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Top 4 Common Vehicle Accident Injuries

Vehicle accidents generate massive forces that tear soft tissues and fracture bones. They can even shake you so violently that you suffer a brain injury. Regardless of the exact injury you experience, you could face expensive medical treatment and physical therapy. You may also miss work due to temporary or long-term disabilities.

How Vehicle Accident Injuries Happen

However, certain injuries happen more often than others due to the physics of automobile collisions. In a crash, your body keeps moving until it collides with something. 

If you wear a seat belt, it will lock when it senses the crash and restrain your body. If you do not wear a seat belt, your body will move until it hits the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or seat.

You can suffer an injury in this initial collision. For example, the impact of your chest on the seat belt can fracture your ribs. Similarly, you could hit your side window. If it shatters, the broken glass could cut you.

But even when you do not hit anything, the violent shaking you experience could injure your body. Many injuries, such as whiplash, concussion, and herniated discs, happen in exactly this way.

4 Common Vehicle Crash Injuries

Some injuries that commonly affect crash victims include the following:

1. Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash happens when your neck hyperextends and compresses when your head whips around during a collision. Your head weighs roughly 11 pounds. Since your seat belt does not restrain your head, it can whip front to back and side to side, depending on the direction of the collision.

The weight of your head pulls your neck, separating the vertebrae slightly and hyperextending the neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As your head switches directions, your neck compresses, crushing your spinal discs.

These forces can severely damage the tissues in your neck, producing whiplash injuries such as:

  • Strained neck muscles and tendons
  • Sprained neck ligaments
  • Herniated or bulging spinal discs

While all these injuries can have different effects, they also share certain symptoms. Whiplash can cause:

  • Neck pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

If your injury irritates a nerve root branching from your spinal cord, you may also experience pain, numbness, and weakness that can radiate into your shoulders, elbows, arms, wrists, and hands.

2. Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury happens when the spinal nerves connecting your brain to your body suffer damage. This damage usually takes three forms:

  • Laceration: Happens when the spinal nerves are severed
  • Traction: Occurs when your spinal nerves get stretched
  • Compression: Happens when something presses on the spinal nerves

Lacerated spinal nerves will result in permanent paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the injury. In the case of a neck injury, this can mean quadriplegia. If the injury happens in the middle or lower back, you risk paraplegia.

Stretched or compressed nerves will drop nerve signals or misfire, producing symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or buzzing sensations
  • Weakness
  • Loss of dexterity and fine motor skills

A common cause of spinal cord injuries is a fractured vertebra, which happens when the forces from a crash put too much stress on your spine. A fractured vertebra can destabilize your spine. It can also damage your spinal cord when the bone fragments dislocate into your spinal canal. There, the fragments cut, stretch, or compress the spinal cord.

3. Head Injury

Head injuries can also occur when your head whips around during a collision. Head injuries usually happen in two ways: blunt or penetrating trauma. 

The former occurs when you hit your head without creating an open wound. The blunt impact could merely cause a bruise. A powerful impact, however, could fracture the skull, jaw, or facial bones.

Penetrating trauma happens when a foreign object pierces your head. This object could lacerate your face or scalp. This laceration might produce a permanent scar that disfigures you. Worse yet, the object could penetrate your skull and damage your brain. Once inside your skull, it could cause bleeding and swelling that produces permanent brain damage.

Another common car crash injury is a concussion. You can suffer a concussion in a car accident without experiencing head trauma. This injury happens when your brain shakes inside your skull, bumping into the meninges and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding it. The brain suffers mild damage, leading to swelling that produces concussion symptoms such as:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Angry outbursts

A concussion is a mild brain injury that heals within a few months. More serious brain injuries, like a diffuse axonal injury (DAI), a cerebral contusion, or a subdural hematoma, can produce permanent brain damage, coma, or death.

4. Fatal Injuries

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in the U.S. While families can still pursue legal cases against at-fault drivers, these wrongful death claims cannot bring back their loved ones.

Fatal injuries typically affect one of three body systems. The nervous system controls everything in the body, including circulation and respiration. A spinal cord injury high in the neck can paralyze the muscles that expand the chest during breathing. A brain injury has the potential to damage the vagus nerve that tells the heart to beat. In either case, the injury will cause immediate death.

The respiratory system captures oxygen for delivery to the body by the blood. When a crash victim stops breathing, the cells die within a few minutes. If an object pierces the chest wall during a crash, air can rush into the chest cavity, collapsing a lung and preventing it from reinflating.

The circulatory system moves oxygenated blood through the body. Many injuries can disrupt this system, leading to death. A severe laceration can cause internal or external bleeding that drains the circulatory system. A chest injury can fill the membrane surrounding the heart with fluid and strangle the heart.

Gathering the Information Needed for Injury Claims

When you suffer a car accident injury in a crash caused by someone else, you may have a legal claim for financial compensation. Insurance claims and lawsuits present complex issues. Having a tool to access and manage crash resources and services can streamline the entire process. Contact Alawreck online or by phone at (205) 903-9592 to learn how we can help you.

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