The National Safety Council observed a dramatic rise in motor-vehicle accident fatalities and injuries in the US. Car accident injuries are the primary cause of death for those aged 5 to 29.
Thousands, if not millions, of people are at risk of sustaining serious harm in car crashes. It raises the question of the common injuries people might sustain after an auto accident.
It is essential to highlight two types of car accident injuries: impact and penetrating.
Impact injuries happen when an occupant collides with any object or when they are thrown out of the car. For instance, drivers can receive impact injuries when their heads hit the dashboard or a window.
On the other hand, penetrating injuries occur when an object pierces a passenger’s skin. For example, shattered glass from a broken windshield can cause penetrating injuries because of lacerations.
If you sustained serious injuries after a car accident, the best approach is to seek legal representation. Hiring a personal injury lawyer helps victims have a higher chance of recovering damages from car crash injuries. Many law firms offer free consultations for interested clients who want an initial case review.
1. Facial Injuries
Motor vehicle collisions are one of the most common sources of facial injuries. Facial fractures due to car crashes are more likely to be associated with head trauma. Depending on the severity, facial trauma can entail facial swelling, bruising, bleeding, lacerations, and deformity.
Sustaining facial injuries can also lead to several complications. For instance, a broken nose can injure nasal passageways, making it hard to breathe. An injured eye can cause damage to surrounding nerves and may result in blindness.
What are the types of facial injuries?
Facial injuries have three categories: soft tissue injuries, fractures, and contusions.
Soft tissue injuries are generally abrasions, gashes, cuts, and deep wounds that require stitches. Typically, a solid blow to the face and lacerations by metal or glass cause soft tissue injuries. Examples include torn skin, facial burns, nerve damage, eye damage, cut tongue, and damage to salivary glands.
However, it is more challenging to document bruises right after a car accident. In many cases, swelling and infections only appear hours or days after the incident.
Facial fractures are any broken bone on the face. It often impairs function and distorts appearance. Severe fractures can cause cerebrospinal fluid to leak, which is dangerous as it is the fluid that surrounds the brain.
Fractures related to auto accidents include cracked noses and broken upper or lower jaws. Other examples include broken teeth, eye sockets, and broken bones in the midface, such as cheekbones.
Contusions are bruises that crack or crush underlying muscle and tissue without breaking the skin. It is one of the most serious facial injuries, which can lead to life-threatening complications. For instance, a hemorrhage can quickly follow head contusions, causing brain damage.
Causes of facial injuries after a car accident
Typical car accidents cause shattered glass from windshields and windows to pierce the skin and result in facial injuries. In some cases, the sudden impact of a car crash could eject occupants from the car. It might lead the occupant to hit the pavement and cause facial disfigurement.
Also, airbags and steering wheels could cause facial fractures if occupants do not wear seatbelts. When this happens, contact with an airbag can cause contusions.
Long-term effects of facial injuries
Scarring is the most common outcome of facial repair or reconstruction, especially for those who received lacerations or burns. In some cases, car accident victims can experience hypoesthesia or sensory loss on injured parts of their faces.
Other complications include eyelid deformities and nose-related issues. Patients who face these consequences usually need surgery to correct them.
2. Broken Bones
The impact of a car accident is often the primary cause of broken bones in a car accident. The most common types of fractures are stable, open, transverse, obliques, and comminuted fractures.
- Stable: The ends of a broken bone line up and are narrowly out of place.
- Open or compound: The blow or bone breaks the skin on impact. There is also a chance the bone is visible in the wound.
- Transverse: A horizontal fracture line on the bone.
- Oblique: An angled pattern caused the fracture.
- Comminuted: The bone shattered into multiple pieces.
A hairline fracture is small enough that a car accident victim might not feel anything. But there are warning signs that you need to look for a possible fracture. It includes the following:
- Hearing a snap or crack upon impact or when you make a move after the accident
- Seeing broken skin or disfigurement in the area
- Bruising or swelling on the impacted area
- Feeling a sharp pain when you place weight on or near the area
Most common bones to break during a car crash
In most cases, a car accident fractures the arm, wrist, legs and thighs, collarbones, and ribs.
Car passengers instinctually extend their arms to brace themself upon impact or when blocking the airbag as it deploys. This action often results in compound arm fractures. Likewise, wrist fractures occur when you place your hands on the steering wheel or the dashboard during a car crash.
Meanwhile, occupants in the front seat are more likely to injure their legs and thighs. It usually happens when a car crumples into itself during a collision. On the other hand, fractured collarbone and ribs are typical injuries you can sustain after a car crash. The seatbelt crosses these bones, so severe injuries can arise when your weight pushes your body against it upon impact.
How are broken bones treated?
In most cases, a plaster or fiberglass cast can quickly treat broken bones. However, some bones, like the collarbone and ribs, cannot be placed in casts. In these cases, the patient must be immobilized or on bed rest. Severe fractures may require surgery so plates, screws, and other devices can reinforce the bone.
3. Internal Organ Damage
Car accidents can cause damage to various internal organs like the heart, lungs, liver, etc. Solid and hollow organs make up the midsection of a person’s body. These body parts react differently to trauma.
Solid organs like the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and spleen have organ tissue throughout. When subjected to trauma, they can rupture or develop hematomas. The latter occurs when small blood vessels burst and blood collects inside the organ.
Hollow organs like the intestines, colon, bladder, stomach, and ureters have an organ wall that envelops a void. When they experience trauma, their walls can tear and permit material within to leak out. Further complications may occur when fluids inside hollow organs leak out.
Broken ribs are especially prone to cause internal bleeding. It can slice open organs and cause severe internal injuries.
Signs you have internal organ damage
There are various warning signs for internal injuries. It includes sudden vertigo, muscle fatigue, vision problems, etc. Other examples include:
- Fainting or passing out
- Unusual low blood pressure
- Numbness or tingling on the body’s extremities
- Sudden and persistent severe headaches
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea
Health complications from internal organ damage
Internal organ damage often leads to internal bleeding. If left untreated, it can lead to lethal hemorrhagic shock. That usually happens when organs shut down and suffer permanent damage.
Another complication is abdominal compartment syndrome, which happens when damaged organs swell. Usually, there is enough room in the abdomen for swelling, but excessive swelling can increase pressure in the patient’s midsection. It restricts blood supply to the organs and can increase the risk of death.
4. Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries occur when a sudden external assault impacts the brain. TBIs range from mild concussions to severe damage that can escalate to coma or even death. Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries. Usually, rest and medications can treat mild brain injuries. But car accident victims with serious injuries might require intensive care and life-saving surgery.
Forms of traumatic brain injuries from car accidents
TBIs are of different types depending on the effects of trauma. These include the following:
- Concussion: A mild injury causes a brief loss of consciousness and does not often lead to permanent brain injury.
- Contusion: A bruise to a particular area of the brain because of a trauma.
- Diffuse axonal injury (DAI): It occurs when nerve cells stretch at the cellular level. When the brain quickly jostles inside the skull, it tears and damages nerve axons. Axons are the nerve cell connectors in the brain.
- Traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (tSAH): It happens when there is bleeding in the void that surrounds the brain. This void is usually full of fluid that acts as a cushion that shields the brain. When small arteries tear upon trauma, it can cause tSAH.
- Hematoma: It is a blood clot that manifests when a blood vessel ruptures. When blood escapes from the usual bloodstream, it can thicken and clot. It may stay small or grow until it compresses the brain.
Symptoms of traumatic brain injuries and their effects
Warning signs of TBI include cognitive, motor, sensory, language, social, and personality changes. The effects of a brain injury can range from short-term physical manifestations to long-term changes.
- Cognitive: coma, memory loss, confusion, loss of sense of time and space, problem-solving deficits
- Motor: paralysis, poor balance, tremors, swallowing problems, poor coordination, decreased endurance
- Sensory: loss or heightened body sensations, left or right-sided neglect, vision problems, and changes in hearing, taste, touch, and smell
- Language: difficulties in reading, writing, and speaking and problems identifying objects and their function
- Social: impaired social capacity, difficulty with activities that require social interaction
- Personality: anxiety and depression, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, apathy, and irritability
Some trauma survivors experience persistent post-concussion syndrome, where symptoms last from a few weeks to several months. Most often, patients experience fatigue, increased irritability, anxiety or depression, irregular sleeping patterns, memory loss, and noise and light sensitivity.
5. Back and Neck Injuries
Muscle contraction is the body’s natural response to an impending accident, increasing the risk of serious injuries. The sudden impact from a car crash can expose the back and neck to violent movement. Regardless of the vehicle’s speed, neck and back trauma can arise from car crashes.
Signs you have back and neck injuries
Back and neck injury symptoms fall under two classifications: immediate and delayed. Immediate symptoms of back and neck injuries include the following:
- Inability to move the body’s extremities
- Extreme pain in the head, back, or neck
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty in breathing
- Failure to control the bladder or bowels
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in any part of the body
Delayed symptoms include the following:
- Persistent headaches
- Abdomen pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness
- Sharp pain in the back, neck, or shoulders
- Constant numbness or tingling of the limbs
- Decreased vision or hearing
Common neck injuries after a car accident
Typical injuries from car accidents include whiplash, lumbar sprains, and acute mechanical back pain.
The sudden impact of an auto accident often causes whiplash. This injury occurs when the collision causes the head to move forcefully from side to side or front to back. It damages ligaments, muscles, and connective tissues in the neck and upper back. The most common cause of whiplash is rear-end collisions.
Similarly, a car crash impact can cause damage to the muscles and surrounding tissue in the back. It may cause severe lower back pain, signifying a lumbar sprain. On the other hand, mechanical back pain is a musculoskeletal injury. It occurs when there is damage to spinal joints, vertebrae, discs, and soft tissues.
6. Spinal cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries differ from back injuries as they involve ruptured discs, spinal stenosis, or pinched nerves. Note that functional loss can occur without severing the spinal cord. External trauma, like motor vehicle accidents, is a leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
Types of spinal cord injuries
Spinal cord injuries are of two categories, complete and incomplete, depending on the location and severity of the damage. The lowest portion of the spinal cord that remains intact after the injury defines your nervous system’s injury level.
Complete spinal cord injuries occur when you lose all feeling and motor functions below the damage. Meanwhile, incomplete spinal cord injuries happen when you have some sensory or motor function below the affected area.
Spinal cord injury symptoms and effects
Warning signs include extreme back pain, numbness, incoordination, or paralysis. Other symptoms include the following:
- Bladder or bowel control loss
- Difficulty with walking and balance
- Impaired breathing
A spinal cord injury’s effects can be classified into tetraplegia and paraplegia. Tetraplegia, or quadriplegia, results in the loss of function in all four limbs, torso, and pelvic organs. An injury usually causes this to the cervical region of the spinal cord.
Paraplegia, on the other hand, is a type of paralysis characterized by the loss of movement and sensation in the legs and lower body. This usually occurs in the thoracic or lumbar region of the spinal cord.
7. Emotional Distress
A traumatic incident like a motor vehicle accident can cause post-traumatic stress disorder in victims. Painful memories from the accident may trigger long-term mental and emotional health conditions like anxiety and depression. PTSD is unlike any difficulties people might experience when adjusting after a remorseful event. It can last for years and interfere with routine life activities.
Warning signs of emotional pain after a car crash
Emotional distress symptoms include intrusive memories, avoidance, and mood and behavior changes.
Car accident victims diagnosed with PTSD may relive the traumatic event numerous times. After the incident, they can experience recurrent, unwanted memories, nightmares, and severe distress. Sometimes, victims can develop a physical response when subjected to reminders of the accident.
They may also try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event and refuse to discuss related topics. People with PTSD may also have difficulty maintaining a positive outlook following the incident. They may face challenges with memories and feel detached from loved ones.
Victims with PTSD usually frighten easily and expect danger in many aspects of their life. They may develop irregular sleeping patterns and destructive behaviors like drug or alcohol abuse.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress
NIED happens when someone suffers emotional distress because of another’s negligent behavior. You can recover damages via an insurance claim if you experience mental trauma after a car accident.
NIED also covers those in the “zone of danger.” You are entitled to compensation when you see a loved one suffer a traumatic event because of another party’s negligence.
Suppose an insurance company refuses to provide a fair settlement for your pain and suffering. In that case, you may also file a lawsuit.
Worst Car Accident With Most Fatalities
The National Safety Council recorded more than 42,000 motor-vehicle deaths in 2020. Angle collisions represent 46 percent of car crash fatalities in the United States.
Angle collisions, including T-bone accidents, often injure passengers because of the vulnerabilities of car doors. It occurs when one car perpendicularly hits another vehicle. Usually, when drivers run red lights or fail to yield at intersections, this type of accident happens.
Passengers can experience fractures and neck injuries in angle collisions as car doors can fold in upon impact. For instance, a driver’s arm might fracture if their hands were on the wheel.
In some cases, when the impact force crumples the car doors, the passengers may be trapped inside. Shattered glass from broken windows can also cause cuts or lacerations on different body parts, especially the face and head.
How can passengers prevent serious injuries in a car crash?
In 2020, 56 percent of fatally injured car occupants were not wearing seatbelts. Passengers commonly depend on airbags for protection during crashes, but they function best with seatbelts. An unrestrained passenger can face danger from a deployed airbag.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are now present in more vehicles and alert and assist drivers in reducing car crashes. Human drivers often fail to recognize hazards, mainly due to distraction, causing most driver errors that lead to accidents. ADAS technologies identify and respond
Did you know?
In 2020, total car accident injury costs amounted to $473 billion. They include medical expenses, vehicle property damage, wage and productivity losses, administrative fees, and employer costs.
Connect With a Competent Personal Injury Lawyer For Your Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents can be overwhelming and often result in serious injuries or death. The worst car crash injuries can leave victims with shattered lives, and in many cases, the accidents were preventable. When a car crash is due to negligence, it doubles the tragedy for the victims.
The best approach in the aftermath is to seek legal advice from a qualified personal injury lawyer. They can help victims seek compensation for their injuries and suffering from such a traumatic event.
Helping car accident victims is what The Personal Injury Center does best. We have the resourcesto help clients achieve their desired results. We can refer car accident attorneys that can provide a free case evaluation to review your case and evaluate your situation.
Contact a personal injury attorney to manage the worst car crash injuries. The Personal Injury Center can help connect you to experienced lawyers for your case.
FAQs on the Top Seven Worst Car Crash Injuries
What are the recoverable damages for car crash injuries?
Recover both economic and non-economic damages for injuries sustained in a car crash. Economic damages compensate for financial losses due to the accident. These include property damage, medical expenses, lost income, loss of future earnings, physical therapy, and future medical costs.
Meanwhile, non-economic damages are for emotional losses. It includes mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of companionship and enjoyment, and inconveniences.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence rules are the basis of how much damages a car accident victim can recover from their claim. They award victims compensation according to the degree of responsibility of each party contributing to the incident.
When the plaintiff is partially at fault, the court reduces awards by their assigned percentage of fault. For example, if you are 40 percent at fault for a car accident, you may only recover 60 percent of the damages.
How soon should I see a medical professional after a car accident?
Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you don’t feel any discomfort or pain, you may have some underlying injuries that can worsen as time goes on. In addition, seeing a doctor can help expedite insurance claims. Victims having medical records can prove that an injury exists and can also help determine the amount of damages they can receive.