In a rear-end collision, a car strikes another from behind, usually throwing the passengers in the front car forward abruptly. Their seatbelts may catch, causing blunt force trauma. People may strike the dashboard, other seats in the car, the steering wheel, or, in some cases, even the windshield, leading to severe injuries.
Rear-end collisions can cause a wide range of potential injuries. The extent of the injury depends on the force of the collision, and if the front vehicle strikes something else due to the accident, other injuries may occur.
During a rear-end collision, the force of the accident often causes the head to move back and forth rapidly and may result in the head striking the back of the car seat, the steering wheel, or the dashboard. That force can quickly translate through the skull, causing the brain to hit the inside of the skull or even causing enough force to cause swelling in the brain.
That force can cause a brain injury, including swelling in the brain.
A brain injury can have a heavy impact on every area of the patient’s life. Traumatic brain injuries frequently cause the loss of long-term memories, which many people think of first when they consider head injuries due to their prevalence in movies and other popular media. Still, they may also cause several other losses.
Some patients with brain injuries, for example, lose the ability to maintain focus, and others may have problems with short-term memory. That loss in focus, memory, and concentration can make it very difficult for patients with brain injuries to take care of their usual work responsibilities or even engage in the leisure activities that usually fill their off-hours.
For example, some patients may have trouble following the plot of a movie or book, while others may have difficulty carrying the thread of a conversation.
Brain injuries may also lead to substantial emotional impact. Some patients with brain injuries have a hard time with emotional control and regulation after the accident.
They may, for example, react inappropriately to even relatively minor irritations or react badly to stimuli. This overall lack of emotional regulation can lead to significant relationship challenges, making it difficult for many patients to engage with friends and loved ones.
Back and Neck Injuries
In many rear-end collisions, victims will experience immense trauma to the back and neck due to the force of the collision. Back and neck injuries may range in severity depending on the force of the accident and how well the vehicle distributes it.
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Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injury represents one of the most serious injuries the rear-end collision victim may suffer. Spinal cord injuries may occur at any point on the spinal cord, and injury to the spinal cord typically impacts movement and function below that injury site. Patients who suffer injuries high on the spinal cord may lose mobility in the hands and arms and lose mobility in their legs.
Furthermore, spinal cord injuries may impact one side of the body or both sides and may classify as “complete” or “incomplete.” A complete spinal cord injury affects both sides of the body and involves a full loss of mobility. Incomplete spinal cord injuries, on the other hand, may have a more limited impact on mobility and may affect one side of the body more than the other.
The force of a rear-end collision can result in a herniated disc, which occurs when one of the rubbery cushions between the spine’s vertebrae ruptures. The pressure from the disc may result in pain, numbness, or loss of function in the area of the body affected by the injury, often including numbness and tingling in the hands and arms.
Herniated discs may recover over time, particularly with physical therapy. In extreme cases, however, patients may need surgery to make a full recovery.
Victims of rear-end collisions often suffer whiplash. The sharp back-and-forth movement of the head during an accident can put considerable strain on the neck muscles. That strain may result in pain and stiffness after the accident.
Often, whiplash resolves on its own over time. However, some patients find that whiplash gets worse over time, including leaving them with chronic pain or numbness and tingling in the hands and arms. Whiplash can have an extreme impact on the patient’s overall mobility and function, particularly when it lingers for a long time after the accident.
Rear-end collisions frequently cause back and neck pain due to muscle trauma. While that muscle trauma can resolve on its own or with physical therapy, it can cause considerable suffering in the days immediately after the accident.
Extreme muscle trauma can make it very difficult for patients to participate in many of their normal activities. They may, for example, have a hard time sitting at a desk for the duration of a workday or find it difficult to engage in any lifting and bending activities. Many patients find it difficult to get around with significant muscle trauma. They may also have to spend a long time in physical therapy or limit their ongoing activities due to their injuries.
Rear-end collisions can quickly result in broken bones for the patients in the vehicle, and any broken bone can interfere short-term with patient mobility. Furthermore, broken bones may require more extensive medical treatment than many people prepare for. Some patients will require surgery to set broken bones and aid in proper healing. In contrast, others may require extensive physical therapy to help the patient regain as much strength and mobility as possible.
Hands and Arms
Often, the vehicle driver will try to brace against the steering wheel, which can break bones in the hands and arms. Broken hands and arms can make many work tasks very difficult, whether the patient needs to sit behind a computer and type or take care of lifting, moving, and loading.
A broken leg can interfere with many of a patient’s preferred activities. Some patients with broken legs may find it very difficult to handle their work tasks, especially if their work involves a great deal of standing or moving around. Broken legs can also interfere with many of patients’ preferred leisure activities. With a broken leg, patients may find it difficult to even go for a walk, leading to increased depression. The lack of activity while recovering from a broken leg can also significantly impact a patient’s emotional state.
Sometimes, the force of the seat belt can break ribs. Patients improperly using a seatbelt, or those not wearing a seatbelt at all, may suffer broken ribs in a rear-end collision. Broken ribs usually do not require extensive medical treatment, though they can lead to other conditions, including a punctured lung, that may require medical intervention.
Broken ribs do, however, lead to a significant impact on the activities that a patient can enjoy. Some patients may have a hard time going back to work with broken ribs, while others may find that the usual activities they enjoy, from sports activities to going for a long walk, could prove limited.
Due to the force of a rear-end collision, airbags often deploy. The airbag can seriously injure vehicle passengers’ faces, especially if they sit close to the airbag at the time of deployment. Even without an airbag deployment, if a passenger jolts too far forward, the patient may slam into the dashboard or the back of the seat.
Often, these abrupt movements will result in severe facial injuries. Patients may suffer broken bones, severe facial lacerations, and significant trauma related to those injuries.
Many patients suffer immense psychological trauma following facial injuries. Sometimes, patients’ appearance may change following an accident involving facial injuries, even with reconstruction. Patients may also suffer significant scarring that impacts self-esteem and even the patient’s desire or ability to go out in public. Patients who do seek treatment for facial injuries may have a long medical road to recovery.
Chest and Abdominal Injuries
The chest and abdomen often take a lot of force from the seatbelt in a collision. While the seatbelt serves to help reduce the risk of many types of serious injuries and death in an auto accident, it can also cause injuries. Often, victims of rear-end collisions will suffer from significant bruising due to the seatbelt’s force.
The seatbelt can also lead to chest and abdominal injuries, including broken ribs, chest contusions, and even organ damage. Other patients may suffer severe bruising that interferes with mobility for some time after the accident.
The severity of those injuries may depend on the force of the accident and the location of the seatbelt. Properly wearing a seatbelt can help reduce the risk of injuries, though it may not eliminate the risk.
Crushed Limbs and Amputation
Victims may suffer from extreme limb damage, particularly if the rear vehicle forces the front vehicle to collide with something in front of it. Crushed limbs may require amputation due to the damage or cause the victim ongoing pain that can make many common activities difficult.
In extreme cases, the victim may suffer limb amputation.
During an amputation, either the force of the accident or, more commonly, a doctor removes a limb damaged so severely that it can no longer function. Sometimes, the trauma and force of the accident may cause such severe crushing damage that it cuts off blood flow to the limb. In other cases, the patient may suffer more pain by leaving the limb intact and may have better overall function and quality of life with a prosthetic. Amputation permanently removes the impacted limb.
Following amputation, the patient will need to determine whether he can use a prosthetic to help get around. Some amputees cannot use prosthetics due to the shape of the stump or the nature of the injury. However, prosthetics can help improve mobility and appearance following amputation in many cases. Modern prosthetics also offer many advantages that can considerably help the patient’s overall independence.
Patients may, however, have a long road to having that prosthetic in place and fully functional. Some patients will need to undergo stump revision surgeries to help reshape the stump and help a prosthetic fit better. Others may need considerable physical and occupational therapy to function effectively with the prosthesis. Furthermore, patients may need to plan to replace their prosthetics regularly since the device may wear out after an estimated 3-5 years of use.
Contact a Lawyer to Learn About Your Rights After a Rear-End Collision
Following a rear-end collision, you may deserve compensation for any injuries you sustained in the accident, from broken bones to extreme trauma, limb loss, or facial injury. However, many insurance companies may not automatically pay out the compensation you deserve, especially in the case of severe injuries involving substantial medical expenses.
A lawyer can help you learn more about your rights and how to manage your claim. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible for more information about the compensation you should expect and how the claim process may work.