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What is considered bodily injury in a car accident?”

Bodily injury is a term commonly used after an accident to denote any harm a person suffers, like bruises, broken bones, or even serious conditions. Originating from the insurance industry, it differs from property injury, which pertains to damage to physical possessions.
The term bodily injury does not determine liability, meaning you could crash your car into a wall and suffer a bodily injury. The only liable person in that scenario is you. While you might be able to claim insurance for this type of a bodily injury, it’s a broad term not used to determine grounds for a lawsuit.

victim of car accident with a bodily injury 1 1 in category Car Accident Image by Kzenon by Canva.com

If you’re going to file a lawsuit for your accident, the term that holds more legal significance is personal injury. It encompasses various ways people suffer bodily injuries including neglect and abuse, slip and fall injuries, and dog bites. Beyond physical harm, personal injury can also involve mental and emotional damage. Depending on the specifics of the case, it may include claims for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

With all that said, since bodily injury is a common term used to describe injuries suffered in a car accident, here are some examples of obvious and not-so-obvious bodily injuries.

Obvious Examples of Bodily Injury

When we talk about bodily injuries due to car accidents, some examples are more evident than others. These injuries typically involve clear physical trauma that can be diagnosed relatively easily.

Broken Bones

One of the most prevalent types of bodily injuries arising from a car accident is broken bones. This might involve a straightforward fracture, where the bone cracks under the impact but doesn’t break completely. Fractures can be incredibly painful and often necessitate immobilization to allow for healing. On the more severe end, sometimes a bone is shattered into fragments, a condition medically known as a comminuted fracture. This situation often requires surgical intervention to realign the bone fragments, followed by an extended recovery period. Either way, whether it’s a simple fracture or a more complex shattered bone scenario, such injuries are considered bodily injuries.

Soft Tissue Damage

Soft tissue injuries are another type of bodily injury that can be equally, if not more, debilitating than broken bones. Soft tissue connects, supports, or surrounds other structures and organs of the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves.
Sprains are another frequent soft tissue injury in car accidents, often affecting the wrists, knees, or ankles. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments, the fibrous tissue bands that connect bones at the joints. A sudden twist or impact usually causes it. The resulting pain, swelling, and difficulty using the affected joint can hamper mobility and day-to-day activities.

car accident victim with whiplash 1 in category Car Accident Image by Andrea Popov by Canva.com


Whiplash is a common soft tissue injury in car accidents. It’s an injury to the neck muscles where the head is suddenly jerked back and forth. Despite the absence of visible wounds, the pain, stiffness, and limited neck movement resulting from whiplash can severely affect an individual’s quality of life. While these injuries may not be immediately noticeable to the untrained eye, they carry significant implications for the victim. They can cause extensive discomfort and long-term complications if not addressed promptly and adequately. Thus, car accident lawyers always ask about soft tissue injuries when helping clients recover financial losses suffered from bodily injuries.

Not-So-Obvious Examples of Bodily Injury

Bodily injury isn’t confined to purely physical harm. Certain mental conditions or disorders triggered or exacerbated by the trauma of a car accident may also be categorized as bodily injuries under New Mexico law.  For instance, consider a situation where an individual develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a severe car accident. The mental and emotional distress caused by PTSD significantly affects the person’s daily life and overall well-being. Hence, it is also recognized as a form of bodily injury, even though the scars are psychological rather than physical.

Or, consider a case where someone has insomnia, anxiety, or severe depression as a direct result of an accident. These mental health conditions, caused by the trauma of the accident, are often included in the definition of bodily injury.
Including mental health conditions in the definition of bodily injury emphasizes the comprehensive nature of New Mexico law regarding personal injury protection.

Everyone’s bodily injury is unique, much like the car accidents that cause them. The severity, symptoms, and implications can vary enormously. Therefore, if you’re involved in a car accident and unsure about whether you’ve suffered a bodily injury, it’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands New Mexico law and can help protect your rights. Understanding liability for bodily injury is another critical aspect of this complex legal terrain. In our previous piece titled Liability for Bodily Injury: Who Pays? Who Is At Fault, we delve deeper into this topic.

No matter what type of bodily injury you’ve suffered in a car accident, you deserve representation that recognizes your unique situation and fights for your rightful compensation.

Remember, your healing and well-being are the highest priorities. Reach out to a professional who can guide you through the complexity of bodily injury in New Mexico law. It’s a journey, but with the right legal assistance, Kane Personal Injury can help you navigate it successfully.