When vehicles collide, the occupants could be subject to any number of serious injuries, from whiplash to paralysis. The severity of such injuries can range from minor to catastrophic or fatal, depending on factors such as the weight and speed of the vehicles involved, the point of impact, and the presence of seat belts and airbags. Our South Carolina car accident legal team takes a look at the various types of injuries that can result from a car accident.
Vehicle Accident Injuries
The injuries suffered by victims of vehicle accidents can include:
A soft tissue injury that stretches tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the neck and upper spine, causing severe pain, possible nerve damage, and a limited range of motion.
Concussion/traumatic brain injury (TBI):
When a victim’s head hits the windshield, the steering wheel, or another part of the car’s interior, the brain can be jarred inside the skull, causing a variety of injuries:
- Blood vessel lacerations/brain bleeding
- Hematoma/blood clots (epidural, subdural, or intracerebral)
- Shearing/tearing of white matter when the brain bounces back and forth inside the skull after impact
- Nerve damage from tearing of the brain’s axons (nerve cells)
Symptoms of minor concussions can include headaches, sensory problems, and confusion or disorientation. More severe brain injuries can result in memory loss, loss of physical or cognitive function, and permanent brain damage.
Vehicle accidents can result in ruptured or herniated discs as well as more serious spinal cord damage, which is classified as complete or incomplete.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries include:
- Central cord syndrome, which results from damage to the center of the spinal cord and often causes loss of arm function.
- Anterior cord syndrome, which is caused by trauma to the front of the spinal cord and affects feeling, pain, and body temperature below the point of the spinal cord injury.
- Posterior cord syndrome, which is caused by injury to the back of the spinal cord and generally affects physical coordination.
- Cauda equina lesion, which results from nerve damage between the first and second lumbar areas of the spine and causes partial/total loss of sensation.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome, which is the result of damage to one side of the spinal cord and leads to impaired movement/loss of sensation on one side of the body.
Complete spinal injuries include:
- Paraplegia, which is a complete lack of sensation/loss of function in the trunk and legs, though arm and hand function is normal.
- Tetraplegia, which results from damage to the neck/cervical region of the spinal cord and paralyzes the arms, legs, and trunk.
These complete spinal cord injuries are permanent and generally require lifelong care leading to astronomical medical bills.
Organ damage/internal bleeding:
These injuries, which can result from impact with the interior of the car or from seat belts/air bags, might not be apparent immediately after a wreck; nonetheless, internal injuries to certain organs such as the liver, spleen, or heart can be life-threatening.
A bruised sternum or broken ribs can result from a hard impact with a steering wheel or dashboard. Just breathing can be very painful if you’ve suffered rib damage.
Victims of car crashes can suffer two types of nerve injuries. Neuropathy is burning pain due to inflamed, irritated nerves in any body part, and radiculopathy can leave the victim debilitated due to inflammation of nerves in the spine.
Not only a fire or gas tank explosion but also contact with hot parts of the car like the engine or muffler can cause serious burn injuries.
Fractured, broken, or crushed bones:
Bone injuries, which are common in car crashes, must be properly treated in order to heal correctly and may require surgery.
Damage to knees, shoulders, wrists, ankles, or elbows can include strains, sprains, and breaks, which are very painful and debilitating if not treated promptly and properly.
Cuts from glass or sharp objects inside the car are often minor, but they can be very serious if you’re cut deeply, or a sharp object penetrates the brain or the heart.
The experience of having a bad wreck can have long-term effects on your daily life, occupational performance, and personal interactions. A car crash victim might be left with a fear of driving/riding in a car or intense anxiety when a loved one travels by automobile.
An arm, leg, hand, or foot might be too badly damaged in the accident to be saved.
Unfortunately, many car crashes on South Carolina’s highways are fatal.
See a Doctor Right Away
Some of the injuries described above might not be evident to you immediately after your accident. The adrenaline produced by the body in reaction to the trauma of a wreck could mask symptoms of bodily damage. For this reason, it’s very important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident, even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured.
A doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests can reveal hidden problems that require fast treatment to heal completely. A visit to your doctor or even to a hospital emergency room also provides documentation of your injuries, which is vital to your insurance claim against the at-fault driver for your damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages due to time off work
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional/psychological trauma
Insurance Companies Don't Want You to Have Legal Representation
If your accident is minor and results in no serious injury, you might be able to file your own claim for damages against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If, however, you suffer one or more of the serious injuries listed above, your medical bills for current and future treatment could be very high, resulting in an expensive claim for the insurer, which might dispute your claim or offer you an unfairly low settlement. If you have no attorney, the insurer may think you are unlikely to negotiate a better settlement or file a lawsuit.