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Most Common Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries

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Jeff Sevey

Fatalities caused by vehicle accidents are a tragic reality. There were over 3,000 fatalities due to car accidents in California in 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), and over 32,000 fatalities due to car accidents nationwide. The state of California sees more car accident deaths than any other state. The reason for this is simple - there are more car accident deaths in California than any other state, simply because there are more people in California. Despite seeing more car accident deaths than any other state, California’s accident fatality rate is actually lower than the national average. While the national average is 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people, California recorded 7.8 deaths from car crashes per 100,000 people.

The common injuries that frequently prove fatal due to a car accident are as follows:

Head Injuries

Both blunt trauma and penetrating trauma to the head can cause serious injury and death. Brain tissue subjected to the force of pressure due to bleeding will die off due to lack of oxygen. The forces involved in the impact of a car crash can result in brain lacerations, a penetrating trauma that causes brain damage, bleeding, and ultimately, death. Concussions, contusions, and lacerations of the brain are all common head injuries that result in death.

Neck Injuries

The “whiplash” action of your head and neck during the impact of a car accident can sever the spinal cord. A broken neck is nearly always fatal.

Penetrating Chest Injuries

Within your chest lie your heart, lungs, and many major arteries and blood vessels. Any injury that penetrates the chest has the potential to lacerate these organs and vessels, resulting in a loss of blood and oxygen that will prove fatal.

If air is trapped outside the lungs, as in pneumothorax, the accident victims' lungs cannot expand to breath, and the victim will slowly die of lack of oxygen or asphyxiation. Lung lacerations will result in internal bleeding either inside or outside of the lung itself. This, too, can cause lack of oxygen, as the victim cannot fill their lungs with oxygen to breathe.

A penetrating heart injury is clearly life-threatening and whatever object is penetrating the heart should never be removed until the patient has been transported to the emergency room. Still, any injury that penetrates the heart will require immediate surgery if the victim is to survive, and this may not be possible.

Lacerations of major blood vessels within the chest will cause fatal bleeding if not repaired immediately by surgical methods. Because of the amount of blood delivered to the heart, too much bleeding may occur before surgery is available, and this will lead to fatality.

Penetrating Abdominal Injuries

Within your abdominal cavity lies your abdominal aorta, the largest artery in your abdomen, and the vena cava, the largest vein in your abdomen. While a penetrating abdominal injury is less life-threatening than a penetrating chest injury, the laceration of the abdominal aorta or vena cava can result in bleeding to death in only a few minutes.

Any tear or laceration of the abdominal viscera (internal organs) can cause continuous internal bleeding resulting in death from loss of blood if not treated immediately. If the accident is severe, it is often difficult for a surgeon to find all the sources of bleeding during surgery. Often, internal injuries and bleeding result in death.

Burn Injuries

Burns are gauged by degree. First-degree burns result in damage to the outermost layer of skin. There are no blisters, but the skin does get red. Second-degree burns result in damage to the second and third layers of skin. Swelling and blistering will be present, the pain will be severe, and scarring may occur. Third-degree burns result in damage to the fat layer underneath the skin, and will likely destroy nerves. Many people with third-degree burns feel numbness instead of pain because of this. Skin appears white, waxy, stiff, and leathery. Fourth-degree burns result in damage all the way down to the muscles and bones. Skin is black and charred-looking, and because of severe nerve damage, no pain may be felt.

Even if a car accident victim only suffered first-degree burns over 50% of their body, it could still prove fatal. Deeper burns can result in more damage to the body and tissues, and can ultimately result in severe shock, which can cause death.

The chance of infection for burn victims that do survive is incredibly high due to the exposed areas of their bodies. Many burn victims survive the crash but die from Infection and other complications while in the hospital.

Not All Fatalities are Immediate

Even if you survive a car crash with extensive injuries, it still doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Many car crash victims with head and spinal cord injuries or burns succumb to death as their body tries to heal from the injuries while also having to fight off new infection, shock, and coma. This is often the most painful for loved ones to experience as they gain hope, and then it fades. If someone you love has suffered fatal injuries in a car crash due to another driver’s negligence or recklessness, you may have a claim for compensation. The goal with this claim is not to replace your loved one as that can never happen. What you can do, though, is secure your family’s future financially by recovering compensation in the wake of your loved one’s death. Money doesn’t bring your loved one back, but it can help secure your family’s financial future in the wake of your loss.

An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate the legal system to explore your options after your loved one’s death. They can help take the burden of research, paperwork, and insurance companies off your shoulders while you take the time to heal and mourn your loss.

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