Whether you’ve personally been in a car accident before or just know someone who has, you’re likely aware that the number of individuals who can say that they walked away from a motor vehicle accident unscathed is limited.
One statistic published by the Association for Safe International Road Travel cites road crashes as the single leading factor resulting in the deaths of healthy United States residents. Data compiled by the National Safety Council (NSC) suggests that as many as 4.5 million patients suffered injuries requiring a doctor’s further evaluation in 2019. Those same NSC statistics reveal how 39,107 motorists lost their lives in vehicle collisions that same year.
The injuries that motorists suffer in crashes are quite diverse. Some, such as bruises, whiplash, or concussions, may last only temporarily and require little medical intervention. Motorists who suffer lacerations, bone fractures, internal organ damage, head or brain trauma, and spinal cord injuries may require surgery and have to deal with a lifetime of functional impairments.
As you might imagine, our Charleston, WV car accident attorneys have clients who’ve suffered catastrophic losses reach out to us for help. Throughout the remainder of the article, we’ll highlight injuries that often result from motor vehicle accidents, both minor and major. We’ll explain how they most commonly occur and what long-term impact individuals generally face after getting hurt.
Soft Tissue Injuries
While there aren’t any statistics readily accessible chronicling data on such a granular level, many medical analysts believe that soft tissue injuries are, by far, the most common injury resulting from an auto accident. These injuries are also, fortunately, the ones that generally only cause patients to experience temporary health setbacks and, thus, are the most recoverable.
Examples of this type of soft tissue injury include:
- Sprains and strains
- Stress injuries
- Bruises or contusions
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also refers to whiplash as a soft tissue injury that strains or sprains the neck. Concussions, which affect brain tissue and can cause functional impairments, also fall under the umbrella of soft tissue injuries.
Symptoms often associated with soft tissue injuries include:
- Double or blurred vision
- Pain, tingling, tenderness, or numbness along one’s neck, shoulders, and back (that may radiate down into one’s arms)
Although these symptoms that most individuals initially experience typically subside in the days or up to two weeks following a crash, these impairments don’t disappear for months or ever for others. Conditions like whiplash can leave individuals with lingering nerve pain and range of motion issues. Since a concussion is a type of brain injury, it may cause lasting cognitive, memory, or mood problems.
This medical condition results from a person’s arms or legs being subjected to increased pressure. Someone may find oneself in such a predicament if a collision’s impact is so significant that it crushes their limbs, requiring the use of jaws of life or life-saving equipment to cut them out.
Compartment syndrome may also result from pressure buildup following a bone fracture. A bone break may lead to intramuscular bleeding, a residual reduction in blood supply, and consequent nerve damage.
Individuals suffering from compartment syndrome often experience:
- Significant pain
- Decreased range of motion
- Numbness along their affected limbs
Patients with acute cases of compartment syndrome may experience both nerve damage and muscle loss. While doctors will often recommend that these patients use ice and elevate their affected limbs, undergoing a fasciotomy may be their only option for alleviating the muscle pressure necessary to ensure proper blood flow.
Individuals who receive compartment injuries often have to contend with:
- Kidney failure
- Limb amputations
Blunt Force Trauma Injuries
As the name suggests, any type of trauma, including auto accidents, can result in a blunt force injury. A motorist may suffer one of these injuries if their head strikes the windshield, dashboard, or steering wheel in a crash. Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists can also suffer blunt force trauma injuries if their body makes contact with a vehicle, the ground, or other objects.
Blunt force trauma may result in injuries such as:
- Lacerations and abrasions
- Eye injuries
- Stress injuries
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries, ranging from concussions to brain bleeds or impaling injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
It’s not uncommon for people who have suffered either traumatic brain injuries or internal organ ones to feel “fine” in the immediate aftermath of their accident, making them feel unmotivated to get checked out by a doctor.
Know that some signs of injury aren’t immediately apparent. It may be too late for doctors to help reverse your fate by the time they are.
Spinal Cord Injuries
High-speed rear-end crashes are just one type of motor vehicle accident that can result in spinal cord injuries and residual paralysis. While spinal cord injuries don’t always leave someone with permanent paralysis, that’s often the case. The nature of the injury and the quality of care that a patient receives in the hours following their accident often dictates how much functionality an individual retains or can regain.
Individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries with residual paralysis can expect to need between $2-5 million dollars in medical care over their lifetime. These funds may go to cover:
- Regular checkups
- Functional support care personnel for help in eating, getting dressed, shopping, cooking, or using the bathroom
- Periodic hospitalizations
- Wound avoidance and management (wheelchair-bound individuals are highly susceptible to pressure sores)
Additionally, spinal cord patients may have other periphery expenses, including:
- Wheelchairs (both manual and power)
- The acquisition of adaptive devices necessary to perform everyday tasks independently
- Accessible transportation and housing
- Lost employment opportunities and, thus, earning potential
Keep in mind that no two paraplegic or quadriplegic injuries are the same. While two individuals with the same level of injury may experience similar limitations, they may have different degrees of residual sensations or functionality unique to them. Regular physical and occupational therapy and exercise can lead to increased mobility or functionality for some paralysis patients over time.
Many promising clinical trial studies that aim to help paralyzed individuals regain functionality are currently in the works. None have garnered government approval necessary for widespread implementation and, thus, the prognosis for spinal cord patients remains fairly stagnant.
What Should You Do if You’ve Been Hurt in an Auto Accident?
As referenced earlier in this article, auto accidents are the leading reason why healthy Americans lose their lives. They’re also one of the leading reasons why motorists suffer injuries.
Different types of negligence, including drunk, drowsy, distracted, and reckless driving, may have led to your injury accident. Poor vehicle maintenance or road design and defective auto parts may also contribute to crashes.
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, our car accident attorneys have years of experience working with clients who’ve suffered significant harm in collisions. We know West Virginia law as it relates to proving liability. Reach out to our Charleston office to discuss your case and the recovery options available to you today.