The forces involved in the average accident are enormous. Accidents expose the human body to crushing and shearing forces that simply go beyond its design capabilities. For example, let’s take a look at a car crash involving two vehicles going thirty miles per hour.
In the space of less than a second, both vehicles decelerate from 30 mph to zero. In the simplest of accidents, this rapid deceleration produces a momentary crushing force of over two tons. In addition, the faster the vehicles are traveling, the more rapid the deceleration is, resulting in a greater crushing force. In more complex accidents, like a T-bone, the deceleration is preceded by a rapid acceleration on an angle from the vehicle’s original trajectory. Secondary collisions with other objects or vehicles after the initial collision produce crushing and angular forces of their own.
The end result of the human body being subjected to these forces is injury and in extreme cases, death. In this article, we’re going to look at the types of injuries that are commonly caused in an accident, as well as the treatment options that exist for those injuries. Although we are using a vehicle collision as an example, keep in mind that all of the information in this article applies with equal relevance to any accidental injury.
One of the most common injuries suffered by car accident victims is broken bones. The sheer force of the kinetic energy involved in the average car accident is more than enough to fracture the long bones of the arms and legs, as well as smaller bones that come in contact with various parts of the car’s interior.
Fractures are easily identified through medical imaging techniques like x-rays and MRI scans. In general, the majority of broken bones are treated by surgery. An orthopedic surgeon will set the fracture by bringing the broken ends of the bone together and then stabilizing the bones through the use of screws, pins, and clamps. After the bones heal together, the victim usually receives physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the fracture site.
The impact of a car crash can not only break the windshield, side, and rear windows of a car, it can also mangle the cars surfaces causing blunt and jagged edges to form. When a passenger comes into contact with these surfaces, the results are lacerations, incisions, abrasions and contusions.
An abrasion occurs when the upper layers of the skin are rubbed off through friction. A contusion occurs when the body encounters a blunt object with enough force to damage tissue and break blood vessels under the skin without tearing or ripping the skin. In common terms, abrasions are known as road rash, rug or gym burns, and contusions are known as bruises. While not life-threatening, they are painful and will usually resolve on their own.
A laceration occurs when the body comes in contact with a blunt object with enough force to tear the skin and underlying tissue. An incision occurs when the body comes in contact with a sharp object that slices open the skin and underlying tissue. The force of impact that occurs during a car crash is more than enough to cause a passenger to suffer serious lacerations and incisions as a result.
Lacerations and incisions are treated by suturing (stitches) and in extreme circumstances, with surgery to stop bleeding. If the wounds are on the face, follow up care may include plastic surgery to help remove visible scarring.
Of all of the injuries associated with a car accident, perhaps none is more terrible or more feared than a head injury. There’s good reason for this. The skull houses the brain and the brain is the most important, and most fragile, organ in the human body. Injuries to the brain can cause memory loss, loss of bodily function, vision and speech problems, personality changes, coma and death.
Picture the yolk of an egg in its shell. The brain in the skull is similar in that it sits surrounded by liquid and membrane in a hard casing. Now, imagine shaking the egg once as hard as you can. If you crack the egg afterword, you’ll see that the yolk has broken and mixed with the white. This occurred because the force you exerted on the egg caused the yolk to strike the inside of the shell with enough force to damage it. Now, take the egg and crack it sharply against a hard object. Obviously, doing this will cause the shell to crack and the contents of the egg to leak out of the shell.
There are two types of head injuries that occur in a car accident – closed head trauma and open head trauma. Closed head trauma is the equivalent of giving the egg a shake. The force of the collision causes the brain to strike the inside of the skull. If the force is strong enough, the brain will bruise, bleed and swell as a result.
Open head trauma is the equivalent of striking the egg against a hard object. The force of the collision causes the skull to strike a blunt object with enough force that it fractures. In severe cases, brain matter and neural fluid can be exposed.
The treatment for head trauma is long and filled with extreme challenges. Surgery is performed to alleviate bleeding, swelling, and to close skull fractures. Victims are often hospitalized for long periods of time and in extreme cases, institutionalized for life because they are unable to function properly or care for themselves. For many that eventually do return home, life is never the same.
Certain parts of the body, specifically the neck and back, are particularly susceptible to injury in a car accident. The soft tissue that supports the spaces between the vertebrae of the spine are not designed to handle the stresses that are put on them during an auto accident. As a result these soft tissues can tear and become displaced, impinging on nearby nerves.
Oftentimes, these soft tissue injuries are missed during initial diagnosis for two reasons. First, they do not show up on x-rays, and second, it can take days and sometimes weeks for the nerve impingement to become symptomatic. However, when these injuries do become symptomatic, they can be extremely painful, cause numbness, weakness, and tingling in the extremities, can cause nerve damage, and in severe cases, can cause paralysis.
Treatment for soft tissue injuries can be difficult and challenging. Surgery to cut away damaged tissue and reduce nerve impingement is one option. So is long-term physical therapy or chiropractic care. In many cases, the victim is left with lasting effects no a matter the treatment.
If you have suffered any type of car accident or motor vehicle injury because of someone else’s negligence, call us right away so that we can be your guide. Our experienced Phoenix accident injury attorneys offer a free consultation to all potential clients so that you can discuss your motor vehicle collision case without cost or obligation.
Call Us now (480) 456-3080 If we don’t collect you don’t pay a fee to our law firm.