Common Car Accident Injuries
A car accident can cause severe injuries to just about any part of the body – below, we will discuss some of the more common car accident injuries that Axelrod & Associates’ Myrtle Beach car accident lawyers see, including:
- Common car accident injuries,
- Soft tissue injuries and whiplash,
- Spinal cord and back injuries,
- Slipped discs and annular tears, and
- Delayed onset injuries.
When your injuries are caused by another driver’s negligence, you are entitled to full and fair compensation for the damage that they caused, including your medical expenses, future medical expenses, long term care, pain and suffering, and other categories of damages that you may be entitled to based on the facts of your case and the specific injuries that you suffered.
Common Injuries Sustained in Auto Accidents
Some of the more common injuries after car accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions,
- Spinal cord injuries that can result in partial or total paralysis,
- Back injuries including slipped discs and annular tears,
- Burns that may require surgery and skin grafts,
- Internal injuries to organs and internal bleeding,
- Broken bones and fractures,
- Facial injuries, scars, and disfigurement that may require surgery to repair and may leave permanent scarring,
- Loss of limbs/ amputation,
- Neck injuries, soft tissue injuries, and whiplash,
- Knee, shoulder, wrist, and other joint injuries,
- Cuts, bruises, or road rash,
- Crushing injuries that can damage tissue, muscles, and bones, and
- Mental or emotional injury like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some of these injuries are readily apparent at the crash scene, while the severity of others may not be apparent until hours or even weeks after the car accident.
Some injuries, like a broken arm, may be easily provable, but others are not visible and may be more difficult to prove, like soft tissue injuries or PTSD.
Some car accident injuries can be treated and healed, then your life can get back to normal. Others, however, can cause permanent damage and require lifelong treatment and care.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Auto accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States.
They result from a traumatic blow to the spine that damages the spine’s vertebrae. The damage usually worsens over the next few days or weeks as fluid collects in the spinal cord, and it continues to bleed and swell.
The damage caused by a spinal cord injury affects the nerves that pass through the damaged area and can cause partial or permanent paralysis in the injured person. Depending on what area of the spinal cord was injured, the injury could affect the person’s bowel and bladder control, sexual function, and even the ability to breathe.
Spinal Disc Injuries
Spinal discs are like pads that are found between the vertebrae of your spine and that are held in place by ligaments connecting them to your spinal bones and muscles.
When the discs are damaged, they can extrude from their membrane, affecting your nerves, causing spasms in your back or neck, and, in some cases, resulting in paralysis. Most disc injuries are in the lumbar region of the lower back, but some also affect the upper spine.
In some cases, spinal disc injuries are not immediately apparent after a car accident and may worsen over time (see delayed onset injuries, below). This is one of the reasons it is critical that you get checked out immediately after a car accident and that you go back to your doctor if you begin experiencing any symptoms of disc injury, annular tears, bulging discs, herniated discs, or disc tears, including:
- Lower back pain/ lumbar pain,
- Arm or leg pain,
- Spasms in the back or neck,
- Radiating numbness or tingling sensations, or
- Weakness in your arms or legs.
Full and fair compensation for the damage resulting from a spinal cord injury may require future medical expenses, the costs of future surgeries, and long-term care when the injury results in paralysis or permanent disability.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), automobile crashes are the third leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths, and TBIs contribute to around 30% of all injury deaths.
Approximately 153 people die each day from injuries that include a TBI, and those who survive may suffer effects from the injury for the rest of their life.
TBI may be a temporary injury like a concussion, or it can be a severe, lifelong injury.
It can be caused by a blow to the head, such as when the head strikes a windshield or steering wheel during a car crash, or it can be caused when the skull and brain are pierced by an object.
Even when there is no blow to the head or puncture wound, TBI can be caused by a sudden stop at high speeds.
When the head and skull stop moving on impact, the brain continues to travel at the same speed but is stopped by the hard bone of the skull. The impact of brain against bone can cause the brain to bleed and bruise, and this type of injury may not be immediately apparent at the time of the accident (see delayed onset injuries, below).
Soft Tissue Injuries/ Whiplash
Soft tissue injuries like whiplash are common in auto accidents. Although they can result in extreme pain that may last for years, insurance companies will often refuse to pay full compensation for these injuries because of the difficulty in proving them.
The most common soft tissue injury following an auto accident is whiplash.
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck – most often, it occurs during a rear-end auto collision. Whiplash can heal within a few months for some people, but, for others, chronic neck pain and other complications can continue for many years. Symptoms of whiplash may include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and a ringing in the ears.
Whiplash can result in further complications including traumatic arthritis, nerve compression, and further disc injuries in the neck.
Full compensation for a neck injury may include the costs of future treatments and surgeries in addition to medical expenses and chiropractor expenses incurred immediately after the auto accident.
Soft Tissue Injuries: The Invisible Injury
Whiplash injuries and other neck and back soft tissue injuries can be difficult to see with x-rays. If you cannot see the injury, insurance companies know that they can argue to a jury that the injury is being faked or exaggerated.
Although the injured person may be experiencing severe pain, and the injury may involve significant treatment costs, insurance companies will often deny the claim or make an extremely low offer to soft tissue injury plaintiffs. If the plaintiff insists on full compensation, the insurer may force the case to trial.
How do you prove an injury that cannot be seen?
Imagine there is a tall building in the center of town with hundreds of employees working inside on any given day.
One day, there is an earthquake that causes the building to shake violently. The employees are evacuated, and, in the following days and weeks, crews evaluate the damage to the building. They find that there is no visible damage to the building’s structure. There are no broken walls, and the building did not collapse.
Nevertheless, tests show that there is significant stress-related damage to the interior structural steel that could result in a later collapse or other complications to the building’s integrity.
To make the building safe and to restore it to its pre-accident state, contractors estimate that it will cost upwards of $10 million to replace or repair the structural steel that has been stressed inside of the building’s walls. When the building’s owner makes a claim to their insurance company, they offer a sum of $5000 to settle the claim because they cannot see the damage that the experts claim has been done to the building’s structure.
The damage is there, whether it is visible or not.
Like the building that has suffered structural damage, whiplash and other soft tissue injuries are very real. The at-fault driver in an auto accident is required to fully compensate their victim and, to the extent possible, restore them to their pre-accident condition.
Delayed Onset of Injuries After an Auto Accident
Delayed onset injuries are also common after a car accident. What are they, and how do you recognize the signs that you may have a serious injury that will worsen over time?
After the accident, you feel okay. A bit shook up, but thankfully no one is seriously injured. You have a slight headache, but that’s normal, right? The officer takes his report, you exchange information with the other driver, and you expect it should not be difficult to get their insurance company to pay for the damage to your car since they were clearly at fault in the accident.
Over the next week, however, your headache gets much worse, and you start experiencing blurred vision and nausea. What does it mean? First, it could mean that you have a traumatic brain injury or another delayed onset injury, and you should have seen a doctor immediately after the accident.
Second, since you did not see a doctor after the accident, it could mean that the other driver’s insurance company is going to deny your personal injury claim and attempt to say that you are either faking your injury or that your injury was caused after the accident and was unrelated to the accident…
What are some examples of delayed onset injuries after an auto accident and how do you recognize the signs that something may be wrong?
Examples of Delayed Onset Injuries After an Auto Accident
Some common injuries suffered in auto accidents may have delayed onset – the pain from the injury may not be immediately noticeable at the accident site and it could be days or even weeks before you realize the extent of your injuries.
Some common delayed onset injuries include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Concussions and TBI are caused by damage to the brain after a blow to the head, which can cause the brain to swell and bleed internally.
Traumatic brain injury suffered in an auto accident may not be immediately obvious after the wreck, and the symptoms may go unnoticed for days, weeks, or even months. TBI can cause permanent damage and the symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision,
- Memory problems, and even
- Personality changes – including an inability to control emotions or becoming prone to frustration and anger.
Whiplash is caused by the violent movement of a person’s head back and forth when the vehicle comes to a sudden stop, and it can cause a range of damage to a person’s neck area, including muscle damage, nerve damage, or injury to the spine.
Internal Bleeding and Blood Clots
Because it can’t be seen on the outside of your body, internal bleeding could go unnoticed for days. As time goes by, you may see unexplained bruises and begin to feel unexplained pain in the affected areas.
Internal bleeding that goes unnoticed can also result in blood clots that can break loose and travel to the heart or the brain, causing brain damage or death.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries may not be immediately obvious to you, but over time you may begin to experience pain, loss of sensation, incontinence, weakness, loss of balance, or a tingling sensation.
If a spinal cord injury is not treated immediately, it may worsen over time and there is a greater chance that it can result in paralysis or even death.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many people who are involved in auto accidents suffer PTSD, and some never seek treatment for it. If you have symptoms such as persistent bad feelings about the accident, reliving the accident over and over, nightmares, or extreme anxiety around motor vehicles that persists over time, you should immediately see a therapist and seek help.
Signs and Symptoms of Delayed Onset Injuries
There are many causes of delayed onset injuries – sometimes, the injury is simply undetectable at first. In other cases, the signs may be there, but you do not see their significance because you are pumped full of adrenaline, or you want to be strong and “tough it out.”
Some of the signs and symptoms of delayed onset injuries include:
- Headaches – a headache seems normal enough, and you may think that it is just the natural result of the stress from being in an accident. You should never assume that is the case, however – a headache after an auto accident could be a sign of a more serious injury such as a traumatic brain injury, a blood clot on your brain, or damage to your spinal cord.
- Neck and shoulder pain – like headaches, you may think that some neck and shoulder pain is normal after an auto accident. It can also be a sign of whiplash, though, and it might take an X-ray, CT scan, or an MRI to diagnose it. If the injury is not caught early enough, it can worsen and result in long-term damage.
- Abdominal pain – abdominal pain may seem normal after an auto accident, and it could be caused by simple bruising or stress related to the accident. It could also be a sign of internal bleeding that can be life-threatening if it is not caught and treated immediately.
- Back pain – back pain is sometimes ignored after an auto accident, but it can be a sign of a range of severe injuries that will worsen over time, including damage to the spinal cord, vertebrae, ligaments, or muscles.
- Numbness or tingling sensations – numbness in the hands or arms might not be felt until hours or days after the accident, but it can be a sign of serious injury to the spinal cord or neck, or it could be a symptom of a herniated disk.
Delayed Onset Injuries – Why it Matters
It is important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of delayed onset injuries because 1) failure to treat them can result in worse injuries or even death, and 2) the other driver’s insurance company will use your failure to immediately seek treatment as a defense to your injury claim.
The insurance company will deny your claim or reduce your claim any way that they can, and, if they see a delayed onset injury, they may argue that 1) you are lying about the injury, 2) you are exaggerating the injury, or 3) the injury was not caused by the accident and therefore they are not responsible for it.
Get checked out immediately after an auto accident, follow any recommendations from doctors, and follow up with any recommended treatments or doctor visits. If you first notice symptoms days or even weeks after your auto accident, see a doctor immediately and make sure your doctor knows that you were involved in a car crash.
If you have been injured in a car accident in South Carolina, the Myrtle Beach car accident attorneys at Axelrod & Associates will help you to get treatment for your injuries, gather the evidence you will need to prove your damages, and demand the maximum compensation available under SC law from the other driver’s insurance company.