Treating pain from a motor vehicle accident in Lakeland, Florida

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports more than three million people are injured yearly in motor vehicle accidents nationwide. The different injuries resulting from a car accident can be as varied as the individual circumstances of each collision. Unfortunately, not all motor vehicle accident injuries are easily identified. Often, internal injuries can cause long-term and even chronic widespread pain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans spend more than a million days in the hospital each year due to vehicle accidents. The good news is that most accidents are not fatal, but even a minor one can cause long-lasting pain.

Some car accident injuries may resolve within a matter of days without any medical treatment; however, more severe injuries might become permanent and can result in some level of physical disability. Often, these types of injuries can be quite different from what one might expect.

In This Article:

Types of Injuries Resulting From a Motor Vehicle Accident

Many different types of injuries can result from a motor vehicle accident. There are three broad categories of physical injuries:

  • Impact injuries occur when the occupant of a vehicle strikes any portion of the vehicle’s interior or is thrown from the vehicle and strikes the ground or another object. An example would be if the driver sustains a head injury when hitting the vehicle’s window.
  • Penetrating injuries occur when loose objects flying around the vehicle strike the passenger. An example is if a window shatters and cuts a collision victim.
  • Hidden injuries are those injuries that do not appear immediately or within hours. Instead, the pain may appear days or even months after the accident.

Any of these injuries can be severe and may cause painful complications. That is why anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident must consult a medical professional. Some of the more common injuries resulting from a vehicle accident include.

Head Injuries

Head injuries can range from relatively minor to quite severe. A vehicle’s sudden stop or change in direction can cause the head of the occupant to experience sudden and unnatural movements. This sudden movement can cause muscle strains in the neck and back (soft-tissue injury). However, the head itself can also be injured. The impact of an accident can cause damage to the tissue inside the skull because of the motion of the head. The injury can range from a concussion to brain damage.

Neck and Back Injuries

Neck and back injuries are common in motor vehicle accidents. Generally, this type of injury is called “whiplash.” The injuries range from a mild strain to something much more severe. If the force of a collision is great enough, it can cause the tissue between the vertebrae of the spine to balloon out or rupture (“herniate”), resulting in a herniated disc that can press on and inflame the nerves along the spine. The pressure on the nerves can cause pain, a loss of feeling, or even the loss of muscle control. These symptoms could occur immediately but may develop in the weeks and months following an auto accident.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder pain is common after an accident because the shoulder belt restraint wraps over one shoulder. Much of the force from an auto accident can be focused on that one shoulder if the occupant is thrown forward from the impact of the collision. The impact force can cause the body to twist, resulting in many injuries, such as deep bruising, a shoulder strain, or even tearing of the shoulder ligaments. Shoulder injuries often worsen over time and can cause chronic pain.

Chest Injuries

Chest injuries from a motor vehicle accident are typically contusions or bruises (skin discoloration). However, a chest injury can be more severe, resulting in broken ribs or internal organ injuries. Drivers are most likely to experience chest injuries because of their position behind the steering wheel; however, a vehicle occupant can also be thrown forward in a collision. Even though the person may not impact the steering wheel or dashboard, the chest area can experience a high level of force against the shoulder harness or seatbelt, which can cause severe bruising.

Knee Injuries

A motor vehicle collision will often cause front seat occupants to be thrown forward, striking their knees on the dashboard. The resulting knee pain can result from damage to the knee cartilage, a shattered patella (knee cap), or damage to the cartilage (torn meniscus). These injuries can be quite painful, though the severity of the injury is not always readily apparent because the pain may take time to develop.

Arm and Leg Injuries

If a vehicle experiences a side impact, the occupant’s arms and legs can be forced against the door or other interior components. The passenger’s legs typically have very little room for movement in a car. Depending on the nature of the collision, injuries to arms and legs can range from simple bruises or scrapes to sprains and even broken bones.

Soft Tissue Injuries

The most common type of injury resulting from a motor vehicle accident is an injury to soft tissue. A soft tissue injury is damage to the body’s connective tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons).

Soft tissue injuries can take many forms, including whiplash. The forces placed on the body during an accident often result in soft tissue injuries and can cause muscle sprains in the neck and other areas of the body. These can often cause mid-back and low-back pain or even severe back injuries because of the force of the impact against the spine.

The extent of a vehicle accident injury can be severe, even when it is not always apparent immediately following the accident. Often, an injury will cause pain that worsens over time when not appropriately treated. Therefore, accident victims should seek medical treatment for the slightest discomfort or injury following a collision.

Types of Pains Resulting From a Motor Vehicle Accident

Some of the pains following a motor vehicle accident are readily apparent. However, some pains may not appear until several days or weeks after the accident. These pains include:

  • It is common for headaches to develop several days after a vehicle accident, but it can be more than a typical headache. Sometimes, a headache can signal a potentially serious problem, such as a blood clot in the brain, an injury to the neck or head, or it can be a sign of a concussion.
  • Neck or shoulder pain or stiffness. Whiplash is a classic delayed symptom injury associated with accidents. Most whiplash cases occur due to rear-end vehicle collisions at low speeds. To accurately diagnose whiplash injuries, X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be necessary after serious accidents.
  • Back pain. Pain in the back after an accident could result from an injury to muscles, ligaments, or nerves in the back. However, back pain could be from damage to the vertebrae and discs of the spine. Low back pain is found in a majority of motor vehicle accidents. Back strains are common, but sometimes, the force of a collision can cause the tissue between the spine’s vertebrae to balloon out (slipped disc) or rupture (herniated disc). Sometimes, it may take weeks or months for the symptoms to develop following an auto accident and can cause long-term disability.
  • Abdominal pain or swelling. Large areas of deep purple bruising, dizziness, and fainting can be a result of internal bleeding, which can remain undiscovered for several days.
  • A loss of feeling in the arms and hands is often the result of a whiplash injury resulting from damage to the neck or spinal column.

Emotional Distress and Change in Physical Function Following a Motor Vehicle Accident

During a vehicle accident, your head may whip back and forth or strike something inside the car. A blow to the head can impact your brain. This impact on the brain, a “traumatic brain injury” (TBI), can cause long-term damage to brain function. Vehicle crashes are second only to falls as the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Vehicle accident survivors may also suffer from psychological injuries such as personality, behavior, and mood changes. They may begin exhibiting irritability, anxiety, or depression. The symptoms include impaired thinking, memory problems, and mobility issues. They may experience vision or hearing difficulties. These symptoms could last for weeks or months after the accident.

Psychological injuries from a vehicle accident can be just as damaging as physical injuries. Florida law allows survivors of vehicle accidents to file a claim for physical and emotional damages after a vehicle accident.

How to Help Avoid Motor Vehicle Injuries

Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid a vehicle accident. However, there are several things you can do to help avoid the injuries of a vehicle crash:

  • Seatbelts and Child Restraints. The driver and all passengers should wear proper restraints. The driver is responsible for buckling children passengers. See the state of Florida‘s seat belt laws.
  • Sit Upright. Seat belts work best when the occupant is seated upright. Leaning forward places the driver and front seat passenger closer to the steering wheel and dashboard. Leaning back at an extreme angle makes slipping out of the seat belt easier during an impact.
  • Don’t Drive Over the Speed Limit. Modern automobiles are designed to absorb and dissipate the impact of low-speed collisions. At excessive speeds, the energy of a crash is transferred to passengers in the form of G-forces that increase the risk of injury. Reduce the risk of injury by not driving over the speed limit.
  • Avoid Distracted Driving. Anything that takes attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, and eating while driving are obvious examples of distracted driving. However, using a navigation system and adjusting the radio can be just as distracting.
  • Remove Loose Items from the Car Interior. Just as an unrestrained body will move about the passenger cabin in an accident, so will loose items. Unsecured objects in the passenger cabin, like books and groceries, can strike the occupants in a collision. Heavier objects have a greater chance of causing injury. Always secure loose items in the trunk.
  • Drive a Safe Car. Driving a safe vehicle can go a long way toward helping prevent injury. Newer model cars have many advanced safety features. When buying a vehicle, consider the safety features. Consumer Reports has many valuable tips about advanced car safety systems.

Motor Vehicle Injuries & Types of Pain Following an Accident Resources

Motor Vehicle (Wikipedia)
15 Common Car Crash Injuries (Forbes)
What are the Most Common Vehicle Accident Injuries? (
8 Hidden Injuries After a Car Accident (Lehmbecker Law)
7 delayed injury symptoms after a car crash (KTAR)
Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Florida Mandatory Seat Belt Laws (DMV Florida)
Can I Receive Compensation for Emotional Distress After a Collision? (Johnson & Gilbert, P.A.)
Cars with Advanced Safety Systems (Consumer Reports)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) (NIH)
Facts & Statistics (Brain Injury Alliance)