Common Types of Car Accident Injuries

Car crash injuries can be broken down into the following 5 categories:

  • Head and back
  • Neck and chest
  • Arm and leg
  • Soft tissue
  • Organ damage

Head & Back Injuries

Head and back injuries are some of the most severe and challenging to overcome for individuals who sustain them. These injuries can be life-altering and greatly effect work and mobility of a person.

Examples of head and back injuries may include:

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI occurs when brain cells are injured after a blow or jolt to the head. This often happens in car crashes where the neck snaps forward on impact or the skull hits the side window, dashboard, or steering wheel, otherwise known as whiplash. It can also happen in motorcycle crashes where the head receives a heavy blow from falling or colliding with center dividers or other vehicles.

On occasion, minor cases of TBI can be treated at home, such as with a mild concussion—where treatment typically includes rest and medication. However, more severe cases can have long-lasting effects. Permanent brain damage is a severe form of TBI and will require intensive care and life-saving surgery. The MayField Clinic states that those who survive brain injury may have lasting effects on their physical and mental abilities and also their emotions and personality. With the high risks associated with TBI, be sure to notify paramedics at the crash scene and your doctor if pain surfaces after the accident.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries need immediate attention. This category of injury can be further split into:

  • Complete: All feeling and control of movement is lost below the injury
  • Incomplete: Some sensory feeling and/or movement control can still function below the affected area. Incomplete injuries have varying degrees of severity.

Spinal cord injuries are not always immediately noticeable. At times, paralysis may happen right away. In other cases, it can take time before it sets in. Notify the medical staff at the accident scene immediately or go to the hospital as soon as possible after the accident if you suspect you have spinal cord injuries.

Facial Injuries

Facial injuries can be sustained from head-on, rear-end, and side-impact crashes. Flying objects, debris, and broken glass can cause facial injuries to both drivers and passengers. The severity of facial injuries varies, but typically includes the following:

  • Scarring
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Eye damage: temporary or permanent blindness and light sensitivity
  • Broken bones: broken noses, lower jaw, eye socket, and upper jaw

Facial injuries from a car accident may also cause loss of function and a disfigured appearance. Teeth can be cracked and need restorative dental work. A broken jaw can affect a person’s abilities to eat, chew, speak, and swallow. Regardless of your level of pain, notify medical staff at the scene of the accident of any pain you experience.

Neck & Chest Injuries

Neck and chest injuries are also commonly sustained in car accidents. Being thrown forward in crashes can cause bruising and further injuries from the seatbelt or impact on the steering wheel or airbag. Chest injuries can be extremely damaging and may even cause death.

Broken & Bruised Ribs

Rib injuries can range from mild bruising to broken bones. It’s difficult to know the extent of rib damage immediately after the accident. Broken ribs typically heal on their own within one or two months. However, they can also cause other issues, such as puncturing blood vessels or internal organs.

Heart Attack & Stroke

Minor heart attacks may not be as noticeable after an accident compared to other injuries. Boston University School of Medicine research has shown that adults aged 65 and older are more susceptible to having a heart attack or stroke after car accidents. Therefore, letting your doctor know weeks and months down the road about suspected heart issues or chest pains after an accident is important.

Arm & Leg Injuries

Arm and legs injuries can range from dislocated joints, broken bones, and in severe cases, loss of limbs. Dislocated joints and broken bones sometimes may not be apparent at the scene of the accident. Pain in the joint can indicate dislocation even if the joint does not appear to be damaged. Broken bones may not always be obviously bent out of place, but other symptoms may include swelling, bruising, numbness, and limited mobility. In major car accidents, loss of limbs can occur from trauma at the scene or complications that arise later. If you have lost a limb at the scene of an accident, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises. Sprains occur when ligaments are stretched or torn. This can happen in the knee, ankle, wrist, thumb, and elbow. Strains involve injury to a muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches muscle to a bone. Strains from car accidents typically occur in the beck, back, foot, and leg. Bruising in most cases can heal by itself. However, it is also possible to be bruised so severely that it threatens your health. For example, if your chest is hit or punctured, your heart may bruise and cause long-term damage. Whether you are experiencing light or intense pain, be sure to notify the medical staff who arrive at the scene or consult with your doctor afterwards.

Organ Damage

In car accidents, organs can sometimes be punctured by objects or broken bones and/or receive blunt force trauma. The most frequently affected organs are the spleen, liver, kidneys, and small intestines. When organs are damaged, this can lead to internal bleeding that may cause blood clots days or weeks after the accident. Signs of blood clotting may include throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness, sharp chest pain, and/or coughing up blood. Blood clots can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening. Call 911 if you begin to experience symptoms.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Not all injuries from car accidents are physical. Victims of car accidents can experience emotional stress for days, weeks, or even months after the accident. In more severe car accidents, victims can be left with PTSD. While symptoms vary from person to person, if you begin to experience vivid flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and/or intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the accident, you may need to reach out to a psychiatrist of psychologist for help. These professionals can find you the appropriate treatment for PTSD that may involve a combination of therapy and medication.

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