A rear-end accident sometimes seems like a minor collision that could not produce serious injuries. The reality is that rear-end accident victims can suffer serious injuries that affect their lives for years or even the rest of their lives. An experienced car accident lawyer should understand rear-end collision injuries and the accompanying costs and losses. The right legal team can protect your legal right to full and fair compensation for all the losses you suffer due to another driver’s negligence.
This guide aims to help you understand these common injuries and the losses they cause. Of course, we cannot answer all your questions here, and we cannot give you information about your specific injuries and recovery process. Be sure to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your specific situation. In the meantime, learn more about the most common injuries that occur in rear-end collisions.
Whiplash often occurs in rear-end accidents because the impact of the collision forces your neck forward before it snaps back, in a motion like the cracking of a whip.
Common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
- Low back pain
- Pain or numbness in the arm or hand
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, or fatigue
Some whiplash symptoms (such as dizziness and difficulty concentrating) can also indicate a concussion. A concussion is a serious brain injury that should receive medical attention right away.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some whiplash symptoms can resolve in a few weeks with a regime of exercise and pain medication. But other cases result in chronic neck pain and other long-term complications.
An insurance claims adjuster will try to tell you that all whiplash cases are minor and worth very little compensation. At such times, it is important to remember that they are not on your side. Insurance companies work hard to pay as little as possible on as few claims as possible. To stand up to their highly trained claims adjusters and armies of lawyers, you need your own car accident lawyer who can prove just how much your injuries are actually worth.
Concussions and Brain Damage
Concussions are another medical condition that sounds minor start first. After all, some concussions resolve on their own after a few days of rest, so the condition must not be that serious, right? The truth is that any concussion is the result of brain damage and has the potential to be serious. If you have a mild case, your symptoms could resolve in a few days or weeks, but you have still suffered a brain injury that requires medical attention and ongoing monitoring.
More serious concussions can leave the victim with symptoms that persist for months or even years, which can lead to a lifetime of medical bills, lost wages, and different rehabilitative therapies. Victims of serious brain injuries should receive compensation for all the wages they will lose throughout their career, all the medical treatment and nursing care they require, and compensation for any necessary medical equipment or modifications to the home because of the accident.
They should also receive compensation for the physical pain of their injury and the emotional suffering of their long-term disability (which is why many brain injury cases can settle for very high amounts). The amount of compensation might seem high, but when you consider all the many losses it covers over a lifetime of permanent suffering, it is often barely enough to be considered fair.
A concussion is not the only type of brain damage that a victim can suffer in an accident. Very serious accidents often involve severe traumatic brain injuries. If the crash occurred at a high rate of speed, the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, or the impact ejected the victim from the vehicle, the chances of sustaining serious brain damage are much higher.
These serious injuries can leave a victim permanently disabled or even brain dead. It is important to get an attorney who understands the nature of brain injuries as soon as possible. Serious brain damage cases can lead to complicated injury claims with a wide variety of losses and claims. If the brain injuries result in death, surviving family members may also have the right to file a wrongful death claim under the law against the negligent driver who caused the accident.
Broken Bones and Orthopedic Injuries
Broken bones are another common injury in rear-end accidents. Like whiplash, claims adjusters might value these injuries lower than they are fairly worth. A simple break might require a few uncomfortable weeks in a cast. This discomfort and inconvenience are not insignificant, and you deserve fair compensation for even a simple break. But many orthopedic injuries are far more complicated. Complex fractures can require much more extensive medical intervention (even surgery), followed by weeks or months of painful physical therapy and other rehabilitative services.
The Yale School of Medicine defines a complex fracture as a traumatic injury involving damaged soft tissue and multiple breaks in a bone. Soft tissue injuries sometimes also include nerve damage, which can result in permanent physical limitations. Symptoms of complex fractures include extreme pain, numbness, and sometimes a visibly protruding bone. Treatment of a complex fracture can involve stabilization, pain relief, and surgical procedures. But this is just the beginning.
After a potentially lengthy (and costly) hospitalization, you might have a complicated rehabilitation regime involving months of appointments for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other services. You could continue to lose wages as you take the time to attend countless rehabilitation appointments (in addition to your regular follow-up visits with a primary care doctor, surgeon, or other orthopedic specialists).
Whether your orthopedic injuries are simple or complex, you deserve compensation for all the losses they cause, which can include medical bills, lost wages, and the ongoing pain and suffering of a bone healing from a break.
A broken bone is not the only internal injury you might suffer. There are many vital organs in your thoracic and abdominal cavities. In a rear-end accident, your body is forced forward against the steering wheel or dashboard. Airbags can prevent some injuries, but not all.
If anything crushes your body, you could damage vital organs. Your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and other organs are necessary to sustain life. If you injure these organs, even with a minor bruise, it could cause serious medical complications. Not immediately treating these injuries after an accident could endanger your life.
Internal injuries can also include bleeding. There are miles of blood vessels contained in the body. If any of these are broken, you can bleed, and internal bleeding is far more difficult to detect than external bleeding. Often, a person does not know they are bleeding internally until they begin to show symptoms of shock (also known as hypovolemia, or low blood volume).
At this point, they have already lost a dangerous amount of blood, underlining the importance of going to an urgent care or emergency department right after an accident, even if you do not feel injured. A doctor might detect small drops in your blood pressure and repair internal bleeding before you lose a dangerous amount of blood.
Sprains and Strains
There are many different types of “soft tissue injuries” that occur within the body. This term is a broad, catch-all phrase for a wide range of injuries that are difficult to see. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. (Ligaments are strong connective tissue that connects one bone to another.) The ankles, knees, and wrists are most vulnerable to sprains, so these are common areas of injury in car accident cases.
On the other hand, a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, such as a pull, a stretch, a partial tear, or a complete tear. Treatment for both sprains and strains should follow the RICE protocol of resting the muscle, icing the injury, compressing the affected area, and elevating the affected part of the body. Serious tears might require surgery to repair the damage. Often, an injury victim will perform simple exercises to reduce pain and restore mobility in the affected area of the body.
Soft tissue injuries are not treated favorably by insurance companies. Claims adjusters will offer low compensation for an accident claim that involves “just” soft tissue injuries. The rationale is that soft tissue injuries are less painful than broken bones, internal organ damage, or recovering from surgery. Unfortunately, this line of thought simply does not account for the pain and suffering that an individual experiences from a soft tissue injury.
You deserve compensation for the ways that your injury affected your life. Perhaps you could not sleep because of your pain. Maybe you missed time from work or had to switch to a less strenuous position altogether. Being prevented from holding your own children is a very painful loss that jurors can understand. If your claims adjuster does not make a settlement offer that fairly accounts for all these losses, your injury lawyer will go in and fight for you. You have the legal right to fair compensation for your injuries and losses, not the losses the insurance company thinks you should have.
Your physical injuries are not the only injuries you could suffer after a car accident. Emotional injuries can be just as real and painful. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common condition that develops in car accident victims.
The Mayo Clinic reports terrifying events can trigger PTSD and marked by symptoms such as:
- Flashbacks about the event
- Severe anxiety
- Uncontrollable thoughts about the event
PTSD can terrify anyone who endures its devastating symptoms. But the good news is that researchers have found very effective interventions. Treatment with war veterans has provided a wealth of information about the treatments that can reduce symptoms of PTSD. It is important to get help for your mental health in the same way you did your physical health. You do not have to suffer from PTSD or any other mental disorder because of another driver’s negligence.
PTSD is not the only emotional injury a person can sustain after a car accident. Many victims must rely on their friends, family, and loved ones for help, which can put a strain on the relationship. Interpersonal difficulties can develop at work, as well. Many victims are in physical pain and discomfort.
All of these are very real losses, and you have the legal right to compensation for them. Only your own car accident lawyer can tell you what your pain and suffering is worth. Remember, the insurance company is on the other side. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible or get out of paying you altogether if they can.
Your lawyer will let you know what your pain and suffering is fairly worth and what a jury would be likely to award you at trial. This knowledge and insight help car accident victims make informed decisions about whether to accept a settlement offer or take their case to trial.
Seeking Full Compensation
Getting treatment for your injuries and determining the value of your claim is only the beginning of the post-rear-end collision process.
Then, you need to:
- File the proper insurance claims
- Communicate with insurance adjusters
- Negotiate higher settlements when initial offers are too low
- Initiate litigation when you cannot settle directly with the insurance company
While you are dealing with your rear-end accident injuries, the last thing you need to do is figure out how to navigate the insurance and legal process. Furthermore, there is always the chance you will unintentionally say or do something that jeopardizes your claim and full recovery. For your best chance at full financial recovery, always seek help from a car accident attorney as soon as possible.