Most car accidents are minor fender benders and don't cause physical injury, but car accident-related injuries can range from a minor bruise to paralysis and even death. FindLaw's Car Accident Injuries section explores the different kinds of injuries that may result from a car accident and how to navigate insurance or civil court claims.
This section includes information about soft tissue injuries such as whiplash, the types of damages that may be claimed for auto accident injuries, how to file claims for injuries that aren't discovered until after the accident, dealing with the emotional trauma of car accident injuries, and more.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Automobiles are inherently dangerous and are the leading cause of injuries in the United States, according to statistics. While most accidents are limited to vehicle damage (so-called "fender benders"), injuries also can occur and range from scrapes and bruises to paralysis and death. Injuries tend to be more serious for motorcyclists, who lack the relative protection of a car or truck. Common auto accident injuries include the following:
- Head and back injuries may include traumatic brain injuries, concussions, spinal cord damage, and herniated discs (often expressed as numb or tingling sensations in the arms or legs when the herniated disc impinges on the nerve root).
- Neck and chest injuries, such as traumatic cardiac arrest and whiplash (a "catch-all" term for sprains, strains, and hyperextension in the upper spine caused by a sudden jerking motion).
- Injuries to arms, legs, feet, and hands are quite common, particularly for motorcyclists (broken bones, torn ligaments, severed limbs).
- Emotional distress following the trauma of a serious accident, regardless of any other physical injury, is also common for both those involved in the accident and witnesses.
The Basics of Whiplash
What we commonly refer to as "whiplash" is actually several different injuries resulting from the sudden jerking motion caused when an automobile suddenly stops in a collision, even at low speeds. This motion, especially if the neck is hyperextended, can cause straining or spraining of the upper vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments of the neck. It's not always clear whether whiplash injuries have been sustained in an accident until later. The following are symptoms of whiplash:
- Stiffness, tightness in the neck
- Persistent, dull pain in the neck
- Back pain
Car Accidents and Childhood Deaths
Sadly, automobile accidents are the leading cause of childhood death, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While some injuries cannot be prevented, proper use of car safety seats for infants and toddlers greatly reduces the risk of death and many serious injuries. All state laws require children under a certain size and weight limit to be secured in a child safety seat when traveling in an automobile.
Damages for Car Accident Injury Claims
An at-fault driver is not only liable for initial medical expenses but may be on the hook for additional expenses related to the injury. These include physical therapy, the cost of special equipment to help with mobility (wheelchairs, home modifications, etc.), and in-home services. Additional damages for injuries may include the following, depending on the facts of your case:
- Loss of consortium (loss of affection due to injury)
- Lost wages
- Diminished employment opportunities
- Pain and suffering
To learn more about car accident injuries, click on one of the links below.