Five Common Rear-End Collision Injuries and Their Impacts
Posted on December 19th, 2019 by Zane Cagle
All too often, rear-end collisions result from inattention: the rear driver fails to pay adequate attention to the road, and in the blink of an eye, crashes into the car in front of them. Inattention does not just always mean distraction. In fact, inattentive drivers can cause accidents when drivers daydream while driving, rubber neck or reading billboards rather than paying attention to the roadway. As many as 80 percent of accidents, including rear-end collisions, occur because a driver became distracted or inattentive within three seconds of the accident.
During a rear-end collision, the front vehicle generally jolts forward rapidly. Seat belts typically catch and hold, flinging the front vehicle’s driver and passengers back into their seats. This type of accident can cause a many types of injuries, many of which have lifelong implications for the victims of rear-end collisions. If you have been involved in a rear end collision accident contact The Cagle Law Firm to discuss your options.
1. Spinal Cord Damage
During a rear-end collision, occupants in the front vehicle slam forward violently, then slam back into their seats with equal force. While both seat belts keep the occupants in the vehicle and airbags work to reduce injury in many kinds of crashes, most people still experience substantial force during the accident. Even at a low rate of speed, a rear-end collision can cause serious spinal cord damage, including:
- Incomplete spinal cord injury. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, the spinal cord may not break entirely. These injuries can include injuries to a disc or multiple discs. As a result, many victims still have partial, though limited, mobility below the site of the injury. Victims of an incomplete spinal cord injury may face an average of $347,000 in medical expenses. They may suffer decreased mobility as well as pain, tingling, or stiffness in the affected area. Incomplete spinal cord injury may also result in lost bowel or bladder control as well as a decrease or loss in sexual function. Over time, victims with incomplete spinal cord injuries may experience some healing; however, many continue to suffer lifelong impacts from their injuries. Prompt and thorough medical treatment is essential.
- Complete spinal cord injury. A complete spinal cord injury often results in full paralysis below the site of the injury: tetraplegia, which means a loss of function below the neck, or paraplegia, which means a loss of function from the waist down. Victims of complete spinal cord injuries may lose sensation below the site of the injury. Others may retain some sensation, including ongoing pain or tingling in the limbs. Like incomplete spinal cord injuries, complete spinal cord injuries often result in a loss of bowel, bladder, and sexual function along with an inability to move. Complete spinal cord injuries rarely heal, which means victims face lifelong implications from those injuries.
2. Traumatic Brain Injury
In a rear-end collision, the substantial force that travels through the front car at the time of the accident may cause a victim’s brain to slam forward inside their skull, then back again, just like the victim’s body during the accident. The victim’s head may also slam into the steering wheel, dashboard, or the back of the seat. All this force directed at the brain can result in a traumatic brain injury in addition to a possible neck injury.
At the scene of the accident, paramedics will evaluate victims for signs of concussion, especially if a victim lost consciousness at any point. Loss of consciousness, confusion, or extreme emotional disturbance can all point to a traumatic brain injury. Many victims of traumatic brain injuries find that these injuries can impact every area of their lives. Even a minor traumatic brain injury may lead to symptoms that last months or even more than a year after the initial accident. For victims of severe traumatic brain injury, the impact may last for a lifetime.
Following a traumatic brain injury, many victims have physical symptoms, including:
- Vertigo. Constant dizziness can cause extreme disorientation or make it difficult for the victim to even walk across a room.
- Ringing in the ears. Many victims of traumatic brain injury experience ongoing tinnitus or ringing in the ears, which can be extremely distracting or make it difficult to listen to or understand other people when they speak.
- Nausea or vomiting. Immediately after a traumatic brain injury, many victims experience significant nausea or vomiting, especially in combination with vertigo.
- Blurry vision. Many victims find it difficult to see, even with their usual corrective eyewear, following an accident that results in a traumatic brain injury.
- Difficulty speaking. Some victims note difficulties forming spoken language after a brain injury.
- Sleep disturbances. Some victims of a traumatic brain injury sleep more often following the accident as the brain tries to repair itself. Others may struggle to fall asleep at all. Sometimes, insomnia results from the fear of falling into a coma, especially if the victim suffered long-term unconsciousness following the accident.
Memory and Cognitive Problems
Traumatic brain injuries can cause a wide range of cognitive difficulties, which may vary from one person to the next based on the site and extent of the injury.
- Difficulty remembering the accident. Many victims of traumatic brain injuries never fully recover the memories of the accident itself or, in some cases, the hours, days, or even weeks surrounding the accident.
- Problems with concentration. Victims of traumatic brain injuries may struggle to focus on cognitive tasks. Even tasks that once brought pleasure may be difficult for the victim to focus on for long periods of time.
- Difficulty remembering the location of common items. Victims of severe traumatic brain injuries, in particular, may struggle to remember things like where items usually go in their kitchen cabinets or linen closet. Even victims of minor traumatic brain injuries may struggle to remember where they left items, especially items not put away properly.
- Difficulty handling complex cognitive tasks. Some traumatic brain injury victims may seemingly lose abilities they had all their lives, including the ability to handle complex calculations or to think on the same creative level as they did before the accident. Many victims find this transition extremely disturbing, especially if it comes with emotional disturbances common in traumatic brain injury patients.
- Confusion. Many victims experience ongoing confusion or struggle to remember what they should do in certain situations, even familiar situations.
- Shifts in sensory perception. Some victims of traumatic brain injuries experience a significant shift in the way they perceive normal sensory input. They may note changes in the way food tastes or smells or experience heat and cold differently than they did before the accident.
Emotional Struggles Following a Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries can cause extreme disorientation for the victim, especially since they can cause significant changes to the way the victim processes information. In addition, trauma to the brain itself can cause emotional difficulties for the victim, including:
- Increased anxiety. Many victims of traumatic brain injuries become anxious more easily or experience ongoing anxiety even without any apparent cause for that anxiety.
- Depression. While some victims of traumatic brain injuries suffer depression due to what they perceive as lost skills or the changes brought by their traumatic brain injury, including the inability to return to a former profession, others may struggle with depression as a result of chemical changes within the brain.
- Changes in personality. Some victims of traumatic brain injuries experience significant changes in personality following the accident. A victim’s sense of humor, attitude, and the way they interact with friends and family members may change dramatically.
- Mood swings. A traumatic brain injury can leave a victim struggling with emotional regulation in general. Many victims experience uncontrolled mood swings or inappropriate emotional responses to common situations.
3. Facial Disfigurement
During a rear-end collision, the victim may slam face-first into the dashboard, steering wheel, or airbag. While airbags can reduce the force experienced in the crash and save lives, they do not cushion the blow completely: Airbags can cause substantial facial injuries during an accident, especially in shorter victims or victims not ideally positioned for the airbag. Some victims even experience chemical burns from the airbag. Victims may also suffer broken noses or broken bones in the face, either from striking an item in the car or from hitting the airbag abruptly.
In some cases, doctors can rectify or decrease facial disfigurement through plastic surgery after the accident. Unfortunately, not all victims will ever fully heal and regain their former appearance. Even with their doctors’ best efforts, some victims may look drastically different than they did before the accident. Facial lacerations may also cause substantial scarring that does not heal entirely, even with time.
Facial disfigurement is more than just a significant injury. Victims of facial disfigurement may suffer altered body image as well as decreased overall quality of life. Following an accident that results in significant facial disfigurement, victims may need ongoing counseling to cope with the changes to their appearance. Some victims may struggle with embarrassment when out in public, while others may struggle with altered self-perception.
Even if surgery can restore some of the victim’s appearance, victims may still struggle with ongoing psychological challenges as they adjust to rapid changes in their appearance and the other challenges that go along with surgery such as pain.
4. Hand, Wrist, and Arm Injuries
In a rear-end collision, the front driver usually has their hands on the steering wheel. Drivers who see the collision coming may brace for impact, gripping the wheel more tightly. Even drivers who do not see the accident coming, however, may suffer substantial injury to their wrists, arms, or hands during an accident. Airbag deployment may cause broken arms, wrists, and fingers. Sprained wrists may also result. In an accident that occurs with great force, victims may suffer dislocated shoulders or elbows as a result of the accident.
Injury to the hands, wrists, and arms can cause victims substantial difficulty after an accident. Most people rely on their hands and arms throughout the day, from typing on a computer or hand-writing notes, to driving a vehicle, operating machinery, or lifting items in the course of their daily job duties. Loss of function in the arms or hands can make it extremely difficult for victims to return to their jobs, requiring substantial time off for recovery.
Worse, some victims of hand injuries may find that, after healing, they have significant stiffness or limited mobility in the affected limb. The hand has 27 small bones as well as an array of ligaments and tendons that function together to create mobility and functionality. Limited mobility in the hands can prevent victims from enjoying artistic pursuits to writing, typing, or using fine motor skills in the course of daily job responsibilities. Some victims with severe hand injuries may struggle with returning to their former profession due to a loss of mobility in the affected limb. Others may need significant, long-term physical therapy to restore as much mobility as possible, especially if they work in a profession that requires the regular use of fine motor skills.
Many people assume that whiplash is only a minor injury. Let’s be clear what whiplash is. When you go to the ER right after a rear-end crash, the medical team may conduct images to make sure you have not broken your neck or spine. If it is not broken, they will often diagnose the strain as “whiplash” or cervical strain. Whiplash can simply mean strained muscles or mean damaged discs. Unfortunately, damaged discs are not often diagnosed at the ER because it almost always involves further treatment and MRIs.
Unfortunately, whiplash can cause serious physical damage to accident victims. Immediately after an accident, whiplash victims may experience significant pain and stiffness in the neck or back. Long after the accident, many victims still have lingering effects from whiplash, including stiffness, chronic pain, and ringing in the ears. Whiplash can also cause discomfort when performing activities or limit the activities the victim can perform.
Following a rear-end collision, victims may experience a wide range of injuries that have the potential to impact their lives long-term. If you experienced an injury in a rear-end collision, you may need legal help to seek the compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney as soon as possible following your accident to discuss the circumstances of your accident and how a car accident lawyer can help.