Fifty million people in the United States sustain non-fatal injuries in car accidents each year. While some accident injuries are minor, such as scratches, scrapes and bruises, others can be very serious in nature, requiring weeks and month of hospitalization and rehabilitation to recover. In the most severe instances, these injuries can lead to lifelong disability.
Some of the most common automobile accident injuries include damage to the spinal cord and brain, back and neck, severe lacerations, burns, open fractures, amputations, and internal bleeding and organ damage. Left untreated, these injuries can worsen over time leading to infection or permanent paralysis.
If you’ve sustained injuries in an accident, you may be facing mounting medical bills, lost wages, and loss of future earnings. The personal injury attorneys at Berry Law can review your case and advise you on how to recover monetary damages. Let their experience work for you so that you can focus on healing.
What Are the Most Common Signs of Injury After an Accident?
Whiplash is one of the most common causes of neck pain following a car accident. It occurs when the energy from a collision forces the neck and skull to move rapidly from side to side or forward and backward, stretching and tearing the structures of the neck.
Muscles, ligaments, tendons, facet joints, and nerves tend to be impacted by this unexpected and violent movement, which doesn’t give a victim any time to brace themselves for impact. Symptoms of whiplash include headache and dizziness, trouble sleeping, neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Soft tissue injuries like strains and strains can cause damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves anywhere in the body. Signs of soft tissue injury include pain and tenderness, redness or warmth, muscle spasms and cramping, limited range of motion, weakness, bruising, and swelling.
Back and spinal injuries to the vertebrae, spinal discs or muscles can lead to pinched nerves that cause tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the hands and feet. Pinched nerves can be an indication of a more serious neck or spinal injury as well.
Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the country. Untreated, these injuries can lead to permanent paralysis. It’s important to see a doctor immediately if you suspect that you’ve injured your back or neck.
Watch for neck pain, lower back pain, soreness and stiffness, limited range of motion or mobility, muscle spasms and cramping, sharp pain caused by movement or coughing, redness or warmth, pain and tenderness, and numbness or tingling. Middle or upper back pain could be an indication of whiplash or serious spinal cord injury, while lower back pain could be a sign of a herniated disc or damaged intervertebral discs.
Concussions are common when a victim’s head hits the steering wheel or an airbag that opened upon impact. Fainting or loss of consciousness are indicators that an accident victim has suffered a head injury. Other symptoms include headaches, emotional changes, fatigue or weakness, nausea and vomiting, confusion or difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light and sound, loss of memory, blurry or double vision, and lightheadedness.
Because head injuries affect the way that the brain communicates with the rest of the body, it can impair balance, so dizziness is also a sign that the brain has sustained trauma.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are more severe than a concussion. A TBI is a closed-head injury that occurs when the brain is rattled around inside of the skull due to rapid and violent movement. Such movement causes the brain to hit the interior of the skull wall causing damage to the brain tissue that results in bleeding, bruising, or excess fluid.
The symptoms of a TBI are similar to a concussion, and the only way to know if someone has sustained a TBI is to seek immediate medical attention. A TBI can be life-threatening if left untreated because bleeding in the brain can cause fatal blood clots.
Internal organ damage is common in the abdomen following an accident. It can present as stomach pain caused by internal bleeding that may require surgical intervention. Delaying treatment for internal organ damage can be life-threatening or lead to further complications down the line.
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What Should I Do if I Notice I’m Injured After an Accident?
The first thing an accident victim should do following a collision is to move to safety if they are able to do so. Do not attempt to move an injured person until help arrives, unless that person is in immediate danger. For example, they are in the path of oncoming traffic, or the vehicle has ignited. Any unnecessary movement can aggravate serious spinal cord injuries or fractures or lead to uncontrolled bleeding.
Evaluate yourself and others for obvious signs of injury and call 911 or ask a bystander to do so if you are unable. Administer first aid or CPR where appropriate while you wait for an ambulance to arrive.
What if I Don’t Appear to be Injured?
It’s critical that you see a doctor immediately following any type of accident, even if you don’t believe you are injured. While many accident injuries appear immediately, some can take days or weeks to present themselves.
When adrenaline floods the body immediately following a traumatic event, it can cause a numbing effect that masks physical pain. Delayed symptoms of injury can begin 24-48 hours or more following an accident and may mask a bigger problem, especially if serious symptoms are written off as minor twinges and body aches.
Even if you don’t see or feel obvious signs of injury, it’s a good idea to be evaluated by a health professional because medical evaluation is the only way to locate, diagnose, and treat the source of an injury. This is especially true for head, neck, and back injuries.
Skeletal injuries and whiplash can sometimes take days to develop, according to the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS), so even if you walk away from an accident without any noticeable back or neck pain, it could mean that whiplash is simply taking longer to present itself.
In rare cases, a life-threatening injury could worsen for weeks before a victim realizes it was caused by his or her recent accident. Internal injuries to organs like the spleen can take time to show up and be fatal if left untreated. Infection, brain bleeds, and brain injuries can present with symptoms that take a long time to appear, and even immediately apparent injuries may be hiding more serious issues that can lead to chronic medical problems in the future if they aren’t addressed.
A healthcare provider can perform physical and diagnostic tests like X-rays and MRI and CT imaging to determine whether internal damage has occurred. Refusing to immediately seek medical attention could jeopardize future injury claims you make because it makes it more difficult to prove to an insurance company that the injuries were a direct result of the accident and not from something that happened before or after it occurred.
The insurance company may use a delay in seeking medical treatment as an excuse to minimize or deny your claim, arguing that the injuries weren’t bad enough at the time for you to seek medical help.
While accident injuries are typically thought of as being physical, they can also be emotional. So-called invisible injuries like anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can present in the weeks following an accident. It’s just as important to have documentation of treatment sought for emotional injuries following an accident as it is for physical ailments.
How Can I Receive Compensation for My Injuries?
Medical treatment is typically very costly following an accident. Even after hospital discharge, follow up appointments and physical therapy can lead to mounting medical debt, loss of wages, and lost sick leave. To further complicate the matter, you may be dealing with debilitating health conditions and the prospect of future medical expenses. All of this can take a toll on your finances and mental health following an accident. You shouldn’t be required to pay for someone else’s mistake.
It’s important to have an accurate record of the injuries sustained in an accident to aid in filing insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits so that you can receive financial relief for your monetary losses.
If you are physically able after an accident, document the scene by taking photos of the site and any vehicles or obvious hazards involved. Record the names of bystanders or witnesses to the accident and collect information from other drivers or responsible parties. You or your attorney may also be able to obtain this information later by requesting copies of the police report.
Keep all paperwork that you receive from the hospital or other medical appointments documenting your injuries and treatment received. Documentation of injuries directly after an accident occurs can help show that the injuries were caused by the accident and that someone else’s negligence resulted in your medical condition.
One way to document your injuries and the healing process is through photos. Keep in mind that injuries will look very different the day they are received than they will by the time the case is resolved months or years later. Having photos of the initial injuries, along with pictures of them healing over time, can be helpful for a jury to see the healing progression if your case does go to trial.
Begin by taking a full-body photo to prove that the documented injuries are in fact yours and not someone else’s. Take closer up shots, using a variety of angles and good lighting to include stitches, casts, braces, bruises, and cuts. Be sure that your photos are clear and avoid the use of filters, which can lead opposing counsel to question their authenticity.
Since personal injury cases can be lengthy affairs, keep backup copies of any photo documentation you have so that it is easily accessible when you need it. To learn more about recovering from injuries after an accident, reach out to our firm today.