What to expect physically after a car accident?

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Car accidents are extremely scary for everyone involved. In the U.S., an estimated 6 million car accidents happen per year.

When you find yourself in the unwelcome situation of being involved in a car crash, your immediate concern is how your health has been affected. Bodily injuries sustained from a car accident will depend on the severity of the crash.

We will outline different crash severities and what to expect below.

Fatal Injury Car Accidents

Car accidents resulting in fatalities only comprise 6% of crashes per year in the U.S. A fatal crash is described as a crash where at least one occupant of the vehicle dies within 30 days.

If you are involved in a car accident where someone in your vehicle has died, it was a severe crash. Rollovers, head-on collisions, and so forth are more likely to be fatal. Survivors can sustain serious injuries, like:

  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Brain bleeding and head trauma
  • Skin damage, such as major burns or punctures
  • Internal bleeding or organ injury
  • Torn ligaments and/or severed limbs
  • Coma and/or loss of regular brain function
  • And all the possible injuries associated with major and minor injury accidents.

Major Injury Car Accident

A major injury accident occurs when at least 1 person in the vehicle is injured and requires hospitalization but no fatalities occur. Typically, these crashes are impactful enough that all passengers walk away with some remaining side effects.

Typical physical effects of major injury accidents can include:

  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Acute concussions or head trauma
  • Injury to the eyes or mouth
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD
  • New fear of driving or fear of cars
  • And all the possible injuries associated with minor injury accidents.

Minor Injury Car Accident

A minor injury accident is when at least one person in the vehicle requires medical attention but none are injured badly enough for hospitalization, and there are no fatalities. These crashes can cause varying injuries and symptoms.

Some common injuries from minor injury accidents are:

  • Scrapes, abrasions, cuts, bruising
  • Body stiffness and soreness
  • Non-complicated fractures in bones
  • Headaches
  • Neck/shoulder pain
  • Depression, anxiety, and/or newly developed fear of driving or cars

Minimal Injury Crash

A minimal injury crash is an accident like a “fender-bender”, where contact with another car happens, but causes no medically prominent injuries whatsoever.

Those involved in a minimal injury crash will be let go at the scene. Still, it is normal to experience a headache, body stiffness, anxiety, sadness, and other acute symptoms after a minimal injury crash.

Get Help

Car accidents are scary, regardless of their severity. You can expect different effects based on the severity of a crash, personal pain tolerance, age, and more. When in doubt, seek medical attention (even if it wasn’t deemed required at the scene).

Many car accident survivors will benefit from mental health counseling. If you’ve recently experienced a car crash, remember vehicles are replaceable, but you are not.

Often times, it’s good to chat with professionals after an accident.  Psychologists, lawyers, and medical professionals are all good people to consult after a trauma experience like this.  Use our accident settlement calculator to see what your settlement could be worth.

Who Pays For Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

Post-crash physical therapy is part of the economic damages in a car crash claim. This category also includes medical transportation expenses (e.g. ambulance or medevac), emergency medical treatment, follow-up medical care, prescription drugs, and medical devices. The driver who was legally responsible for the wreck, or rather that driver’s insurance company in most cases, pays for physical therapy and all other damages.

That last paragraph makes an important point. Of course, all my paragraphs make important points. Some victims have personal relationships with some tortfeasors (negligent drivers). That’s especially true if the victim was a passenger in a tortfeasor’s vehicle. Some people don’t like to file claims in these cases because they don’t want their friend or family member to “pay” for the “accident.” In most situations, individuals pay nothing. The insurance company pays everything. That includes hiring a lawyer and paying damages.

Damages in a car crash claim usually also include compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. All these damages are typically available if a lawyer proves negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

Lost Use Physical Therapy

Broken bone physical therapy is the most common example of lost use physical therapy. If Jim breaks his leg, he usually cannot put any weight on the leg for several months. A physical therapist works with Jim to strengthen the muscles that have atrophied.

Most insurance companies use boilerplate tables to determine how much physical therapy they’ll pay for. A broken arm means three sessions, a collapsed lung merits five sessions, and so on.

However, not all injuries are created equally. There’s a big difference between a missed step broken bone and a car crash broken bone. A missed step broken bone usually only needs a cast. A car crash broken bone usually means surgery. During this procedure, a doctor normally uses metal parts, like rods and screws, to reconstruct the bone.

Many insurance adjusters don’t understand, or don’t care, that the recovery period for a car crash broken bone is a lot longer. Therefore, an attorney must continue to advocate for the victim, so s/he gets the help s/he needs.

Lost Function Physical Therapy

Brain injury physical therapy is lost function physical therapy. This PT isn’t a matter of strengthening existing muscles. When brain cells die, they never regenerate. So, a brain injury physical therapist must train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. That’s why many serious head injury victims must learn to walk, talk, eat, and do pretty much everything all over again.

Progress in lost use physical therapy is easy to measure. Usually, victims improve with each session. Once they pass a range of motion or similar test, PT normally ends. Lost function physical therapy is different. Progress is uneven. A sudden breakthrough may follow several weeks of seemingly useless sessions.

Once again, lawyers advocate for victims in these situations. Since the insurance company is paying for physical therapy, the company always wants to pull the financial plug as quickly as possible. An attorney helps ensure that the money keeps flowing and the victim keeps improving.

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Bret Thurman

Bret is a former lawyer and full-time writer who knows how to simplify complex topics. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. For over twenty years, he handled a wide variety of cases, including criminal defense, personal injury, family law, and consumer bankruptcy.

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