The Most Common Injuries In Car Accidents [Updated]

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most common car accident injuries explained

Did you know its common to feel unhurt after an accident, only for more serious symptoms to present later?

It’s true, a number of the common injuries in car accidents can take time to exhibit following the crash.  The shock of the incident can hide injury symptoms, and some impact damage to the soft tissues of the body can result in swelling which can get worse as time passes.  A collision is a traumatic event to the body, so lets take a moment to cover some of the most common injuries sustained when vehicles collide.

Soft Tissue Injuries Sustained In a Crash

It’s no wonder that a car accident serious enough to bend metal is capable of some serious trauma to your body’s soft tissues including muscle, ligaments and tendons.  The most common type of injury reported following a wreck, these painful personal injuries are sustained when the force of the impact causes these tissues to stretch, tear, or bruise.  The connective tissue in the body isn’t designed to handle the sudden jerking movement and these tissues are commonly damaged with painful results.

Whiplash:  The most common soft tissue injury occurs in the neck when the head is jerked forward suddenly when the car accelerates or decelerates suddenly.  The head jerks forward or back and suddenly snaps back, stretching the neck, damaging ligaments and potentially hurting the spinal cord.  Direct blows to the neck can even crush the larynx or trachea. Whiplash injuries in a car accident can result in chronic pain in even relatively mild accidents, and it can sometimes take days for symptoms to appear.

Symptoms of whiplash injuries can include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Back Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Neck Pain and Mobility Problems
  • Tingling Arms and Other Unusual Sensations
  • Dizziness & Blurred Vision

Skin Abrasions and Cuts:  With shattered glass, flying projectiles and traumatic impacts to the body, it’s no wonder cuts, abrasions and skin tears are common to auto accident participants.  These penetrating injury cuts can result in bleeding, and depending on how serious may require medical attention to prevent further loss of blood.  Wounds to the scalp and face can result in heavy bleeding and facial injuries should be seen to by a medical professional as you may need stitches or it could be an indicator of something more serious.  Signs of heavy bruising should be examined by a medical professional as well as it also may require medical attention.

Sprains, Pulls, Arms, Legs and Feet:  The muscles and ligaments throughout your body are susceptible to damage in a collision.  Your arms and legs have the potential to be thrown about violently, potentially hurting your ankles, knees, elbows, hands, shoulders and back.  The accident can result in swelling, tears and pulls, with very serious consequences to your mobility and often resulting in chronic pain.  Again it can take days for symptoms to exhibit in such injuries, if your accident was strong enough to bend metal, you should be examined by a doctor to fully diagnose your potential injuries.

Internal Injuries

Sudden collisions can often result in throwing your body with surprising force against objects in the car including your steering wheel, the side door, the dashboard, other passengers, any loose objects and other potentially harmful objects.  If you suffered a blunt force impact, you may have potentially damaged internal organs, your chest, lungs, or brain.  The potential for damage in even a minor accident can be surprising.   If you suffer any dizziness, swelling, bruising or unusual sensations, it may be an indicator of a more serious internal injury.

Diaphragm Rupture:  The force of a collision can lead to the tearing of the muscle lining the bottom of your rib cage utilized in breathing commonly seen if you suffer an impact to the lower chest.    Very painful or labored breathing can be a symptom you have ruptured your diaphragm in the accident.

(Related: Blunt Trauma Diaphragm Rupture Treatment NIH Study)

Abdominal Injuries:  Organ damage can often occur in a car crash.  The liver, spleen, kidneys and other organs can often suffer trauma at the time of impact and result in abdominal pain, blood in urine, internal bleeding other symptoms.   The organs are especially susceptible to damage from blunt force trauma sustained in side-impact crashes.

Head and Brain Injuries

Traumatic blows to the head can result in very serious injuries to the brain, face and structures of the head, which can result in cognitive or psychological problems in addition to physical traumas.  Indeed, injuries to the brain can be sustained without a blow to the head if it is jerked too suddenly upon impact, resulting in an axonal shear injury to the receptors in the brain.  Additionally, injuries such as concussions, and swelling are common.

Traumatic Brain Injury:  Approximately 50% of all head injuries in the U.S. are caused by either slip and fall accidents or car accidents.  TBI damage can range from severe to mild with a wide range of symptoms following the violent impact which caused it.  Symptoms which may indicate you have suffered a traumatic brain injury can include: confusion, headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating to dramatic psychological and emotional disruptions.  Often delayed in presenting, many mild brain injuries are never diagnosed or treated.  Read more about traumatic brain injuries here.

Concussions:  Concussive injuries to the brain result from a traumatic blow, and can result in brain bleeding, swelling, nerve damage or other problems resulting from the brains impact with the skull that contains it.  You can view the Brain Trauma Foundation concussion checklist here. The damage can very serious and you should seek medical attention in the event of a concussion injury.

Headaches:  Headaches after a wreck should not be ignored and could be sign of brain injury sustained in the incident.  What may seem a minor inconvenience post-crash may be an indicator of something more serious, with the potential to worsen as swelling increases with time.

Axonal Shear Brain Injuries:  An axonal injury occurs when the sudden movement of your head is violent enough to essentially slosh the brain around inside the skull violently enough to twist and damage axons in the brain.  This type of injury is commonly seen in car accidents in cases the head is violently whipped around without a traumatic blow to a hard surface.  The brain damage suffered in such injuries can vary from mild to severe depending on how violent the incident was which caused it.

Facial Damage:  In the event of a head-on collision or other accident, the potential for facial damage is high, as your face could impact the windshield, commonly sustains a forceful blow from the airbag or can collide with the steering wheel or dashboard.  Nosebleeds, orbital fractures, damage to the eye socket, mouth, jaw and cheekbones is common.   Injuries to the skull can occur, and the ears are not immune to the ravages of a vehicle accident.  Teeth can sustain damage, and depending on the impact facial reconstruction may be necessary.

Skeletal Injuries and Bone Fractures

Few events have the potential for violent and varied injuries as a auto accident.  Paramedics and first responders would not be surprised to find participants with a variety of bone breaks, fractures and other injuries.  The arms and legs can commonly suffer impact fractures and breaks, hands and feet can commonly sustain damage and the back and neck are commonly hurt in the accident.

Spinal Injuries:  Damage to the spine in a serious accident can result in paralysis, chronic pain, and even death.  Back injuries are commonly sustained in accidents resulting from a combination of damage to vertabrae in conjunction with soft tissue injuries and can result in a lifetime of pain, reduced mobility and spine problems.  The spine can be damaged and even severed completely leading to a lifetime of back problems, paralysis and sometimes death.

Collar Bone Breaks:  Broken collar bones can sometimes result from impact blows when the participant is thrown violently against the steering wheel or dashboard.  Wearing a seatbelt can greatly reduce the likelihood of a damaging blow capable of such an injury but does not rule out its occurrence altogether if the crash was at high speeds, or resulted from the forces of a head-on collision.

Hip / Pelvis Fractures:  It’s not uncommon for victims of a car and truck accidents to suffer compressive pelvic injuries.  A high energy force, like that found in a motor vehicle accident, can cause fractures, and in cases of lateral compression injuries common in side-impact crashes, the force of impact can essentially snap the pelvic bowl.  Hip and pelvic injuries often require a painful and difficult treatment process, multiple surgeries to repair, and the prospect of life-long mobility complications.  You can read more about the treatment, causes and risks associated with hip fractures via Cedars-Sinai.

Feet, Hands and Limbs:  Injuries to the toes, fingers and bones in your limbs are common in severe accidents, and can result from crushing impacts, twists, and snapping forces sustained in the car accident.  Fingers commonly impact with the windshield, bones can be crushed, and full use can be impaired.

See Also: How To Prove Fault In Car Crash

Final Thoughts On Common Accident Injuries

The varied injuries commonly seen caused by motor vehicle accidents are varied and very from minor to the very serious and life-threatening.  Serious injuries could call from long, expensive bouts of physical rehabilitation, multiple surgeries and medical treatment in the hopes of recovery.

Brain injuries sustained in a car accident can harmfully disrupt your emotional and psychological balance, as well as lead to a number of cognitive problems and symptoms.

In short, an auto accident can change your health and overturn your life in an instant.  Many of the most common car accident injuries detailed above can take days for symptoms to exhibit but require years, even a lifetime to treat.  Seek medical attention no matter how you feel following a collision, don’t take your health for granted.  Your doctor being able to diagnose how you have been hurt early,  may hold the key to your recovery.



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Additional Data:
Motor Vehicle Accidents and Fatality Fact Sheet
CDC Federal Data on Impact of Seatbelt Use To Reduce Crash-Related Injuries


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