The circumstances of your motor vehicle collision are important, but your health should be your top priority after an auto accident. Knowing what injuries you have is the first step in establishing a treatment plan and starting the goal back to full health.
It is extremely important that you receive treatment for all of your injuries. The following list is provided to make you aware of all potential injuries. Talk to your medical provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
Unfortunately brain injuries occur every day in car crashes, and most of these incidents cause effects that are felt for a lifetime. The severity of the brain injury — also referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) — depends on:
- The area of the brain that was hurt;
- The force of the impact;
- How the brain was damaged.
Common types of brain injuries suffered in a car wreck include:
- Concussions: The most common brain injury in car accidents, a concussion occurs when a direct blow to the head causes the head to shake violently. Victims in car accidents may suffer a concussion and not lose consciousness or show symptoms, and thus might not seek necessary medical attention. Untreated concussions can be serious.
- Contusions: A bruise on the brain is usually caused by a direct blow from an external object or a driver or passenger hitting their head on the steering wheel, window or dashboard. A large contusion may require surgery to remove it.
- Diffuse axonal injuries: This is caused by a strong rotation or shaking of the head. For example, when a car suddenly stops and the brain does not move at the same speed as the skull, brain structures may shear.
- Coup-Contrecoup injuries: This occurs when contusions form on the site of the impact and the opposite side of the brain. A serious form of brain injury, this typically happens when the force is so great that the brain moves inside the skull and damages the opposite side of the impact.
- Penetration injuries: Violent car crashes can cause flying metal and glass to go through the skull and into the brain. These are often fatal.
- Blood clots or hematomas: A hematoma is a blood clot that forms when a blood vessel ruptures and brain collects on the surface of the brain.
Spinal Cord Injuries
As with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are often severe and life-altering. Spinal cord injuries are divided into two types: complete and incomplete. If the injury isn’t severe enough to sever the spinal cord, the injury is classified as incomplete.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries include:
- Anterior cord syndrome: This causes injury to the front of the spinal cord, interfering with feelings of touch, pain, and temperature. Most victims can recover some movement.
- Central cord syndrome: This occurs when the center of the cord is damaged. Loss of sensation is common, and victims rarely recover movement in their arms (movement in the legs may be possible).
- Posterior cord syndrome: This causes injuries to the back of the spinal cord. Many posterior injury victims keep good posture and muscle tone, as well as some movement (but struggle with coordination).
- Cauda equina lesion: This damages the nerves between the first and second lumbar sections of the spine, resulting in a loss of sensation, but no loss of movement. It is possible to regenerate some nerves to improve function.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome: This produces an injury affecting only one side of the spinal cord, allowing movement and sensation to continue on one side of the body, but not the other.
There are two types of complete spinal cord injuries:
- Complete paraplegia: For those that suffer a complete spinal cord injury, all sensation and ability to move are completely lost below the site of the injury, which must be at or below the T1 point (the first thoracic vertebra). Victims typically regain normal hand and arm function, but use of the legs is typically fully lost.
- Complete tetraplegia: Cervical level injuries involving paralysis in both arms and legs is known as tetraplegia. In these cases, victims often need assistance breathing.
This is currently no cure for complete spinal cord injuries.
Other Car Crash Injuries
Brain injuries and spinal cord injuries tend to be the most devastating injuries suffered in car crashes, but that’s not to say other injuries aren’t serious and life-changing. Some other examples of injuries include:
- Broken bones: When bones are broken or fractured, it can be extremely painful and may take a very long time to heal, especially if surgery is required to fix the bones.
- Burn injuries: Burns can be minor, but in severe cases they may be fatal. In extreme situations they may require skin grafts and result in significant scarring.
- Amputations: The loss of a limb or digit (finger or toe) can be a traumatic event after a car accident.
- Herniated or bulging disc injuries: Discs are cushions that separate vertebrae and protect the spine. When a disc is displaced in the back, it can be painful and cause serious complications.
- Lower back injuries: Injuries to the lumbar spine (lower back) can prove particularly painful. These are some of the largest and strongest muscles in the back and provide stability to your frame.
- Whiplash: The most common type of injury in any type of car accident, whiplash is considered a form of soft tissue injury. It occurs when the neck and upper back are strained due to sudden movements.
- Joint and ligament injuries: When ligaments are subjected to stress and trauma, they stretch and tear.
- Lacerations: When a car is involved in an accident, glass, metal, cell phones, coffee cups, purses, etc., can become projectiles. Loose objects often cause scrapes, cuts and lacerations to passengers.
- Pregnancy complications: Expectant mothers and unborn children are susceptible to injury in a car crash.
- Death: Car wrecks can end someone’s life and leave a family grieving and pondering the next steps to take.
If you or a loved one has suffered any of the above injuries in a Washington state car accident, it’s important that you protect your legal rights. Your first priority should be receiving proper treatment so that you can get back to 100 percent. Once a treatment plan is established, it may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer in your area to discuss the specifics of your case.