Car crashes can have many unfortunate effects on accident victims. Often, these effects come in the form of injury, which can affect your ability to work and decrease your quality of life. But these effects can extend beyond the physical to include mental, financial, and legal effects as well. 

To address these effects, it’s important to first understand them.

The Physics of Car Accidents

During a car accident, your body behaves according to the laws of physics. Your body wants to continue traveling at the same speed and in the same direction as it was before the crash. But since the collision caused your car to stop or turn, your body strikes the inside of the passenger compartment.

For example, a rear-end collision is the most common type of car crash, according to a study by the National Safety Council (NSC). In 2020, 41.6% of car crashes happened when one vehicle slammed into the rear of another vehicle traveling in the same direction.

In the front vehicle, the occupants get pushed back into their seats as their car lurches forward. In the rear vehicle, the occupants continue moving forward. Their bodies only stop moving when they hit something like seat belts, airbags, steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield.

The injuries that result from a car accident will differ depending on the type of collision involved. In the NSC study, rear-end crashes were the most frequent type of crash, but they were much less likely to kill an occupant than angle or head-on collisions.

This happens due to the crash energies involved. The NSC study notes that sideswipe and rear-end crashes have the lowest likelihood of causing fatal injuries because they usually involve low crash energies. In contrast, head-on and angle crashes have a higher likelihood of killing occupants because of their high crash energies.

The Effects of Car Accidents

The effects of car accidents include the physical trauma you experience. But they also encompass mental, financial, and legal challenges.

Physical Effects

Once your vehicle comes to a stop, you could have a range of injuries, including:

Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck and back injury. When your body jerks around during a collision, your head whips back and forth, as well as side to side.

The violent head movement pulls your neck. When you come to a stop, your neck rebounds. This hyperextension and compression of your neck can:

  • Stretch or tear your neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Crush your discs, causing them to bulge or herniate
  • Fracture your neck vertebrae

If you only suffer neck strain, you should recover in four to six weeks. But if you damage your discs or vertebrae, your injury can press on nerve roots in your neck. Nerve compression can cause permanently disabling symptoms, such as radiating pain, weakness, and muscle spasms.

Concussion

A concussion happens when your brain gets jostled. The pressure of the fluid cushioning your brain causes inflammation and symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Memory loss

These symptoms often disappear within two months. But occasionally, accident victims develop a post-concussion syndrome, with symptoms persisting for years.

Fractured Bone

When you strike something, your bones bend. With the right amount of force, they snap. This is a common injury. About half of all Americans will break a bone before they turn 65.

When you fracture a bone, the doctor will stabilize it with a brace, splint, or cast. Severe breaks might require reconstructive surgery using screws and plates. Bones usually heal in six to eight weeks, although a shattered bone might take a year or longer to heal.

Soft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injuries sound ill-defined. But most people have suffered a soft tissue injury without necessarily calling it one. Examples of soft tissue injuries include:

  • Muscle and tendon strains
  • Joint sprains
  • Torn cartilage

These injuries often cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. Mild injuries may take a few weeks to a few months to heal. Severe injuries may require surgical repair.

Mental and Emotional Effects

A traumatic event like a car accident can alter an accident victim’s brain processes. Some of these changes happen due to brain damage that affects how the brain functions.

But other changes happen as the brain tries to protect itself from further injuries. Anxiety states like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arise when the brain adjusts its fight-or-flight response.

This instinct protects people from harm by preparing the body to battle or run away. But after an accident, the brain sharpens its sensitivity to potentially dangerous situations. As a result, the brain overreacts to triggers that it associates with the crash, like the sensation of hard braking or the sound of breaking glass.

The brain also overanalyzes the accident, trying to make sense of it. When it does so, you might experience flashbacks, nightmares, and ruminating thoughts.

Financial Effects

You could face significant financial losses from a car accident, including:

  • Property losses due to the damage to your vehicle
  • Past and future medical expenses for treatment, therapy, and medication
  • Lost income from the time you take off of work
  • Diminished earning capacity if you cannot return to your old job
  • Out-of-pocket expenses associated with your injuries, like car rentals, insurance copays, and home modifications

In fault-based states like Maryland, you may need to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for these losses.

If your car crash resulted from someone else’s negligence, you may be able to pursue a legal claim against the at-fault driver. Your claim usually begins with the at-fault driver’s insurer, but it may involve a lawsuit if the insurer refuses a fair settlement.

To recover compensation, you must prove the at-fault driver acted negligently. Normally, you prove this by showing the other driver violated a traffic law.

But sometimes, a driver can do something legal but dangerous, like arguing with a passenger, that results in a crash. These actions can support an injury claim if you can show they were unreasonably dangerous.

Getting Through a Car Accident

Accident victims can get help, no matter the extent of the effects they suffer. Hospitals can provide emergency treatment even if you lack health insurance. Mental health professionals and support groups can help you through your emotional distress. And car accident attorneys can recover fair compensation for the financial costs of your injuries from those who caused them.