You’re at a red light when the person coming up behind you looks down at their phone and rear-ends you. They weren’t going fast, and there were only a few scratches on your car. You’re more concerned about getting to work, so you exchange information and leave without thinking about the possibility of minor car accident injuries.
But they do happen.
While you may not immediately notice any pain after a fender bender, it doesn’t take much of an impact to cause trauma and damage to your muscles and joints. This damage may only cause soreness and stiffness for a few days. Any amount of pain is inconvenient, but you might recover quickly.
However, that damage can sometimes lead to lifelong pain and eventual disability.
Find out what the types of minor car accident injuries are and why you should always seek treatment as quickly as possible.
Why Minor Car Accident Injuries Happen
Many people think that when the car looks fine after an accident, the people inside should be okay too.
Unfortunately, that’s not how impact injuries work.
Research indicates that a rear-end accident at only 8mph can create 5gs of force on a person’s head. One G, or force of gravity, is equal to 22 miles per hour. So, even though the car that hit you was only going 8mph, your head will potentially shoot forward at a rate of 110 miles per hour.
That’s a lot of force on your neck and head!
Even if you don’t feel it right then, that kind of momentum and pressure can have painful and long-lasting effects, and that’s just on your head.
Your car isn’t the only thing that collides with something. Your body and internal organs also experience collisions within milliseconds of the car crash.
You can calculate the amount of force on your body in a car crash by using this formula:
Weight (in pounds) ✕ Speed (mph) = crash force (in pounds of pressure)
So, a 160lb person in a 15mph car wreck receives 2,400 pounds of pressure on their body. The car may look fine, but that much force can cause numerous internal injuries requiring care.
Types of Minor Car Accident Injuries
Once you know how little outside force it takes to create so much pressure on the body, it’s no surprise that many types of injuries can occur.
Some of them won’t be evident immediately, and some may be minor enough to heal on their own.
But it’s better to be safe than sorry about minor car accident injuries. No matter how little pain you feel immediately following a crash, it’s best to visit your healthcare provider and chiropractor immediately after an accident.
These injuries may not be noticeable initially, but the effects and pain can last a lifetime without treatment.
Whiplash is the most common injury from both minor and significant motor vehicle accidents.
It occurs when a significant amount of energy causes your neck to move forward and backward or vice versa at an incredibly high speed. As your head quickly “whips” back and forth, the force can damage your muscles, nerves, tendons, and the discs in your vertebrae.
Many people suffer for months after a car wreck, especially if they don’t receive medical care and physical rehabilitation. It can even be severe enough to cause disability and lifelong pain.
Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain in the upper back, shoulders, and arms
- Fatigue and dizziness
These symptoms can even lead to depression, sleep disturbances, and a loss of concentration.
With the trauma your body experiences in car accidents, it’s no surprise that back injuries are also common.
Even a fender bender can result in severe back pain, especially in your lower back.
This area of the spine, called the lumbar region, supports most of your body weight. It’s curved to help uphold that weight, maintain your posture, and absorb shock when you move. But its shape and purpose make it prone to injuries and pain.
Hand and Wrist Injuries
Another one of the most common minor car accident injuries is to the hands and wrists.
Whether you’re the driver or passenger, most people attempt to brace themselves when a wreck is about to occur. You might be gripping the steering wheel, holding a grab handle, or straightening your arms against the dashboard or back of the chair.
When the impact reaches you, it puts a lot of pressure on the joints and tendons in your hands and wrists, easily leading to pain and injury.
Although airbags are absolute lifesavers, they can cause injuries as well.
Fortunately, most airbags won’t deploy in fender benders. But if the crashing car is going more than 15 mph or an airbag is more sensitive or malfunctioning, it may still be triggered.
Common airbag injuries include:
- Bruising and fractures in the face and nose
- Chest impact injuries that can injure the heart or make breathing painful
- Fractures in wrists, hands, and ribs
- Eye damage from the airbag itself or the chemicals required to inflate it
- Respiratory problems from chemicals
Because the pain may not be immediately noticeable, you should always visit your provider if your airbag opens in an automobile accident.
Head and Brain Injuries
Less common but still possible are head and brain injuries.
With the force of the acceleration and deceleration involved in even minor car accidents, you can develop concussions and other serious brain injuries. They may happen because your head hits the steering wheel, window, or airbag. Or they can occur when your brain hits the inside of your skull.
These traumatic brain injuries (TBIs for short) can lead to lifelong issues or even cause a stroke if left untreated.
If you hit your head or feel dizzy or confused, experience ringing in your ears, or have a significant headache, call 9-1-1 to get checked out immediately.
What You Can Do To Avoid Major and Minor Car Accidents
Some car accidents are simply unavoidable. If you’re rear-ended at a stoplight or somebody sideswipes you when changing lanes, there’s very little you can do. Avoiding those situations may even cause a more serious wreck involving others.
However, safe driving is everybody’s responsibility, and there are certain things that you can do to help prevent accidents.
- Don’t drive impaired — You know you shouldn’t drink and drive, but being tired or sleep-deprived can be just as dangerous.
- Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel — According to the NSC, using a cell phone while driving contributes to as many as 1.6 million car accidents every year. Put your cell phone on Do Not Disturb while driving, and pull over if you need to look at your phone.
- Save some space — Driving less than 3 seconds behind another car, especially when going faster than 30mph, is dangerous. (This short video explains why.) Always keep room between yourself and another vehicle.
- Use your blinkers and horn — When appropriate! While honking on the highway may not prevent a wreck, proper blinker signaling and car horn use increase road safety.
- Check your lights — Ensure all exterior lights are on and working in the dark and during inclement weather. If you must pull over or your car breaks down, turn your emergency lights on immediately.
- Maintain your car — In the same way you take care of your body to keep it going, your car needs maintenance too. Sudden breakdowns or problems on the road can cause dangerous crashes.
- Let technology help — Most new cars have some kind of collision-prevention technology. Whether it’s a rear-view camera or warning signal, blind spot detection, or automatic emergency braking, your car’s technology can help keep you and others safe.
More than anything else, follow traffic safety rules and focus on the road. Speeding and aggressive driving are major contributors to car accidents, and they’re completely avoidable.
Don’t Ignore Minor Car Accident Injuries
The majority of drivers will get in at least one car accident at some point in their lives. From unreported fender benders to major pile-ups, car crashes happen every day across the country.
While some people are lucky enough to walk away from these unscathed, many more are hurt. And even minor car accident injuries can make working and caring for your household more difficult.
So, if you’ve been involved in a fender bender or car crash, visit an experienced auto accident injury clinic like ours, even if you aren’t in much pain. We will discuss your situation, run tests, and put you on the road to recovery.
And if you need a personal injury attorney, we can help with that too!
The sooner you seek treatment and help after an accident, the quicker you’ll feel better.