With the advent of airbags, ABS brakes, blind spot detection systems, and other features, car companies have made great strides in vehicle safety. Of course, thousands of people are still hurt in car accidents every year, with injuries that range from minor to catastrophic. As you might expect, the most common car accident injuries tend to be those that result from the most common type of car accident: a rear-end collision. In this article, we'll discuss those kinds of injuries, plus other common physical and psychological effects of a car accident.
Rear-End Car Accident Injuries
In a rear-end collision, the leading vehicle is usually stopped in traffic, or at a red light or stop sign, and the tailing vehicle is typically traveling at a slow to moderate speed. On impact, the driver and any passengers in the struck vehicle are thrust forward and thrown back in their seats. Depending on the severity of the impact, the position of the headrests, and whether the occupants were wearing their shoulder harnesses, "whiplash"-type injuries can result (though that term has fallen out of favor with insurance companies and attorneys) and range from mild stiffness and soreness of the neck and back, to serious damage to the musculature and discs of the spine.
Other common injuries from rear-end collisions involve a front seat occupant's impact with the steering wheel, dashboard, seats, windshield and objects in the vehicle, resulting in injuries to heads, chests, and knees. When a vehicle's airbags are activated in a rear-end collision, front seat occupants can suffer burns from the propellant used to inflate the airbag.
Rear seat occupants are often thrust forward into the back of the front seats, and are similarly apt to suffer injuries to their upper and lower bodies. In all of these cases, the severity of the injuries will depend on the size and weight of the occupants, the force of the impact, the use of shoulder harnesses, and proper activation of airbags.
"T-Bone" Accident Injuries
When one vehicle is struck, at or near a 90-degree angle, by another vehicle approaching from the driver's or passenger's side (often called a "T-bone" crash) certain injuries are more common than others. When the impact is severe, the occupant(s) seated in the direct path of contact are likely to sustain serious injuries such as broken bones, damage to internal organs, and head/brain trauma. Occupants seated on the side of the vehicle not directly struck may still be injured as the result of similar forces that affect occupants in rear-end collisions. In addition, all of the vehicle's occupants are subject to the risk of cuts from broken glass.
Regardless of the specific circumstances of a car accident, a crash can also cause psychological injuries that may range from more mild -- such as anxiety or sleep trouble -- to more serious and long-lasting, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychological impact of a car accident is just as valid as the physical injuries we've discussed above, and should be treated accordingly by health care providers and by insurers during car accident settlement discussions.
Car Accident Injuries Can Be Unpredictable
One of the most important things to remember about car accident injuries is that there is not necessarily a direct and predictable correlation between the severity of the collision and the seriousness of the resulting injuries.
In some instances a seemingly minor fender bender can cause serious, painful, long-term soft tissue injury to a person's neck or back; while in other situations a driver can walk away from a serious crash without a scratch. And, there are times when a person feels fine immediately after an accident, only to experience the onset of injury symptoms a day or two later (that's why it's so important to get proper medical attention for any indication of pain or discomfort after a car accident, even if you don't think you're seriously hurt). The lesson to be learned here is that while similar types of accidents tend to produce similar injuries, there are innumerable factors that influence the outcome and effects of a car accident.