Some of the most common car accident injuries, such as internal bleeding or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), may not exhibit noticeable signs initially, yet they can be life-threatening. You should go to the hospital after a car accident, even if you feel fine. It is critical to seek immediate medical attention. The adrenaline rush often masks the pain and symptoms of injuries, which may only become apparent after it subsides. Furthermore, timely medical care ensures these injuries are detected and treated promptly. The medical records obtained can also serve as vital evidence for personal injury damages if you choose to file a personal injury claim.
Types of Car Accident Injuries
There are many different types of car accident injuries, from mild to severe injuries and even fatal. Generally there are two types of accident injuries:
- Impact Injuries
- Penetrating Injuries
Impact injuries occur when a part of the body hits some part of the interior of the car during an accident. This could include hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or windows. Impact injuries are some of the most common types of injuries in a car accident.
- Whiplash: This is by far the most common car accident injury. The force of impact can cause your head and neck to whip back and forth, damaging the soft tissues in the neck.
- Concussions: These are caused by a blow to the head or violent shaking, both of which can easily occur in a car accident.
- Broken bones: The force of a car accident can easily break bones, especially ribs, which are quite fragile.
Penetrating injuries are typically cuts and scrapes. These can be caused by loose objects. They can range from minor scrapes to serious wounds that require stitches or even surgery.
Most Common Injuries in Car Accidents
Bruising, Lacerations, Muscle Soreness
Some scrapes and general soreness and sprains are to be expected after any car collision because the body was put through stress it was not designed to handle. The sudden force exerted during a collision can stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons beyond their usual limits, causing strains, sprains, or tears.
These types of injuries require some treatment and usually heal without permanent effects. However, it is still a good idea for accident victims to get medical treatment. Symptoms of soft tissue injuries often include pain, swelling, and limited mobility, but they can also be subtle and may not manifest immediately. As with any injury sustained in a car accident, it’s crucial to seek medical attention to properly diagnose and treat these injuries. An untreated soft tissue injury can lead to chronic pain and long-term physical impairment.
Whiplash injuries are most often seen in rear-end collisions, but can happen many accidents. Whiplash injuries can also occur even in low speed accidents. 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.
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 breaks can be caused by the motion of the body during a crash and others are caused by a crushing force impacting the body.
Broken Ribs and Chest Injuries
The force exerted during vehicle crashes can cause the driver or passengers to be thrown forward, impacting the steering wheel or dashboard, resulting in rib fractures or chest injuries. The ribs, designed to protect vital organs, can break under this immense pressure, which can lead to complications such as punctured lungs or other internal injuries. Chest injuries can also involve bruising or internal bleeding of the heart, particularly in high-impact collisions.
It’s also important to note that seatbelts, while a critical safety measure, can also contribute to chest injuries in a severe crash, although the benefits of wearing one far outweigh the potential risks. In some crashes, wearing a seatbelt improperly leads to a unique car accident injury, referred to as “seatbelt syndrome.” It is characterized by injuries to the abdomen and spine caused by the seatbelt during a crash.
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.
Back injuries are also a common in car accidents. The impact of a collision can jolt the body, causing damage to the muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae in the back. The most common types of back injuries include sprains, strains, herniated discs, and fractures. Symptoms range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating back pain.
Back injuries can potentially lead to long-term complications such as chronic pain or mobility issues. The severity and type of back injury can greatly vary depending on factors like the force of the impact and the position of the body at the moment of the accident. Injured areas swell and become inflamed once the adrenaline wears off in the hours following the accident. Torn muscles start involuntarily spasming. Dislocated vertebrae begin placing pressure on nerves. According to studies, this delayed inflammatory response is why many people start noticing pronounced back pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility hours, days, or even months after the crash. Disc injuries often go undetected until the ruptured or herniated disc starts pressing on the spinal cord.
Spinal injuries are one of the most serious injuries in an auto accident 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. This can 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. This 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 damage 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 personal injury damages can be awarded for pain and suffering, embarrassment, and humiliation. Pain and suffering can include mental anguish, discomfort, inconvenience, and distress.
PTSD From Car Accidents
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).
Car Accident Fatalities
The most devastating of all car accident injuries, fatalities often occur due to severe trauma to the head, chest, or vital organs. High-speed collisions are particularly deadly, as they can cause catastrophic damage that is beyond immediate medical repair.
Understanding Compensation for Car Accident Injuries in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania auto insurance laws are currently limit damages that can be recovered. 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. However, in some cases, you may be eligible for additional compensation beyond what your insurance covers. The experienced personal injury lawyers at SMT Legal understand the complexity of accident law in Pennsylvania and can help you navigate the legal process. It’s important to act quickly as there are time limits car accident victims have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Contact the car accident lawyers at SMT today and schedule your free consultation.