According to data compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the leading cause of death of young people from age 5 to 24. In 2010, 33,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. Every year, over 4 million individuals are admitted to hospital emergency rooms due to motor vehicle crashes. The vast majority of these accidents and injuries—just over 95%—involve passenger cars and light trucks.
Severity of Injuries May Depend Upon Type of Accident
Car accident victims suffer many different kinds of injuries, and the kind and severity of injury suffered partly depends upon the type of accident in which the injured person is involved, and where that person is situated in the vehicle with respect to the impact. Other factors affecting the severity of an injury include use of safety restraints, the speed at which the crash occurred, vehicle safety features, and the age and physical condition of the victim.
For the drivers, by far the most vulnerable parts of the body are the chest and head. This is true no matter where the impact occurs, because any jarring of the driver’s body is most likely to create an impact between the chest and the steering column, which is very unyielding.
The second most vulnerable part of the body for the driver is the head. As a general rule, in high-speed crashes, the head is always vulnerable for any vehicle occupant because of the flexibility and delicacy of the neck joint. When impacts occur, it is often the head which gets jarred the most and is likely to impact an object, since it is not held stationary with a belt like the chest and lower trunk. Driver-side airbags can greatly reduce the severity of chest and head injuries for drivers involved in crashes, although the safety belt is the single most critical safety feature that a driver or passenger can use.
The abdomen and pelvis are also vulnerable body points, but usually more so if the vehicle occupant is located on the side of the vehicle where the impact occurs. This is because many abdominal and pelvic injuries come about as a result of direct impact, where a physical part of the vehicle is smashed into the lower body.
Common Injuries Suffered by Vehicle Accident Victims
Nearly everyone who is in a car accident suffers from bruises and soreness, at the very least. These types of injuries, though not generally serious, can simply come about as a result of muscles tensing before, during, or after an impact. But they also come from relatively minor impacts against doors, windows, other occupants, interior structures, and from straining against seat belts. If windows break, occupants can also sustain cuts from glass, which may be serious depending upon the length, depth, and site of the cuts.
In addition to the head and chest injuries described above, neck, back and spinal injuries are also common in car accidents—and often very serious. An individual’s core muscles support the spine, and while these core muscles may be strong, most movement that people engage in using those core muscles is controlled and gradual, not sudden and traumatic. When a jarring impact occurs, those muscles cannot react in time to control the movement of the spine. And because the spinal cord houses the primary nerves that make up the central nervous system, spinal injuries can cause problems not just in the back, but throughout the lower body. Spinal injuries such as herniated discs, pinched nerves, and crushed or fractured vertebrae can cause intense pain, as well as tingling or loss of sensation and control in the arms, legs, and torso.
Whenever the back is impacted or hurt in an accident, even if no other injury or infirmity seems apparent, it is essential that an injury victim seek medical help and analysis as soon as possible. Back and spinal injuries must be taken very seriously, and diagnostic exams (which may include an MRI or other tests) are essential. Spinal injuries are not always readily apparent, yet they can lead to severely debilitating conditions, such as paralysis or lifetime pain or disability.
Neck and shoulder injuries are also not uncommon. Like spinal injuries, neck injuries can impact the mobility and sensations within the lower body because the neck is where the spinal cord attaches to the brain as part of the central nervous system. The neck is a particularly delicate and vulnerable part of the body. For example, whiplash is a common neck injury in car accidents, usually when the victim is hit from behind, although it can also happen in other types of collisions. A whiplash injury occurs when the head snaps back from a sudden impact from behind, and then subsequently “whips” forward when the forward motion stops. Whiplash can be a relatively minor injury, but it can also cause long-term chronic neck pain; symptoms can range from just soreness and stiffness to headaches, dizziness, numbness in the upper limbs, trouble sleeping, and trouble remembering.
Shoulder injuries, ironically, often occur as a result of seatbelt use, although the injuries will almost certainly be less traumatic for the wearer than if he or she had failed to use a seatbelt. When a body is jolted within the interior of a vehicle, the shoulder muscles and tendons can be strained or torn when a person’s body is moving in one direction from the impact, but the seatbelt restraint essentially pulls or holds them from back from moving in that direction.
Again, if a car accident victim feels any neck or shoulder pain following an accident, it is critical that they seek a complete medical examination even if the injury appears minor or superficial at first. The extent and severity of some neck and shoulder injuries may not be apparent until well after the accident has occurred.
Finally, bone fractures are common, whether in the arms, legs, ribs, pelvis, or other parts of the body. Some of these injuries, such as compound fractures or a broken pelvis, can involve major surgery and extensive physical therapy.
If You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident, You May Be Owed Compensation
The Illinois car accident attorneys at the Chicago law firm of Abels & Annes, P.C. have many years of experience representing car accident victims injured by the negligence of other drivers. We have helped clients with relatively minor injuries, as well as those with traumatic brain injuries and spinal trauma, and we have also assisted the families of individuals killed in car accidents in wrongful death actions. If you need advice, assistance, or representation in a case involving a car accident injury, call us for a free consultation at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442), locally at (312) 924-7575, or use our online form to contact us today.
If you have been injured in a car accident, call Abels & Annes, P.C. today toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free case consultation.