Fatalities Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The severity of injuries suffered in car accidents ranges anywhere from minor injuries to death. Some injuries are more common than others in mild to moderate car accidents.

The long-term effects of severe injuries are obvious, but there are also long-term effects of brain injuries and to the common back and neck injury. We discuss the long-term effect of brain injuries here. The long-term effects of neck and back injuries from car accidents have been studies and the research shows that the pain improves int he first few months but that the lingering effects last a year or longer. “Beyond six weeks, improvement slows and thereafter only small reductions in mean pain and disability are apparent up to one year.” Back pain improves in first six weeks of treatment but lingering effects at one year, from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 2012. Additionally, the same research also found that people with persistent low back pain “experienced moderate levels of pain and disability at one year; the typical improvement in their pain was only about 50%”. The researchers concluded that the medical field is just not taking back pain complaints seriously enough nor the research on how to reduce it beyond surgery.

Most Common Car Accident Injuries:

  1. Connective Tissue Injury
  2. Lower Back Pain
  3. Neck Injury
  4. Back Injury
  5. Shoulder Injury
  6. Head Injury & Spinal Cord
  7. Upper extremity injury
  8. Lower Extremity Injuries
  9. Knee Injury
  10. Internal Organ Injury
  11. Death

1. Connective Tissue Injury

Connective tissue injuries cover what is often called “Soft Tissue” injury. These are injuries and aggravation to the joints and muscles. These injuries are often viewed as minor by most people; however, it is important to get medical attention to rule out more severe injury and to get proper treatment of the connective tissue injuries. Failure to get adequate treatment can result in permanent joint and tissue injury through muscle scar tissue that forms when the connective tissue heals improperly.

2/3. Neck and Back Injuries from Car Accidents

We discuss these two injuries together as they both concern the spine and the common injuries to these areas are very similar, just located in different locations along the spine. Connective tissue injuries discussed above often occur in this area and the shoulders, the injuries I will be discussing below are beyond connective tissue injury.

It is very common to see an injury to the neck from whiplash, and most people are familiar with the whiplash snapping of the head and how that causes injury to the driver’s neck.

Many people with injured necks or backs will not know the extent of the injury until they go through the typical treatment course. Usually your primary care doctor will do x-rays to rule out breaks or bone fractures and then send you to physical therapy for treatment of the pain. Unless the symptoms of a disc abnormality are very obvious, most doctors to not order MRIs or CT scans until after a few weeks of physical therapy and then after complaints of continuing pain despite the therapy.

the 2 images below show the curvature of the spine being straightened by the car crash impact forces.

1. Normal spine curvature as back is resting against car seat back:

Spine Curvature Before Impact as it rests against the car seat back

2. Rear end collisions force a straightening of the spine:

Spine Straightening during Rear End Impact forcing spine to straighten and possibly injuring discs.

Lower Back Pain after Car Accident

The straightening of the spine puts pressure on the fronts of the lumbar discs (anterior spine) as they are squeezed between the front of the vertebrae which are forced closer together by the straightening of the spine. This can simply cause some soreness or ache or in more serious cases severely damage the discs causing long-term pain and symptoms and may require surgery to correct the placement of the discs or to replace the discs if damaged enough. Additionally, discs pushed out of place can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves exiting the spinal cord leading to severe radiating pain and numbness into the hips, legs, and feet.

There are many types of disc abnormalities that are caused by car accidents, the most common type are disc bulges or disc herniation.

Disc herniation pushing on nerves exiting the spinal cord leading to radiating pain and numbness

Lower Back Pain after Being Rear Ended

Below is another image showing a herniated disc putting pressure on the nerve root exiting the spinal cord, again this is the mechanism for shooting pain and numbness down someone’s legs and into their feet as the nerves run from the spinal cord all the way to the feet and can carry the pain signal all the way to the feet and/or disrupt the nerve function or signal resulting in numbness as far as the toes. The pain and numbness can range from mild to severe enough to cause complete disability.

This is how someone who is the driver or passenger in a car that is hit from behind can end up with severe is disabling injuries, even when the impact is at lower speeds.

4. Shoulder Injury

Common shoulder injuries from car accidents include impingement or tears of different shoulder ligaments or a torn rotator cuff. Shoulder injuries are some of the most painful to suffer and the recovery from rotator cuff surgery is often described to me by my clients as very painful and difficult. Additionally, many people never fully recover from shoulder injuries and have weight limitations in the 5-20 pound range in addition to restricted range of motion, most commonly being unable to lift your arm above the shoulder level.

5. Head Injuries and Spinal Cord

Damage to your brain or nervous system is often a permanent injury. The symptoms of the injury may improve with time, however, they often never fully heal. For detailed discussions about these types of injuries and the long term effects see:

  • Types of Brain Injuries
  • Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis

6/7. Upper & Lower Extremity Injuries

These types of injuries include injury to your arms, hands, wrists, and fingers, legs, ankles and feet. These can be breaks, sprains, severe lacerations, or even burn injuries from friction or flames.

8. Knee Injury

Knee injuries from car accidents is very common, typically caused from bracing for the impact or the knees striking the underside of the dash or other part of the care. Many client do not realize their knees are injured until several weeks after the accident. Many people write the pain off as just bruising, however, these injuries must not be overlooked as knee injury and disability plague many people their entire life, and failing to adequately treat a potential knee injury will not help the healing process and could contribute to a lifelong problem with your knees.

9. Internal Organ Injury

Not necessarily the most common injuries from car accidents, but can be very severe and life-threatening when it does occur. Sometimes the force of the car crash is severe enough to bruise or lacerate an internal organ, such as the liver or kidney. these injuries are extremely painful and usually not much treatment beyond rest is effective. It is important to understand the long-term effects of these injuries and discuss those with your doctor or specialist.

10. Death

In the most tragic cases the driver, passenger, or a pedestrian is killed as the result of a car accident.

Car Accidents Injuries: Long-Term Effects

When making a claim of injury, such as whiplash, from a car accident, you are entitled to compensation for ALL the harms and losses suffered as a result of the car collision. These harms and losses include the harms and losses that you will suffer in the future. Knowing the long-term symptoms and effects of your injury will help you understand the basis for the money damage claimed by your lawyer.

A good St. Louis car accident lawyer knows how to fully evaluate your past, present, and future injuries and symptoms. The best attorneys for a car accident will communicate with you and your doctors to make sure your injuries are fully evaluated for the benefit of your health and also to maximize the value of your claim by fully explaining the extent of your injuries and making sure those claims are supported by the medical evidence.

Contact our St. Louis Car Accident Injury Lawyer Today for Help!

There are more legal elements to a car accident claim than just medical bills. If you were injured in a car accident, schedule a free meeting with our car accident attorneys call us at (314) 863-0500 or contact us online to set up a meeting to discuss your case.