While today’s motor vehicles are as safe as they have ever been, car accidents remain a leading cause of serious injury and death in Ohio. According to a 2015 study published the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 3.9 million emergency room visits every year attributed to “motor vehicle traffic injuries.” The injury rate is particularly high among people between the ages of 16 and 24.
The CDC said the following types of car accident injuries are the most commonly diagnosed by emergency room doctors:
- sprains and strains of the neck and back, reported in about 24 percent of all cases
- skin contusions (bruising), about 15 percent
- spinal disorders, about 8 percent
- sprains and strains to areas of the body other than the head or neck, 6.5 percent
- fractures (broken bones), 6.1 percent
- open wounds, 3.7 percent
The CDC noted that motor vehicle accidents are far more likely to result in a neck or back injury than any other type of accident. The most common neck injury you are likely to experience in a car accident is whiplash–the sudden, rapid movement of your neck back-and-forth. Whiplash usually occurs in a rear-end accident, when individuals in the front vehicle are suddenly propelled forward.
Whiplash often manifests itself as pain or stiffness in the neck. A person may also find they cannot move their neck as easily as before–i.e., their range of motion is limited. In serious cases whiplash can produce headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and even affect your vision and hearing. And while whiplash is often classified as a neck “sprain,” it may also describe injuries to the spine or the disks between the bones in your spinal column.
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Back Injuries & Spinal Disorders
Any damage to your spinal column may be life-threatening, or at the very least life-altering. According to the Mayo Clinic, “more than 35 percent of new spinal cord injuries” are the result of car accidents each year. A car accident can dislocate, crush, or compress one or more of the vertebrae in your back. This in turn can lead to partial or total paralysis.
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Even if your back and spine do not suffer permanent damage in a car accident, there is still the risk of a traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion. Such injuries often occur when a person’s head violently strikes the steering wheel or dashboard following a collision. While a mild concussion may only leave you with temporary headaches or dizziness, more serious traumatic brain injuries include skull fractures, internal bleeding, swelling of the brain, blood clots, and permanent damage to brain cells.
Unlike other, more acute injuries such as a broken bone or spinal cord damage, you may not realize that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury until several hours, days, or even weeks following the accident. For example, two days after your accident, you may start to experience concentration and memory problems, or suddenly find yourself overly sensitive to light and noise. These are often symptoms of a concussion.
Aside from the brain, other internal organs may also be severely damaged in a car accident. Broken ribs are a common occurrence when there is a blunt-force impact to the chest. And when ribs are broken, they can cause multiple additional injuries inside the body, such as a punctured lung. The impact of the accident may also rupture your spleen, kidneys, heart, or aorta.
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Not all fractures refer to broken bones. You may suffer hairline or stress fractures–small cracks in your bones–during an accident and not immediately realize something is wrong. Children are also highly prone to buckle fractures, where part of the bone ruptures without completely breaking.
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The two most serious types of car accident-related fractures are comminuted fractures–where the bone breaks into three or more pieces–and compound fractures, where the bone not only breaks but breaks through the skin. The latter carries a substantial risk of infection around the wound, which in and of itself can be deadly, especially if an accident victim is not treated right away or receives inadequate care.
While it may not be a category of injury considered by the CDC and most emergency rooms, it is important not to discount the psychological trauma and other long-term mental health injuries that may follow a car accident. Many accident victims later experience anxiety and depression. In some cases a doctor may even diagnose a victim with post-traumatic stress disorder.
You may think that is an exaggeration. But according to some medical studies 50 percent of car accident victims may develop PTSD. A car accident is, after all, one of the most common traumatic events that a person can experience. And even after a person’s physical injuries have healed, they may continue to exhibit symptoms when in or around automobiles.
Seeking Compensation for Your Car Accident Injuries
If you were in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, you have the right to seek compensation for all of your physical and mental injuries. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be entitled not only to compensation for past and current medical expenses, but also any projected future care you might need.
Of course, negligent drivers (and their insurance companies) may balk at your reasonable demands for compensation. They may try to argue that you are exaggerating or even faking your injuries. This is why it is important to maintain detailed medical records of all care you receive following an accident. It is also why you should not hesitate to seek medical attention even if you are not sure anything is wrong. As discussed above, many accident-related injuries are not immediately apparent.
You also need to work with a qualified Toledo personal injury lawyer who can deal with insurance companies and the legal system on your behalf. Contact the offices of Groth & Associates, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a free consultation today with one of our experienced Toledo car accident lawyers in Toledo or Bowling Green.