Common Injuries Involved in Car Accidents

Car Accident Lawyers in PA

There’s no getting around it—Philadelphia auto accidents are dangerous. Not all car accidents, however, are created equal. Some are more dangerous and more prone to cause serious injuries. When you get behind the wheel in Pennsylvania, remember to follow the safety rules of the road and to drive defensively. Even the safest driver, however, may be involved in a collision.

Motor vehicle accidents exert violent and unnatural forces on the human body, resulting in all manner of injuries and disabilities. Different types of car accidents result in different injuries. While no two accidents are ever quite the same, here are some of the most common types of injuries associated with car crashes. 

Side-Impact Accidents

Side-impact accidents, which are also known as T-bone or broadside accidents, are among the most dangerous car accidents in Philadelphia, especially for older cars that lack side airbags.

Side-impact crashes are also the most likely to come out of nowhere, as the other driver slams into you from the side. These accidents are more dangerous because they offer no crumple zone, such as the trunk in the back of the car or the hood in the front, to protect drivers or passengers.

Side-impact crashes can lead serious injuries, including:

  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Whiplash
  • Dislocated limbs
  • Nerve and spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Injuries caused by being crushed
  • Soft tissue injuries

Rear-End Collisions

You might think rear-end collisions don’t amount to much more than fender benders. While this is sometimes true, rear-end accidents can be extremely dangerous. On the busy streets of Philadelphia, these accidents are common.

Rear-end collisions can happen anywhere, but because the speeds on surface roads are typically much slower, surface road collisions are often less dangerous. When these collisions occur at higher speeds, however, they can result in much more severe injuries. Due to the powerful whipping motion that rear-end accidents thrust on the head and neck, they are closely associated with neck injuries, such as whiplash—which can lead to ongoing symptoms and complications:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional complications, including depression or anxiety
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Pain in the back, shoulder, arm, or jaw
  • Furthermore, other injuries are frequently associated with rear-end crashes:
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Leg, ankle, and foot injuries
  • Facial lacerations

If you experience any of these symptoms or injuries after a rear-end collision—no matter how minor it may seem—seek immediate medical attention. The sooner your condition is identified, the better chance you have to fully recover.

Head-on Collisions

Head-on injuries are not only exceedingly dangerous but also terrifying. Speed, rural roads, distracted driving, fatigued driving, impaired driving, adverse weather conditions, ignored traffic signs and signals, and dangerous passing can all contribute to head-on collisions. Head-on collisions can lead to a host of extremely serious injuries:

  • Whiplash
  • Neck and shoulder injuries
  • Facial lacerations and broken facial bones
  • Back and spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Chest injuries
  • Leg, ankle, and foot injuries

Common Types of Car Accident Injuries

Car accidents can vary from minor to deadly, and the seriousness of the injuries they cause can vary accordingly. Never simply ignore a car accident. If it’s significant enough to jolt you, you need to seek medical attention. Some injuries, such as TBIs, whiplash, and soft-tissue injuries, can come on slowly—but may have disastrous long-term effects. The best way to avoid a car accident is to follow the rules of the road and not drive while fatigued, distracted, or impaired, give other drivers plenty of space, and drive defensively. Even with all these precautions, however, accidents do happen.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a highly common injury in auto accidents. Many TBI victims will spend time unconscious or in varying states of consciousness due to their injuries.

TBIs occur when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head results in a disruption in normal brain function. In addition, an object that penetrates the skull can result in a traumatic brain injury. The CDC estimates that about 1.7 million people sustain a TBI each year in the United States.

Even minor traumatic brain injuries have the potential to leave victims with significant complications that may keep them from working or affect their quality of life. TBIs can result in serious medical issues, including:

  • Problems with speech
  • Cognitive problems
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty with motor control
  • Inability to engage in daily tasks without assistance

The most serious TBIs can cause catastrophic health outcomes for victims and their families. These include:

  • Coma and medically induced coma: Coma is perhaps the most commonly known state of unconsciousness. A person in a coma cannot awaken, even from pain or other extreme stimuli. Some people never emerge from a coma and others emerge with serious cognitive impairments. Even if a TBI itself does not cause a coma, doctors may give TBI victims anesthetics to medically induce a coma to limit brain function and reduce life-threatening brain swelling until they stabilize.
  • Persistent vegetative state: When a person emerges from a coma, the victim may still remain in a state of limited consciousness. The most severe of these is a persistent vegetative state, where a victim can sleep and wake up, but has no conscious awareness of the world around him. Though his eyes may move and he may appear to jump at a loud noise, he is not able to respond consciously to stimuli in the environment.
  • Minimally responsive state: Like the persistent vegetative state, a victim in a minimally responsive state has a sleep-wake cycle. While she still has highly limited awareness of her surroundings and limited ability to respond, she may follow instructions for very simple tasks—to blink or nod, for example. However, she often will not follow commands every time, as her responsiveness level may be inconsistent. She may also appear to cry or smile, but not necessarily in response to anything in the environment.
  • Locked-in syndrome: One of the most frightening potential outcomes of brain injury is fortunately rare. A victim with locked-in syndrome has no control over any voluntary muscle movement, including use of the vocal cords. The victim cannot move or speak apart from being able to move his eyes. He is, however, fully cognitively aware of his self and surroundings, though he cannot independently communicate thoughts or respond. Victims with locked-in syndrome can live for a long time like this, as their organs often continue to function properly. They may require costly equipment and computers to translate eye movements into words if they want to communicate and will require full-time care for their basic needs.
  • Brain death: Brain death occurs when all of the brain functioning stops and doctors deem it irreversible. Victims will not regain consciousness and typically are pronounced dead.

Though brain injury victims who are in a coma or another state of unconsciousness may eventually emerge from that state, recovering to a point of full-consciousness and cognitive ability can take a long time—if significant recovery happens at all.

No matter how severe a TBI is, doctors often have difficulty predicting how long a victim’s recovery will take or the best possible outcome. This puts family members in an extremely difficult position, especially if their loved one is in a coma or a persistent vegetative state. They may want to consider taking their loved one off of life support due to her extremely low quality of life for. However, this is a difficult decision to make.

To make matters worse, care for an unconscious loved one can cost millions of dollars. With the help of an experienced Philadelphia car accident attorney, however, families may obtain sufficient compensation to ensure their loved one has the best possible care and chance of emerging from unconsciousness and recovering as much as possible.

Spinal Cord Injuries

spinal cord injuryThe National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports about 17,700 new cases of spinal cord injuries each year in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in the country, accounting for more than 38 percent of all new cases annually. The lifetime costs of dealing with a spinal cord injury routinely run into the millions of dollars.

Doctors classify spinal cord injuries into two broad categories:

  1. Incomplete spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury is characterized as incomplete when the victim has some feeling or mobility below the site of the injury.
  2. Complete spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury is characterized as complete when the victim has no feeling or mobility below the site of the injury.

The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. As a result, any injury to the spinal cord or damage to the vertebrae that protect the spinal cord can result in serious complications. These may include complete or partial paralysis, loss of feeling, muscle weakness, and loss of full range of motion.

People who sustain spinal cord injuries may also suffer from additional complications, including:

  • Bladder control problems
  • Bowel control problems
  • Pressure sores
  • Problems with circulation
  • Issues with respiration
  • Muscle tone problems
  • An overall decline in fitness and wellness
  • Issues with sexual health
  • Pain
  • Depression

These and other symptoms of a spinal cord injury can substantially diminish a person’s quality of life and may keep them from working for a significant period of time. As a result, people who suspect that they have sustained a spinal cord injury should seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible. In many cases, early intervention can significantly improve the ultimate outcome of a spinal cord injury.

Back Injuries

Even when Philadelphia car accident victims escape spinal cord injuries, they may still sustain debilitating damage to their backs in the form of crushed or displaced discs, nerve injury, and muscle and tissue damage. Back injuries are particularly common in rear-end and angular collisions, when drivers and passengers experience an unexpected, sometimes twisting, jolt.

When left untreated, back injuries can become chronic conditions, severely harming victims’ quality of life. Back injuries routinely require multiple surgeries, extensive physical therapy, lengthy limitations on physical activity, and time away from work. Because of these impacts, back injuries impose significant costs on accident victims.

Head and Neck Injuries (or Whiplash)

“Whiplash” is not actually a single injury, but is instead the colloquial term for a range of injuries resulting from a sudden jerking or distortion of the neck, often resembling the cracking of a whip. This sudden motion can cause significant strain on the nerves, muscles, and vertebrae in the neck and back injuries can result in long-lasting damage.

Such injuries may leave a substantial effect on a victim’s life. Some signs and symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness in your arms or hands
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Feeling of pins and needles
  • Pain in or around the shoulder blades
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as struggling to remember things or concentrate

While some whiplash symptoms make themselves immediately apparent, others may not manifest for several days. You should always visit a doctor as soon as you experience any whiplash symptoms in the days following an accident. Treatment for whiplash commonly involves pain management, including visits to pain specialists, injections, and muscle relaxants, as well as physical therapy techniques like myofascial release, muscle strengthening, and more. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may last for a long time.

Though whiplash is most often associated with rear-end accidents, this injury can occur in any type of collision. Whiplash can significantly affect your life and may even keep you from working, so never ignore this injury following a car accident.

Burn Injuries

Few car accident-related injuries inflict more acute suffering than burns. Burns cause extreme pain, not just when they happen but throughout the healing process. They also pose a heightened risk of infection, requiring intensive and diligent care to keep patients free from bacteria.

Even when treated successfully, burns often leave victims permanently scarred and disfigured. Burn victims often must contend with emotional pain and psychological trauma in addition to tending to their physical recovery.

Broken Bones and Fractures

Car accidents frequently leave victims with broken bones and fractures. Crumpling front-ends can leave drivers and front-seat passengers with broken ankles and leg bones. Ribs may fracture from the strain of a safety belt. Vehicle occupants may break their arms, wrists, or collarbones because they braced for an impact. Even facial bones can fracture from the sudden inflation of airbags or from slamming against a seat-back.

Fortunately, bones heal, though sometimes imperfectly and only after multiple surgeries. The violence of the impact of a car accident can cause bones to shatter, requiring complicated orthopedic repairs and surgical implants. Rehabilitation can take months and may prevent victims from returning to work for prolonged periods.

Soft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injury refers to the range of contusions, sprains, tears, and other damage a car accident can inflict on victims’ muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Soft tissue injury may require orthopedic surgery and physical therapy.

Your Claim

Car accident claims can be especially complicated. You’ll probably be called upon to give a statement, to complete complicated paperwork, and to come up with piles of documentation. These tasks are all important to your successful personal injury claim, but if you’ve been injured because of another driver’s negligence, you’re probably far too distressed to adequately attend to them. In protection of your rights, an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer will effectively manage all of your claim’s details. Your case, your rights, and your just compensation matter.

If You’ve Been Injured in a Car Crash, Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you are no doubt overwhelmed and in need of a skilled Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, personal injury attorney. Car accident claims are notoriously complicated, but the experienced legal team at The Levin Firm is here to help. We have the knowledge, dedication, and skill to fight for the compensation you’re entitled to. Please contact or call us at (215) 825-5183 today.