In the US, people spend 1 million days in the hospital for common car crash injuries each year, resulting in an estimated $18 billion in lifetime medical bills and $33 billion in lost work.
If you've been in a car accident, you know just how jarring and frightening it can be. But what you might not know is that car accidents can cause all sorts of injuries, both physical and psychological.
In this blog post, we'll take a look at 17 of the most common car accident injuries (along with some examples), how they happen, and what you should do if you or someone you know has been injured in a vehicle accident.
So if you've been in an accident, read on to learn more about the types of injuries you could potentially suffer from.
If you’ve been injured in a crash and have questions about your legal rights or eligibility to recover compensation, our New York City car accident lawyers can help.
NEXT STEP: Call 212-268-3222 or contact us online to speak with an injury attorney about your legal options.
Hospitalizations from crashes in New York
Between violent movement, impacts, debris, and more, injuries from car accidents can range from minor scrapes and bruises to serious and life-threatening conditions. Our personal injury lawyers have decades of experience and can tell you that crashes affect each individual differently.
Whiplash is the most common type of injury from car accidents. In contrast, minor injuries like strains, sprains, tissue damage, and bruises account for half of the injuries brought to the ER, while broken bones account for less than 5% of injuries but lead to half of the hospitalizations.
A car crash can break bones and severely damage soft tissue. Facial injuries can often lead to additional risks to the eyes and the brain. The neck, hands, and feet joints are also prone to injuries, where even what seems like a minor wreck (or even a crash without damage) can cause traumatic brain injury and paralysis.
Furthermore, hot liquids or car parts can burn you in a severe collision, causing disfigurement.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident and believe you may be eligible for compensation, our car accident attorneys can help.
New York car accident statistics
According to the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration, 900 people die from car accidents every year in New York state.
In 2019, vehicle crashes claimed to lives of 300 passengers, 270 pedestrians, 140 motorcyclists, and 50 bicyclists (while another 300 deaths were unspecified in the accident reports).
Fortunately, the number of crash-related deaths has been trending downward.
Car accidents also lead to 137,000 emergency room visits each year, resulting in 12,500 hospitalizations.
These rates are highest for people aged 65 and older, people aged 20-24, and males (in general).
Motor vehicle traffic accidents are the fourth leading cause of injury-related death and the second cause of hospitalizations (after falls). These accidents create 14% of all deaths by injury.
The most common factors behind these accidents were alcohol consumption and speeding.
You may drive carefully and obey all traffic rules, but you trust that the driver of every other car, truck, motorcycle, or camper is doing the same. And many are not.
Common car accident injuries in New York
Bruises are seldom serious and often heal in a week or two. The seat belt can cause bruising in a car crash while saving you from worse damage.
Most bruises are harmless, but monitor them if you get one in a motor vehicle accident. It may be a sign of something worse. Some bruises can be much worse and penetrate as deep as the bone.
A bruise on an accident victim can be a sign of internal bleeding. If it develops into a hematoma or contusion, that may signal more significant injury beneath the bruise. Pay special attention to any bruises on the head. They may be a sign of brain injury, which can escalate quickly.
Signs that a bruise may signify a greater injury include:
- Loss of motion, numbness, weakness, or “asleep” pins and needles
- Greater swelling or pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headaches and vision problems
- Not improving in a week or seeming to get worse
- Blood in the urine
- Racing pulse, fever, or shallow vision
- Loss of motion, particularly in the legs
- Any hits to the head
- Any hits to the abdomen.
Scars and disfiguration
Facial injuries and burns can cause disfiguring scars that change a person’s appearance. These can require reconstructive and plastic surgery and may never entirely disappear. If the victim of an auto accident is in a customer or audience-fronted position, facial disfiguration might limit their ability to secure future work.
Scars can cause other long-term problems, including depression and anxiety.
Some scars contract as they heal, limiting movement in the area affected. A scar can grow into a keloid or large raised area. While they heal, scars easily become infected or inflamed and need additional medical treatment.
Breaks and fractures in bones result from a heavy collision, such as a car accident, and may not always be easily detectable at the time of the accident. Only later pain and other problems can alert you.
Chest injuries and broken ribs are also common injuries resulting from seat belts. (Although seat belts save lives and prevent worse injuries.)
Types of bone fractures:
- Displaced Fracture - bone breaks into multiple pieces and moves
- Non-Displaced Fracture - the bone breaks but stays where it was
- Closed Fracture - bone is broken underneath unbroken skin
- Open Fracture - breaks and exits through the skin
- Stress Fracture - hairline crack
- Partial Fracture - doesn’t go all the way through the bone
These are among the most common descriptions of bone fractures. Other types describe the movement of the bone or the location of the break.
Although car safety continues to improve, broken bones remain common in pedestrian, motorcycle, car, and truck accidents,.
Facial injuries are difficult to deal with. The brain and major sensory organs are in that area. Besides brain trauma, the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears have delicate parts easily damaged.
- Bone fractures - facial bones may break and sometimes cannot heal properly, causing disfigurement.
- Lacerations - deep cuts to the face require stitches and may leave permanent scars.
- Eye injuries - debris or blunt force can injure eyes, potentially causing blindness.
- Soft tissue injuries - injuries to tendons, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue can lead to impaired function and deformity.
- Burns - serious burn injuries may require skin grafting and cause scarring and discoloration.
- Facial deformities - any injuries above can cause permanent disfigurement, harming the face’s appearance and functions.
- Tooth loss - dental work is common.
The neck is a thin base for a heavy head. Jarring the body can cause injuries to the muscles, tendons, cartilage, and other soft tissues in the neck.
Whiplash results from a fast forward and backward movement of the neck. The movement is the same as a whip cracking. While not visible, whiplash or other trauma can take months to heal or lead to a life of pain.
Your head weighs about 11 pounds. However, if you’ve been in an accident and have your head at a non-upright angle, it can feel like it weighs 60 pounds, causing many neck injuries. The steering wheel and airbags also lead to neck injuries that need medical attention.
The Mayo Clinic says that 120,000 people have whiplash injuries every year. Whiplash is the most common injury in a car accident and is often caused by rear-end collisions. Whiplash can be extremely painful and limiting, but it often heals within several weeks.
Signs of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain worsens when the neck moves
- Neck loses range of motion
- Shoulder, upper back, or arm pain
- Tingling and numbness
Other symptoms can include:
- Irritability or personality change
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory issues
- Blurry vision
- Tinnitus (ears ringing)
- Sleep difficulties
Loss of limbs
The force of a car accident can remove a limb entirely or cause such substantial damage that the limb needs to be fully or partially removed.
A limb loss leads to long-term and expensive rehabilitation, prostheses, and other assistive devices. It can significantly limit your daily activities.
Around 1.7 million people live with limb loss in the US. According to the National Limb Loss Information Center, that’s one in every 200 people.
Wrist & hand injuries
If your hands flew up to protect you in reaction to a car crash, the crash could injure them badly. Delicate bones in the hand and wrist work together in a complex relationship. You may need surgery, and you can lose a lot of functions while it heals.
Finger and toe amputation injuries sometimes happen as well, in addition to dislocation.
Leg & foot injuries
Drivers, especially, often get leg and foot injuries. With their legs stretched forward while driving, these bones and tissues can take the brunt of a forward crash, leading to leg injuries. The foot, like the hand, is full of small bones that can break or knock out of place easily.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) can result from vehicle crashes. Most TBIs result from falls, gunshots, and motor vehicle accidents. TBIs are notoriously slow to appear and diagnose. Minor problems with memory, brain, and body functions can signal a worse injury in the brain.
TBIs are a type of head injury and include bumps/blows to the head and penetrating injuries, with concussions being the mildest brain damage. More severe forms can cause death or lifelong problems.
A TBI can disrupt brain development in a child and may also mean an adult needs constant medical care after an incident. TBIs cause around 2.8 million emergency room visits and hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths each year.
In a concussion, the sudden movement of the brain comes to a sudden stop. It causes the brain to bounce around inside the skull and twist or stretch out of shape. This sudden incident often leads to chemical changes within the brain that cause further problems.
Every concussion is potentially serious and life-threatening. Unlike a broken bone, we cannot directly see a brain injury. You may think it’s just a bump but have a serious wound hiding in your skull. TBI can cause bruising, bleeding, or tearing inside the brain.
A series of concussions can gradually worsen the damage to the brain.
You don’t need an immediate brain scan if you’ve had a concussion. You should keep an eye out for any changes in learning, concentration, memory, and the ability to solve problems. In the longer term, brain injury can cause changes in movement, sensation, personality, and cognitive function. It can lead to depression or other serious mental illnesses.
A car accident can lead people to come into contact with parts of the car they normally do not contact. Hot engine parts or spraying liquids can cause severe burns. An entire vehicle may burst into flames, causing death or life-threatening burns over large parts of the body.
Types of burns include:
- First-degree - minimal damage, skin is red but not blistered
- Second-degree - damage beyond the top layer of the skin, blistering and skin thickening, takes 2-3 weeks to heal
- Third-degree - burn penetrates all layers of skin and injures nerves and tissue beneath the skin, several months to heal and may never get full function again, looks stiff and leathery white or brown
- Fourth degree - penetrates to underlying fat, muscle, and bone; can cause amputation or death, the function will never return, looks black and charred.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from a shock to the system, like a car crash. Visions may haunt you, or you may see flashes of your accident whenever you try to get into a car. PTSD can limit your ability to do the things you love. It can also lead to sleeping problems and nightmares, and additional mental illnesses, such as depression.
Even without PTSD, car accidents can lead to mental and emotional scars that stay around. Talking to a psychologist or therapist after an accident is very normal.
You can suffer a wide variety of back injuries in a car accident. Back pain is one of the worst types of pain humans experience. Frequently, people become disabled from back injuries in car crashes.
If unable to return to work, some people face a life of disability.
Types of back injuries include:
- Strain - also commonly known as “a pulled back” is a highly painful result of damage to muscles and tendons.
- Sprain - when ligaments in the back tear or stretch.
- Slipped/ herniated disc - one vertebra slips out of place, sending sensitive inner tissue outside of its bony protection.
- Ruptured disc - damaged or broken open vertebrae.
- Pinched nerve - pressure compresses a nerve, causing grave pain and impaired movement.
- Nerve damage - debilitating pain caused by trauma to the nerves.
Spinal cord injuries and other serious injuries can cause paralysis.
Paralysis can be partial or total below the place of the injury. Motor vehicle accidents cause nearly half of spinal cord injuries. Typically, a blow to the back causes paralysis by dislocating or fracturing vertebrae and tearing or bruising the spinal cord.
There is no cure for spinal cord injury. It is likely to result in surgeries, physical rehabilitation, pain treatment, and a wheelchair or other mobility equipment for life.
Paralysis results in the inability to move one or both arms or legs but has other effects as well, including:
- Loss of feeling and touch
- Loss of experiencing heat or cold
- Loss of movement
- Large reflex actions
- Difficulty breathing
- Chronic pain.
Internal bleeding and other internal injuries can happen with a blunt force that does not penetrate the skin but injures the muscles, bones, organs, and others underneath it.
This type of injury may not appear immediately and is one of the main reasons someone involved in a car accident should go to the emergency room directly, even if everything looks fine.
Treat any abdominal bruising seriously. The seat belt, if used improperly, can strike several internal organs. Go immediately to the hospital if you see anything resembling an abdominal hematoma.
Pain & distress
Emotional distress and physical pain can linger long after an accident. Depression and anxiety commonly arise after car accidents and can seriously affect your sleep. Pain can limit many of your daily activities, and you may also lose sexual function or other enjoyments of life.
5 Most common causes of car accidents in New York
In New York, reckless and distracted driving causes many accidents. From legal or illegal drugs, intoxication is the common factor in many accidents. Inexperienced drivers and poor road conditions cause accidents as well.
A car is a deadly weapon with a ton or two of steel, red-hot engine parts, and several gallons of gasoline.
Reckless driving is all too common.
A stop sign is merely a suggestion for many drivers, blinkers are unnecessary, and all streets are two-way. Recklessness could end your life, or someone else’s, if it happens behind the wheel of a car.
We are a nation of distracted drivers. We make phone calls, change radio stations, eat breakfast, and even have Zoom meetings while driving, which frequently can result in nearly-fatal accidents.
Fatigued driving is just as bad as distracted driving.
Within New York City, distracted driving caused over 2,600 accidents (out of 9,200 total) in November 2021. That’s four times the second (failure to yield) and third (following too closely) causes.
Some good practices which may prevent a potential accident are:
- In a call, set your phone to speaker mode, or connect it to your car’s Bluetooth system so you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes forward.
- Have a passenger do tasks that would distract you.
- Pull to the side of the road and park to take care of something urgent.
- If you often change radio channels during commercials, make a playlist instead.
Driving while intoxicated is a leading cause of road accidents. It’s also a leading cause of boat accidents, bike accidents, and other sizeable human-operated machinery.
Alcohol is the most common intoxicant, but as states legalize cannabis, more drivers cause accidents. Any drug – legal or illegal – can change a driver’s reaction times.
Whenever starting a new medicine, look over the side effects and warnings on the prospectus.
Allow any new drug several days to see how it affects you before attempting to drive.
Poor driving conditions
Ice on the road will always cause accidents. Watch out for “black ice” which is a thin sheet of ice that looks invisible on the road. Fog, snow, rain, and sleet can all cause accidents. Turn on your lights and proceed with caution. If hail is coming down, it is best not to drive at all.
Like smoke from a fire or pollution, localized conditions can also reduce your visibility. Deer are a significant hazard, depending on the season. A deer is just one of many nearby that you cannot see. New Yorkers hit 65,000 deer each year, mostly between October and December.
Other large animals (moose, cows) and small (chickens) can damage your car. They can also cause an accident because they distract the driver.
What to do if you’re injured in a car accident In New York
Car accidents cause severe damage to people every day.
Statistics show that you are at risk of car crash injuries as a bicyclist or pedestrian in New York, even without a car.
After a car accident, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be incredibly stressful. You may have questions about your legal rights and options, and you may not know where to turn for help.
If you’ve been hurt in a crash, a dedicated car accident attorney at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm can help you determine if you may be entitled to compensation and advise you on the next steps to file a lawsuit.
Our team has more than 30 years of experience helping people like you get the compensation they deserve after an auto accident. We offer free, no-risk case evaluations so you can understand your next steps without any obligation.
If you were injured in a car crash, don’t settle with the insurance company for less than you deserve.