Albany is not the biggest city in New York State, but it often has big city traffic woes. Each day, business visitors, tourists, and politicians join the state capital’s traffic flow. They add to the commuter transportation stream and contribute to weekend traffic jams. Even though you follow the rules of the road, there is a chance that an unsafe driver will sabotage your trip. As in other busy cities, distracted, alcohol-influenced, and risky motorists cause auto accidents and injuries that sometimes change your life.
Vehicle-to-vehicle crashes cause most of Albany County’s auto accident-related injuries. Accidents occur among other types of vehicles and non-vehicles as well. Motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists sustain crash-related injuries each year. As they have no seat belts, reinforced cabs, or other available occupant protection systems, these roadway users often sustain fatal or life-threatening injuries.
The more serious your injuries, the more pain, suffering, and emotional distress you feel. Some injuries change your lifestyle temporarily. Others leave you disabled and unable to earn a living for the rest of your life. Before an auto accident injury sidelines you or someone you love, you should understand the potential personal, emotional, and financial consequences.
Documenting Accident-Related Injuries in Albany
When an accident occurs in Albany, the investigating officer has likely seen it all before. Accidents involve different motorists, but they have recognizable driving behaviors and they often involve similar negligent acts. Accidents occur because of the same contributing factors, and they result in familiar crash patterns.
T-bone crashes occur at intersections. Head-on crashes happen on two-way streets. Rear-end accidents usually happen in stop-and-go traffic. Sideswipes frequently involve vehicles driving in adjacent lanes. While these same accident scenarios occur daily, the damage varies depending on the drivers, the vehicles, and the circumstances. The one thing accidents have in common is that they are usually preventable.
Accident-related injuries involve the same types of circumstances. Injury severity varies and each victim’s recovery is unique, but their injuries follow similar patterns. An auto accident victim’s injuries have a direct correlation to vehicle size, accident impact, vehicle speed, occupant position, and other factors. This becomes clear when you review New York injury data compiled by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research. They accumulate and classify accidents in Albany County and throughout the state. The injury data is easily accessible on New York State’s Traffic Safety Statistical Repository platform.
Translating Police Report Injury Information Into Statistics
It requires a collaborative effort to present accident and injury information in a convenient online format. Some individuals self-report their accidents and injuries. The majority of TSSR injury data comes from police accident scene observations and evidence analysis. Officers do not try to make medical diagnoses or assign injuries to a relevant category. They report injuries based on the state’s Police Crash Report Submission Instructions.
They document only visible injuries and apparent conditions, using specified reporting measures.
- Location of Most Severe Physical Complaint: Includes 12 criteria such as head, face, knee, etc.
- Type of Physical Complaint: Includes 17 criteria such as fractures, minor bleeding, severe burns, etc.
- Victim’s Physical and Emotional Status: Includes 6 criteria such as unconscious, semi-conscious, incoherent, and others.
Police officers document accidents and injuries at the scene, and they submit the information in a formal report. ITSMR eventually translates and classifies officer and citizen-reported accident/injury information into statistical data. For consistency, injury classifications follow a regional version of the KABCO Injury Classification Scale.
The Severity Page in TSSR’s glossary provides further insight as to how they designate Fatal, Serious, Moderate, or Minor injuries using accident and injury data.
- K = Fatal injuries (within 30 days of a crash).
- A = Serious (Severe) injuries such as skull fractures, internal injuries, limb fractures, etc.
- B = Moderate injuries: visible head bumps, abrasions, minor cuts, etc.
- C = Minor injuries: nausea, momentary unconsciousness, pain/no visible signs of injury.
- O = Property Damage Only: no fatalities or injuries.
Types of Crash-Related Injuries in Albany County
When you review accident data on the TSSR platform, you see a pattern that reveals common accident-related injuries. Over the past three years, TSSR documented 26,808 crashes in Albany County and lists 6,028 injuries.
The system fully categorizes only police-reported injuries, 5,987 in total.
- Fatalities: 46
- Serious Injuries: 550
- Moderate Injuries: 917
- Minor Injuries: 4,413
- Unknown Severity: 61
Of course, injuries are far more complicated than these simple designations indicate. Data and simple terminology do not convey the injured person’s pain, suffering, and medical complications. Consider this additional information as you assess what these common injuries actually mean.
This designation seems simple. When a person dies from accident-related injuries, it is rarely simple. As the 30-day “K” designation suggests, fatal injuries do not always result in immediate death. The injured person often succumbs due to multiple severe or catastrophic wounds. These sometimes involve severe traumatic brain injuries, internal organ damage, spinal fractures, fourth, fifth, and sixth-degree burns, and multiple limb fractures.
Before an injured victim dies, they suffer from conditions that often involve pain, paralysis, mental and emotional trauma, and other severe trauma. Often they undergo extensive surgery. Sometimes a fatally injured person lingers but remains semi-conscious, unconscious, or in a catatonic state.
Those with serious, “A” category, injuries usually survive a crash. Still, their injuries often involve severe and catastrophic conditions of varying degrees. These sometimes include multiple fractures, mild to moderate brain damage, mental and emotional distress, internal injuries, severe burns, and lacerations. When a person sustains serious injuries, their recovery chances depend on their wound severity and their physical ability to heal.
People with moderate “B” category injuries deal with simple, less complicated medical conditions. That does not mean their recovery is free of pain, suffering, and emotional trauma. “Visible head bumps” and other head injuries sometimes indicate underlying trauma, possibly mild to moderate brain damage. People with moderate injuries often have soft-tissue injuries that are difficult to diagnose immediately. For those with more serious injuries, recovery often depends on their pre-accident physical condition.
When a police officer’s report indicates that a person has minor (“C” category) injuries, they see no signs of injury other than minor wounds. This designation is often inaccurate. People with “minor” injuries sometimes have serious hidden conditions. Based on the “visibility” aspect of an officer’s judgment call, he would easily overlook a person with soft tissue damage, brain damage, internal damage, or whiplash.
Factors That Increase Injury Severity
Unfortunately, some factors increase your chances of sustaining a serious injury, even with a minor impact. Here are just a few of the factors that increase your risk of sustaining serious or catastrophic injuries during a crash.
Vehicle Size Differences
When accident victims occupy different-sized vehicles, you often see distinct variations in the nature and extent of their injuries. This issue is easier to visualize when you review NHTSA national large truck accident data. A large truck weighs 10,000 plus pounds. It is easy to imagine the potential consequences when a 10,000-pound truck crashes into a private passenger vehicle, which averages around one-third of that weight.
As the most recent Large Truck Traffic Safety Facts publication explains, when a large truck is involved in a fatal accident, it usually weighs over 26,000 pounds. The truck’s weight and mass contribute to accident causation and worsen the other vehicle occupants’ injuries. National statistics show that 71 percent of fatalities in large truck accidents involve occupants of the other vehicle.
A recent three-year period of accident statistics in Albany shows similar injury disparities when one vehicle is significantly larger than the vehicle or person it hits.
- Vehicle/Pedestrians: 472 accidents, 455 personal injuries, 8 fatalities
- Motorcycle/Vehicle: 329 accidents, 252 personal injuries, 14 fatalities
- Motorcycle/Pedestrians: 4 motorcycle accidents, 2 personal injuries
- Vehicle/Bicycle: 169 accidents, 150 personal injuries
- Large Truck/Vehicle: 1,336 accidents, 228 personal injuries, 3 fatalities
- Large Truck/Pedestrian: 6 accidents, 5 personal injuries
- Large Truck/Bicycle: 2 accidents, 2 personal injuries
- Large Truck Motorcycle: 1 accident, 1 injury
When someone strikes your vehicle in the rear, even a minor impact can cause a neck or back injury. Doctors sometimes refer to these injuries as “whiplash.” That is because they occur due to the neck’s exaggerated flexion/extension after a rear-end impact. A whiplash injury usually affects the back and neck’s soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments. The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that a whiplash injury often triggers a range of symptoms. These include stiffness, dizziness, paresthesias, cognitive issues, and numerous other problems.
Doctors usually anticipate that a typical whiplash will improve within weeks. If pain continues or worsens, the condition likely involves the injured person’s discs, vertebra, and other body parts.
Age 65 and Over
As people age, their bodies cannot always withstand a serious impact. The CDC acknowledges this age-related vulnerability. Aging people often suffer from bone density disorders and diminished muscle strength. They have pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung problems. This leaves older people vulnerable to serious injuries during accidents where a younger person would escape injury.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s research documented in Traffic Safety Facts: Older Population, over the past 10 years, older male driver fatalities increased nationally by 39 percent. During the same time frame, older female driver fatalities increased by 12 percent.
As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains, front-seat passengers have protective systems that are not available to rear-seat passengers. Front seat vehicle occupants have frontal airbags, side airbags, seat belt tensioners, and force limiters for added safety. Tensioners hold passengers in place during a crash. Limiters prevent seat belts from causing injury due to excessive constriction during an accident. Some rear-seated passengers have side airbags, but many still have no limiters, tensioners, or frontal airbags to prevent rear passenger head injuries. Rear and side-rear impacts also expose rear-seat passengers to damaging broken glass and metal intrusions.
Young passengers have some of the same vulnerability issues as older adults. Their bones are not strong and their bodies are frail. For protection, New York requires that children ride in appropriate safety seats. As children must ride in rear seats, they would also benefit from greater metal intrusion protection.
Serious injuries occur when a speeding vehicle strikes a similarly sized occupied vehicle. As with mass and weight, excessive speed increases a vehicle’s force at impact, causing more damage, and consequently, more serious and catastrophic injuries.
Providing Injury Information at an Accident Scene
Except for delayed fatalities, police officers document injuries at the scene of an accident. They make a judgment call based on what they observe and what you tell them. If a police officer gets it wrong, it is up to you or your loved one to make sure the other parties and their insurers receive accurate information. Injury misinformation often remains unchallenged until you take steps to correct it.
If you are involved in an accident, you can misjudge the type or severity of your injury. That is why you must undergo a medical examination before declaring that you are okay. Whatever you say at an accident scene will follow you until you resolve your injury claim or determine that you are, indeed, uninjured.
Should You Contact an Attorney About Your Accident Injury Claim?
Yes. A personal injury attorney can work diligently to provide a better outcome than you can secure on your own. When you handle your own injury claim, you must deal with negligent drivers, insurance companies, and their attorneys. When it is time to settle your claim, you will have to resolve it with experienced negotiators. When you work with personal injury attorneys, they handle these and other critical details on your behalf.
Your initial legal consultation is typically complimentary, and you do not have to commit to taking legal action. You simply discuss your accident and injuries and talk about your legal options.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.