According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day more than 9,400 people go to an emergency room after a car accident. But this number underestimates how many people have been injured, because people often do not seek treatment for internal injuries.
Internal injuries after a motor vehicle accident are common. These injuries are especially deadly because they do not produce obvious symptoms to warn injured victims that they are in medical jeopardy. As the British Medical Journal’s best practices guide says, nearly 75% of blunt abdominal trauma injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents, and even for nurses and physicians “abdominal trauma patients are often difficult to assess” because there are so many different types of injuries, with a variety of vague symptoms.
Complicating the problem, the accident has often disturbed the patient’s mental state, making it difficult to obtain complete information. It’s not unusual for internal injuries to be discovered several days after the collision when the crash victim is admitted to the hospital in serious distress.
The Dangers of Internal Injuries
After a car accident, it is common for drivers and passengers of the vehicle to conduct self-evaluations of their bodies to make sure that they are ok. In many cases, a doctor may also examine the accident victim to see what physical damage has occurred. However, to diagnose an internal injury, you will need a medical expert to perform an x-ray, CT scan, or angiography in order to carefully examine bones, tissues, and blood vessels. Emergency rooms often begin an assessment with the “EFAST,” or Extended Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma, which uses an ultrasound to look for bleeding or fluid accumulation.
Injuries to organs like the spleen, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder don’t produce the same outward swelling and redness like injuries to muscles, skin, and bone. They also don’t produce obvious changes in urine or stool. But they can be deadly just the same, including hemorrhagic (bleeding) shock and peritonitis, a type of extreme swelling and inflammation of the peritoneum.
Internal injuries are serious and present catastrophic dangers to victims of car crashes. This is because these injuries can quickly develop into more serious conditions. Even slow-speed traffic collisions can result in serious trauma to the interior of the body.
Internal Injuries Caused by Seatbelts
While proper seatbelt use can help protect you in accidents, wearing one incorrectly can cause internal injuries as your entire body weight is projected against the seatbelt. During a car crash, victims may sustain injuries to muscles in the torso, along with lungs, liver, spleen, heart or bowels.
Internal Injury Symptoms to Look for After a Car Accident
While difficult to find, it is important to know what symptoms to look for if you’ve been involved in a car accident. Here are common symptoms of impact-related internal injuries:
High-impact accidents may injure the organs in your abdomen or chest, leading to serious health complications. Look for abdominal and chest pain or tenderness. Victims should seek medical attention for any chest, stomach, or groin tenderness after an accident, even if it’s mild. Symptoms of internal injuries may seem minor at first but worsen over time.
Car accident victims may feel nauseous or dizzy after collisions due to blood loss. Some victims vomit after suffering internal injuries. Vomiting after an accident is a sign that something is wrong, especially if there is blood in the vomit.
Bruising occurs even when the injuries are internal. If you notice dark purple skin, this indicates that you are bleeding into your soft tissues and skin. This is much more serious than an everyday bruise.
Signs of Shock
Typically your body goes into shock if you start to lose a lot of blood over a short period of time. Victims may experience rapid heart rate, weakness, lightheadedness, and lethargy.
Blood in Urine or Stool
If there is blood after you use the bathroom, you should see a medical professional immediately. Do not assume it will just “go away,” it can reflect a worsening problem caused by injuries to kidneys, bowels, or elsewhere.
Types of Internal Injuries Caused by Car Wreck
At the point of impact in a car accident, occupants in the vehicle may be slammed against the windshield, dashboard, airbags, or steering wheel. They may also be hit by unsecured cargo or debris from the collision. If you have been involved in a car wreck, you may be wondering “What are the most common internal injuries from car accidents?” The following is a list of common injuries that are caused by both minor and major motor vehicle accidents:
Broken ribs can put pressure on or pierce the lungs and make breathing painful.
Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
When a broken rib pierces the lung, it can collapse, causing air to escape and fill the chest cavity. This condition often does not cause pain or breathing issues, is commonly overlooked during external exams and can be deadly.
High-impact crashes can cause internal injuries like damage to the organs, which can result in internal bleeding or the organ shutting down completely. Kidneys and liver are the most commonly injured organs in car accidents, but any organ damaged during a crash can cause internal bleeding. Organ damage is one of the most common fatal injuries in car accidents.
The spleen may rupture from the impact of a crash which can result in internal bleeding, often requiring surgery to repair or remove the spleen.
Rupture of Abdominal Aorta
This internal injury results when the stomach is compressed, leading to a rupture in the aorta (aortic dissection) which is typically fatal.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Open or closed head wounds may cause the brain to bleed. This can prevent oxygen from reaching areas of the brain, leading to permanent brain damage. These injuries can also cause lasting brain damage by putting the brain under excessive pressure, such as when subdural hematoma forms.
Car accidents often cause trauma to blood vessels within the body, preventing them from clotting or repairing themselves and causing internal bleeding. Some symptoms of internal bleeding include:
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling cold
- Pale complexion
Causes of Internal Bleeding
Blunt trauma caused by car accidents, happens when a body part collides with something else, usually at a high speed. Blood vessels inside the body may be torn or crushed either by shear forces or by a blunt object.
Decelerating trauma happens when body organs continue a forward trajectory even though the spine, muscles and other organs come to an abrupt stop. While most people assume that their bodies accelerate and decelerate as one object, decelerating trauma can impact vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain. Many traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur without victims striking their head on an object, but instead when the brain strikes the skull and moves around inside the head.
Penetrating trauma occurs when a car accident victim experience a laceration or deep puncture wound, emergency responders may focus on the puncture wound and miss internal bleeding or organ perforation.
While blunt trauma and penetrating trauma provide ample and immediate reasons for car accident victims to seek medical treatment and evaluations. Internal injuries caused by decelerating trauma often go untreated because the victim shows no outer signs of injury and may not feel symptoms for hours, days, weeks or even months following the collision. Decelerating trauma is the most silent and serious cause of internal injury.
Our Dallas-Fort Worth Car Accident Injury Lawyers highly recommend victims of accidents to undergo extensive diagnostic testing after accidents in order to rule out internal injuries. Victims may feel this testing is unnecessary now but have a significantly better chance of recovery if doctors are able to diagnose the condition early.
Treatment and Compensation for Internal Injuries
Internal Injury symptoms might not show up right away, but it is important to get checked out by a doctor immediately following an accident in order to have the best chance at recovery. A personal injury attorney will be able to help you determine what your case is worth. Those who sustain internal injuries should be fully compensated for:
- All medical costs – including ongoing care or adaptive devices that may be necessary to cope with internal injuries after sustaining permanent injuries.
- Lost Wages, covering not just time off work but sick time and any future reduction in income resulting from the car accident injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress damages
Contact Dallas Fort-Worth Internal Injury Attorneys at Thompson Law at 844-308-8180
Internal injuries caused by car accidents require costly and extensive medical care, often leaving victims with large medical bills and forcing them to take time off work to recover. If you or someone you know has suffered an internal injury from a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
The car accident attorneys at Thompson Law are committed to helping victims fight for the compensation they deserve. Our law firm offers a “No Win, No Fee” guarantee to all our clients, meaning we will never accept payment for our services until we have secured compensation for our clients.
Call us today anytime 24/7/365 to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation, or submit and inquiry via our free consultation form.