21 Common Car Accident Injuries (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


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Sustaining a car accident injury is all too common in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 1.77 million people were injured or killed in car crashes in 2021.

The scope of car accident injuries is large. Some minor car accident injuries may not require medical treatment and resolve on their own. Serious injuries may result in permanent disability, even when their full impact is not clear at the time of the accident.

In this article, we share the most common car accident injuries and what symptoms to look out for after you’ve been in a car crash. You can also fill out the form on this page to get your case reviewed by an experienced attorney.

Common Car Accident Injuries Explained

If you are wondering what injuries you can get from a car crash, there are unfortunately numerous possibilities. These injuries are the most common in a car accident.

1. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI includes many types of brain injuries. One of the most common causes of TBI is car accidents, due to the potential to strike your head against car panels, windows, or the steering wheel during an accident. Any severe physical assault on your body could cause TBI.

TBI sometimes causes mild symptoms, but it can be one of the worst car crash injuries if it results in severe and lasting disability. Some people suffering from TBI require lifelong rehabilitation.

2. Concussion

A concussion is also a brain injury, but less severe than other forms of TBI. Symptoms of a concussion include headache, ear ringing, nausea, fatigue, and blurred vision. Sometimes injuries that cause a concussion cause a loss of consciousness, but this is not always the case. Any symptoms of injury to the brain require prompt medical attention

3. Spinal Injury or Paralysis

A car accident’s impact on the body can cause damage to the spinal cord. Damage to the spine can cause temporary or permanent changes to your ability to feel or move parts of your body. Severe spinal injuries can result in paralysis.

4. Burns

Car accidents can cause burns when a vehicle catches fire, chemicals leak, or aerosol released during airbag deployment come into contact with skin. Burns can be minor in nature, requiring only first aid treatment. Severe burns may require skin graft or other surgical interventions.

5. Organ Damage and Internal Bleeding

Even if injuries are not visible directly following a car accident, it is possible that internal damage has occurred. A crash can hit the body with components of the car or flying debris. Blunt force and punctures can cause organ damage and internal bleeding. Internal bleeding may be indicated by abdominal pain, headache, dizziness or fainting, deeply purple patches on the skin, or leg swelling.

6. Bone Fractures

Car accidents can easily cause broken bones. Severity can vary from simple breaks to compound fractures causing damage to surrounding tissue or blood vessels. A bone fracture may not be apparent immediately after an accident. Symptoms that indicate a bone fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, deformity, or inability to move a limb.

7. Facial Injury, Disfigurement or Scarring

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of facial injuries. Injuries can occur when a person’s face strikes a hard surface, like the steering wheel, dash, or windshield. Facial injuries can cause lasting scars, and may require surgery.

8. Limb Loss or Amputation

Serious car accidents can cause limbs to be severed. Significant injuries that do not sever the limb can also sometimes require amputation during medical treatment. This type of injury can cause severe disabling effects for the victim both physically and mentally.

9. Whiplash

Whiplash refers to a neck injury caused by forceful movement of the neck forward and back. It is commonly associated with car accidents, particularly rear-end collisions. The symptoms of whiplash sometimes overlap with symptoms for other injuries. A physician may use x-ray, MRI, or CT scan images to help diagnose whiplash.

10. Knee Injury

Knees are vulnerable to injury in a car accident. Common knee injuries to come from car accidents include fractures, ligament injuries, meniscus tears, and dislocation. Symptoms of a knee injury include swelling, pain, bruising, and difficulty moving.

11. Foot and Ankle Injury

Car accidents can cause many injuries to ankles or feet. Some injuries are visible immediately, but torn ligaments and muscle sprains may take time to fully experience. A podiatrist is often required to adequately treat foot and ankle injuries.

12. Shoulder Injury

Shoulders are vulnerable in car crashes, due to impact with the seat belt or other blunt force trauma. Signs of shoulder injury after a car accident include pain when lifting or rotating your arm, loss of strength, a popping noise when moving your shoulder, or swelling around the shoulder.

13. Wrist or Hand Injury

The wrist and hand are made up of 27 bones that are more delicate than many other bones in the body. As a result, damage from hitting hands on the steering wheel or airbag in a car accident is common. Any pain in the hand or wrist should be addressed as soon as possible after an accident to identify injury and avoid further damage.

14. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common soft tissue injuries. This type of injury is less severe, but is also less visible at the time of a car accident. A physician can confirm the extent of a sprain or strain and let you know if any treatment is required.

15. Bruising

Bruises occur when blood from damaged capillaries moves to the surface of your skin. Bruises are common after car accidents, and usually take time to appear. Many bruises will resolve on their own, but severe bruises can be a sign of more serious internal injuries.

16. Lacerations

Lacerations are usually visible immediately. They are very common in car accidents as shattered glass, road debris, and personal belongings fly around. Some major gashes can require stitches or surgery to treat.

17. Puncture Injury

A puncture injury occurs when something pierces your body. This can happen in a car accident from personal items in the car flying around at impact, or from your body colliding with parts of the car. Puncture injuries can be very dangerous, and you should not attempt to remove a puncturing object before medical care arrives.

18. Crush Injury

A crush injury happens when a body party is pressed between two objects. This type of injury can cause extensive damage to skin, bones, and nerves. Any crush injury will require medical attention to properly assess the damage and begin treatment.

19. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Not all injuries from a car accident are physical. PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder that often follows a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD after a car accident include re-experiencing the event, avoiding thoughts or acts you relate to the event, emotional numbness, or disturbed sleep and irritability. PTSD is common in Americans following car accidents and requires treatment.

20. Heart Attack or Stroke

The stress and trauma of a car accident can bring on a heart attack, even in people who do not have a history of heart problems. This is especially true in people aged 65 or older, for whom the risk of both heart and attack and stroke elevates during the 180 days following a car accident. Any chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or excess sweating should be reported immediately.

21. Fatality

Sometimes the total trauma from a car accident is too much for the body. If your loved one passed away due to a car accident caused by another person’s negligence, then you may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim.

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What To Do After a Car Accident Injury

In the stress of the moment, it can be hard to know what to do when you’ve been involved in a car accident. If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps:

  • Stop and move only if it is safe. Call 911 for injuries and do not attempt to move anyone who is injured.
  • Obtain contact information from drivers and witnesses. Note driver’s license and license plate numbers. Ask for names, addresses, and telephone numbers from all involved persons and witnesses.
  • File a police report. If police do not report to the scene of the accident, you can do this at your local police station.
  • Notify your insurance carrier. This is the first step in the claims process and may spur eligibility for benefits under your insurance like a temporary rental car.
  • Contact a car accident lawyer. If you believe the accident was due to another person’s negligence, a lawyer can help you evaluate whether you have a case and provide further advice. Fill out the form on this page for immediate help.

Attend follow up medical appointments. Following any medical care at the time of the accident, continue to attend all follow up appointments as you recover.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury in a car accident. Soft tissue injuries damage connective tissue like muscles and ligaments. Examples of soft tissue injuries are whiplash, sprains, and strains.

  • Your body may hurt immediately after a car accident, but some injuries will surface over the hours or days following an accident. It is common to feel soreness from a car accident for up to six weeks. Severe injuries can require longer recovery.

  • In 2022, the average car accident settlement was $35,500. Car accident settlements vary widely and can reach into the millions in cases involving severe injuries or wrongful death. The value of your case depends on your unique circumstances. A car accident lawyer is best able to estimate your case’s value.

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