Car accidents are frighteningly common in the U.S.—someone is injured in this type of accident about every 10 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—and while they are not always fatal, someone who has been in an accident might suffer the consequences of one of these long-term injuries if they fail to get the right kind of care and help following the accident.
Head, Back & Neck Injury
Injuries to the head, back and neck are some of the most common injuries that people suffer after a car accident. In fact, about 80 percent of people involved in an accident report having whiplash (damage to the muscles, nerves, joints, ligaments, and discs in the neck), causing symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and pain. While these symptoms might go away over time, more serious and long-lasting injuries can include things like traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can cause physical, motor, behavioral, and cognitive trauma, or back and neck injuries that can lead to pain, muscle spasms, and even spinal cord injury or paralysis.
Lower Extremity Injuries
The hips, knees, and legs are very vulnerable in a car accident, and may hit the dashboard or get crushed when the front or sides of a vehicle collapse. The most common injuries are bruising, fractures, and broken bones, which will generally heal well over time. In more severe cases, though, injuries to the lower extremities can reduce your mobility, making walking, running, and other physical activities difficult, and could even lead to paralysis or partial disability.
Scars or Disfigurement
One injury that you may not think about as much in a car accident is the potential for scars and disfigurement, whether from the initial injuries suffered in the accident or from the medical intervention(s) required after the accident. Although the scars or disfigurement may not cause any lack of ability in the future, they can still be psychologically damaging, and if they are severe or in a place that is normally visible (such as the face or neck) they could interfere with your ability to get a job, and could have an impact on interpersonal relationships as well.
Mental Health Issues
Another “hidden” danger of car accidents is the potential that you might suffer from mental health issues related to driving or traveling in a vehicle. A study by British researchers in 2001 found that one year after an accident, as many as one-third of people involved in non-fatal crashes suffered from conditions such as:
- Post-traumatic stress
These mental health issues are also not exclusive to the driver, the study found. In fact, passengers were more likely to suffer the long-term mental health consequences than the person in the driver’s seat. This stress can impact you at work, cause sleeplessness, and interfere with your relationships, and should be addressed as quickly as possible, especially if you find you are still experiencing them more than two or three months after an accident.