According to data from the Arizona Department of Transportation, nearly 30% of all the car accidents that happened in Arizona in 2022 resulted in an injury. While it’s fortunate that these common injuries from car accidents have not resulted in death, they still have a massive impact on people’s lives and the lives of those around them. State data also provides a window into the costs associated with car accident injuries, with more than $2 million in costs associated with suspected serious injuries, $3.2 million in costs for suspected minor injuries, and $2.7 million in costs for possible injuries.
There are several factors at play when it comes to the severity of common injuries in a car accident. Whether or not someone in an accident was wearing a seat belt has a major impact on the severity of any injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a seat belt can decrease the chance of serious injury in a car crash by about 50%. Wearing a seat belt, by the way, saved 15,000 lives in 2017, according to the CDC.
The type of collision also affects the severity of common car accident injuries. We often think of frontal collisions when it comes to being injured in a car crash. However, according to one study, side collisions are associated with a higher risk of injury than frontal impacts. This is because there is less vehicle structure between the driver or passengers and the oncoming vehicle.
As you might expect, speed is also a major factor when it comes to the severity of common injuries in car accidents. This comes down to simple physics: When a large mass traveling at high speed suddenly comes to a stop, it unleashes enormous amounts of force. Modern vehicles have been built to withstand these high forces, but speed still has a major influence on the seriousness of common car accident injuries.
Classifying the Severity of Common Injuries in a Car Accident
When police officers come out to the scene of an accident, they talk to those involved and write down information on any apparent injuries as part of their report. Officers use what’s known as the acronym KABCO to classify the severity of common injuries in a car accident, with each letter representing a different class of injury. Every state has its own variation on the KABCO scale. In Arizona, the letters in the KABCO scale are:
- K: An injury that causes someone to be killed within 24 to 30 hours of the accident.
- A: A non-fatal injury that prevents the accident victim from leaving the scene of the accident under their own power.
- B: An obvious injury that isn’t serious enough to prevent the victim from. Leaving the scene under their own power, such as a large bruise or lump on their head.
- C: A complaint of pain or discomfort but the lack of a visible injury.
- O: No apparent injury or complaints of discomfort.
- U: An accident victim was not present, and their condition is unknown.
That said, the KABCO scale is only used by law enforcement. There’s also a medical side to these injuries, which is also important to understand.
Brain and Head Injuries
Head injuries are some of the most common car accident injuries. The severity of these injuries can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the type of impact and position of the head. For example, a driver’s forehead hitting a steering wheel at low speed will result in a minor injury, like a bump or bruise. However, a driver’s head hitting the side window or windshield at high speed can cause a concussion or serious brain damage.
The biggest concern with head injuries, besides death, is suffering a traumatic brain injury. This type of injury can be hard to identify. In some situations, you may not experience any initial symptoms at all, or you might suffer from a mild headache. Serious symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can’t show up weeks after an accident.
Because of this, you should get a medical examination any time you hit your head during a car accident. Some physical signs of traumatic brain injury that you should be on the lookout for include headache, loss of consciousness, speech problems, sleep problems, blurred vision, light sensitivity, loss of smell, or change in taste perceptions. There are also mental signs of traumatic brain injury, and these include confusion, slurred speech, depression, and unusual mood changes.
If you hit your head and are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. Trained medical professionals can let you know if you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Spinal and Back Injuries
When a collision happens, your head and body go from traveling at a high rate of speed to a complete standstill. This rapid deceleration can put tremendous force on your neck, back, and spinal cord.
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries caused by this rapid decrease in speed, which causes the neck to quickly whip back and forth. Most people who get whiplash feel better after a few weeks, but some people continue to experience lasting pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s hard to predict how someone will recover from whiplash. Risk factors like existing neck pain and older age make it more likely that there will be lasting effects.
Back injuries are also some of the more common car accident injuries. Many different kinds of back injuries can be caused by an accident, including:
- Herniated disc. If an accident causes a disk to move out of position, it can cause nerve pain and loss of feeling.
- Spinal fractures. Car accidents can cause spinal vertebrae to fracture in a number of different ways. If a fracture produces bone fragments, there is a risk of paralysis and even death.
- Lumbar spine injury. This lower back injury can cause severe back pain, numbness, weakness, paralysis, problems walking, and/or a loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Spinal cord injury. An injured or severed spinal cord could lead to short-term or permanent paralysis. The degree of paralysis depends on how far down the spinal cord is injured.
Cuts and Bruises
Cuts and bruises are some of the most common car accident injuries, and the degree of these injuries can vary significantly. If the force of a car accident causes glass to shatter or loose contents in your car to fly around, there is a high chance this debris could cut you. Unless it’s a minor scrape or a glorified paper cut, it’s a good idea to seek medical treatment if you have one or more cuts after a car accident.
Bruising happens when the blood vessels under your skin are struck with enough force to cause bleeding into the surrounding tissue. If you are in a car accident and suffered only minor bruises, consider yourself lucky. But bruises could also indicate whether there are more severe injuries such as broken bones or sprains.
Emotional scars left by a serious car crash may be invisible to the naked eye, but these common injuries from car accidents are still very serious.
For many people, driving or riding in a car isn’t an experience that causes us to feel anxiety. But for people who have been in a major car crash, it can be difficult to get over that traumatic experience and feel comfortable getting in a car again. People suffering from emotional trauma or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) caused by a car crash can experience all kinds of symptoms, from flashbacks to trouble sleeping to panic attacks.
It’s important to say that there’s no shame in seeking help if you’re suffering from PTSD caused by a car accident. Many of us who have never been in a serious car crash struggle with mental health issues, so, understandably, such a traumatic event would have a lasting psychological impact. Even if you aren’t sure that you’re suffering from PTSD, it’s never a bad idea to check in with a mental health professional and make sure that you are able to adequately process the events of a serious accident.
Gerber Injury Law Can Help if You’ve Been Involved in an Accident
At Gerber Injury Law, we’ve seen many different kinds of injuries from Arizona car accidents and know that sometimes, an injury can be more damaging than it first appears. We’re also a family-focused firm that knows your injuries can impact everyone around you. If you’ve been in a car accident, contact us online today or call 623-486-8300 to set up a free consultation.