What is Considered a Serious Car Accident?

serious car accident

For anyone who has been in a car accident, they may say that it felt serious. For many, this is true. A car accident can be a horrifying and even traumatic experience that results in emotional distress and physical injury. As for what constitutes a “serious” car accident, the answer that is hard to give because there is no legal definition of what ‘serious’ means, and the property damage does not necessarily align with the injury to the person. You may have a minor ‘fender bender’ that causes whiplash or have a major rollover accident and walk away with just a couple of bumps and bruises.

Without any clear guidelines and so many variations, the Dallas car accident lawyers at Wolf Law PLLC might advise that what is considered a serious car accident is one where someone walks away with a significant injury. This could be a life-threatening condition that requires hospitalization or one that will dramatically affect your daily functioning or quality of life.

Car Accident Frequencies and Severity

Texas is one of the largest states in the United States. Texas experienced 4,481 car accident deaths in the most recent reporting year, according to information gathered from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). There were over 15,000 car accidents resulting in serious injuries. Some common injuries that may make a car accident more serious are:

  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Head, face, and neck injuries

Many of these injuries can mean time in the hospital, multiple surgeries, or follow-up care like occupational therapy. In particular, severe injuries like these might mean lifelong disability or an ongoing need for medical or supportive aids.

Physical injuries should be immediately addressed, and victims involved in an auto accident should be evaluated for possible psychological injury. One study published in the journal of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine performed a trial of people involved in severe vehicle crashes. The report found nearly 25% of people interviewed at six months and one year showed signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

There is no widespread or local legal definition of a serious injury. However, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration identifies a suspected serious injury as any of the below:

  • Severe laceration resulting in the exposure of tissue underneath, including muscle or bone
  • Distorted or broken extremity
  • Crush injury
  • Suspected skull, chest, or abdominal injury that is more severe than small lacerations or bruises
  • 2nd or 3rd degree burns that cover more than 10% of the body
  • Lack of consciousness when leaving the scene of the accident
  • Paralysis

Any fatal car accident may also add to our understanding of a severe accident. While some of these may not seem like a big deal, they can indicate something much more serious or mean the victim is at risk of dangerous complications. Beyond that, many of these can significantly disrupt your daily life.


With lacerations, the primary concerns are infection, bleeding, and scarring. Infection may lead to more doctor visits, medication, and possibly hospitalization. Infection in even a small cut can cause sepsis or death if left untreated. This provides medical complications, but it can also cause emotional and functional complications.

Some more recent studies have shown a connection between anxiety and depression symptoms and medical conditions that result in facial scarring. Further, many lacerations may carry the risk of causing connective tissue or nerve damage.

Broken Extremity

broken extremityA broken or distorted extremity is typically referring to your arms and legs. Less serious injuries, such as a fracture, may only require that you wear a sling for a few weeks. However, a broken arm or leg likely needs surgical intervention. This more invasive treatment may also mean having screws or wires implanted to realign the bone while it heals.

Depending on what kind of employment you have or your daily responsibilities in your home, this can dramatically alter and hinder your life, resulting in the need to pay for additional support or loss of income. These kinds of injuries may be a lifelong problem.

Crush Injuries

Crush injuries occur when more pressure or force is applied than the body can withstand. Though crush injuries can happen in other ways, these injuries are most commonly seen when someone is crushed between two heavy objects. Crush injuries can also be associated with other symptoms, like lacerations and broken bones.

There are many dangerous complications associated with crush injuries, including compartment syndrome, necrotic tissue, and death. A crush injury may mean you are hospitalized for a prolonged period of time and may cause long-term functional deficits in the affected area.

Chest and Abdominal Injuries

Your chest and abdomen hold vital organs. A medical professional should thoroughly evaluate any injury to this area. It could be simple soreness and bruising, but it could also be any number of major lung and chest wall injuries that may require invasive medical procedures, resulting in lengthy and expensive hospital stays.

Additionally, if you have suffered an abdominal injury, this may result in a laparotomy, which is frequently used to identify issues in the intestines and other organs in the area. Either of these surgeries may mean a recovery time of six weeks or more with days to weeks in the hospital.


Burns resulting from a serious car accident can vary largely in severity and the kind of care that is needed. In this case, severe burns are considered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 10% or more of the body. The Mayo Clinic states that some burns may need treatment at facilities that specialize in burn care and may take months to heal.

Like severe lacerations, burns this severe may also leave lasting scars that can decrease quality of life and cause psychological symptoms.

car accident severityLoss of Consciousness

Injury resulting in loss of consciousness for a prolonged amount of time may also indicate a serious car accident. The Mayo Clinic lists loss of consciousness for minutes to hours as a possible symptom of a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Even with months or years of physical or occupational therapy, symptoms of a severe traumatic brain injury can have lasting effects on cognition, speech, and overall ability to care for oneself.

Damages in a Serious Car Accident

There may be many components to claiming your damages after a serious car accident, including determining who is responsible and gathering all of the evidence. An experienced car accident attorney can explain what information and research is needed to support your need for financial relief.

Some damages that are commonly claimed in a car accident can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future medical appointments or devices
  • Compensation for support services needed

If you have lost a loved one in a car accident due to the negligence of someone else, a surviving spouse or child may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Compensation obtained from a wrongful death claim may be used for medical or funeral costs for the deceased, supplemental income from your loved one, or just to ease the financial burden and allow you space to grieve.

Get Questions About Your Serious Car Accident Answered

Every case is different, so if you have suffered serious injuries from a car accident, it can be a good idea to consult with one of our Dallas auto accident lawyers to assess what kind of compensation you may be entitled to and ensure your legal rights are upheld.

Ultimately, only you can determine if your car accident was ‘serious.’ What matters in your case is if your injuries are serious. If they are, the team at Wolf Law, PLLC may be able to help. Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free consultation with our law firm.