People often think severe, lasting, and/or permanent bodily injury only occurs in high-speed or dramatic accidents. This is simply not the case. Ligaments and muscles are not constructed like metal and plastic car parts are for impact. Even at a speed of 20 mph, there will be a suddenness of movement and force (think falling off a one-story building) that can tear ligaments, as well as joint, disc, and muscle fibers. While your back and lower extremities have some protection from the seat; your neck, head, and upper body are prone to injuries from the sudden movements caused by impact of another car. This is why you never state you are not hurt after an accident - you may not begin to feel pain until days later.
“Soft tissue” injuries (those not seen by x-rays) involve muscles, tendons, and ligaments that tear or stretch. These are the most common type of injuries suffered by car accident victims. Such injuries are also more difficult to prove, however they still require treatment so as not to inhibit healing. One such soft tissue injury is whiplash - caused by the violent snapping back of our heads, often associated with rear-end accidents. Whiplash can lead to a range of serious conditions from dizziness, memory loss, and herniated discs of the spine, just to name a few.
Trauma to your body is only one part of the potential injury from a car accident. Beyond the physical, there are also the psychological effects. Some people experience depression and/or anxiety after their accidents. They may fear driving again or getting back in a car. This is especially true for children who may show these effects even months after the accident. To a child, even a low speed impact is a traumatic event in their life, so ask for a psychologist or therapist to speak with your child after physical injuries have been addressed. Be sure if you or any passenger in your car is feeling anxious or depressed, talk to your doctor and seek treatment regardless of when the accident occurred.
It is important to talk to your doctor about your aches, pains, and emotional state as the symptoms develop to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment. Keep a journal of how you are feeling each day, both physically and mentally. You also should take pictures of your physical injuries at the onset and then later after final treatment to show any possible scarring or disfigurement.
Like human bodies, damage to your car will be directly linked to its construction and area of impact. The car damage from various types of crashes can be viewed in interesting videos from the IIHS at http://goo.gl/Cx9Ge.