Which body parts are hit first in a collision?

12 minute read Published on Jun 15, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Aerial view of rear-end car collision of two cars on a highway.

Being involved in any type of collision, whether it’s a single-vehicle collision or a head-on collision, can be extremely dangerous. This is mainly because it’s possible that the occupants of the vehicle will be injured or worse as a result of the accident. To give you a better idea of how car accidents can result in bodily injury, we explain how collisions work and what parts of your body will be hit first in different types of collisions.

The three elements of a car crash

There are three main elements of a car crash: vehicle collision, human collision, and internal collision. Understanding the risks and dangers of each will help you know where and what to look for after you get into a car accident:

Vehicle collision

The first element of a car crash is the vehicle collision. This occurs when the vehicle collides with something, whether that be another car, a pedestrian, a grounded object, or even an animal.

When the vehicle makes an impact with something else, it abruptly slows down due to the force of the crash and will usually suffer damage. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the damage to your car could be as minor as a scratch or dent or could be far more severe.

Human collision

The second element of the collision is the human collision. Although all modern vehicles contain seatbelts, which are legally required in Canada and are designed to absorb kinetic energy and reduce the impact of an accident, it’s still possible for an occupant’s body to be harmed in a crash. After all, the human body is still travelling at the same speed as the car when the collision occurs, which means that, more often than not, it will be jolted in a different direction upon impact.

While a seatbelt can help, it doesn’t guarantee that an occupant won’t hit the steering wheel, windshield, dashboard, or back of the seat when the crash occurs. In addition, it’s also possible for objects in your car to become loose and hit an occupant of the car during the accident, injuring them.

Internal collision

The third element of a collision is the internal collision. These are the injuries that your body may suffer internally and thus are not visible externally. The reality is that since car crashes often involve lots of force, your internal organs can shift during the collisions. When your organs slam into other organs or the skeletal system of your body, they can become damaged. For instance, your liver, heart, or spleen could be torn or bruised.

This could lead to bleeding. Internal bleeding can be very serious and even cause death. For this reason, even if you don’t think that you are injured following a car accident, it’s always a good idea to be checked out by a medical professional in the days and weeks after the incident to ensure there is no permanent damage.

How different types of car accidents can lead to injury

Just as there are many causes of collisions, there are also many types of collisions. The type of collision that you are involved in will partially determine what types of injuries you suffer, if any. Below, we outline a few common types of car accidents and the most common injuries that stem from them:

Rear-end car accidents

Rear-end car crashes typically affect the neck, chest, head, and spine the most. This is because it’s your upper body that will be jolted first when a rear-end collision takes place. Whiplash is a very common injury that stems from rear-end accidents.

Head-on collisions

Head-on collisions are particularly dangerous since the brunt of the force comes from the front. This can also be very dangerous to your head and neck, as well as other parts of your body, since your entire body is likely to be jerked forward and backward. In head-on collisions, most injuries result from your body making contact with objects in your car, such as the dashboard, windshield, or steering wheel.

Although wearing your seatbelt can keep you from going through your windshield, preventing severe head and facial injuries, the location of the seatbelt can exacerbate internal injuries that are suffered. A few of the most common injuries that result from head-on collisions include internal injuries, especially those around your abdominal area, head injuries, facial injuries, lacerations, knee injuries, and spine and back injuries.

Side-impact collisions

Side-impact collisions, also known as T-bone accidents, can also be very dangerous. Again, your body is likely to be violently jerked from side to side or backward during the collision, which can have serious consequences. In addition, since the sides of cars offer less protection than the front and rear, those who are sitting on the side of the car that is hit may suffer severe injuries.

Beyond the injuries that can arise from any type of accident, such as whiplash or head injuries, you may be more likely to suffer broken bones or cuts, especially to your arms, legs, and shoulders on the side of the impact, hip and pelvic injuries, abdominal injuries, chest injuries, and spine injuries.

Car accident injuries to look out for

If you are involved in a car accident, then you should assess yourself for injuries immediately following the collision. If paramedics arrive on the scene, have them check you out. If there are no medical professionals at the scene of the accident, such as if it’s a minor accident, then make sure to book an appointment with your doctor in the week to follow so that they can evaluate you. A few types of injuries that commonly arise from car accidents are as follows:


Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when your head is jolted forward and backward, such as if you are hit by another car. Specifically, whiplash is when the muscles and ligaments in your neck become sprained. Whiplash can be mild to severe, but generally speaking, you will find it difficult to move your neck and head if you have whiplash. You might also experience headaches and dizziness. If you suspect that you have whiplash, see a doctor as soon as possible. They can prescribe pain management medication to help alleviate your symptoms until you have healed.

Back and neck injuries

Back and neck injuries are also very common in car accidents since the upper body is the most exposed while driving. Back and neck injuries can vary substantially, with a herniated disc becoming one of the most common examples. If you notice any numbness, pain, stiffness, or weakness in your arms, legs, or back following a collision, be sure to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Otherwise, if left untreated, these types of injuries could have a long-term effect on your mobility.

Broken bones

Broken, fractured, and sprained bones are also possible after a collision. Depending on the type of accident, breaking certain bones may be more likely than others. For example, a broken collar bone most frequently results from head-on collisions, whereas a broken arm, leg, shoulder, or pelvis may be more common after a side-impact collision. If you break or fracture a bone in an accident, you will likely notice swelling and pain right away. To determine the extent of the fracture, you should visit a doctor who can X-ray the affected area. From there, they can come up with a plan of action, whether that involves a cast, physiotherapy, or surgery.

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries, also known as bruises and lacerations, are very common following all types of collisions. The most minor type of soft tissue injury is a bruise. However, they can also take more serious forms, such as stress fractures or sprains. Treatment for soft tissue injuries includes physiotherapy and prescription medication for pain management. Typically, soft tissue injuries are experienced by those who get into minor car accidents, such as fender benders or are suffered alongside other types of injuries after major car accidents.

Head injuries

Head injuries, also known as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can also arise from car accidents. These injuries occur when you hit your head, or it is violently jolted back and forth during the accident. A concussion is the most obvious example of a traumatic brain injury. Since brain injuries can have serious long-term consequences, it’s important to see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after a car accident: headaches, dizziness, memory loss, or loss of consciousness.

Facial injuries

Facial injuries are more likely to occur in head-on and side-impact collisions, as well as collisions in which the occupants of the car are not wearing seatbelts. This category of injuries can include small scrapes, cuts, or bruises, as well as major fractures or even dislocations of facial bones or muscles.

Internal injuries

Internal injuries are another type of injury that may stem from a car accident. Internal injuries are especially dangerous because they may not be visible from the outside. This means that unless you visit your doctor, you may have no idea that you have an internal injury. Examples of internal injuries that a car accident can result in are an abdominal aortic aneurysm, internal bleeding, an organ injury, and a ruptured spleen.

Given the important role that organs play in our bodies, suffering an internal injury that involves an organ can be life-threatening, especially if left untreated. This is why it’s so important to seek medical attention after a car accident, even if you don’t believe that you are injured.

Spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are incredibly dangerous as they can lead to paralysis or loss of sensation, which can completely transform a person’s life. These injuries most often occur in severe car accidents that involve a lot of force. Treatments for spinal cord injuries may include surgery, medication, and rehabilitation.


Someone involved in a car accident may also experience burns in the accident. These occur if hot metal or plastic comes into contact with your skin or if something catches fire during the collision. The three categories of burns that you could suffer in a collision are first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. Burn treatment typically includes wound care, pain medication, and, in some cases, skin grafts.

Psychological injuries

Although most of the injuries on this list have been physical, it is also possible for drivers and passengers to suffer psychological injuries after a car accident. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is perhaps the most common type of psychological injury that a person may experience after they’ve been in a car accident. Symptoms of PTSD include disturbing thoughts, anxiety, and depression. Treatments vary but could include prescription medication or therapy.

Car accident injury symptoms to watch for

If you recently got into a car accident, then it’s possible that you might be injured. Even minor car accidents can cause injuries. In the days and weeks after your accident, be sure to keep an eye out for the following symptoms, which could be a sign of various types of car accident injuries. In addition, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor, as well as a couple of follow-up appointments, to make sure that no injuries were suffered or that your injuries are healing well:

  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Bruising, redness, or discolulouration
  • Tenderness or sensitivity to touch
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Changes in personality or behaviour
  • Vision issues
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Appetite loss

How auto insurance works if you are injured in a car accident

If you get injured in a car accident or someone else gets injured in a car accident that you are found to be at fault for, your car or motorcycle insurance plan will protect you.

The reality is that car insurance is legally required in Canada, which means that all drivers should have it. Even the most basic form of car insurance will protect drivers against injuries that stem from car accidents.

More specifically, third-party liability car insurance can cover the cost of injuries sustained by another driver if you are found liable for the accident. Liability coverage can also pay for legal fees and repair bills.

In contrast, if you are injured in a collision, the type of auto insurance claim you would file is an accident benefits coverage claim. Under the accident benefits portion of your car insurance policy, you can receive a payout for the cost of medical attention after a car accident. In essence, you can be reimbursed for medical expenses that aren’t covered by health insurance, such as physical therapy, rehabilitation, and prescription medications. If you are temporarily unable to work due to the accident, you can also recover lost wages through your accident benefits coverage.

Another type of coverage that you might be able to use to file a personal injury claim is uninsured automobile insurance. You would file an uninsured automobile insurance claim if the accident that caused your injury was with another at-fault driver who is uninsured, underinsured, or who fled the scene of the accident. Uninsured motorist coverage can pay for a wide range of expenses after this type of incident, including medical fees and repair bills.

At the end of the day, it’s worth noting that Ontario uses a no-fault insurance system. This means that whether you are found liable for the accident or not, you will still file an insurance claim directly with your insurance company, not with the at-fault party’s insurance company. This makes the whole process simpler, as your payout will come directly from your insurance company. Just remember that if you want to be reimbursed for the cost of medical or rehabilitative care after an accident, you must file an insurance claim with your provider. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can guide you through this process and help you submit your claim to give you the best odds of having it accepted and receiving a payout.

Do collisions lead to a higher car insurance premium?

It depends. If you are found to be at fault for the collision that you were involved in, then your insurance rates will likely be impacted. The reality is that being involved in an accident usually affects insurance, regardless of the type of accident that occurred. Even being involved in a single-vehicle collision can affect insurance.

If you are not found liable for the collision, then your rates may stay the same. But if you are held liable, then the accident will go on your driving record, and you will likely have to pay a higher premium for the years to come. Only after it is removed from your record will your premium likely go down, so long as you haven’t racked up any other driving infractions or at-fault accidents by that time.

To avoid an at-fault accident in the future, follow these safe driving tips and speak with a car insurance broker about how at-fault accidents impact premiums. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can even offer advice on how to lower your premium if it was recently raised following a collision.

Contact BrokerLink to learn more about injuries that result from car accidents

Car accidents can be incredibly dangerous - there’s no denying it. Not only can they result in thousands of dollars worth of property damage to your car, but they can also cause serious injuries, from head and neck injuries to spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, and broken bones.

Knowing how collisions impact your body and what injury symptoms to look out for following a car accident can help. Having the right auto insurance policy can also help by giving drivers the peace of mind of knowing that if they suffer an injury in a car accident, their medical expenses may be covered.

A BrokerLink insurance advisor can help you find a car insurance policy that offers financial protection and meets your needs and budget. A few of the types of auto insurance coverage that a broker can help you with include:

To find out more about car insurance where you live, including how much it costs and which types of coverage are mandatory in your province, reach out to BrokerLink today. While you’re at it, don’t hesitate to request a free quote. All BrokerLink car insurance quotes are free of charge, accurate, and reliable. They can also be obtained in a matter of minutes. It couldn’t be easier!

Get an auto insurance quote [phone]