A car accident is one of the more common traumatic experiences a person will face. We sometimes forget that our cars are two-ton objects capable of inflicting massive damage upon other drivers and their passengers. Nearly 100 people are killed every day in car accidents, and thousands more sustain serious injuries.
The most common types of personal injuries from car accidents are to the head, neck, and back. Many times, these injuries are not immediately obvious at the scene of the accident. It may take several days or weeks for symptoms to manifest themselves.
Common Injuries from Car Accidents
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Even if you are in a safely designed vehicle with airbags, the force of a car accident might cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI is often the direct result of whiplash, the sudden back-and-forth motion of the neck. This effectively can temporarily shake or rate the brain, causing significant damage.
Often, there is no external head wound or injury. The damage is completely internal. And even if an accident victim receives prompt medical care, the effects of a TBI are not always readily apparent. A TBI may damage sensitive brain tissue, which may cause temporary or long-term impairment of the victim’s cognitive functioning.
As mentioned above, whiplash is also a common injury in car accidents, particularly rear-end collisions. Even if the crash doesn’t affect the brain, whiplash can still produce significant neck pain and stiffness, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, or fatigue, among many other symptoms. Whiplash itself has no specific treatment or cure, but victims typically require the extended use of pain medication and physical therapy.
In addition to whiplash, a car accident may cause other kinds of serious back and spinal injuries, such as a slip or herniated disc,bulging disc, tearing of tendons or ligaments, and spinal misalignment. Depending on the severity of the back injury, a victim may require extended chiropractic care, physical therapy, or even major surgery.
Injuries to Limbs
Broken bones, especially arm and leg fractures, are common in car accidents. While not necessarily life-threatening, these injuries are still more severe than simple accidents due to the severity of the impact. In other words, a broken leg in a car crash is much more likely to require surgery than a slip-and-fall at the store. In severe cases, fractured limbs will require multiple reconstructive surgeries and still result in a partial or total loss of mobility.
Damage to Internal Organs
In addition to the brain, a car accident can affect other vital organs. These include the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. Damage to any of these organs constitutes an emergency that usually requires immediate surgery. Other internal organs that may suffer damage in a car accident include the bladder, colon, intestines, major blood arteries, pancreas, and spleen.
A car accident is often quite costly. In addition to paying for medical care, a victim may also face lost wages if they are unable to return to work.The cost of repairing or replacing property (i.e., their own car) is another concern. Depending on the nature and severity of any injuries sustained, the victim may also have to think about long-term medical costs.
Ohio is a “fault” state with respect to car accident liability. This means the negligent driver (or their insurance company) is on the hook for any injuries sustained by an accident victim. Fault is not always a cut-and-dry matter. Victims must often rely on their own medical and automobile insurance to cover some of their immediate expenses following an accident.
You may resolve your personal injury with the negligent driver’s insurance carrier, but some cases will require litigation.
If a victim sues and wins, the at-fault part may owe the following types of compensation:
- past and future medical expenses;
- lost wages;
- damage to the victim’s vehicle or other property; and
- “noneconomic” losses, including the victim’s ongoing pain and suffering and mental anguish.
Ohio does not limit the amount of damages a victim may recover for medical expenses and lost wages. However, there are caps on noneconomic pain and suffering awards. In general, noneconomic damages cannot exceed $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages awarded in the same case, whichever is higher, up to a maximum of $350,000. There are exceptions to these rules in the event of a catastrophic injury, such as the loss of a limb.
Additionally, there are some cases where a victim may also seek punitive damages. Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, which compensate the victim directly for their losses, punitive damages punish the responsible driver. Punitive damages also serve to deter others from engaging in similar misconduct.
Punitive damages are not available in most cases. The victim must prove the defendant acted with “malice” and was not simply negligent. In this context, “malice” refers to conduct that demonstrated reckless disregard for the safety of others, not necessarily malice towards the victim personally.
The most common scenario for punitive damages is a car accident caused by a drunk driver. But it may also be possible to establish malice if a driver the use of a cell phone distracted the driver. However, an Ohio court will not automatically award punitive damages just because the defendant was using a cell phone.
Getting the Compensation You Deserve
A car accident is often overwhelming, especially if you require extensive medical care. Costs will continue to mount in the days and weeks following the accident. You may become more anxious about how to deal with the situation. Even if you are reluctant to sue or deal with an insurance company, you may have no choice. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with injuries from car accidents alone. If you need to speak with an experienced Ohio car accident attorney about your legal options, contact the offices of Tittle & Perlmuter today.