Working with severe auto accident victims as a Seattle personal injury lawyer on a daily bases I understand that pretty much any part of the body can be injured in an auto accident. Through rollover accidents, being ejected out of the vehicle or even simply the impact of hitting your head on the steering wheel, you can sustain a wide variety of injuries through one day of bad luck. Often the most severe and traumatic of these injuries, however, are to the face or head.
Facial injuries can be the result of a variety of things. The impact of hitting the head upon the steering wheel, dashboard or window can lead to bruising and broken bones, and being ejected from the vehicle or having windows shatter at high speeds can lead to deep open wounds.
Lacerations and Contusions: or cuts and bruises are very common in auto accidents. Though these may seem like minor injuries to many they can leave a permanent reminder on a victim’s face that may literally scar them for the rest of their life. Some of these lacerations are small and similar to what you would experience if you cut yourself with a knife, others, however, are gapping gashes that require extensive stitching and still leave a permanent reminder that even a plastic surgeon would have difficulty concealing and would incur massive cost to do so.
Bone Fracture: In addition to lacerations and bruising the face is very likely to suffer bone fracture or breakage due to the face hitting the steering wheel in an auto accident. The impact can lead to fracture and massive dis-figuration of the cheek, nose or eye socket. Sometimes these injuries can be mended with basic surgery, often times, however, the injuries to the face are so severe they leave the patient disfigured forever or require extensive plastic surgery treatments to return the face to its former shape.
TMJ or temporomandibular joint injuries sometimes result from a car accident as the impact sends the face to the steering wheel this can result in either a fracture of tender jaw bones or dislocation of the disk used to keep the jaw in place. TMJ often does not create any outward physical changes, and typically the only noticeable symptom to the human eye is swelling. TMJ, however, is often a painful and irritating condition that can have some debilitating symptoms. TMJ can lead to the jaw being locked open or shut, limited mobility of the jaw joint (unable to open your mouth open properly), an abnormal bite, facial pain, neck and back pain, headaches, pain in the ear and an obnoxious clicking when the jaw is moved. There are different treatments for TMJ including chiropractic care, physical therapy, mouth gards and even surgery, but none of these methods are 100% effective in solving the problem.
Though the brain is protected by a thick bony skull it is not immune to injury. Being involved in a high impact car accident can lead to massive brain injury easily if your head hits the steering wheel, dashboard or window, or if you are ejected out of the vehicle. There are quite a few close head injuries that can result from a serious auto accident and can have a range of horrible consequences.
Concussion: A concussion is often considered minor and insignificant because of the high number of instances in professional sports. But concussions, no matter how minor can lead to a syndrome called post concussion syndrome. People with post concussion syndrome experience increased symptoms over time: headaches and blurry vision, difficulty thinking or concentrating, sleep pattern changes- sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep, personality changes: becoming easily angry or anxious, lack of interest in your usual activities, changes to your sexual appetite, or dizziness or unsteadiness making walking or standing difficult.
Brain Contusion: A brain contusion is a bruise of the brain. Just as you hit your shin on your desk drawer having a hard blow to your head can cause your brain to smash into the wall of your skull causing blood vessels to break on the brain and cause a bruise. Unlike a bruise on any other part of your body, a bruise on your brain can lead to hemorrhaging which can quickly lead to neurological damage. Hemorrhaging is when your body bleeds- internal bleeding, like a brain hemorrhage can lead to massive problems as the body soaks up the blood. If the blood is soaked up into the cerebral fluid permanent nerve damage can result and the victims may lose some brain function.
Diffuse Axonal Injury: A Diffuse Axonal Injury is a severe brain injury caused by similar situations as concussions and brain contusions- through a high impact blow to the head, most commonly found in high speed car vehicle accidents or from infants suffering from shaken baby syndrome. With a DAI case lesions are found in the White Matter of the brain (the part of the brain that transfers the brains initial signals). Diffuse Axonal Injuries leads to a vegetative state or coma in 90% of victims.
Intracranial Hematoma: Intracranial Hematoma is the result of a severe head injury which sends the brain to the skull with such force that the blood vessels break and blood pools in-between the brain and the skull. The skull cannot deal with this large amount of blood and will put pressure on the brain often sending the patient into a coma, a seizure or lethargy if not immediately treated.
All of these brain injuries are dangerous and can lead to serious consequences including, loss of memory, and loss of certain body functions, paralysis or even death.