Common Car Accident Injuries 

According to estimates in the car insurance industry, the average driver will file a claim for a car accident every 17.9 years. This means that over the course of the average life span, the average driver will be involved in at least 3 or 4 car accidents.

Whether those car accidents are forceful collisions on the highway or minor fender-benders in the parking lot, you are very likely to suffer some form of injury when you are involved in a car accident. The National Safety Council reports that in a one-year period, there are approximately 4.6 million injuries that require medical consultation after a car accident. Any type of injury sustained in a car crash also could result in:

  • Medical bills
  • Insurance claims
  • Legal claims
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property Damage

These issues, which often follow a car accident, can be emotionally and financially draining when you are trying to recover from your car accident injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents.


WhiplashWhiplash is a traumatic injury to the neck caused by the sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the head, much like the lashing of a whip—thus the term “whiplash.” The most common cause of whiplash is the “rear end” car crash, during which the person struck from behind typically experiences a rapid and forceful “whip lash” of the head, first backwards and then suddenly forward. This sudden force to the neck can result in:

  • Broken bones in the neck or spine
  • Ruptured disks
  • Strained ligaments or muscles in the neck and back
  • Nerve damage
  • Soft tissue damage

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the symptoms that you may experience within the first 24 hours after suffering whiplash:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder, back, and arm pain
  • Numbness in the arms
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Memory loss

Although many people who suffer whiplash will fully recover after an intense few weeks of treatment and medication, many people experience long-term effects from their injury, which can persist for years.


A concussion is a traumatic injury to the brain that affects your brain function. Much like a whiplash injury, a concussion can result from the sudden and forceful movement of the head that causes your brain to strike the walls of the skull. Damage from this can result in:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of coordination

If the injury to the brain is severe enough, a concussion could cause you to lose consciousness. However, it is more likely that you may not even realize that you have experienced a concussive brain injury.

Here are some of the signs to look for that indicate a possible concussion after a car accident:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Amnesia (perhaps even of the event causing the concussion)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed motor skills

More serious concussions may result in long-term symptoms, such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes
  • Sensory changes (sensitivity to light or sound, altered taste and smell)
  • Depression

A concussion also could cause bleeding in the brain, which can be fatal. However, even a mild head injury can be physically and financially debilitating. Treatment for a mild head injury could cost up to $85,000. A severe brain injury could result in medical costs as high as $3 million.

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury involves a fracture, dislocation, compression, or other damage to one or more of the vertebrae or associated nerves in the spine that affects your sensory (ability to feel) and motor functions (ability to control body movement) below the site of the damage. Depending on the location, severity, and completeness of the injury, a spinal cord injury could result in paralysis of the hands, arms, legs, and pelvic organs.

Common signs of a spinal cord injury after a car accident include:

  • Loss of sensation (ability to feel heat, cold, and touch)
  • Body spasms
  • Intense pain or “stinging” sensation in the spine
  • Impaired breathing

Symptoms of serious spinal cord injury may include:

  • Head, neck, or back pain or pressure
  • Paralysis
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in extremities (hands, fingers, feet, toes)
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Distorted position of neck or back

The Mayo Clinic reports that car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries and account for almost half of new spinal cord injuries every year.

Broken Bones

Broken BonesBecause of the severe impact of most car accidents, broken bones are a common result. More specifically, car accidents are reported to be the most common cause of broken ankles. Often, these injuries require surgery and the implant of plates, rods, and screws, to repair the damage and restore proper motor skills.

Symptoms that indicate a broken ankle include:

  • Immediate, intense, and throbbing pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to walk or bear weight
  • Deformity of the foot or ankle

Long-term complications sometimes result from broken ankles. These may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Disability
  • Nerve or circulation damage

Internal Injuries

Because of the forceful impact of most car accidents and the proximity of occupants—particularly drivers—to the steering wheel and dash board of the car, internal injuries are a common result in a car accident. Internal injuries often include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Punctured or collapsed lungs

Depending on the nature of the impact and the severity of the damage to the organs, surgery is often necessary and could require a long period of recovery during an expensive hospital stay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans injured in car crashes spend more than 1 million days in the hospital each year. Total lifetime medical expenses for injuries resulting from car crashes in a one year period is estimated to reach $18 billion.


Lacerations to any part of the body—especially the face—are common in car accidents in which windshields and windows break, which is more common in older cars. In modern cars, federal law requires that windshields be laminated and include an inner and outer layer of tempered glass, both of which are bonded to an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (“PVB”). “PVB” is resistant to damage from pebbles, rocks, and excessive temperatures, which can cause minute cracks in older windshields. It also provides increased protection from the collapse of the roof in a roll-over accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when a windshield breaks in a crash, the structural stability of the roof is decreased by up to 40 percent. Broken glass and collapsed metal increase the likelihood of laceration injuries in a car accident.

Even when the windshield and windows remain intact during an accident, lacerations can be caused by any loose, sharp items in the vehicle that project during a crash. As with all injuries, the extent of physical damage will depend on the severity of the laceration. Severe lacerations can cause damage to soft tissue, bones, muscles, tendons, and the circulatory system, which can be fatal.

What Can I Do To Avoid the Common Types of Injuries That Result from a Car Accident?

The best way to avoid injury from a car accident is not to have a car accident at all. You will decrease your chances of being in a car accident if you:

  • Do not drink and drive
  • Wear your seat belt and require seatbelts for all passengers
  • Use properly secured child car seats
  • Do not text or use hand-held electronic portable devices while driving
  • Do not speed
  • Obey all traffic laws, signals, and signs
  • Stay alert or pull over when tired on drowsy
  • Pay attention
  • Minimize distractions

Unfortunately, no matter how careful of a driver you are, you cannot assume that other drivers on the road are equally careful. And statistically, you are likely to be involved in more than one car accident during your lifetime.

If you are in a car accident and experience any of the symptoms of the common car accident injuries discussed here, or any other type of injury, seek medical attention immediately. And call Foster Wallace to assist you with any issues that may arise over:

  • Medical bills
  • Insurance claims
  • Legal claims
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney