Most people driving on the roads will be involved in a car accident at least once during their lifetime. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 43,000 people die a year in vehicle accidents, and another 2.9 million sustain injuries. This damage, depending on the severity, will need to be treated by a medical professional. The following injuries are the most commonly sustained in car accidents.
Head injury was one of the biggest reasons airbags were installed in all vehicles manufactured after 1998 and seatbelt use became mandatory in most states. Studies show airbags reduce the risk of death in a head-on collision by 30% and head injury was lowest among people who used airbags and seatbelts. Without these two precautions, people sustained skull fractures and brain injury. While brain injury might sometimes be mild, individuals who do suffer from such damage can experience memory problems, depression, and cognitive difficulties for 6 months or longer after the accident occurred.
Even small collisions to the back of your car can jerk your head forward in an injury called whiplash. The damage from whiplash may go away in 24 hours, but other people can experience the following symptoms for a few days after the injury:
- Neck pain/stiffness
- Pain between the shoulder blades
- Lower back pain
- Pain/numbness in arm and/or hand
- Difficulty recollecting information
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping problems
In more dangerous accidents, however, people can experience debilitating injury as a result of spinal damage. Severe whiplash is called a flexion distraction fracture and could require surgery. In some cases, complications from this injury led to scoliosis, a flat back, or the development of spinal cysts (which can result in chronic pain, respiratory failure, or death). Other spinal injuries include soft tissue bruising/tearing, herniated discs, compression fractures, transverse process fractures, and dislocation fractures.
While seatbelts can protect you from severe brain damage, it may also cause trauma to the chest area. Depending on how severe the car accident was, the impact from an accident may cause a seatbelt to bruise or even fracture ribs and sternum. Likewise, the straps across the abdomen and chest could cause internal trauma, such as damage to the intestines, liver, spleen, lungs, or trachea. Internal bleeding is extremely dangerous and must be treated as soon as possible by a medical professional.
Damage to limbs may not seem as severe as injury to the head or internal organs, but it can lead to extended stays in the hospital, surgery, and physical therapy. It shouldn’t be overlooked that car accidents are occasionally extremely grisly. In addition to broken bones, fractures, lacerations, and bruising, car accidents can cause amputations in cases where the limb is so badly damaged it can’t be rescued.
Car accidents can be extremely traumatic, both physically and mentally. Although most people come out of car accidents no more psychologically unsound than they were before, studies have found some people develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, or anxiety disorders. About 9% of people involved in car accidents develop PTSD. Those who seek mental-health treatment show higher numbers—between 14% and 100% of auto accident survivors have PTSD. In that percentage group, 3%–53% of survivors also have a mood disorder. In another study of survivors seeking treatment, 27% had an anxiety disorder, and 15% had a phobia of driving in addition to the PTSD. Development of a driving phobia can be debilitating in any city requiring the use of a vehicle to get to and from work.