Injuries caused by accidents and incidents vary from minor cuts and bruises to death. However, even slight scratches could turn into secondary injuries that could become severe, such as certain types of infections. Accident injuries happen in car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and other situations where another person is negligent.
After an accident, regardless of what type, always seek medical attention. Some injuries take hours or even days to manifest. Whether on the scene or directly after, the first medical attention you get is essential for documenting your injuries to help you recover damages.
Types of Injuries
Personal injury attorneys and insurance companies usually categorize injuries into three categories: Minor, severe, and catastrophic. Those with more severe or devastating injuries have a more significant claim because it takes a person longer to recover—if that person recovers at all.
Most people can recover from severe injuries in months, but those with catastrophic injuries will most likely never fully recover. Catastrophic injuries usually cause long-term or permanent disabilities—disabilities that last longer than 12 months or injuries that doctors expect to result in the accident victim’s death.
In most cases, people recover from minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, scratches, strains, and sprains within a few weeks. However, there is the possibility that any open wound could become infected.
Simple and compound fractures are some of the more severe injuries you could suffer from in a wreck, as they take six to eight weeks to heal.
However, other severe injuries include:
- Pulled and torn muscles. A pulled muscle could take as long as a broken bone—or longer—to heal. Torn muscles sometimes require surgery for the accident victim to recover appropriately and use the limb again.
- Face and eye injuries, such as getting glass in the eyes, torn or detached retinas, broken noses, cheekbones, or even deep facial cuts, could take weeks to heal and leave a scar.
- Internal injuries. These injuries almost always require expensive emergency surgery.
- Road rash. While not usually considered a catastrophic injury, road rash could leave an accident victim with excessive scarring and disfigurement.
- Chemical and thermal burns from motor vehicle accidents or burns from stoves. Other types of burns include frostbite and radiation burns. In the case of malpractice, a person could suffer from radiation burns during cancer treatment.
In many cases, accident victims who suffer from muscle injuries or broken bones need physical therapy to help them recover. While the bone or muscle might have healed, the person could be fragile until they go through months of physical therapy.
Most people never fully recover from catastrophic injuries, and these injuries usually cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that carries signals to and from your brain. The vertebrae, discs, and muscles in your back protect the spinal cord. However, accidents can cause damage, directly or indirectly, to the spinal cord.
If a disc or a vertebra is damaged, it could affect the spinal cord. However, traumatic accidents could significantly damage the discs, muscles, and vertebrae and damage the spinal cord.
Injuries from the chest down could affect your legs, torso, bladder control, bowel, and sexual function. An injury higher in the neck could affect your arms and breathing ability.
Doctors determine whether you have a spinal cord injury by looking at your symptoms and taking tests, including X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
Currently, there are no cures for spinal cord injuries. Once the hospital releases you, you could face years of rehabilitation, including physical therapy and occupational therapy. Some who suffer spinal cord injuries also need to see a psychiatrist because of the emotional toll a spinal cord injury leaves on a person, especially if that person is very active.
Therapists concentrate on strengthening muscle function, learning new ways to do everyday tasks, and helping accident victims relearn fine motor skills. A spinal cord injury victim might also have to take prescriptions for the rest of their life to control muscle spasticity and pain and improve bladder control.
Spinal cord injuries could also cause paralysis. Partial paralysis is when you can control some of your muscles, and complete paralysis is when you have no control over any of the muscles in your body.
Paralysis can also be flaccid, where your muscles atrophy—get flabby and shrink—or spastic, which means that the muscles tighten up and cause uncontrollable jerking and spasms.
You might hear words such as paraplegia thrown around when healthcare professionals speak of paralysis.
These categories of paralysis include:
- Quadriplegia: You do not have control of any of your limbs and usually have no movement from the neck down.
- Paraplegia: Both of your legs are affected. In some people, paraplegia affects the torso.
- Monoplegia: The paralysis affects only one limb, whether the arm or leg.
- Hemiplegia: The paralysis affects both limbs on the same side of your body.
- Diplegia: The paralysis affects mirrored areas. For example, both legs, arms, or sides of your face.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Any accident that causes you to hit your head could cause traumatic brain injuries—motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and even battery. Even mild concussions that resolve in a day or two are traumatic brain injuries because concussions could affect you for the rest of your life or later.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injury
The types of traumatic brain injury include:
- Mild concussion.
- Moderate traumatic brain injury, including concussion
- Severe traumatic brain injury, including concussion
- Uncomplicated traumatic brain injury—the MRI of the brain and CT of the head look normal.
- Complicated traumatic brain injury—the CT or MRI shows changes to the brain, including bleeding.
- Closed traumatic brain injury—a brain injury that does not crack the skull, usually a hit to the head. Concussions are typically closed traumatic brain injuries.
- Open traumatic brain injury—may also be penetrating. It could be a cracked skull from a hard hit or, in the case of a penetrating brain injury, something, such as a bullet, penetrated the skull.
Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
The symptoms for the various types of brain injuries often overlap. Those with mild traumatic brain injury often include one or more symptoms, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, speech problems, and loss of balance.
A TBI victim might also suffer blurred vision, issues with smell, a bad taste in the mouth, and sensitivity to sound and light.
A person might also lose consciousness for up to a few minutes, be confused, have mood swings, trouble concentrating and remembering, change in sleep patterns, depression, and anxiety.
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries often have many symptoms mild traumatic brain injuries, plus:
- Unconsciousness for minutes to hours
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- A headache that persists or gets worse
- Seizures and convulsions
- Loss of coordination
- Clear fluid drains from the ears and nose
- Cannot wake up from sleep
- Weakness in toes and fingers
- Extreme confusion
- Unusual behavior, such as being combative or agitated
- Disorders of consciousness, including coma
- Slurred speech
Doctors determine traumatic brain injuries by doing a neurological evaluation, CT scans, MRIs, and taking a blood test—the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator—to look for specific proteins in your blood that indicate brain damage.
The severity of your injuries plays a large part in determining how much compensation you will recover. Other factors include whether the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional and whether your injuries will cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
In most cases, people can recover compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic damages. The court orders the defendant to pay compensatory damages. While the money does not bring back a loved one or remove the pain you suffer, it can significantly reduce financial stress.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
Surgeries and follow-up appointments are just some of an accident victim’s medical expenses.
Additional medical expenses include:
- Doctors’ appointments
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications
- Ambulatory aids
- Hand controls for vehicles
- Occupational therapy appointments
- Physical therapy appointments
- Psychological therapy appointments
- Cognitive therapy appointments
- Medical devices, such as oxygen tanks and machines, shower chairs, grab bars, and hand railings
- Widened doorways
- Wheelchair ramps
Most people injured in an accident can recover lost wages. However, those whose injuries cause long-term or permanent damage could also recover loss of future earning capacity.
In certain accident cases, such as motor vehicle accidents, victims can recover compensation to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, including their vehicles and anything of value on their person or in their vehicles.
If an accident or accident injuries cause the death of a loved one, the family can recover death-related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, certain probate court costs, and probate attorney costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life changes, such as taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or participate in family activities and events
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your hearing, eyesight, or bladder control
- Loss of use of a body part, such as an arm or a leg
- Amputation of a digit or limb, whether in the accident or during surgery because a doctor could not save an injured limb
- Excessive scarring and disfigurements, such as burns or severe road rash
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to lawn maintenance, home repair and maintenance, grocery shopping, and house cleaning
How to Pay for Medical Expenses While Waiting for a Settlement Or Trial Award
Those who suffer injuries may not be able to work for at least a few weeks, and those who suffer catastrophic injuries may not ever be able to work again. Without that paycheck coming into the household, the family can barely pay the bills and put food on the table, never mind paying medical expenses.
You can use your vehicle insurance and health insurance to pay medical expenses, and some vehicle insurance will even pay for lost wages. For costs that your insurance does not cover, you can ask the medical professional or entity to wait on payment until you get your settlement or win a trial award so that you do not damage your credit.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of an accident, contact a Syracuse accident injury lawyer for a free case evaluation.