A fracture or an open wound is easy to see, but how do you know if you have a soft tissue injury after a car accident? Let’s look at some of the different types of these more subtle injuries and examine what to expect if one happens to you.
What Are Soft Tissue Injuries?
The soft tissue of the body includes ligaments, muscles, tendons, skin, and fat. Any tissue that is soft to the touch is a type of soft tissue. Even blood vessels and nerves are types of soft tissue. Types of soft tissue injuries include sprains to the ligaments, bruises, and strains due injuries to tendons.
If you have a soft tissue injury after a car accident, it occurred due to the impact of a crash, angle of impact, seating position, and other factors. When a vehicle crashes into another car, truck, or roadside barrier, it causes a great deal of force. This depends on the weight and speed of the vehicles involved. The impact changes the direction of the body producing a reaction known as “muscle splinting.”
The body is an amazing machine, often responding to stimuli or changes on its own with minimal delay. When it experiences violent motions, the body sometimes shuts down certain muscle groups. The nervous system releases hormones that create a “fight or flight” state. Sometimes that causes the ligaments to relax, making them more vulnerable to injury. A soft tissue injury after a car accident can either be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-lasting.) The latter obviously denotes a longer healing time. A critical job for medical professionals is knowing the difference so that you get the most effective treatment.
Identifying Soft Tissue Injuries
These are the most common injuries that people experience after being in a car or truck wreck:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in ears
- Memory problems
- Inability to sleep
- Neck pain
- Stiff neck that can’t move and locks up
- Pain between the shoulder blades or in the shoulders and arms
- Numb and tingling arms and fingers
Figuring out how severe your injury is can be the key to a faster recovery. We can help you find qualified medical professionals to diagnose your condition.
These are the types of injuries we see:
Sprains – These injuries occur to the ligaments from over-extension of a joint. Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of soft tissue that connect two bones to form a joint. If you have a soft tissue injury to the foot and ankle, it could be due to a sprain. Typical symptoms of a sprain include localized pain and swelling, muscle spasms and weakness, nerve damage, and cramping.
Strains – Strains are similar to strains except they involve stretching and/or tearing of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are similar in structure to ligaments, but they connect bones to muscles. Strains usually occur in the lower neck, back. or hamstring in the back of the thigh. The symptoms of a strain are also similar to those of sprains and include swelling, pain, muscle spasms, and a limited ability to move the injured area.
The initial soft tissue injury treatment for strains and sprains is abbreviated as RICE: rest, applying ice packs, using compression, and elevating the affected body part. Although treatment at home is sometimes enough to treat mild strains and sprains, more often medical treatment is required.
Contusions – A contusion is another word for bruise. A contusion is a common soft tissue injury after a car accident, which is caused by bleeding beneath the skin. Most contusions are minor and heal well without treatment within only one or two weeks. Occasionally, bruising is more serious and requires special treatment. These injuries usually extend to the ligaments or vital muscles.
One of the most common types of bruising comes from the wearing of seat belts during a crash. During high impact crashes, internal injuries to the abdomen or spinal cord sometimes occur. Shoulder belts can also cause bruising on the shoulder, neck, chest, and sternum. When the impact is more severe, they can cause fractures, internal bleeding, spinal injuries, dislocations, and intestinal injuries. Although bruising is a normal response to all types and degrees of impacts, the potential for a serious or underlying injury should not be overlooked.
“Whiplash” – Whiplash is probably the most common type of soft tissue people get after a car accident. It is a strain of the neck that occurs when the head jerks forward and/or backward. The sudden force created by the impact of a crash causes the tendons in the neck to stretch and tear.
The pain from whiplash can be severe. It also causes a decrease in the range of motion and tightness in the neck. Moving the head in any direction is often painful and the neck might be stiff. Some people experience headaches that start at the base of the skull and radiate upward.
Whiplash isn’t always apparent, sometimes taking hours or days to cause pain. Concussions often occur with whiplash. Anyone with the symptoms of concussion needs to get medical help right away. Both conditions usually heal over time, but there are exceptions that make either condition more serious. Sometimes soft tissue injuries aren’t apparent right away. They also don’t show up on X-rays. That’s one reason that it can be difficult to get a fair soft tissue injury settlement amount, especially without a good injury lawyer.
Getting the Medical Attention You Need
Always get medical attention if you experience any kind of pain after a car crash. It’s the only way to identify the types of injuries you have and determine if they are serious. Even if your symptoms don’t appear until days or weeks later, have them checked out. Medical professionals know how to test for all types of injuries, including those to soft tissue. And if you don’t get medical treatment but have symptoms later, the other driver’s insurance company is certain to argue that you were not injured.
What to Do When You Have a Soft Tissue Injury After a Car Accident
A car wreck is a frightening and confusing experience. Most crashes happen in a blink of an eye without any notice. Feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion make it difficult to make sense of what just happened. The rush of adrenaline produced by your body numbs you to the pain from your injuries. You realize there are other people involved who are also possibly injured. You need to check on them and call for help. The last thing you’re probably thinking about is who was at fault.
Using the Police Report to Get a Fair Soft Tissue Injury Settlement Amount
Once a law enforcement officer is called to the scene, he or she will assess the situation and create an accident report. It contains the facts of the investigation, along with the responding officer’s opinions. Factual information will include the date, time, and location of the crash.
Most of the time, the officer will provide you with the information you need to get a copy of the report. If he/she doesn’t, you can obtain a copy from the traffic division of the law enforcement agency using the location, date, and time of the accident. Our office will obtain the report for you at no charge.
Another option is to request a copy of the report from your insurance company. The officer will get your insurance information at the scene and provide a copy to your insurance company. You should also report the accident to your insurance company right away.
Opinions might include what the officer believed caused the collision and which driver was at fault. This information will be important if you pursue a personal injury claim. But it doesn’t mean the officer’s opinion is the only deciding factor.
The insurance adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company might come to a completely different conclusion. In fact, their opinion is more likely to favor their driver’s position. That means that even if the police officer is on your side, the insurance company may not be, especially if there are no other witnesses.
Another type of information in the police report might be even more valuable to your case. Officers typically include witness names and contact information in the report. Someone who saw how the accident occurred will help you prove your claim. Proving the other driver caused the accident through negligence is an important first step towards winning your case. The next step is to prove that you have an injury and have suffered financial and personal damages.
Using Your Medical Treatment to Your Advantage
The primary reason for getting immediate medical treatment is for your well-being. Any symptoms that occur immediately after the accident or later might signal a serious injury from the accident. Proving that you have a soft tissue injury is difficult but not impossible. In fact, personal injury lawyers help people win cases every day. They will help you build your case for negligence against the other driver with verifiable medical proof.
The public is often hesitant to believe claims of an unsubstantiated soft tissue injury. Most of us have seen TV shows or read news account showing fraudulent attorneys and clients working together to get money for fake injuries. People find it too easy to believe this type of acting is always behind claims of whiplash. This conduct is rare. That’s why you need to get a diagnosis and keep a complete set of medical records after the accident.
You won’t be able to show a jury hard evidence of your soft tissue injury. Unlike broken bones, it won’t show up on traditional X-rays. But you can show them proof of your medical treatment and the diagnosis you received. That’s the second reason you need to have your pain diagnosed after an accident. Start building your medical record as soon as possible. Ideally, the witness testimony and the police report will back your medical claims up.
Get the Right Personal Injury Attorney to Represent You
Even though the insurance company is denying your claim, you can still prove your case in court. Your next step is to find a personal injury attorney who knows a great deal about car accident injuries. You need someone who has fought for other clients in similar situations and won.
Schedule an appointment for an evaluation of your case. Take the police report, medical report, and any other evidence you’ve collected to your appointment. These documents contain some of the most valuable information he will use to present your case. Once the insurance company realizes you have a good lawyer working on your case, you will be more likely to get a better soft tissue injury settlement amount.
Although insurance companies often deny claims, most personal injury cases get settled before they go to court. Litigation is an expensive process that costs both sides a great deal of time and money. A trial also means that neither side has any control over the outcome. It works to everyone’s advantage to work out a settlement that is fair to both sides.
Pain and Suffering
Unlike other types of injury, soft tissue ones don’t typically cause severe pain and ongoing medical treatment. Still, you deserve compensation for the pain that your injury puts you through. You can claim pain and suffering for your soft tissue injury, increasing the settlement amount significantly. A soft tissue injury can cause you both physical and mental anguish and pain. It can place temporary or permanent limitations on your lifestyle and cause disfigurement, loss of consortium, and more.
Proving a soft tissue injury after a car accident in Texas is particularly challenging. The state uses a ‘clear and convincing’ standard that demands the proof of damages must be more likely than not, but some jurors apply the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard as if the civil case were a criminal case.
If you are the victim of a soft tissue injury from a car accident, contact Berenson Injury Law to schedule a free no-obligation consultation. Bill Berenson is a top-rated car accident attorney who will fight to get the compensation you deserve.