A rear-end collision occurs when one vehicle strikes another, because of an abrupt stop or slowdown, or because the rear driver failed to stop in time to avoid a collision with the other driver. Even at a low rate of speed, rear-end collisions can set off airbags and seriously injure everyone in the other vehicle.
Traumatic Brain Injury
In a rear-end collision, your head and neck may snap forward hard. Depending on your position in the car, your head may hit the back of the seat in front of you, the seat behind you, the windshield, or the steering wheel. The force of a rear-end collision at high rates of speed alone may cause your brain to move inside your skull, ultimately connecting with the inside of the skull and causing serious trauma.
Often, traumatic brain injury results in a loss of consciousness at the scene of the accident. However, not all patients with traumatic brain injury lose consciousness. Loss of consciousness may also last for only moments, which you may not recognize amid the chaos that often surrounds a severe accident. Instead, you may notice that you feel disoriented or uncertain as you try to navigate the scene of the accident.
You may have a hard time focusing on what happens around you or struggle with dizziness, nausea, or vertigo. Traumatic brain injury can often make you feel as though you have trouble thinking or remembering what to do next.
Once the immediate accident has passed, traumatic brain injury can have long-term implications. Many victims with traumatic brain injury struggle with memory loss: gaps in long-term memory or problems with short-term memory that make it incredibly difficult to remember what they intended to do just moments before. They may have a hard time focusing or keeping attention on even relatively simple tasks.
Not only that, traumatic brain injury can interfere with activities that the victim genuinely enjoys, making it difficult for them to focus on a game or activity.
In addition, traumatic brain injury frequently causes challenges in regulating emotions. People who sustain traumatic brain injuries may have a hard time reacting appropriately to emotional stimuli or may struggle to deal with even minor annoyances or inconveniences.
Your spine contains two key components: the vertebrae (or the bones), and the cushions (or discs), that sit between and cushion the vertebrae. The discs are soft centers encased with tough, rubbery exteriors. When a tear occurs in the disc’s exterior, the soft interior may push out through that space.
Sometimes, you may not have any symptoms at all from a herniated disc after a rear-end collision. In other cases, however, herniated discs can cause pain, numbness, or weakness, both in the back and in an arm or leg. Pain can spread from the site of the injury and down; for example, if you suffer a herniated disc in your lower back, you may notice pain and weakness in your buttocks, thighs, and calves. Pain and weakness may occur on both sides or you may notice it only on one side of the body, generally based on what nerves the disc presses on. You may also notice tingling or numbness in the affected area.
Some victims with herniated discs may not even notice them immediately after the accident, especially if they cause relatively little pain. However, as time goes by, you may notice symptoms increasing. While you can sometimes address herniated disc problems with physical therapy, some victims with herniated discs must undergo surgery to treat their injuries.
The force of a rear-end collision often causes the airbag to deploy. While airbags can help protect the driver, they can also cause serious injury, especially for shorter drivers who sit close to the steering wheel. Often, airbag deployment leads to serious facial injuries, including bruising or a broken nose. Sometimes, the force of the airbag can lacerate the face and leave permanent scars behind.
Victims who do not wear a seatbelt in a rear-end collision accident, or those whose seat belts fail, may end up with serious lacerations after hitting the windshield. Facial lacerations often result in significant scarring and may cause a permanent change in appearance.
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In a rear-end collision, the victim’s body often jerks back and forth rapidly. The spine cannot stabilize fast enough to prevent injury to the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons under that type of force. As a result, the victim may suffer from whiplash. Whiplash can cause a variety of symptoms. Most notably, whiplash symptoms often start with neck pain and stiffness. Many victims note that the pain increases with neck movement or that they cannot move their necks normally while waiting to heal.
In severe cases, whiplash can also result in tingling and numbness in the shoulders, upper back, and arms, or may result in headaches that seem to start at the base of the skull. Victims with whiplash may also note fatigue, dizziness, or sleep disturbances in the immediate aftermath of their accidents. While whiplash usually resolves with rest, it may result in long-term complications.
Spinal Cord Injuries
When rear-end collisions occur at high speeds, they can injure the spinal cord, which can cause lifelong complications for the victim.
A victim who suffers an incomplete spinal cord injury may lose part, but not all, of their mobility below the injury site. Incomplete spinal cord injuries may have better odds of healing with time. Complete spinal cord injuries, on the other hand, usually cause permanent paralysis below the injury site. Victims with spinal cord injuries may also suffer a disruption in other functions below the injury site, including organ functions. Some victims with spinal cord injuries will have decreased overall life expectancy as a result of their injuries.
Broken Hands and Arms
If the driver of the front vehicle sees the accident coming, they may brace against the steering wheel. That decision to brace may have damaging consequences. Often, drivers who have a chance to note an ongoing collision will suffer broken bones in their hands and arms. The force of the accident pushes the driver forward, while the steering wheel catches the forward movement. As a result, drivers often have a hard time avoiding injury to the hands and arms.
Broken bones in the hands and arms, especially if the driver suffers broken bones on both sides, can cause immense difficulties. Often, broken bones in the hands and arms can make it very difficult for the injured party to engage in basic self-care tasks or take care of daily work responsibilities.
Even sitting behind a computer and typing can become difficult for a victim with broken arms or hands. Moving around boxes or lifting heavy objects in a warehouse or store may become impossible. Broken bones in the hands and arms can also interfere with a wide range of leisure activities, including playing sports, enjoying video games, or creating any artwork.
While broken bones usually recover quickly, many victims note that they have ongoing symptoms months or even years after the initial accident. Many victims note ongoing pain or a permanent loss of mobility, especially if they break multiple bones.
Your seatbelt serves a vital function in a rear-end collision: it helps slow your forward momentum and decrease the odds of further injury. Without a seatbelt, you may find yourself thrown through the windshield in a rear-end collision, which can cause much more severe overall injuries. However, your seatbelt can also cause severe bruising along the chest.
Immediately after the accident, you may not notice the impact of a chest contusion. Victims with chest contusions may note pain in the chest soon after the accident. The seatbelt may also damage the muscles, cartilage, and even the rib bones.
Victims suffering from chest contusions may have difficulty breathing, especially drawing in a deep breath. They may suffer ongoing pain that restricts activity and prevents them from doing the things they would usually enjoy, going to work, or engaging in normal activities. Further, victims with chest contusions may suffer bruising to the heart and other internal organs, which can cause long-term complications or even death for the patient.
Chest contusions may also result in internal bleeding, including bleeding into the lungs.
If you notice pain in your chest after a rear-end collision, always seek emergency medical attention, since you may need immediate help to reduce swelling, prevent internal bleeding, or decrease the impact of those injuries. Victims with chest contusions may spend a long time in recovery as they wait for their injuries to resolve.
Often, fractured ribs, like chest contusions, occur because of the force of the seatbelt preventing further forward movement in an accident. Fractured ribs can pose difficulties during recovery. Victims may struggle with pain when sitting, bending, or moving normally. Often, broken ribs interfere with normal movement and activity, including preventing the victim from engaging in normal exercise.
Broken ribs can also make it difficult to engage in regular self-care tasks. Many of the activities needed to help maintain mobility and independence involve bending and reaching—both activities that can be very difficult with broken ribs. Victims may need to take a leave of absence from work while recovering from their injuries. Broken ribs can also make it very difficult to engage in many common leisure activities, from athletic pursuits to activities that require a great deal of time spent sitting. Often, victims notice a decrease in their overall quality of life while recovering.
In extreme cases, rear-end collisions can involve so much force that they result in crushed limbs. Usually, these types of rear-end collisions involve severe damage to the vehicle that shoves the victim into the vehicle’s structure.
Sometimes, crushed limbs can lead to permanent disability and loss of strength and mobility in the affected limb. That loss can prevent victims from enjoying some of their favorite sports or leisure activities, especially if they lose dexterity in their hands and arms. Other times, those losses can interfere with a victim’s ability to complete the tasks they usually do at work.
The damage from the accident may completely cut off blood flow to the affected limb. The victim may require limb amputation as the tissue dies. Amputation can cause ongoing complications for the victim, including loss of mobility and dexterity. Prosthetic devices can help replace some of the functions of the missing limb, but may not fully replicate the lost limb and everything the victim needs it to do.
Many victims who face amputation from a crushed limb in a rear-end collision in Boston may have ongoing physical and occupational therapy needs as they learn how to cope with their new limitations. While a prosthetic device can help replace some function, they also mean an ongoing expense, since prosthetics require replacement regularly. Many amputees also cannot use prosthetics due to problems with the stump or difficulty getting a good fit.
Did you suffer serious injuries in a Boston rear-end collision? If someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.