Due to the force that human bodies go through when cars collide, car accident injuries are extremely common. Rear-end collisions typically cause neck injuries (commonly known as whiplash). Rollover Car Accident and head-on collisions often result in brain injuries. Any serious accident can cause internal organ injuries, severe cuts and blood loss, and soft tissue injuries throughout the body.
If you were injured in a car accident that was at least partially the fault of another driver, you are entitled to seek compensation. You need to act quickly, however, to avoid losing your right to file a claim. An experienced car accident attorney can protect your rights while helping you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Common car accident injuries and treatment
Serious injuries that arise from car accidents include:
- Brain injuries. Any head injury requires immediate evaluation. Failing to obtain prompt treatment for bleeding or swelling in the brain can be a fatal mistake. Serious head injuries require prompt surgical intervention. Brain injuries from concussions usually heal in a few days, but severe brain injuries can lead to permanent or long-lasting disability. Even if the injury is less serious, a neurologist will need to monitor your condition and give you instructions for avoiding new injuries that might lead to permanent brain damage.
- Fractures. Kneecaps, skulls, ribs, and bones in the arms, hands, legs, and fingers are commonly broken in car crashes. “Open” fractures, in which the bone protrudes through the skin, can lead to serious infections. Severe pain at the site of the fracture will probably encourage you to receive medical care, but minor fractures might be accompanied by mild pain or tenderness and swelling. It is easy to mistake a mild fracture for a bruise. If you suspect the possibility of a fracture, see a doctor so that an x-ray can be taken. Some fractures can be treated with a cast or a brace while others require surgical repair or traction. It usually takes several weeks to several months to recover from a fracture. If the fracture occurred in a limb, recovery typically includes a gradual program of physical therapy to restore muscle strength and normal movement.
- Bleeding. External bleeding from cuts and gashes sustained in a car accident will be obvious. Stitches in the emergency room may be sufficient to treat the injury, although extreme blood loss may require a transfusion. Internal bleeding can be a life-threatening condition. It is usually caused by blunt force trauma as a part of your body strikes a part of the car. Blunt force trauma can tear or crush blood vessels. Internal bleeding usually starts immediately but it can also begin hours or days after the accident. Some instances of internal bleeding will stop without surgical intervention, but other cases require immediate surgery. Bleeding in the head, the lungs, or in the large vessels that carry blood to and from the heart usually pose the greatest danger.
- Organ damage. The same blunt force trauma that produces internal bleeding can damage organs. Any organ can be harmed in a car accident, including punctured lungs, ruptured spleens, and damage to the kidneys and liver. Organ damage almost always requires an immediate surgical response and is a leading cause of death from car accidents.
- Knee injuries. Torn ligaments, cartilage damage, and broken kneecaps occur when the knee slams into the dashboard or some other part of the car, or when the knee is twisted. Some knee injuries require surgical repair or, in extreme cases, replacement with an artificial knee. Nearly every knee injury requires extensive physical therapy to promote recovery.
- Spinal injuries. Spinal damage in the neck and back are among the most vexing problems with which car accident victims must cope. Disk injuries and crushed vertebrae can cause chronic pain. Surgical procedures such as spinal fusion and laminectomy may provide relief, but outcomes are far from certain. Regardless of the treatment that a patient undergoes, back injuries often result in permanent disabilities. Paralyzing injuries from spinal damage include paraplegia and quadriplegia. Other than death and severe brain injuries, they are the most devastating injuries to result from car crashes.
- Soft tissue injuries. Sprains, strains, and tears of ligaments, tendons, and muscles, as well as associated nerve damage, are the most common injuries caused by collisions. Soft tissue anywhere in the body can be affected, but the neck, shoulders, back, and knee are the most prevalent locations of soft tissue car accident injuries. A period of rest followed by exercise and physical therapy is the usual prescription for recovery. Some soft tissue injuries, particularly rotator cuff injuries and knee injuries, require surgical treatment. Accident victims typically recover after several weeks or months, but long-lasting and permanent injuries are not as rare as insurance adjusters would like you to believe. Pain medication can be helpful, although you need to follow your doctor’s instructions to avoid addiction to prescription drugs. Your best hope of recovering from a soft tissue injury is to follow all recommendations of treatment providers, including physical therapists. Many people discontinue physical therapy because it is painful and time consuming, but they only prolong their suffering (and hurt the settlement value of their cases) by making that choice.
Initial injury treatment
Do not be shy about describing your condition to paramedics. Even small aches and pains need to be documented, since they may become more serious in a few hours or days. The information you give might also provide valuable evidence about how your body moved during the accident.
If you have neck or back pain, the paramedics might place you in a neck brace and strap you to a backboard before transporting you to the emergency room. That is a customary precaution to protect you from harm. Let the paramedics do what they are trained to do.
In the emergency room, you should repeat any complaints of pain, soreness, or discomfort to the physician who treats you. Also report symptoms of dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, and headaches, as those might be signs of a brain injury.
Whether you are admitted to the hospital or treated and released, take note of the instructions you are given when you are discharged from the hospital. Take all medications you are told to take. Make appointments to see your family physician, specialists, physical therapists, and any other healthcare provider recommended by your treating physician.
Delayed injury treatment
If you walk away from a car accident feeling fine and paramedics do not recommend that you obtain immediate treatment, do not be surprised if pain develops during the night or over the course of the next several days. Injuries to soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves) might not trouble you immediately, but it is not uncommon for those injuries to become painful in the days that follow the accident.
Delayed pain from soft tissue injuries is most likely to develop in your neck, shoulders, and back. See your physician or go to an urgent care facility as soon as you notice it. The quicker you begin treatment, the sooner the injury will begin to heal.
If you delay treatment, an injury that could have healed quickly may turn into a long-lasting problem. If that happens, the insurance adjuster will blame you, not the negligent driver who caused your injury. If you develop headaches or stabbing pains inside your body, get emergency treatment immediately.
You may have suffered a brain injury or internal organ damage. You might be just fine, but you need to rule out the possibility that you are experiencing symptoms of a life-threatening injury.
Car accident injury compensation
When your injuries are caused by another person’s negligent or careless driving, you are entitled to recover compensation from that person. Unfortunately, your ability to recover compensation may depend on whether that person was insured and the personal injury liability limits of that person’s insurance policy.
The minimum coverage that California requires drivers to carry is $15,000 for all injuries to one person in one accident. That amount is sufficient for most accidents that cause minor injuries, but it is woefully insufficient to compensate someone who loses the ability to walk or to work as the result of a traffic accident.
Whether awarded by a jury or paid in settlement of an insurance claim, compensation is meant to make the injury victim “whole.” That means restoring the injury victim to the position the victim occupied before the accident.
While that is not always possible (no amount of money will remove pain), our civil justice system uses financial compensation as a means of helping an injury victim get his or her life back on track. If you were partially at fault in causing the accident, compensation for a California car accident is reduced in proportion to your fault.
For example, if you were 25% at fault compared to a driver who was 75% at fault, your compensation is reduced to 75% of your total damages. Compensation in car accident cases may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Other expenses, including physical therapy and counseling, needed to restore physical and mental health
- Lost wages and loss of estimated future earnings
- Vocational rehabilitation expenses
- The expense of hiring workers to do chores (for example, cleaning and lawn maintenance) that the injury victim can no longer perform
- Costs of medical equipment (such as a wheelchair)
- Expenses associated with accommodating a disability (such as purchasing a wheelchair-accessible van or adding ramps to a home)
- Pain, suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish
- Property damage, usually measured by the difference in value of your car before and after the accident or repair cost, whichever is less
The spouse of an injury victim may also join the claim to seek compensation for loss of consortium (sexual relations and companionship) that results from the victim’s injuries.
If your spouse, child, or parent (and, in some cases, other family members) died in a car accident, California wrongful death compensation includes the financial loss you will experience as a result of that death (for example, lost income that would have been shared with you or contributed to your support).
Certain surviving family members are also entitled to compensation for loss of the companionship, emotional support, and guidance that the deceased family member would have provided.
Why documenting your injuries is important
Insurance adjusters rely heavily on medical records when they evaluate a case for settlement. The more often you see a doctor, the greater your settlement value becomes.
That does not mean you should see a doctor when you do not need to be evaluated or treated, but it does mean you should keep every appointment and follow through with every recommendation for additional treatment that your doctors make. Part of the compensation you receive (often the largest part) is for pain and suffering.
You should not be shy about telling your doctor about pain that you experience after an accident and during treatment. Give your doctor concrete examples of how pain is affecting your life, including sleep disturbances, difficulty you have lifting your child or performing chores, inability to concentrate on your work, and irritable moods that damage your relationships.
Your doctor will document that information in your medical records, giving insurance adjusters a better understanding of your injuries while protecting you from accusations that you “invented” problems that did not exist until you made an insurance claim. Insurance adjusters typically assume that there is a relationship between medical bills and pain and suffering. In other words, they multiply medical bills by a particular number to arrive at a settlement value for your pain.
Your car accident lawyer might disagree with the adjuster about that method of valuing pain and suffering or about the multiplier that should be used, but most evaluations of pain and suffering take medical bills into account as a starting point. For that reason, while you should not run up medical bills unnecessarily (doing so ruins your credibility with insurance adjusters and juries), you should not skip any medical appointments or recommendations for follow-up treatment.
Car accident injury assistance
Those who have suffered car accident injuries in a crash that was not their fault may be able to receive compensation. By obtaining a free consultation with one of our professionals, you can help avoid making costly mistakes that jeopardize a person's ability to obtain compensation.
Those in need of a free case evaluation from an experienced Car Accident Attorney California can call (800) 838-6644 to get help today. Our attorneys have helped to recover over $1 Billion on behalf of victims and provide a no win no free promise.