In 2009, the latest year for which government figures are available, 33,808 people were killed in automobile accidents, a rate that’s slightly more than 16 people per 100,000 licensed drivers in the United States. The government also estimates that 448,000 of these crashes were a result of distracted drivers, 22 percent of crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent. All told, 5,505,000 crashes occurred, including fatal, non-fatal or property damage only incidents. These are scary statistics, and odds are that one day, you or someone you love may be involved in an accident, and it probably won’t be your fault.

Some injuries, such as head trauma, neck or back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can have long lasting effects on a person’s health. Injuries such as these often cause chronic pain, headaches and even seizures. These injuries, as well as traumatic injuries requiring surgery, hospital stays and rehabilitation can result in massive medical bills. For uninsured or underinsured victims, an automobile accident can also have devastating financial effects.

Head, back and neck injuries can be hard to diagnose and sometimes impossible to cure. They can result in excruciating pain and debilitating headaches or other symptoms that can last for years and that make it hard to resume normal day to day activities, including returning to work to earn a living. Without a steady paycheck, and unable to pay off staggering medical bills, people who have been in automobile accidents face an almost insurmountable challenge.

Fractured bones, internal injuries and other bodily trauma require a trip to the emergency room and perhaps even surgical procedures to repair. In addition to the pain of the original injury, there is the pain of the corrective procedure and the long, painful road to recovery.

PTSD often occurs because of the intense fear and graphic sights during and immediately after the accident. This disorder may cause panic attacks, nightmares, memory lapses, agoraphobia and other problems that require long-term treatment and make it difficult to resume a normal life.

Whatever the outcome, people who have been injured in an automobile accident frequently suffer long-term physical pain and mental anguish. These people should be compensated for their pain and possible loss of earning potential. People who have suffered an injury or loss in this type of incident should consult a personal injury attorney to discuss a possible lawsuit. Money may not compensate for the pain, but it can certainly help pay the medical and other day-to-day bills.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can assess the facts of the accident to determine the likely outcome of any lawsuit. Most personal injury law firms do not require payment up front, but they will want a percentage of any settlement awarded by the courts as their payment. This arrangement is beneficial to the injured party, because it ensures that they don’t waste time and energy on a case they are not likely to win. In some cases, the facts surrounding the automobile accident may be so clear that the attorney is able to get a settlement without going to court.