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Behind the Wheel: A Closer Look at the Top 5 Injuries Sustained From a Car Crash

If you’ve ever been in a serious car crash, you know how devastating they can be. One second, you’re driving along on your way to work, running an errand, or picking up your kids from school. The next second, you’re reeling by the side of the road.

Making matters even worse? Dealing with injuries after the accident.

Roughly 6 million car accidents occur every year in the United States. Three million people are injured in those accidents, including 2 million who experience permanent injuries.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at five of the most common injuries sustained from car crashes. Understanding these injuries, their causes and impacts can help you navigate the way forward after an auto accident.

Top Five Car Accident-Related Injuries

1. Traumatic Brain Injuries and Concussions

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in car accidents are common occurrences. Concussions are one type of brain injury, and the CDC reports that each year, roughly 289,000 concussions result from car accidents.

The symptoms of concussion and TBI may be mild or severe. They can include:

  • Intense mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Double vision
  • Ringing in the ears

Recovery from TBI will depend upon individual circumstances, including the exact nature of the injury. TBI and concussion usually involves swelling of the brain, changes in brain chemistry and sometimes bleeding. Physical symptoms must be resolved before other symptoms can abate. Often, the symptoms of TBI and concussion can be similar. That’s another reason why it’s always essential to be diagnosed by a medical professional after a car accident.

2. Whiplash

Whiplash is the most common car accident injury. Often caused by rear-end car accidents, this neck injury occurs due to the “forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck.” Even though our vehicles are equipped with head rests on the seats specifically made to stop this type of neck and spinal cord injury, they can still cause significant pain and injury as a result of a crash.

Whiplash symptoms may develop in the days following a car accident and may include:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, upper back and/or arm that worsens with movement
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Headaches (often stemming from the base of the skull)
  • Arm tingling or numbness
  • Fatigue or dizziness

Some people may suffer additional symptoms, such as blurry vision, tinnitus, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability and depression.

While some cases of whiplash resolve within a few weeks with pain medication and exercise, more severe cases lead to chronic neck pain and far-reaching complications, often resulting in permanent injury.

3. Spine Injuries

Spine injuries from car accidents can lead to a host of problems, such as low back pain, neurological symptoms like numbness and weakness, and much more. There are at least seven different types of spine injuries that can occur from car accidents, including but not limited to:

1.     Vertebrae fractures, where one or more vertebrae cracks or breaks

2.     Back sprains/strains, where soft tissue is stretched beyond its normal capabilities

3.     Displaced vertebrae, a type of stress fracture that compresses the spinal nerves

4.     Herniated disc, where a disc in between vertebrae is shifted and/or compressed

5.     Discogenic pain, where general damage to spinal discs causes sharp, shooting pains reverberating down through the leg

6.     Facet joint injuries, where untreated spine trauma causes muscle spasms, radiating pain or back tenderness

7.     Degenerative spinal disorders, running the gamut from bone spurs to spinal osteoarthritis and more

Spinal injuries from car accidents may not be immediately obvious. You may not experience symptoms  for days, weeks, months or even years afterward. However, the resulting injuries can cause debilitating pain, difficulty extending or flexing your arms or legs, and loss of range of motion — all of which can prevent you from working or enjoying life to the fullest.

4. Torn Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons at the top of your shoulder that enable the widest range of motion in the body. Rotator cuff injuries happen when blunt force trauma is applied to the shoulder area. During car accidents, rotator cuff injuries are often caused by the sudden retraction of seat belt restraints or the violent explosion of airbags.

Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff may include one or more of the following:

  • Limited range of motion and lack of strength in that arm
  • Inability to lift arm above head
  • Tingling sensation in the arm
  • Popping or cracking sound when moving arm
  • Pain and/or discomfort when moving arm
  • Pain or discomfort when lying on injured shoulder
  • Headache
  • Inability or pain when turning head from side to side

A torn rotator cuff injury may consist of a partial or complete tear of one or more tendons in that muscle group. While some rotator cuff injuries in car accidents may heal on their own over a long period of time, many require surgery to repair the tendon.

5. Broken Bones

In a car traveling at a speed of 25 mph, a 175-pound adult wearing a seat belt will experience a collision equal to the force of being hit with nearly 3 tons of bricks. Given this information, it’s not surprising that bone fractures are common injuries sustained during car accidents.

Specifically, broken bones can be caused by many forces, including the following:

  • Being ejected from a vehicle upon impact (especially while not wearing a seat belt)
  • Crushing forces
  • Bracing for impact and/or reaching forward instinctively for protection
  • Contact with airbags or loose items that turn into projectiles during collisions
  • Slamming into seat backs and dashboards

Some of the most common fractures that happen during car accidents include breaks to the spinal vertebrae of the back and neck, clavicle, pelvic bone, fibula, femur, facial bones, skull and sternum.

There are also different kinds of breaks, which vary in terms of cause, pain and severity. Broken bones that are often treated with immobilization using boots, splints or casts include hairline fractures (small breaks), buckle fractures (bone bends instead of breaking) and stress fractures (one side of bone bends while the other side breaks).

Keep in mind that hairline fractures can also be overlooked following car accidents, with many victims going days or weeks without treatment. During that time, cracks can worsen.

More severe fractures that often require surgical repair include avulsion fractures (at the junction of tendons and ligaments), transverse fractures (bone breaks into two pieces), compound fractures (bone penetrates skin), oblique fractures (bone twists upon impact) and comminuted fractures (bone breaks into three or more pieces, often requiring amputation).

In addition to pain, changes in appearance and difficulty using a fractured body part, other symptoms of  a broken bone may include dizziness, wooziness, chills, stiffness, bruising, swelling, weakness and warmth.

As evident from the descriptions above, the nature of and treatment for bone breaks vary widely. Basic breaks may have a short and easy treatment recovery time, while more complex breaks may require intensive additional treatment, such as physical therapy. Factors like age and overall health also affect treatment and recovery for bone breaks.

Common Causes of Car Accidents

Depending on the circumstances, there are many types of car crashes, including rollover, side-impact, rear-end, multiple-vehicle, head-on and truck accidents, as well as collisions with animals, pedestrians, bikes or motorcycles.

And with millions of car accidents causing tens of thousands of injuries in the United States every year, it begs the question: What’s to blame for all of these accidents and injuries? Car accidents occur for many reasons, including a driver’s inattention, impairment, fatigue, speeding, road rage or illegal use of the vehicle. Other factors could also cause or contribute to a crash, such as weather, auto malfunction, and debris or animals in the roadway.

Contact Dunnion Law Today

If you have been injured in a car accident, you may not yet realize all the ways that catastrophic auto accident injuries may affect you. However, you do have legal recourse that can help ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Dunnion Law’s mission is to hold the responsible party financially accountable for what they have taken from you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.