Learn about the most frequent catastrophic crash injuries in Montana
Each year in the U.S., tens of thousands of people lose their lives in car accidents and millions more are injured. In fact, in 2021 alone, the National Safety Council reported that there were 46,980 deaths and 5.4 million injuries associated with car crashes, leading to approximately $498.3 billion in expenses like medical bills, wage loss, employer costs and property damage.
While some accident injuries are minor and resolve in a few days without any treatment, others are catastrophic and lead to permanent physical disability or wrongful death. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common serious and fatal injuries in car accidents.
Broken bones and fractures
Following an accident, the bones most frequently fractured include those in the spinal vertebrae (neck or back), clavicle, pelvis, fibula, face, skull, and sternum. The specific bone that breaks often depends on the location and intensity of the impact or force experienced during the incident.
Fractures can differ significantly from one individual to another, leading physicians to employ a range of diagnostic techniques to identify the extent of the injury and formulate an effective treatment strategy.
Injuries involving broken bones resulting from car accidents tend to be particularly severe. Victims may suffer from multiple fractures, some of which might require reconstructive surgery. This can result in extended periods of incapacitation, lasting several weeks or months, as individuals undergo the recovery process.
Whiplash is a neck injury resulting from rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, akin to the motion of a whip, often caused by sudden deceleration in a car accident. Though commonly associated with rear-end collisions and brake-check accidents, whiplash can occur in any type of accident, from minor fender benders to multi-vehicle crashes.
Symptoms typically include headaches, neck stiffness and pain. It’s worth noting that the onset of whiplash symptoms might be delayed, with some individuals not experiencing discomfort until a few days post-accident.
While many recover from whiplash within a few weeks, there are instances where the condition becomes protracted, with pain lingering for months or even years. In such severe cases, extensive treatment, including physical therapy or surgery, may be necessary to alleviate symptoms.
Head and brain injuries
Head and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) sustained in accidents range significantly in severity, influenced by various factors, including the position of the head at the time of impact, whether airbags were deployed, and the nature of the collision. TBIs, which can include injuries like concussions, brain bleeds and penetrating injuries (where an object pierces the skull), can have lasting effects on brain function.
These types of injuries can also be particularly deceptive, as they may not be immediately apparent or visible. Sometimes, weeks or months may pass before the victim’s family might observe changes in behavior, such as increased forgetfulness or a shift in personality, including signs of heightened irritability.
Should you or a loved one experience symptoms like concussions, loss of consciousness, or persistent headaches following an accident, it’s crucial to be vigilant for signs of TBI and seek medical advice promptly.
Back and spinal cord injuries
Back and spinal cord injuries resulting from car accidents can have profound and lasting impacts on an individual’s mobility and quality of life. Such injuries occur when the force of an accident causes damage to the ligaments, vertebrae, or discs of the spinal column, or to the spinal cord itself.
The consequences of these injuries can range from mild back pain and discomfort to severe cases involving paralysis, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia, depending on the area and severity of the damage.
The insidious nature of back and spinal cord injuries means they might not present immediate symptoms. In some cases, the true extent of the injury becomes apparent only after some time has passed, when individuals may start experiencing significant pain, loss of sensation or difficulty with mobility. These symptoms can drastically alter a person’s lifestyle and may require long-term treatment, including physical therapy, medication and possibly surgery.
If you experience any back pain, numbness, or weakness following an accident, it’s imperative to consult a health care provider promptly to screen for potential spinal injuries. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing the effects and improving the prognosis of back and spinal cord injuries.
Internal bleeding and organ damage
Internal bleeding occurs when blood vessels within the body are ruptured or damaged, leading to blood loss inside the body’s cavities. It can happen in areas like the abdomen, chest or even within muscles and tissues. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, dizziness, weakness and shock, depending on the location and severity of the bleeding.
Trauma can also cause injuries to internal organs such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs or heart. The impact can lead to ruptures, lacerations or bruising of these organs, affecting their function. Symptoms of organ damage can vary widely depending on which organ is affected but may include abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, blood in the urine and general weakness.
Both internal bleeding and organ damage require immediate medical attention. Diagnostic tests, such as ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs, are often used to identify the extent and location of the damage. Treatment may involve surgery to repair the damaged vessels or organs, blood transfusions to replace lost blood, and other interventions to stabilize the patient and restore function.
Given the potentially life-threatening nature of these conditions, it’s essential for individuals who have experienced significant trauma to seek medical evaluation promptly, even if symptoms are not immediately evident, as early intervention can be the key to preventing more severe outcomes.
Severe burn injuries may occur due to vehicle fires, hot surfaces, steam, or chemicals released during a collision. Burns from car accidents are classified based on their severity:
- First-degree burns affect only the skin’s outer layer, causing pain and redness.
- Second-degree burns damage both the outer layer and the underlying skin layer, leading to blisters and severe pain.
- Third-degree burns, the most serious, penetrate through every layer of skin and possibly damage underlying tissues, potentially resulting in numbness due to nerve destruction.
The recovery and treatment for burn injuries vary, from simple at-home care for minor burns to surgical interventions like skin grafts for the more serious ones.
Psychological and emotional trauma
Although invisible, psychological injuries—such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—are common in serious car accidents. Some victims may develop a phobia or aversion to driving. Others may undergo deep depression, especially if the accident resulted in death.
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Seek professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist, then consult with an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you recover financially and reduce your stress after an accident.
Get help from an experienced Montana car accident attorney
If you or a loved one is suffering from a catastrophic injury or fatality caused by a negligent driver in Great Falls, consider reaching out to the skilled Montana car accident attorneys at Murphy Law Firm. Our team has been helping accident victims recover maximum compensation after serious car accidents for more than 75 years, and we’re dedicated to providing you with the expert legal advice you deserve.