A guide to the most common injuries following a side-impact car accident in Georgia
Movies and TV shows can give us a vivid picture of what being in a car accident is like – broken glass flying everywhere and vehicles careening in all directions. But real-life collisions can be much more jarring, sudden, and unpredictable. Some collisions appear to be happening in slow-motion, while others are a complete and unexpected surprise.
Regardless of the cause of the accident, we commonly see similar injuries depending upon the type of collision. In a T-Bone collision, in particular, injuries are often severe and catastrophic since the impact comes from the side.
Whiplash and spinal injuries
By far the most common injury — no matter if the collision is a rear-end, a head-on, or a T-bone — is a spinal injury. The whip-like motion of a person’s head being slung sideways, backward or forward can not result in severe cervical muscle sprains and permanent discogenic injuries to other areas of the spine.
The “disc” material rests between the vertebrae of the spine. Doctors often describe discs as similar to a jelly doughnut. The disc acts like a shock absorber to protect the vertebrae, keeping them from coming in contact with each other and pinching the nerves that lie between. Once the shock absorber filling is squished out, it can’t be put back in.
Upon impact, the discs might be subjected to a tremendous and sudden force exerted by the collision, causing the discs to bulge or rupture (herniate), putting pressure on surrounding nerve tissue or even the spinal cord itself. This can cause excruciating pain and requires advanced medical treatment – often surgery – to fix.
While the cervical spine may be the most “at-risk” portion of the spine in a T-Bone accident, the rest of the spine is at risk as well. T-Bone accidents can cause permanent injuries and damage to any part of the spine, which is why it’s important to have your entire spine examined if you’ve been involved in a wreck.
The best-case scenario, always, is that you walk away uninjured. However, spinal injuries often take several days to fully manifest. It’s important that you don’t shrug off minor, initial symptoms. If you’re feeling pain anywhere in your spine in the hours, days or weeks following a wreck, go see a doctor immediately.
Head and traumatic brain injuries
Another injury common to many accidents but especially T-Bone accidents is a head injury. When a vehicle is struck from the side, the heads of occupants are likely to strike objects around them such as a side window, another occupant, a headrest, dash or steering wheel. Contact between the head and any other object can result in serious injury.
Many modern vehicles are equipped with side curtain airbags to help mitigate brain injuries in a wreck, but the head and brain are delicate and easily injured. In one recent T-Bone accident case that the Scholle Law team managed, the side curtain airbag actually caused our client to suffer permanent tinnitus. The explosive force of the airbag going off near her head permanently damaged her ear canal.
Depending on the force of the impact, T-Bone accidents can cause anything from a concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are extremely dangerous, difficult to treat, and can cause irrevocable impact on a person’s life.
Many people associate a traumatic brain injury with severe headaches. However, there can be other long-term symptoms, which are far more difficult to diagnose and manage. Traumatic brain injuries can cause:
- Memory loss and amnesia
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Confusion and disorientation
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty speaking
- Emotional changes
- Sleep difficulties
- Paresthesias (sensations on the skin such as tingling, prickling, itching or burning)
Any of these symptoms can be life-changing. A severe traumatic brain injury can cause multiple symptoms and, at its worst, leave the victim disabled for life. If you are in any kind of accident and you develop any of these symptoms, you should be examined by a doctor immediately.
Hip and leg injuries
A side impact is usually squarely at the waist or hip, and as a result can cause serious injuries to a person’s hips. The impact can cause the occupant to collide with the door on one side, or the center console on the other. The resulting injury can range from a simple bruise or contusion to hip or leg fractures.
Severe bruises can be quite painful and make walking or general mobility difficult. In the case of a fracture, advanced medical procedures and sometimes surgery are required. Treatment and recovery time can result in a significant, long-term impact for people who require mobility to work. If your job requires walking, standing, or lifting, you may find yourself both out of work and paying expensive medical bills at the same time.
Knee, ankle and foot injuries
The knee, ankle, and foot are also susceptible to injury from a T-Bone collision. A driver might attempt to avoid an impact too late and reactively slam on the brakes. The attempt to take sudden and extreme corrective measures puts substantial strain on the knee, ankle and foot. The extra strain of the impact can cause damage to cartilage or tendons in any of those joints.
Often, these injuries are semi-permanent or require surgery to fully correct. As with a hip injury, this can negatively impact a person’s mobility and be extremely difficult to manage.
Shoulder injuries are also relatively common in T-Bone accidents. At the moment of impact, the driver is holding on to the steering wheel. The force of the impact can wrench the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands in a way that damages the cartilage and ligaments in their shoulder. This is especially true for drivers who see the impact coming and reactively grip the steering wheel harder or try to take sudden corrective action with immense force on the steering wheel.
As with the leg injuries, the strain the driver is putting on their own limb, coupled with the violent impact, can result in severe injuries. The tissue that is damaged in the shoulder is often the rotator cuff, which is a collection of muscles and tendons that keep your arm bone in the shoulder socket. Rotator cuff tears generally cannot heal on their own. Although mild cases may be able to regain limited mobility through physical therapy, they often require surgery.
Following rotator cuff or shoulder surgery, the victim is left with severely limited mobility. They are generally required to wear a sling for several weeks following the surgery and participate in physical therapy, including a home exercise program in order to regain mobility and strength.
Why T-bone collisions are more dangerous and deadly
Ultimately, any injury can happen following any kind of motor vehicle accident. However, there are certainly injury trends, depending on the type of impact. T-Bone accidents tend to be exceptionally dangerous as they cause the body to move in ways that aren’t natural.
According to automobile safety experts, all vehicle drivers and passengers should wear a seatbelt at all times to help stop occupants from being slung sideways during a T-bone collision.
In a frontal impact car accident, the seatbelt, airbag and additional space between passenger and dash help to protect against catastrophic injury. But in T-Bone wrecks, the seatbelt and airbags are not as effective at protecting your body.
What’s more, T-bone accidents tend to happen at higher speeds, typically at intersections. Side impact crashes don’t usually occur as a result of bumper-to-bumper or stop-and-go traffic.
Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20, “[t]he driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device…” Similarly, under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-71, “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left…shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction…”
Unfortunately, these statutes are often violated when people run red lights or try to turn left without properly yielding
What to do after a T-bone car accident
Regardless of what type of accident you’ve been involved in, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true if you are experiencing any type of pain or limitation which you did not previously experience. Even if the injury doesn’t initially seem severe, you should see a doctor and get a full checkup.
Injuries can worsen over time or can unintentionally be exacerbated by activity. Getting examined by a doctor following an accident is the first step in making sure that you’re unharmed and healthy. Your health is priceless.
The last thing you want is to end up with a permanent injury because you didn’t seek medical treatment when it could have made a difference.
Similarly, it’s important to talk to an attorney if you’ve been involved in a car accident. You may feel fine now, but a simple fender-bender can quickly become overwhelming if you are confused by the claim process or suddenly swamped with medical debt. You don’t want to be left without any recourse or recovery simply because you failed to act or because you agreed, at the time, to something that you didn’t fully understand.
If you’ve been involved in a wreck, we would love to talk to you and answer any questions you might have. You can reach our team at Scholle Law at any time. Contact us for your free consultation.