Woman with whiplash or neck pain in car.

The Most Common Soft Tissue Injuries Caused By Car Accidents

From a minor fender bender to a head-on collision, any car accident can inflict painful physical damage. Some of the most common injuries after a wreck include soft tissue injuries, like whiplash or sprains. Despite how often these injuries occur, it can still be difficult to determine if you have experienced a soft tissue injury from a car accident. 

After an accident, some soft tissue injuries can take hours or even days to appear. To complicate matters even further, many soft tissue injuries can only be seen with the help of medical imaging, such as an ultrasound. If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, bruising, or limited range of motion after an accident, do not hesitate to visit a medical professional. Seeking medical attention is the best way to guarantee your soft tissue injury receives proper treatment. A well-documented injury is also more likely to receive adequate compensation from the insurance company. To protect your health and your right to a settlement, you should learn more about soft tissue injuries from a car accident.

What is a Soft Tissue Injury?

A large percentage of your body is composed of soft tissue, including your muscles, tendons, nerves, and even blood vessels. Soft tissue helps keep your body mobile and agile and protects delicate bones and joints. As its name might suggest, a soft tissue injury is damage to this soft tissue.

The sudden trauma sustained during a car accident is one of the primary culprits of soft tissue injuries, also known as “acute trauma.” A soft tissue injury often happens rapidly, causing pain, bruising, inflammation, and loss of motion at the injury site. 

Common Soft Tissue Injuries After a Collision

Various structures in the body are composed of soft tissue, so an injury can occur almost anywhere in your body. Soft tissue injuries from a car accident are most likely to happen in the neck, chest, or shoulder. Body parts like your hips and legs are also at risk of injury.

Take a look at some of the most common soft tissue injuries from auto collisions. 

1. Sprains and Strains 

Sprains and strains are common types of car accident injuries. 

A sprain is caused by the stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments are soft tissue that connects two bones at a joint. 

A strain is caused by the stretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are soft tissue that connects muscles to bones. 

Both sprains and strains can occur when the force of impact during a car accident violently throws your body forward and backward or side to side, stretching your soft tissue out of its normal position. A sprain might cause bruising near the affected joint and a strain might cause muscle spasms at the injury site. 

man rubbing his neck after car accident

2. Whiplash

Whiplash is one of the most common accident-related neck injuries and one of the most common soft tissue injuries overall. Also referred to as a neck sprain or neck strain, whiplash is a type of hyperextension injury that occurs when your head rushes forward and slams backward during a collision.

A whiplash injury can severely damage the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck. Whiplash-associated disorders are one of the medical terms given to the variety of side- effects that can be felt from an initial whiplash injury. 

Aside from intense neck pain and stiffness, the symptoms of whiplash can also be felt in the head, shoulders, and arms. Whiplash can also cause serious stomach pain and intense headaches.

3. Contusions 

A contusion is a medical term for a bruise, a collection of broken blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface. During an auto accident, a bruise forms from blunt trauma caused during impact. For example, slamming your knees into the steering wheel or your head against the car window can cause a contusion.

4. Lacerations 

A laceration is another way to describe severe cuts or puncture wounds. After an accident, lacerations are some of the most obvious soft tissue injuries. Also caused by blunt trauma, a laceration occurs when a sharp object, such as a broken piece of glass punctures the skin. 

5. Rotator Cuff Tear 

Your rotator cuff is a system of soft tissue, including muscles and tendons, that protects your shoulder joint. During a car accident, the force of impact can partially or entirely tear some of the soft tissue protecting the joint, creating immense pain and stiffness. 

This injury is prevalent after rear-end collisions when you’re more likely to tightly grip your steering wheel as you brace for impact.

6. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear 

An anterior cruciate ligament tear, or torn ACL, refers to a soft tissue injury in the knee. During an accident, blunt force trauma or over-twisting can tear the soft tissue that connects your thigh bone to your shin bone. This injury can decrease your range of motion and make it difficult to walk or put pressure on the damaged leg.

7. Pinched or Compressed Nerves 

A pinched or compressed nerve occurs when surrounding soft tissue applies pressure to a nerve ending, causing pain, tingling, or numbness. Pinched or compressed nerves are common in automobile crash injury cases where there’s also been a strained muscle or sprained ligament. In these cases, the body produces excess inflammation, which puts pressure on delicate nerves. 

8. Hernia 

One of the less common car accident injuries, a hernia, is most likely to happen when the trauma of an incident weakens the soft tissue holding the organ in place. A hernia occurs when a displaced organ bulges through the soft tissue surrounding it. A hernia may occur in the abdominal area when the muscles surrounding the stomach are injured.

Woman with back pain stretching

Symptoms of a Soft Tissue Injury After an Accident 

If you or someone close to you has recently been involved in a motor vehicle accident, you may have suffered a soft tissue injury. A soft tissue injury can present a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Stiffness 
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Discoloration or bruising
  • Inflammation or swelling 
  • Pain when moving a specific body part
  • Pain when putting pressure on a specific body part
  • Cognitive problems, such as trouble concentrating or memory loss

While lacerations and contusions may be evident after an accident, other soft tissue injuries like sprains and strains may have a delayed onset. Delayed symptoms of soft tissue injuries include muscle spasms, headaches, and loss of motion in the specific body part.

Treatment for Soft Tissue Injury After Car Accident

Treatment for a soft tissue injury after a car accident will vary depending on the injury’s severity and location. Typically, initial treatment for minor or moderate soft tissue injuries is confined to the “RICE” method—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

Severe injuries may require a cast or sling, chiropractic care, or physical therapy. In the most serious cases, traumatic soft tissue injuries may require invasive treatment, such as surgery to repair torn tissue. Treatment may also include over-the-counter pain medication and prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs.

What to Do if You Think You Have a Soft Tissue Injury 

Do not wait to receive medical care if you believe you may have a soft tissue injury after a car accident. Even minor swelling and stiffness can be indicative of a more serious sprain or strain. If you did not receive medical attention immediately after the accident, visit a medical professional as soon as you notice symptoms. 

A medical professional will conduct a physical examination to detect any present damage. Doctors may also utilize medical imaging, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, to diagnose damage beneath the skin’s surface, like a hernia. A doctor can then begin to document the injury for your personal injury claim.

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Dangers of Leaving Soft Tissue Damage Untreated

When soft tissue injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, they can become significantly worse over time. 43% of accident victims who suffered a soft tissue injury in a car accident still had discomfort sufficient to interfere with their work capacity two years later. A soft tissue injury can potentially result in lost wages years after your accident.

Even worse, the resulting chronic pain or loss of functions means that you may no longer be able to participate in your favorite everyday activities, like spending time with loved ones. These injuries can have lasting effects that accumulate thousands of dollars worth of medical expenses and lost wages. Seeking immediate medical care can help you avoid these consequences.

Tim Miley in court

How Experienced Attorneys Help Fight for Compensation 

Receiving medical attention is the first step to gathering evidence for your soft tissue injury claim. 

Next, you will need to document your injury, your necessary treatment, and the fees you’ve had to pay since the accident. These elements are called personal injury damages, and they cover everything from out-of-pocket expenses like over-the-counter pain medication to lost wages. 

It can be challenging to focus on building your soft tissue injury claim when you should be focusing on healing. An experienced car accident attorney can help. An attorney will gather documentation of all damages, collect evidence, and source expert witnesses to prove your soft tissue injury claim. 

Negotiating the Average Settlement from Insurance

Soft-tissue injuries are generally more difficult to prove than other types of injuries because many cannot be seen with the naked eye. Due to the difficulty of proving soft tissue injuries, an insurance company may not believe that your injuries are actually as serious as you claim. An insurance adjuster can potentially deny or substantially reduce the value of your claim if you don’t present sufficient evidence.

Personal injury attorneys understand just how painful and disruptive these injuries can be, and they will not take the first settlement the insurance company has to offer. 

Instead, a knowledgeable car accident attorney will fight for maximum compensation for a soft tissue injury. A skilled car accident attorney will have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and will protect your right to a fair settlement.

Seek Proper Representation After an Accident Injury 

If you have been injured in a car accident, you do not deserve to shoulder the burden of medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering alone. You deserve a qualified attorney in your corner, fighting for maximum compensation. If you believe you’ve suffered a soft tissue injury, do not wait to reach out to a medical professional. Once you begin treatment, contact The Miley Group for a free consultation. Together, we can walk through the details of your case and move forward to start a new soft tissue injury claim.

Author Bio

Tim Miley is the Founder of Miley Legal Accident Injury Lawyers, a West Virginia personal injury law firm he formed in 2006. With more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, and other personal injury matters.

Tim received his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University and is a member of the West Virginia State Bar and the Harrison County Bar Association. He has helped his clients win more than $10 million in personal injury verdicts and settlements and has further served the people of West Virginia by filling legislative roles in the state’s government since 2004.

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