When it comes to car accident injury, no two accidents (or injuries) are ever quite alike. However, some injuries tend to be more common than others. Find out which car accident injuries occur most frequently and what you can do if you’ve been injured in an accident.
HOW MANY ACCIDENTS OCCUR IN THE UNITED STATES? WHICH TYPES OF CAR ACCIDENTS ARE MOST COMMON?
According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, police-reported crashes affect 7.2 million Americans. About 3 million of these individuals are injured. And, tragically, 1 percent of police-reported car accidents result in fatalities.
Types of car accidents include most commonly:
- Rear-end car accidents. A rear-end car accident is the most common type of car accident. From day one, drivers are taught that they must leave adequate distance between their vehicle and the one ahead. If a driver follows too closely, an accident may be imminent, especially in high-traffic situations or if the driver is distracted.
- Side-impact car accidents. A side impact accident occurs most commonly in intersections. Usually, it occurs when another person runs a red light or a stop sign, and then careens into the vehicle that has the right of way. Sometimes, a side-impact crash is called a “T-bone” accident.
- Head-on car accidents. Of all the types of crashes, a head-on collision can result in the most serious injury given its significant impact. In some cases, a head-on collision can tragically result in wrongful death.
FACTORS THAT MAY INFLUENCE TYPE OF INJURY
Car accident injury can be considerably affected by the following factors.
- Seat belt use. If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact, your injuries may likely be moderate to severe depending on the speed and/or direction of the crash.
- Direction of the collision. Side-impact (“T-bone”), head-on, or multi-vehicle crashes can result in severe injuries given the intensity of these types of crashes.
- Occupant position. Drivers or passengers whose heads were turned or whose bodies were facing a different direction at the time of the crash can experience unexpected types of injuries. Sometimes, these injuries may be more severe than expected for the type of crash.
COMMON CAR ACCIDENT INJURIES
It goes without saying that the following list is not a comprehensive inventory of all car accident injuries. Given the complexity of every car accident, an individual can have one or more of the listed injuries in addition to other medical issues that are not represented by the list.
Seek medical care if you are in pain or suspect that you have been injured.
An impact injury occurs when a person’s body hits some part of the vehicle. An impact injury can commonly be caused by:
- Head hitting the seat rest or side window. The head can forcefully hit the back of the headrest resulting in injuries such as whiplash, herniated discs, muscle or nerve damage, or other internal injuries.
- Legs or knees hitting the steering wheel or dashboard. Bones can be broken when legs or knees make impact with hard vehicle surfaces such as the steering wheel or dashboard. Ligaments, nerves and muscles can also be injured.
- Although seat belts should always be worn, they can sometimes cause damage to the body due to the high impact of a car crash.
A penetrating injury occurs when the body is cut, scraped or torn in the event of a car crash. Penetrating injuries can range in type and intensity, but are most commonly due to:
- Fast-moving glass is no match against the fragility of human skin and tissue. Cuts and scrapes due to shattering glass is a common type of penetrating injury.
- Metal can cause severe bodily injuries and may even tragically result in a fatality.
- Projectile objects. The force of a car crash can cause loose items in the vehicle to become instantly dangerous. Mugs, purses, books, cell phones, or windshield-mounted GPS systems can cause cuts and bruises when they are forcefully projected into the body following the impact of a car crash.
- Despite the overwhelming good of airbags, sometimes its sudden release can cause injury.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are the most common types of injuries following a car accident. A soft tissue injury occurs when the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, or connective tissues are damaged. Types of soft tissue injuries include whiplash, herniated discs, nerve damage, muscle sprains, or spinal injuries.
Soft tissue injuries can also appear in the form of a penetrating injury such as a scrape or cut.
Broken Bones, Contusions, Sprains
Arms and legs are vulnerable to the high impact of car accidents. Given the nature of high impact, individuals often report broken arms or legs following a car crash. This may occur due to the sudden impact of legs hitting the dashboard or the seats ahead. Some people may experience broken arms due to stiffening into the steering wheel at time of impact. Conversely, arms or legs may hit parts of the vehicle that may result in a bone contusion. Sprains are also quite common.
It may take days or weeks for contusions and sprains to appear. Even small fractures may not immediately become noticeable until hours or days following the accident. If you have been involved in an accident, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention even if you feel slight pain. Any discomfort can be a sign that your body is injured. Seek medical care if you suspect any kind of injury, even if you suspect that the injury is “mild.”
Chest injuries are commonly seen after a car accident. Some chest injuries can present in the form of bruises or contusions, but more severe injuries include:
- Broken ribs. The high impact of a car crash can cause the chest to barrel forward into the airbag, steering wheel, or seat belt, resulting in broken ribs.
- Internal injuries. As the body is thrown forward in a crash, the immediate force inside the body can cause significant internal damage. Punctured or collapsed lungs may occur following an accident.
- Internal bleeding. Blood vessels can rupture and cause internal bleeding that cannot be seen by the naked eye. That’s why getting medical attention right away is so important in cases of suspected internal bleeding.
- Organ damage. Whether it’s a physical blow to an organ or a punctured organ, this type of injury is serious and can even result in wrongful death.
Head injuries are another common type of car accident injury. Head injuries can be serious given the proximity of the injury to important organs like the brain and spinal cord. Typical head injuries occur due to:
- Unnatural movement of the head. After impact, a vehicle’s rapid change of direction can cause the head and neck to move unnaturally, causing damage to internal structures within the head and neck.
- Head impact. A seat belt or airbag can only do so much to prevent the head from moving unnaturally at the time of impact. The head remains vulnerable despite these various safety features. When the head makes contact with the steering wheel or glass window, an individual might experience head lacerations, scrapes, and bruises. Other types of head injuries include fluid and tissue damage or concussions. The most serious form of head injury is called a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A traumatic brain injury can often cause permanent disability.
Car accident velocity can cause the spinal cord to bend or contort unnaturally. Spinal cord injuries can take the form of paralysis, herniated discs, fractured discs or other forms of catastrophic injury to the back and spine. Several types of spinal injuries are most common following an accident. These include:
- Herniated discs. Symptoms associated with a herniated disc diagnosis can vary widely. Generally, though, a herniated disc diagnosis means the soft cushion between the discs have ruptured. Pressure on the nerves can also accompany a herniated disc. Types of herniation include protruded, extruded, and sequestered discs.
- Cervical myelopathy. Cervical myelopathy occurs when the spinal canal narrows in the top five vertebrae in the spine. Individuals report neck pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands. The increased pressure within the spine can affect mobility including fine motor skills such as tying a shoe or buttoning a shirt.
- Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is a fracture that occurs when one vertebra slips over another. There are two types of spondylolisthesis diagnoses: degenerative and isthmic.
- Vertebral compression fracture. As the name suggests, the vertebrae are compressed together resulting in a shorter height of the spine. Pain in the lower back is common, but some individuals may feel pain in the upper back or neck.
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