Car accidents can happen at any time and are often a terrifying experience for everyone involved. Unfortunately, these accidents can also result in serious injuries that can affect your physical, emotional, and financial health. There were 5.4 million medically-consulted injuries resulting from motor vehicle incidents in 2021, and total car accident injury costs were estimated at $498.3 billion.1 Even if you feel fine immediately after an accident, it's essential always to seek medical attention promptly, as some injuries may not present symptoms right away.
Here, we'll explore the most common car accident injuries and provide valuable information on how to seek treatment for them. If you've been in an accident or know someone who has, this guide will provide the information you need to understand the common injuries resulting from a car accident and how to get the necessary medical attention.
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents. It occurs when the neck is violently jolted forward and backward, causing strain or sprain to the neck muscles and ligaments.
There are various symptoms that individuals may experience with whiplash. These include:
- Neck discomfort – Neck pain or discomfort is a typical side effect of whiplash, and can range from mild to severe. The pain might be excruciating, impairing a person's ability to move their neck or head.
- Stiffness – Stiffness is another common symptom that can hinder mobility and cause pain.
- Headaches –These are another side effect of whiplash, and may range from moderate to severe. Sometimes, headaches can be severe, making it difficult to focus on daily duties or at work.
- Dizziness – Individuals may feel dizzy when experiencing whiplash, which can lead to balance problems and an increased risk of falling.
Medication is commonly used to alleviate the discomfort caused by whiplash. Physical therapy can also aid in the improvement of range of motion and the reduction of neck stiffness. Chiropractic therapy can also help with symptom relief by restoring proper spine alignment.
Whiplash can last for months or even years after the initial injury, and some people may suffer from persistent pain and other symptoms for months, if not years, after the initial injury. So, if you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms following an accident, meet with a healthcare provider to seek treatment.2
2. Back and Neck Injuries
Back and neck injuries are among the most prevalent types of injuries resulting from car accidents. They can occur when the force of impact causes the body to jerk suddenly, leading to soft tissue injury and damage to the muscles, ligaments, and bones in the neck and back.
A herniated disc is one of the most common types of back injuries that individuals face following a car crash. This injury occurs when the soft, jelly-like core protrudes through a crack in the thick outer layer, leading to pressure on nearby nerves and resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness in the back, legs, or arms.3
Sprains and strains are also common types of back and neck injuries that can occur in car accidents. Symptoms can include stiffness, pain, and limited movement in the affected area.
Treatment for these injuries may include pain medication, physical therapy, or surgery in severe cases. Seeking medical attention immediately following a car crash may help avoid further damage to the affected area and ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
3. Broken Bones
A broken bone frequently results from car accidents, ranging from minor fractures to more severe injuries requiring immediate medical attention. Sometimes, a broken bone can be easily identified through symptoms such as swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the affected area. However, some fractures may not be immediately apparent and may require X-rays or other imaging tests for accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for broken bones depends on the severity and location of the fracture. For instance, a simple fracture may only require casting or immobilization to allow the bone to heal, while a more complex fracture may require surgery to align and stabilize the bone properly. Proper medical attention and follow-up care are crucial for a successful recovery from broken bones sustained in a car accident.
4. Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries—contusions (or bruises), sprains, strains, and stress fractures, among others—are among the most common types of injuries resulting from car accidents. However, soft tissue injuries are often overlooked, as they may not be apparent immediately after the accident; still, soft tissue injuries can cause significant pain and discomfort over time.
Treatment for these injuries may involve pain management, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is a common approach for treating soft tissue injuries. Still unsure when to see a car accident doctor? Seek medical treatment promptly after a car accident to ensure that any injuries, including soft tissue injuries, are properly diagnosed and treated.4
5. Head Injuries
Motor vehicle–traffic injury is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related deaths in the United States, with rates highest among adults aged 20 to 24 years.5 Head injuries can range from mild concussions to severe TBI, which can result in long-term cognitive and physical impairments.
Headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and memory loss are all signs of a potential head injury. So, how long after an accident should you see a doctor if you have this type of injury? If you or someone else involved in a car accident experiences any head injury symptoms, you should seek treatment immediately. Treatment for head injuries may include medication, rest, or surgery in severe cases.
6. Facial Injuries
Facial injuries are common in car accidents due to the forceful impact that can occur. These injuries can vary from simple scrapes and bruises to more serious fractures or dislocations.
Treatment for facial injuries may include surgery to repair fractures or other damage, medication for pain management, or stitches to close wounds. In some cases, psychological counseling may also be necessary to help individuals cope with the trauma of a facial injury.
7. Internal Injuries
Internal injuries occur when organs and other structures inside the body are damaged, often from blunt force trauma. They can also be potentially life-threatening if they go unnoticed.
Common types of internal injuries that can occur during a car accident include:
- Liver lacerations
- Ruptured spleen
- Kidney damage.
The symptoms of internal injuries may not be immediately apparent and can be life threatening, which is why it's crucial to seek medical attention after a car accident. Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Internal bleeding
Treatment for internal injuries typically involves surgery, medication, or other medical interventions. Car accident victims may need to be hospitalized to be monitored and treated, depending on the severity of their injuries. Following your doctor's advice and attending all follow-up appointments can help ensure a full recovery.6
8. Psychological Injuries
Car accidents can not only result in physical injuries but also psychological trauma. In fact, car accidents are the single leading cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the general population.7
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can occur after a traumatic event and can cause intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the event. Individuals may also experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Treatment for psychological injuries may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Seeking support from mental health professionals can be crucial in helping individuals cope with the psychological impact of a car accident.
9. Spinal Cord Injuries
There are about 17,700 new spinal cord injury cases each year in the United States. These are some of the most life-changing injuries following car accidents and can result in partial or complete paralysis, loss of sensation, and difficulty breathing.
Treatment for spinal cord injuries may include immobilization, medication, surgery, or rehabilitation. The goal of treatment is to manage the injury, prevent further damage, and maximize the individual's ability to function and regain independence. To help overcome the emotional and psychological impact of the injury, rehabilitation often includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.8
Burns can occur when a car catches fire or when hot metal or plastic comes into contact with the skin. Types of burns resulting from car accidents may include:
- First-degree burns – These are relatively mild and only affect the outer layer of skin.
- Second-degree burns – These are moderate burns that can affect the skin's outer and inner layers.
- Third-degree burns – These burns cause damage to all layers of the skin and even to underlying tissues.
Treatment for burns may include pain medication, wound care, and, in severe cases, skin grafts. It is essential to seek prompt medical attention for burn injuries to prevent infection and promote healing.9
How to Seek Treatment for Car Accident Injuries
If you have been involved in a car accident, it is essential to seek prompt medical attention, even if you feel fine. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and delayed treatment can lead to further complications. Here is a checklist of steps to take:
- Call 911 if there are any serious injuries.
- Get a medical evaluation as soon as possible.
- Keep detailed records of all medical expenses and treatment.
- Contact a car accident lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Seeking Medical Attention and Legal Guidance After a Car Accident
Unfortunately, car accidents can result in various injuries that may require medical treatment. It's important to always seek medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident, even if you don't immediately feel pain. Some injuries may not present symptoms until days or even weeks later, and delaying treatment can result in more serious complications. Additionally, seeking treatment can provide documentation of your injuries, which may be important if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
If you've been involved in a car accident, a trusted car accident attorney can provide valuable advice on how to seek medical treatment, gather evidence, and pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.
Head to Mighty's Attorney Directory to find a trusted car accident attorney in your area today.
- Injury Facts. “Motor Vehicle - Introduction.” https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/overview/introduction/.
- Mayo Clinic. “Whiplash.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/symptoms-causes/syc-20378921.
- Mayo Clinic. “Herniated Disk.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20354095
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Soft-Tissue Injuries.” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/softtissue-injuries.
- CDC. “Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States.” https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/blue_book.pdf.
- WebMD. “Abdominal Pain & Internal Bleeding from Injury: Symptoms, Treatments.” https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/internal-bleeding-causes-signs.
- Research Gate. “PTSD after severe vehicular crashes.” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41577548_PTSD_after_severe_vehicular_crashes.
- United Spinal Association. “Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Stats.” https://unitedspinal.org/spinal-cord-injury-facts-and-stats.
- Mayo Clinic. “Burns.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/burns/symptoms-causes/syc-20370539.
Written ByLuke Krolak
Client Operations Lead
About the author
Luke is a warm-hearted and highly skilled legal operations expert with an impressive 8-year track record in the personal injury field. As the Client Operations Lead at Mighty, he is dedicated to providing exceptional support, transparent communication, and genuine empathy to clients during their challenging journey. His expertise in streamlining processes and implementing cutting-edge technology makes him an indispensable ally for clients, case managers, and attorneys in their pursuit of justice.
About the reviewer