If you were injured in a car accident, you likely have many concerns and questions about the future. How do you know if you have a soft tissue injury? How severe are your soft tissue injuries? Do you need ongoing medical attention, or will the problem resolve itself over time? Should you submit a personal injury claim?
If you are bleeding or suffered a severe break, it’s usually apparent that you need to go to the doctor right away. Soft tissue injuries can be difficult to diagnose because they do not always present with immediate bruising, swelling, or pain.
Over the days following your accident, you may notice more signs that you are genuinely injured. It’s crucial for car accident victims to seek medical attention as soon as possible after car accidents — and also to ask for documentation of their doctor’s findings.
Read our guide to learn more about the most common soft tissue injuries incurred in car accidents and determine your next steps.
What Is a Soft Tissue Injury?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a soft tissue injury occurs in your body’s muscles, tendons, or ligaments. This definition separates issues affecting bones, such as breaks and fractures. Common soft tissue injuries include sprains, tears, and bruising.
While you may already know that you sustained a broken tibia due to a car accident because you can see the break on an X-ray, it’s more difficult to prove without a doubt that you have a soft tissue injury and that it was caused by the car accident.
How Do I Know I Have a Soft Tissue Injury?
Car accident soft tissue injuries are common. Even minor car accidents can cause soft tissue damage. This is why it’s vitally important to document every time you have a car accident — even if, in your mind, the wreck was relatively uneventful.
What Causes Soft Tissue Injuries?
If you’ve ever sprained your wrist, you probably remember what injured this area of soft tissue. You may have been participating in a sport or picked up a large, heavy item and twisted your wrist the wrong way. Most soft tissue injuries are similar: They’re caused by a trauma or by overusing that specific part of your body.
Symptoms of a Soft Tissue Injury
Milder soft tissue injuries from car accidents may not seem like a big deal. But without proper care, they can transform into moderate soft tissue injuries or more severe issues that need constant medical attention. Consider the following soft tissue injury symptoms:
- Swelling: You notice mild to severe swelling where you were injured. Your swelling may get temporarily worse in the hours and days after the car accident as your body tries to heal itself.
- Bruising: You have bruising, discoloration, and redness at the site of the injury. Even if you have pain and no bruising, it’s a good idea to see a doctor after any type of car accident.
- Stiffness: Your range of motion, or how well you can move the affected area, is much smaller than normal. Though you may be able to move an affected arm or leg or even walk on the injury, please seek medical treatment before trying to “walk it off.” It’s possible and even likely that doing so will make a soft tissue injury worse.
4 Types of Common Soft Tissue Injuries From Car Accidents
Consider the following types of possible soft tissue injuries from car accidents. Remember, it’s essential to seek medical attention for these issues, even if they seem minor at the time.
1. Strains and Sprains
You’re not alone if you’ve always struggled to understand the difference between strains, sprains, fractures, and breaks. Most people use these terms interchangeably to indicate a moderate to severe injury. Sprains and strains occur in the soft tissues, while fractures and breaks involve the bone.
To help you remember this difference, consider that soft tissue cannot break but can be torn or bruised. Sprains occur when a ligament (which connects your bones together by way of a joint) is stretched past what it can bear. Sometimes, a severe sprain involves tearing. A strain, similarly, involves a stretch or tear in a muscle. Strains can also affect tendons (like ligaments, but they connect muscle to bone).
A bad sprain can severely affect your work and personal life — especially if you need to be on your feet. Additionally, if you’ve sprained a wrist and work at your computer for a living, you may be concerned about whether you can complete your daily tasks.
You may need to take time off work or file for short-term disability while your sprain or strain heals. This is why working with a qualified attorney and seeking immediate legal counsel is beneficial to victims of car accidents.
The word “concussion” indicates an injury inside your head and around the brain. While you may assume that a mild headache isn’t a sign of a concussion, this isn’t necessarily true. Concussions can be extremely dangerous because you might not notice immediate signs. You may also notice strange symptoms such as memory loss, slurred speech, and balance issues.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have a concussion. Your doctor may take scans in the emergency room (such as a CT scan or an MRI), refer you to a neurologist, and quickly treat your concussion.
3. Cuts and Lacerations
Soft tissue injuries don’t always involve sprains and strains — they could be pronounced as cuts and lacerations. Treating a cut or laceration at home is tempting, but don’t attempt this if you have not seen a doctor.
Always visit an emergency room or seek urgent medical care elsewhere if you have a cut requiring stitches. If you aren’t sure whether your laceration is severe, this is all the more reason to seek out a professional’s opinion.
While your doctor may use the term “contusion” to refer to a bruise, it’s often more severe than it seems. Your contusion could simply be a bruise that’s only skin-deep — or it could signify a more serious issue like a concussion (if it’s on your head), a break, or a strain or sprain. It’s essential to get all contusions evaluated after vehicle accidents.
Similarly, you may have suffered contusions and other injuries that you are unaware of at the time of your car accident. Asking a medical professional to look over your entire body and assess your neurological functioning, range of motion, and more after a car crash can help them diagnose soft tissue injuries and alert them to signs that anything else may be wrong.
What Steps Should I Take After My Car Accident Injury?
If you just got home after a car accident, you’re likely feeling a mixture of relief, worry, and uncertainty about the future. Take the following steps to care for yourself and plan for your future after your auto accident:
- Address your injury: Most doctors and sports medicine professionals subscribe to the RICE method of immediate home treatment of soft tissue injuries. Rest, apply ice, compress (ask a doctor before doing this at home), and elevate your injury to prevent unnecessary swelling.
- Seek medical care: If you haven’t already been to your doctor (or the emergency room after your car accident), now is the right time to call and set up an appointment. If you haven’t been to the emergency room and you’re experiencing concerning symptoms, extreme swelling, or pain, it’s a good idea to let the professionals handle your care instead of waiting it out at home.
- Report to your insurance company: It’s a good idea to contact your insurance company as soon as possible and describe your car wreck and soft tissue damage. You may be experiencing sharp neck pain, connective tissue bruising, muscle weakness, or other soft tissue strains that you should get on the record sooner rather than later.
- Call for legal help: No matter how small your accident, it’s a good idea to seek legal help if you were injured in a car accident. Save your documentation (any medical records, bills, X-rays, and soft tissue scans) to make the process easier on yourself and give your case a better chance at success.
Get in Touch With Us for Car Accident Injury Help
Car accident injuries can make you feel uncertain about your future. Don’t assume that your soft tissue injury is too small or that your car accident was too uneventful to ask for help. Remember, these problems often get worse without immediate attention.
If you’ve been in a car accident and you think you sustained a soft tissue injury, call 1-800-ASK-GARY for sound, experienced advice from qualified medical and legal professionals. An experienced car accident attorney will guide you through your next steps and aid you in getting the compensation you deserve.