can cause physical symptoms as well as changes in behavior and perception depending on the extent of the damage.

Mental Health Damages

Car accident injuries can also include psychological injuries. Financial compensation for psychological injuries would fall under the category of non-economic damages because there is no formula for calculating them. An amount of non-economic damages is based on the experience of the injured person and other personal characteristics.

Under Pennsylvania law, non-economic damages can be awarded for pain and suffering, embarrassment, and humiliation. Pain and suffering can include mental anguish, discomfort, inconvenience, and distress.

A study on the psychological impact of car crashes published on PubMed concluded that psychological distress is prevalent after motor vehicle accidents. Depressive moods, anxiety, and phobias about driving were commonly experienced among crash survivors. Up to 40% of those involved in car accidents experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Why a Serious Injury Can Make a Difference in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is currently one of only three states limiting the damages that can be recovered for injuries in a car accident based on the type of auto insurance a person buys. Persons who choose to pay less for their coverage will generally not have the same rights to collect damages as persons who choose to pay more.

Drivers in Pennsylvania have the option to purchase either of the following two types of coverage:

  • Full Tort – The full tort alternative preserves the rights of drivers and their families to seek all of the damages available under Pennsylvania law for injuries caused by other drivers.
  • Limited Tort – The limited tort alternative restricts recoverable damages to economic damages such as medical expenses and lost income. Unless one of the exceptions applies, persons with limited tort coverage cannot recover compensation after a car accident for pain and suffering, lost quality of life, or mental anguish.

Because the limited tort alternative could produce unduly harsh results in certain circumstances, the Pennsylvania Legislature created some exceptions where limited tort drivers have the same rights to damages as full tort drivers. One of those exceptions is for persons who sustain serious injuries.

A serious injury in Pennsylvania is one which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

For injured limited tort drivers, the length of time an injury results in impairment or loss has a direct impact on how serious the injury will be considered under the law and whether or not full tort damages will be available.

Pittsburgh Car Accidents

As you can see, there are lots of moving parts in a car accident claim. If you or someone you know was injured while driving in or riding in a motor vehicle in Pittsburgh or the surrounding communities in western Pennsylvania, you should speak with legal counsel in the area before making any substantive decisions that can impact your legal rights. The car accident lawyers of SMT Legal offer free consultations to all car accident victims. Contact SMT Legal to find out what to do after a car accident.

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