The human body is not designed to move at very high speeds—nor to suddenly stop. But in a car accident, that’s exactly what happens, and the results can be catastrophic. Below, we’ll discuss exactly what happens to the human body during a car accident, and how you can protect yourself.
One word of warning:
the details below can be gruesome for just about anyone. And, if you or a loved one have recently been through a car accident, they can be very alarming. Proceed with caution.
Everything That Happens to the Human Body in a Car Accident
Let’s start by assuming that the people in the car are wearing their seat belts, and it’s a forward-impact collision (such as a head-on or rear-end accident).
Here is what the human body goes through:
- As the car impacts something, the car itself starts to absorb the impact. Modern cars are designed to crumple or “deform” so that it absorbs the most force possible. Essentially, the car sacrifices its own physical integrity to reduce the strain on the people inside.
- Now the car is coming to a stop—or at least decelerating. But the human body continues to move forward with the remaining momentum it has. It is “thrown” forward and restrained by the seatbelt.
- At this point, the chest strap of the seatbelt is very likely to fracture the collar bone. This is actually a “good” outcome—seat belts are designed to put pressure on the strong parts of your body, and a broken collarbone is better than the injuries you’d get otherwise.
- In a high-speed accident, the strain of being thrown forward may also break ribs, or even break open the chest. Broken ribs are survivable, but a damaged thorax (chest) can lead to difficulty breathing while waiting for the ambulance.
- Unfortunately, not everyone wears their seat belt properly. The slower strap is supposed to pass over the pelvis at the waist, which is also strong. If it’s over the abdomen or stomach, however, it will slice into that area. In high-speed accidents, it will damage or even cut open internal organs like the stomach and bowels. These injuries are life-threatening on their own, and they can also release waste matter or stomach acid into the internal injuries.
- If your car has an airbag, it will be deploying and counteracting the forward momentum of your body—further absorbing force. The airbag itself may cause minor injuries as it impacts you, but once it has deployed, you are likely to be shielded from further harm from the impact itself. However…
- Your head is also moving forward. This is likely to tear tissue in the neck causing whiplash. This will often happen before the airbag can fully catch you. And…
- Your brain is also moving forward. And the brain has a consistency similar to pudding or tofu. When the head stops moving, the brain itself may be thrown forward against the inside of the skull. This can cause a traumatic brain injury. Many newer cars have an overhead airbag that deploys to try to reduce the momentum of the head and prevent brain injuries.
- Last, any debris or damage to the vehicle that hits you will take its toll.
Most of these steps happen in less than a third of a second during the initial impact. Nevertheless, the recovery from any of these injuries can take a long time. A head-on car accident lawyer can help you get compensation for your past and future medical expenses.
If you are not wearing a seatbelt, much of the above will be worse. You won’t have anything to reduce your momentum in steps 2 – 5. Instead, you will hit your body at full speed against the steering wheel or dashboard (against your chest) and windshield (against your head). The sudden impact of this kind of accident can kill a person on the spot or leave them with critical injuries.
In a side-impact collision, the car simply cannot absorb as much of the momentum for you. There is only a thin side door between you and the source of impact. This can make injuries much more severe just from the impact itself, in addition to the risk of being crushed as the other vehicle penetrates your car.
How to Protect Your Body in a Car Accident
Once an accident happens, there not much you can do to react in time and protect yourself. But there is one step above all the makes a huge difference: hit the brakes.
Reducing speed by even just 20% reduces the injuries by a lot more than that. Every extra half-second of decelerating before the impact can make a dramatic difference in your health for years afterward.
Additionally, these tips really do save lives:
- Don’t just wear your seatbelt. Wear it properly. Make sure the bottom part is across the pelvis and the top part Is across the collar.
- Don’t speed. That extra 10 mph can make a life-or-death difference in the event of an accident.
- Never drive distracted. It’s okay to pull over to check your phone for directions or reply to a text. Distracted driving impairs you as much as drunk driving—don’t risk it.
You Do Not Have to Face the Aftermath of an Accident Alone
For over 20 years, our legal team has worked with the victims of car accidents and their families to help them make the fullest recovery possible. We focus on taking away the stressful and complicated aspects of your accident—like dealing with insurers—and getting you the MOST money possible to help you rebuild your life. And we charge nothing if we don’t recover money for you. Let us give you a free consultation and show you how we can help you. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your FREE consultation today.