Common Car Accident Injuries: Whiplash, Broken Bones, and More

Common Car Accident Injuries

Common Car Accident Injuries: Whiplash, Broken Bones, and More

The facts and circumstances of any car accident are unique, but there are common car accident injuries that result. These injuries range in severity from minor bumps and bruises to serious, life-threatening injuries.

Because it is often difficult to tell just how severe your car crash injuries are after a wreck, seeking medical attention is vital to your health and ability to make a full recovery.

Common car accident injuries include whiplash, broken bones, and soft tissue injuries like sprains and strains. No matter what car crash injuries you suffer, remember that accidents that come about because of another party’s negligence can give you legal rights to sue for compensation.


One common car accident injury seen after many wrecks, including even minor car accidents, is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when your car suffers a sudden jolt of force in one direction as the result of a crash. Your head can move in the direction of the force and then snap back, jostling your brain and damaging the muscles in your neck.

Depending on the speeds involved, you might notice pain in your neck and shoulders, a sense of dizziness, or recurring headaches if you sustained whiplash in your car crash. However, a doctor’s evaluation and diagnosis are needed to ensure that your pain and symptoms are due to whiplash and not some other common car accident injury.

Failing to diagnose and treat whiplash can lead you to experience long-term, chronic pain, stiffness, and recurring headaches, all of which affect your quality of life.

Broken Bones

Broken ribs and broken bones in your arms and legs are other examples of common car accident injuries. A fracture or break may be complete, where the affected bone completely separates in two, or a partial fracture, where the bones are not completely severed.

Unless the break is complete and part of the bone is protruding through your skin, you will likely need an X-ray or CT scan to confirm the severity of the break. A broken bone will need to be stabilized and set in order to heal, which can take weeks or longer. Severe breaks may require surgery and the insertion of stabilizing rods or pins.

Failing to promptly treat a broken bone can lead to permanent damage to the surrounding nerves and an infection if the bone broke through the skin.

Head and Brain Injuries

Car crash injuries can also include injuries to the head and neck. If you strike your head on the steering wheel, or if your head is shaken back and forth from the force of the crash, you could suffer either a contusion or a concussion. Both are examples of traumatic brain injuries, and both require medical care and treatment.

A contusion is bleeding on the brain from localized trauma — this might happen if you strike your head on something. A concussion is a more general trauma to the brain. Symptoms of both can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, and seizures.

An MRI or other imaging is often needed to accurately diagnose a brain injury. Failing to get prompt evaluation and treatment can lead to long-term brain damage, which can lead to trouble with your memory, seizures, and behavioral changes.

Soft Tissue Injuries

A soft tissue injury is trauma inflicted on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This can occur if these tissues are stretched or torn and may happen even in the absence of a bone fracture or other injury.

A sprain, for example, occurs when a ligament — a tissue that connects bones and joints together — is torn or stretched. A strain, on the other hand, involves the straining or tearing of a muscle or tendon.

In a car accident, forces are transferred to your body and your body can move swiftly in unnatural and awkward ways inside your vehicle. For example, in a rear-end crash your body can be thrust forward until it is restrained and forced backward by your seat belt. These forces that are swiftly applied to your body are what lead to soft tissue injuries.

Most minor sprains and strains can be effectively treated at home with rest and ice. More extensive soft tissue injuries may require physical therapy to help you regain functioning and strength. It can be difficult to know how serious a soft tissue injury is absent a doctor’s evaluation and diagnosis.

If a serious soft tissue injury is not treated effectively, it can lead to chronic pain in the affected body part. You could also experience a permanent limitation in your range of motion or ability to use that muscle or joint.

Chest Injuries

Common car accidents in which you are wearing a seat belt present a risk of chest injuries. While the seat belt may restrain you and save your life, it can cause localized trauma along your chest where it sits. This can cause bruising, or contusions, on your heart and lungs.

In a more violent car crash, the force of being restrained by your seat belt may result in fractured ribs.

While you may experience some pain in your chest, an X-ray or CT scan will be necessary to reveal the true extent of the harm you suffered. If an organ or major muscle is involved, prompt treatment can be key to a positive outcome.

Abdominal Injuries

Similarly, the lap belt portion of your seat belt may cause contusions and injuries in the area where the belt lies. Unfortunately, several important organs are in this area, such as your liver, stomach, and kidneys. In addition, your lap belt lies over your pelvis and hips, which can suffer fractures from the force of your lap belt.

These injuries may not immediately display any signs or symptoms other than a general feeling of malaise. However, they can quickly turn severe or even deadly if they are not treated in a timely manner. You will likely need medical imaging done in order to know the full extent of the damage.

Limb Injuries

Even minor car wrecks can result in a wide variety of damage to your extremities, such as your fingers, wrists, toes, and ankles. These bones are susceptible to fractures, and your wrists or ankles can suffer trauma from the forces involved in most common car accidents.

Bones can heal and trauma can often be fixed through rest, surgery, or therapy. However, until these injuries heal, you may face limitations in your ability to care for yourself or return to work.

Severe car accidents may result in the amputation of your extremities if they become pinned or severed when your vehicle crumples in a crash.

Aside from physical pain, this type of catastrophic injury can also cause significant emotional and psychological damage. Prosthetics may be available to replace the severed limb, but a full recovery could require years of mental and physical therapy.

Psychological Injuries

Not every injury sustained in a car accident leaves a cut, bruise, or scar behind. Long after bones heal and sprains go away, you may be left with psychological harm that impacts your life for years to come.

You may be left feeling anxious or depressed after an accident, especially if your recovery takes considerable time and leaves you unable to work or participate in hobbies.

You might also develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, following your car wreck. This condition can cause you to suffer flashbacks and nightmares of the accident. You could also find it difficult, or even impossible, to be in a car or drive along a certain route because it reminds you of your car crash.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

If another careless or reckless motorist caused your crash and resulting injuries, you could have legal rights, including the right to seek compensation for your losses. To protect and assert this right, it is important that you take decisive action following a crash.

If you or another person involved in the crash are bleeding, unconscious, or have any serious injuries, call 911 and ask for emergency medical assistance. Even if you do not feel you are badly hurt, you should still make plans to see your doctor or visit a hospital emergency room as soon as practical, get evaluated, and confirm your assessment.

If the car wreck resulted in damage that exceeds $750 or an injury to any person, the accident must be reported to the police. While you have ten days to report the wreck, having police on the scene while the other involved parties and witnesses are present is beneficial.

As far as it is possible and safe to do so, gather information about the wreck. Get the names and contact information of witnesses who are present so your car accident lawyer can contact them later. Take photographs of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles involved.

If there are malfunctioning traffic lights, obscured traffic signs, or dangers in the road, photograph these too, if possible.

Last, file a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company can assist you in seeking reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, where appropriate.

Prevention Tips

One of the best ways to protect yourself against severe injuries in a car accident is to avoid getting into a car accident in the first place. While you cannot control other people’s actions, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you will be involved in a car wreck.

First, drive defensively and always be aware of what other traffic is doing. Keep your eyes on the road and put distractions like cell phones away. This gives you a better opportunity to react in a timely way to a negligent or reckless driver and avoid a collision.

Obey all traffic laws and regulations, including speed limits. Exceeding the speed limit, especially during inclement weather, can make it difficult to control your vehicle and maneuver safely in an emergency.

Finally, you and your passengers should wear a seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seat belts helped to protect almost 15,000 lives in 2017. While seat belts do not prevent all deaths or severe injuries, they do reduce the likelihood of these outcomes occurring in any given crash.

At the End of the Day, It Is Best to Work with a Car Accident Lawyer Who Can Help

There are many injuries you could sustain after a car wreck, and not all of them will immediately manifest symptoms. To make matters worse, some injuries, such as brain and spine injuries, can become worse the longer treatment is delayed. It is crucial, therefore, that you obtain a thorough medical evaluation following an accident.

Just as you should take steps to protect your health following a crash, you should strive to protect your legal interests as well. You do this by retaining an experienced California car accident lawyer.

The Law Offices of Steve Gimblin can assist you and your family following common car accidents, whether those are minor car accidents or major car wrecks.

For more information and statistics regarding car accidents and vehicle safety, including additional tips for staying safe on the road, you can visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website or the State of California’s transportation data website.

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