The Law Offices of Jeffrey Scholnick examine the causes of the five most common injuries sustained in car accidents, and share advice on post-accident medical treatment.
Over 3 million Americans are injured annually in vehicle accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Car accident injuries, similar to the causes of an accident, vary widely. Some injuries, however, are common to car collisions.
The type and extent of vehicle occupant injuries depend upon several factors: whether the driver or passengers were wearing seat belts, the direction of crash impact (front, side or rear), which way the occupants were facing at the time of the collision, whether the car was traveling at a low or high speed at the moment of the crash, and the prevalence and deployment of airbags.
All car accident injuries can be categorized as either impact injuries or penetrating injuries. Impact injuries occur when a part of the body makes contact with the car’s interior. An impact injury would occur, for example, if the driver’s head were to bump the headrest during a fender bender.
Penetrating injuries are defined as injuries involving the cutting, laceration or scraping of skin. A piece of shattered glass from the side window scraping the driver’s left arm during a side impact collision would qualify as a penetrating injury. Both categories of injuries range from minor bruises and scrapes to more serious internal injuries or lacerations that require stitches.
Soft tissue injuries, which are defined as connective tissue damage to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons caused by a car accident, are the most common type of injury caused by car accidents. Whiplash is the stretching of head and neck muscles and ligaments in reaction to the sudden movement of a collision. It is just one example of a soft tissue injury. Car crashes often cause low and mid back injuries like muscle sprains or damage to the spine.
Scrapes & Cuts
Loose objects kept inside the car can become dangerous when they go flying during a collision. Cell phones, books, and coffee mugs can all cause injury to those inside the car if they are unsecured. These objects, in addition to broken glass and car parts, may cause injuries as minor as small scrapes and as serious as lacerations that require stitches. Airbags also often cause cuts and scrapes during deployment.
Injuries to the head during car accidents range from minor to serious. Whiplash, described above, is just one example. Driver impact with the driver side window or the steering wheel can cause bruises, scrapes, or deep lacerations. Very severe impacts may lead to closed head injuries, during which the contents of the skull incur damage. A concussion is a mild form of closed head injury, but more serious closed head injuries may result in permanent brain damage. An important factor in determining whether a closed head injury or concussion was sustained in the accident, is whether the victim lost consciousness or “blacked out” after impact. Even a short “black out” may be an indication of serious head injury. An Emergency Medical Systems team responding to the accident is trained to ask the victim “Did you lose consciousness?” If the answer is yes, or even “maybe”, the EMS team follows a higher level of awareness to secure the safety of the injured.
Often, head injuries do not show bruises or initial symptoms. Family members describe irritability, memory problems, or change in personality that did not exist before the accident. Head injury is often called the “silent” injury and family and friends should look for these problems after the accident. Special testing can be performed to diagnosis head injury after an accident.
Chest injuries during car accidents most often take the form of contusions or bruises, although serious injuries are also possible. Severe chest injuries include broken ribs and injury to internal organs. The driver commonly suffers chest injuries due to the small amount of space between his chest and the steering wheel. Seat belts commonly cause bruising to the chest during impact. This can also be caused by the deployment of the Air Bag when the impact between cars occurs.
Arm & Leg Injuries
Injuries to the extremities are caused by the same forces that cause head injuries: unnatural sudden direction changes or stops result in the involuntary motion of arms and legs, which often causes injuries to them. Drivers and passengers in the front seat commonly hit their knees on the bottom of the dashboard. Bruises and scrapes to the arms and legs are very common.
Injuries resulting from car accidents are often not immediately obvious. Symptom onset may be delayed as long as a month. If you are in a car accident, no matter whether it is major or minor, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately regardless of how well you may feel. Contact experienced attorney, Jeffrey Scholnick, for more information.