You’ve probably heard that tens of thousands of Americans are killed in motor vehicle accidents each year. But, we tend to hear less about car crash injuries, even though they are far more common. In fact, thousands of people around the country are injured in motor vehicle crashes every single day.

Some of those injuries are minor enough that they are never reported. Others call for a quick visit to the emergency department or urgent care for assessment or treatment and don’t require any additional care. But, some are serious–even permanent.

Since not all motor vehicle accident injuries are reported, we don’t have exact statistics on the number and type of injuries sustained. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the number of annual car accident injuries at about 2.2 million, while the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates more than twice that number.

Here’s what we know about those millions of motor vehicle accident injuries.

Most Automobile Crash Injuries Don’t Require Hospitalization

Older data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that just 7.5% of emergency department visits for car accident injuries resulted in hospitalization. And, of course, that’s not 7.5% of all car crash injuries, but of those that were serious enough to take the injured party to the emergency room.

However, the fact that an injury doesn’t require hospitalization doesn’t mean it won’t require follow-up treatment, limit activities, or otherwise continue to impact the injured person. For instance, the CDC data mentioned above showed that 55% of those treated and released after car accidents suffered “sprains and strains.”

One of the most common car accident injuries falls into that category, and it can be very serious.

Common Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries


About 3 million people suffer whiplash injuries each year, and motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes. This “sprain and strain” type injury illustrates just how serious soft tissue injuries can be.

Unlike many other types of car accident injuries, whiplash can be sustained in a relatively low-speed collision–even at 10 mph or less. The Spine Research Institute of San Diego found that 45% of chronic neck pain in the U.S. is attributable to motor vehicle collisions.

Because these injuries can occur at low speeds–including in accidents that don’t result in any damage to the vehicle–or may occur in combination with other injuries, whiplash isn’t always identified immediately. In fact, symptoms may not emerge immediately after the crash. If you have neck pain and stiffness after a motor vehicle accident, it’s best to get checked out by a medical professional, even if you don’t think it’s serious. Whiplash injuries can cause long-term and even permanent pain and limitations.

Broken Bones

The CDC data referenced above showed that broken bones made up a small percentage of treat-and-release injuries. However, that’s partly because about 45% of those presenting with fractures required hospitalization.

Because of the level of force involved in a motor vehicle accident, nearly any bone in the body can be broken in a collision. Some of the most common include:

    • Arm and wrist fractures, often caused by an instinctive attempt to brace oneself with the arms
    • Rib fractures, which may be caused by seatbelts or airbags, or by the steering wheel if the driver doesn’t have proper protective equipment
    • Broken legs can occur when the vehicle is crushed or caved in and traps the legs
    • Spinal fractures, which can be caused by the impact of a collision, even if there is no direct contact with the spine
    • Skull fractures most commonly occur when the injured driver or passenger was not wearing a seatbelt and slams their head into the windshield, but may occur in other ways
Traumatic Brain Injuries

Millions of people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year, and motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause. TBIs differ in type and severity. They may be caused by a blow to the head, or by a penetrating injury–both are possible in a motor vehicle accident. How serious a TBI is will depend on a variety of factors, such as the part of the brain that is injured and the force of the blow to the head.

A TBI sustained in a car accident can be as mild as a concussion that fully resolves on its own in a few days to a long-term injury that impacts cognition, speech, motor functions, and other areas of life. Even a moderate TBI can cause long-term symptoms such as chronic headaches, memory issues, irritability, mood changes, and problems with balance and coordination.

It may be difficult to imagine that a traumatic brain injury could be overlooked. But, many people assume it’s “normal” to have a headache, some disorientation, and other TBI symptoms after a car accident. So, they don’t always recognize how serious the problem is right away. And, symptoms may continue to develop over time. It’s important to get treatment right away with a TBI. So, if you have potential symptoms immediately after a traffic crash or in the days following, err on the side of caution and talk to your doctor or go to an emergency room.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The focus is typically on physical injury after a car accident or other motor vehicle collision, but a traffic crash can have a significant psychological impact as well. One survey of prior studies concluded that PTSD was present in 25-33% of people who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident at least 30 days earlier.

Though PTSD isn’t a physical injury, it can have a lasting impact on your life–especially if left untreated. And, the condition can cause physical symptoms as well. Tell your doctor if you’re more anxious than usual, are having trouble sleeping or concentrating after a car accident, find yourself more angry or depressed, or have nightmares or flashbacks.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. That compensation may include reimbursement for medical expenses, compensation for lost earnings, pain, and suffering, and more. Figueredo Law knows you need reliable information to make the right decision about your next steps. That’s why we offer free consultations with an experienced car accident attorney to car accident victims.

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