Common Injuries in a Rear-End Accident

July 21, 2022

The type and severity of injuries sustained in car accidents will depend upon the variables, like speed, the condition of the road and the weather, and the congestion of traffic. This blog will focus on the common injuries in a direct rear-end collision without extenuating or mitigating circumstances.

Commonly Reported Injuries

All car accidents involve forces of impact, speed and sudden movements inside the car. Accidents at higher speeds will involve debris and broken glass.

There are two types of injuries: penetrating and impact.

The easy definition of a penetrating injury is an injury caused by objects striking the body. These objects can be broken glass and unsecured objects inside the car. Examples of penetrating injuries are broken bones, cuts and lacerations. Mostly, the cause of penetrating injuries is from items internal to the car.

The easy definition of an impact injury is an injury resulting from being thrown by the force or impact, like a head thrown back on the seat or by the deployment of airbags. The long-term effects of impact injuries are latent and cannot be easily assessed.

Head Injuries

Any injury to the head is among the most dangerous and severe. Certain head injuries develop slowly over the course of time. A victim should be examined immediately after the accident to establish a baseline and then monitored closely over the next few weeks. Head injuries left untreated are among the most dangerous and can become life-threatening.

Spine Injuries

Another serious impact injury involves the spine. The injuries to the spine are located in three areas:

  1. Cervical—around the neck
  2. Thoracic—of the upper back
  3. Lumbar—of the lower back

Any injury to any area of the spine can result in paralysis, disability or a lifetime of pain and on-going medical expenses.

Broken Bones

Broken and fractured bones can result from both penetrating and/or impact injuries. Most often, such injuries are patent, or visual, and the presence of the injury is known. The victim, or the witnesses, will know at once that medical attention is needed.

Soft Tissue Injuries

These injuries involve the tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and other non-bony tissues of the body.  Whiplash, an impact injury, is a common, and often very serious soft tissue injury.  Whiplash is an injury to the structures of the neck.  In a typical rear-end collision involving whiplash, the victim’s body is propelled forward due to the force from the rear-end impact which is translated into the body via the car-seat. If the victim’s car was stationary before impact, this means the victim’s head was essentially stationary before impact.  (Pursuant to Newton’s laws of motion and object at rest tends to remain at rest.)  When the victim’s body is propelled forward the head lags behind until pulled forward by the neck.  This movement in which the trunk of one’s body moves forward and the head lags behind causes the neck to experience non-physiological movement that can very easily damage the structures of the cervical spine.  Structures very much at risk of damage in this scenario include the cervical discs, and more commonly, the cervical facet joints which are located at the rear of each motion segment in the cervical spine.

As with head injuries, soft tissue injuries need medical attention as soon as practicable after an accident, and then diligently monitored for pain and/or restrictions in movement.

Each of the injury types defined above can have a negative impact on the quality of life and the potential limitations of one’s future earning capacity.