The CDC estimates that 1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world every year. Car accidents are a leading cause of death worldwide because of their massive potential to cause fatal injuries.
Some of the most common injuries that cause death in car accidents include traumatic brain injuries, broken ribs, spinal cord injuries, and internal bleeding. Dying on impact in a car accident indicates that the victim likely suffered one of these fatal injuries.
What Are the Most Common Fatal Car Accident Injuries?
High-impact car crashes have the potential to cause a variety of fatal injuries. For this reason, it’s important to see a doctor after an auto accident, even if you don’t have any noticeable symptoms. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common fatal car accident injuries.
Head injuries refer to any injury sustained in or on the head, often caused by a major impact.
According to research by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM), head injuries caused 52% of 1,337 recorded car accident deaths in the early 1990s. From this study, we can deduce that head injuries are typically the most common cause of death in fatal vehicle accidents.
Head injuries in car accidents can be caused by:
- Impact with the steering wheel in a head-on collision.
- Objects in the vehicle or car parts slamming into the person’s head.
- Car parts or objects penetrating the person’s head.
Examples of head injuries include traumatic brain injuries, concussions, skull fractures, and contusions.
The thorax is the chest region, from the base of the neck to the diaphragm. It contains the heart and lungs, and is encased by ribs.
Since there are two vital organs in the thorax, thorax injuries can be life-threatening. In fact, the aforementioned AAAM study found that 36% of the car accident deaths assessed were the result of thorax injuries.
Thorax injuries may be caused by direct trauma to the chest, rapid acceleration or deceleration, large blasts, or crushing forces.
Examples of thorax injuries include:
- Flail chest – this is when two or more ribs next to one another experience two or more fractures per rib
- Ruptured aorta
- Blunt chest trauma
- Lung hemorrhage
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries (SCI) involve damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal cord (the cauda equina). These injuries are particularly deadly, as people who suffer SCI are 2-5 times more likely to die prematurely than those without a spinal cord injury.
Car accidents often cause SCI because the sudden impact can severely jar the body and crush or damage the spinal cord. Whiplash — fast and forceful back-and-forth neck movement common in car accidents — may also cause fatal spinal cord trauma.
Fatal complications associated with spinal cord injuries include:
- Kidney failure
- Pulmonary embolism
- Respiratory complications
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of head injury generally caused by a severe blow to the head or an object penetrating the skull into the brain tissue. Brain injuries may lead to torn tissues, severe bruising, and bleeding.
Mild TBI can cause sensory problems, memory or concentration issues, and a decline in the victim’s mental state. Meanwhile, more severe brain injuries can result in long periods of unconsciousness, coma, or death.
Brain injuries are often sustained in car accidents when the victim slams their head into the steering wheel or is hit forcefully with a blunt object.
Internal Injuries or Blood Loss
Internal injuries may not reveal themselves outwardly, but they can be just as deadly as external injuries. While internal injuries and internal bleeding don’t always result in death on impact, they can cause death just minutes or hours after an accident.
Examples of internal injuries sustained in car accidents include:
- Bruised or ruptured organs, such as the heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, and intestines
- Fractured or broken ribs
- Brain bleeding
- Internal hemorrhage
Blood loss caused by both internal and external injuries is another common car accident fatality. Immediate medical attention after an accident is vital to detect internal injuries and prevent deadly blood loss.
Broken bones are commonly sustained in car accidents due to forceful impacts.
While not often deadly, broken bones may lead to death if a bone fragment punctures an organ. For example, a bone fragment after a break could damage a vital organ like the lungs or heart.
Immediate medical treatment is vital to saving someone’s life in these situations. An organ punctured by a bone fragment can cause death in minutes or hours.
Dying on Impact in a Car Accident
In an auto accident, death on impact normally occurs from damage to vital organs such as the heart or brain. These accidents often involve high speeds, big or heavy vehicles, or large stationary objects like trees or walls.
The injuries most likely to cause death on impact in a car accident are:
- Head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Heart injuries
Of course, not all fatal car accidents cause death on impact.
The death may instead be:
- Immediate: Occurring within half an hour of an accident. More than half of deaths caused by car accidents are immediate.
- Early: Occurring within 30 minutes – three hours. These are most often the result of internal injuries or blood loss.
- Late: Occurring anywhere between three hours and several weeks after an accident. These are mostly caused by infection or organ failure.
A common cause of fatal car accidents is road rage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 66% of car accident fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
Which Types of Auto Accidents Are Most Deadly?
Any type of car accident can be fatal, but some tend to be more deadly than others. Below, we outline the five most deadly types of auto accidents.
A head-on collision is when two cars run into each other and their front bumpers collide. Since the cars are traveling in opposite directions, the force of the impact is multiplied. As a result, head-on crashes can be fatal even at moderate speeds.
Common causes of head-on accidents include:
- Distracted drivers who drift over the centerline
- Vehicles that slip on ice or slick roads and slide into oncoming traffic
- Reckless driving that results in losing control of the vehicle
Injuries commonly sustained in head-on collisions include TBI, whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and blood loss.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 7,388 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2021. Any auto accident involving pedestrians can be particularly deadly given the pedestrian’s lack of physical protection.
Pedestrians struck by vehicles face a high risk of serious or deadly injuries like TBI, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries and bleeding, punctured and ruptured organs, and broken bones.
Common causes of fatal pedestrian accidents include:
- Distracted or drunk drivers
- Failure to yield at crosswalks and intersections
Oftentimes, pedestrian accidents are caused by distracted driving. Always follow the rules of the road and minimize distractions while driving.
A t-bone collision is when a vehicle crashes into another at a 90-degree angle — in other words, when a car’s front bumper collides with the side of another car.
Also known as broadside or side-impact collisions, t-bone accidents are one of the most common types of vehicle collisions (behind rear-end crashes).
Common causes of t-bone accidents include:
- Drivers who blow through red lights or stop signs
- Vehicles making unsafe or illegal turns
- Drunk or distracted driving
T-bone crashes can be particularly deadly if the vehicle hits right where the driver or a passenger is sitting — for example, the driver’s side or passenger door. Drivers and passengers can suffer serious impacts and be pinned inside the vehicle.
Injuries commonly sustained in t-bone accidents include fractured, slipped, or herniated discs, whiplash, internal bleeding, and head injuries.
An off-road crash is any auto accident that occurs off the roadway. Many off-road crashes are single-vehicle accidents where the car hits a stationary object.
Common causes of off-road crashes include:
- Drunk or distracted driving
- Swerving to avoid hitting another vehicle or something in the road
- Losing control of the car
- Misjudging a curve
According to the Federal Highway Administration, roadway departures caused 51% of all traffic fatalities in the US between 2016 and 2018.
Rollover Vehicle Accidents
A rollover vehicle accident involves a vehicle flipping over onto its side or roof. The car could roll once or multiple times depending on the nature of the accident. Rollover accidents can involve one or more cars.
Common causes of rollover vehicle accidents include:
- Tripping (when a vehicle’s tire hits something, like a curb or ditch)
- Speeding and/or taking turns too fast
- High-force crashes
- Weather (like rain, snow, or ice)
Vehicles with a high center of gravity — like SUVs, vans, and trucks — are more likely to roll over than standard cars and sedans.
Rollover car accidents are particularly dangerous and deadly because drivers and passengers often slam into objects in the vehicle and may get pinned inside. Common injuries in rollover accidents include TBI, whiplash, slipped discs, nerve damage, broken bones, SCI, and internal injuries.
To avoid an accident altogether, keep in mind your surroundings. You may want to be mindful of driving at busy times of the day when accidents are more likely to occur.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
If your loved one suffered fatal injuries or died on impact in a car accident that someone else caused, you deserve to have a dedicated lawyer on your side.
A car accident attorney can help you by:
- Gathering evidence to determine fault
- Filing your claim in a timely fashion
- Seeking the maximum compensation to cover medical bills, loss of income, and other damages
Contact our team at Nadrich & Cohen for a free consultation today. You can call us 24/7 at (800) 718-4685.