On average, there are 6 million car accidents in the US every year, and during those, about 3 million people are injured. Two million of those people sustain injuries that are permanent.
That’s a lot. The chances of being injured in an accident feel high, and many crashes are unavoidable. So how can you best prepare to take care of yourself if you are involved in an accident?
Let’s take a look at some of the most common injuries that someone can sustain in a car accident. Learning the signs and symptoms can help you to seek treatment efficiently and minimize the impact of these injuries. You should always get the advice of a medical professional if you are ever involved in a car accident to make sure nothing is missed.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by your head moving forward and then snapping back suddenly, causing intense pain and side effects. Whiplash is common in car accidents because your body keeps moving forward when your car comes to a sudden stop, but then snaps back when your seat belt restrains you. While some car components work to reduce the impacts of whiplash, like the headrest, this is still one of the most common car accident injuries.
See a doctor immediately if you have whiplash, even if you think it is only a minor case.
Other symptoms you may experience include
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Loss of range of motion in your neck
- Numbness in your arms
There are more than three million cases of whiplash each year, and roughly 50 percent develop some sort of chronic symptoms. By seeking treatment shortly after your accident, your doctor can work to prevent problems from increasing in severity.
With more than 200 bones in the human body, it’s not uncommon for one or more to break in a car accident. During a crash, the bones can break because of the force of the accident or because of compression. For example, if you put out your arm to protect yourself, the force of the crash could break your arm and fingers.
Some of the most frequently-reported broken bones caused by car accidents include
In serious cases, you could have a skull fracture from head trauma.
If you do have broken bones because of a crash, your doctor may place you in a cast or need to operate to improve the healing process. Most patients need at least six to eight weeks to heal, but some bones can take more or less time depending on the location and type of injury.
A cut, or laceration, is when a sharp object comes into contact with your skin, the tissue breaks and you will start to bleed. Cuts are one o the most common car accident injuries and range in severity from barely-visible slices to major lacerations that expose the muscle and bones. Serious cuts are common after your body experiences severe trauma, like a car accident. In the event on an accident, you may cut yourself on broken glass, sharp metal shards, or objects that you were riding with.
If you have a cut, the first step is to control the bleeding. You may be able to do this with gauze for smaller problems, but you may need professional help for bigger or deeper lacerations. A doctor will clean the wound and apply stitches as needed to close the cut and help it heal. These stitches may take a few weeks to heal and a doctor will likely have to remove them. With regular cleaning and antibiotics, your cut could heal with little to no scar.
A herniated disc is a spinal injury that can cause intense pain. Spinal discs are located in between each vertebrae in your spine. When you experience trauma as a result of a car crash, these discs can rupture or shift, and hit the spinal column. The injury resulting from hitting the nerve is called a herniated disc, and the more pressure it puts on the nerve, the more pain you could be in.
Pain from a herniated disc can radiate through the body, and the source of the pain all depends on which disc is experiencing the trauma.
Signs and symptoms of a herniated disc are:
- Arm or leg pain
- Pain running down your back into your thighs
- Numbness or tingling
Herniated discs also show up on scans of people who don’t show these signs or symptoms, so you should see a doctor immediately after an accident to rule it out.
Loss of Eyesight
After an accident, you may find that you have reduced or lost vision in one or both eyes. This vision loss varies by patient depending on the type of injury they sustain and could be temporary or permanent. One of the most common indicators for whether a loss of eyesight will be permanent is the source of the damage. If the problem is in the optic nerves, then the chances that your vision will be restored increases. However, the damage could be permanent if it is caused by a brain injury.
There are multiple causes of vision loss in the aftermath of a car accident. A few of these include
- Head trauma
- Sharp objects or particles in the eyes
- Chemical injuries
- Electric shocks
Because of the diversity of causes in your loss of eyesight, it is important to immediately alert your doctor or the first responders at the crash to your vision problems. They will help you get the treatment you need.
Loss of Hearing
In the wake of a car accident, you might notice a loss of hearing or ringing in your ears. This could occur for a few minutes after the accident or last several hours or even days after the crash. Your body is sending you warning signs with this loss of hearing, and you may have serious ear or brain damage if you don’t see a doctor.
Hearing loss is a common symptom of whiplash or blunt force trauma to the head. You may have damaged or broken the bones in your ear or your eardrum. If this is the case, a specialist will have to review the severity of the problem and develop a strategy to repair your ear. Research estimates that loss of hearing can occur in as many as 50 percent of head trauma patients and recovery time can take up to 3-9 months for most people. However, it can take more than a year to recover for around 10 percent of the population.
Internal bleeding is one of the most severe injuries you could sustain in a car crash. It has two primary causes: blunt trauma, when a body part collides with something else (like a wall or steering wheel), and penetrating trauma, when when a foreign object penetrates the body.
For the most part, internal bleeding is serious enough to be obvious in most crash victims. However, there may be some more subtle cases that could become worse if left untreated.
A few of the top warning signs for internal bleeding include:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Dizziness or fainting from blood loss
- Loss of vision
- Severe headaches
It isn’t always clear what caused the internal bleeding or what parts of the body are damaged, which is why many internal bleeding patients end up in the hospital under specialized care. This gives doctors the full range of resources to identify and treat the problem. If you suspect that you may have any internal bleeding, it is vital you see a medical professional immediately.
A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when your brain hits the inside of your skull. This occurs when your body is hit suddenly, causing your neck to snap forward and shift your brain. To understand how common TBIs are, the CDC reports that 2.8 million people visited the hospital emergency department in 2013 and 50,000 people died as a result of these injuries.
A few common concussion symptoms include:
- Confusion (feeling as if you are in a fog)
- Amnesia around the event
- Slurred speech
Some of your concussion symptoms might not show up immediately after a crash. Knowing what signs to look for can help you determine when to seek medical treatment. Even if you don’t need emergency treatment because of your concussion, it is important to see a doctor within one or two days. They may be able to help you in the recovery process.
Not all of the most common car accident injuries are visible. You may walk away from a car accident with just a few scratches, but that doesn’t mean your emotional health is as strong as your physical health. It’s not uncommon for drivers and passengers to experience emotional trauma after a car crash, resulting in PTSD that lasts long after the accident.
Roughly nine percent of people who are in car accidents develop PTSD and 60 percent of patients who seek treatment for emotional trauma after an accident are diagnosed with PTSD. A few symptoms of emotional trauma as a result of a car accident include feelings of anxiety when faced with reminders of the crash (such as screeching brakes), feeling more on edge when you are driving, and avoiding or cars the location of your crash. Some crash victims will struggle to get behind the wheel for weeks or even months after an accident. Emotional trauma shouldn’t be overlooked just because your physical body has returned to normal health levels. If you think you may be suffering from emotional trauma, you should seek the help of a mental health professional immediately.
Accidents are the fourth most common cause of death in the US. They happen every day, and lives like yours are constantly being changed. Many accidents are preventable, but when the ones you can’t avoid happen, give us a call. We are here to help you handle the unexpected catastrophes when you need us.