The Most Common Car Accident Injuries

Common car accident injuries include soft tissue injuries and internal injuries from penetrative or impact forces.
Written by Maxine Boyko
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Getting into a car accident means that you will probably sustain some of the most common types of injuries that are possible in an auto collision: penetrating injuries and impact injuries. These types of injuries can happen anywhere on your body and range in severity. 
Common acute traumas are soft tissue injuries, while more severe traumas occurring deeper in the body are internal injuries. 
It is generally a good idea to seek medical attention if you feel any level of pain or discomfort following a car crash. Even seemingly minor accidents can have delayed symptoms and your doctor will provide the best advice on how to monitor your condition. 
If you intend to make an injury claim after an accident, it is important to document that you sought medical treatment early. Failure to seek medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time can result in your insurance company concluding your injuries aren’t serious and affect your coverage eligibility. 
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What are the most common car accident injuries?

The most common car accident injuries fall under one of two broad categories: one, impact injuries, and two, penetrating injuries. Impact injuries are usually caused when a person’s body collides with some part of the vehicle’s interior. Penetrating injuries are usually caused by loose objects traveling through the interior of the vehicle.  
The severity of a car crash injury depends on the following circumstances: 
  • Collision speed
  • What direction the driver or passenger was facing 
  • Where the car was hit (rear, side, front)
  • Whether or not seatbelts were worn or the airbags deployed

Soft tissue injuries

A soft tissue injury happens when there’s trauma to the body’s connective tissues including the skin, muscles, ligaments, or tendons.

Skin or surface 

Bruises, cuts, and scrapes are extremely common car accident injuries that occur when objects hit your body at high speed. Shattered windows, steering wheels, deployed airbags, seatbelts, and other projectiles in your car can easily cut or bruise your skin in a collision. 
While cuts and scrapes are immediately visible, bruises often take days, weeks, or months to fully appear. Fortunately, these soft-tissue injuries heal within a couple of weeks without any treatment and are considered minor. More serious injuries, however, may require stitches.


Whiplash is a well-known soft tissue injury that occurs when muscles and ligaments in the neck are suddenly, forcefully, and quickly stretched back and forth. 
Minor whiplash on its own rarely results in permanent injury and can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice. If the pain is more severe and persistent, treatment options include prescription drugs and physical therapy.

Neck and back injuries

Common car injuries of the neck and back may co-occur with whiplash or be independently sustained. Herniations or ruptures of the discs in your spine are common car accident injuries that are very painful and limit your mobility. 
You may also have damage to the bone, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves in your neck and back that can also cause persistent pain.
In addition to pain, other typical symptoms of a neck or back injury are: 
  • Muscle spasms or strain in the mid and low-back
  • Difficulting walking, standing, or sitting
  • Stiff body and reduced mobility
  • Headaches
  • Tingling and feeling numb in the body
In mild cases, these injuries typically heal on their own with rest and are not permanent. If pain persists after several days or if you have a history of neck or back issues, however, contact an orthopedist to determine whether you have a herniated disc. 
Sometimes physical therapy or surgery is a necessary part of the recovery process. 

Head injuries

One of the most common and well-known head injuries is a concussion. While the most noticeable signs of a concussion include loss of consciousness or confusion, there are other, less obvious symptoms such as: 
  • Difficulty or inability to concentrate
  • Clouded thinking
  • Amnesia about the accident or difficulty remembering new information
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache or pressure inside the head
A concussed person could also experience blurry vision, fatigue, personality changes, or abnormal sleeping patterns. It is important to seek prompt medical attention if you experience any head injury symptoms. While concussions do not cause permanent brain injury, more significant head traumas can require lifelong treatment and recovery. 
Key Takeaway: There are many different types of soft tissue injuries one can sustain from a car accident, the most common being bruises, cuts, scrapes, and whiplash as well as neck, back, and head trauma. 

Internal injuries

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may suffer specific internal injuries, such as broken bones or internal bleeding. 

Broken bones

A collision’s impact on your body can result in fractured or broken bones. The most common bones that crack or fracture during a car accident are arms and wrists, lower legs and femurs, hips, and ribs. 
Sometimes a broken or fractured bone isn’t immediately obvious. You will likely experience intense pain that worsens with touch or movement and experience difficulty putting weight on the injured body part. 
You should seek treatment if you experience the following symptoms: 
  • Skin discoloration such as redness or bruising
  • Swelling or tenderness at the sight
  • Visible bone exposure or structural deformities 

Internal bleeding and organ damage

Organs are delicate and are susceptible to damage in a high-speed crash. Forces acting on the body during the accident can cause blood vessels in the body to rupture. Broken blood vessels can lead to dysregulated blood clotting and internal bleeding. 
Signs of internal bleeding include: 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
Depending on the severity of the damage, surgery may be necessary to stop the bleeding, repair the blood vessels, and restore normal organ function. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to treat them promptly to avoid life-threatening consequences. 

What insurance covers car accident injuries?

If you sustain injuries in a car accident, car insurance can help compensate for hefty medical bills and make your overall financial situation easier
The following insurance coverages can help cover costs that health insurance alone may not: 
  • Personal Injury Protection
    (PIP) covers a wide variety of costs if you get hurt in an accident. They typically cover medical expenses including surgeries and hospitalization, lost earnings, and funeral expenses. They can even help to pay for childcare and house cleaning you’re unable to perform because of the accident. 
  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay)
    , can help pay for medical bills after sustaining injuries. You may be eligible for reimbursement for ambulance fees, chiropractic care, X-rays, dental care, prosthetics, other continuing care services, and funeral costs. MedPay can also help pay deductibles and co-pays. It will not, however, pay for any lost wages or childcare costs. 
If PIP and MedPay are not already mandatory in your state, you should consider how they work in conjunction with your health insurance. Both types of coverage help pay for medical bills no matter who is at fault and the benefits tend to kick in quickly without having to pay a hefty deductible. 
If you decide to file a claim, they can help save you money on your overall insurance coverage. 

Finding the right car insurance 

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Unless your state requires it, PIP or Medpay is optional coverage. That being said, if you’re injured in an accident, having this coverage can help protect you from the financial burden of hefty medical bills and other injury-related costs due to a car accident.
You should claim injury as soon as you become aware of the injury. Remember that documenting the accident and filing a police report will help you when you file a claim.
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