Broken Bone Injuries from Car Accidents
Broken bones, also known as fractures, are a frequent result of car accidents. Fractures occur when more force is exerted on a bone than it can absorb, which is typically the case in car crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,746,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. Even if you haven’t been injured yourself in a car crash, you likely know someone that has been. According to the AAA Foundation’s 2016 Traffic Safety Culture Index, almost 1 in 3 drivers have known a friend or relative that was seriously injured or killed in a crash.
In the brief, high-speed moments of a car crash, broken bones are not easily avoided, and unfortunately, this relatively common injury can have a major impact on your life. This is especially true since broken bones resulting from collisions are often more complex than a simple break. There could be multiple fractures, and some could require reconstructive surgery, leaving you incapacitated for months while recovering. It’s important to know the different kinds of broken bone injuries and what the treatment entails so you can be prepared to take legal action if you so choose in the event of a crash.
Types of Broken Bones
There are multiple kinds of fractures. A bone can break in different ways depending on the circumstances involved, as well as the strength of the bone. For example, an older person is more likely to break a bone even in a low-impact accident, since bones begin to weaken as a person ages. Here are common fractures that can result from car accidents:
- Simple/closed fracture: This occurs when the bone breaks under the skin.
- Compound/open fracture: This occurs when the skin is pierced by broken bone, which may or may not be visible.
- Transverse fracture: The bone breaks in a straight, horizontal line across the bone.
- Oblique fracture: The bone breaks in a diagonal line across the bone.
- Comminuted fracture: The bone shatters into three or more pieces.
- Segmental fracture: The same bone fractures in two places, resulting in a “floating” unattached piece of bone.
- Compression fracture: The bone is crushed, resulting in a wider, flatter appearance.
- Greenstick fracture: This is an incomplete break; the bone bends and breaks partially, but the broken part is not completely separated. These happen more often to children and teenagers, since these younger age groups’ bones are still developing and are much more flexible than adult bones. This is why they bend instead of making a clean break.
- Spiral fracture: The break is in a spiral shape around the bone; this is common in an injury in which the bone was twisted.
- Avulsion fracture: A bone piece is pulled off by the movement of a tendon or ligament.
- Impacted fracture: Two bone pieces are driven together and break in the process.
- Stress fracture: A small crack that forms in the bone as a result of a repeated motion (like running) or overuse.
Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Although broken bones are often obvious, sometimes a person does not realize they have one, since they can appear to be just muscle pain or a sprain. This is especially true after a car accident, when adrenaline is pumping through your system and you may not realize the extent of your injuries. It is important to see a doctor in order to get an accurate diagnosis rather than trying to treat your injury yourself. Fracture symptoms can include:
- Intense pain in the injured area, especially when it is touched or weight is put on it
- Deformity (a limb appears or feels out of place)
- Swelling, bruising, tenderness
- Numbness and tingling
- Difficulty moving a limb
X-rays — which can also prove to be useful medical evidence in a case — are the most common method of diagnosing broken bones. However, there are other methods of diagnosis if the fracture is not obvious on the X-ray. These consist of bone scans, CT (computed tomography) scans, and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). These alternative methods are often used for stress fractures, which are not always easily detectable.
Treatment methods and recovery time also vary on a case-by-case basis. Generally, in order for broken bones to heal properly and completely, they must be re-aligned and kept in place with little to no movement for weeks or months. Treatment options include:
- Plaster or fiberglass cast: These completely immobilize the area and are used to keep bones in place while they heal.
- Functional cast or brace: These are good for some (not all) fractures because they allow limited movement rather than complete immobilization.
- Traction: A method of treatment that is used to align bones with a slow and steady pulling back into place.
- External fixation: An operation in which metal pins are inserted into the fracture and connected to a metal bar outside the skin to hold the bones in place while they heal.
- Open reduction and internal fixation: A surgical procedure in which bone fragments are repositioned into their normal place, then held together with screws or rods under the skin while they heal.
Fractures can take between several weeks and several months to heal. Throughout the recovery process, movement must be limited, even after the cast or brace is removed. During recovery, it is possible to lose muscle strength in the area and physical therapy is required to restore normal motion, flexibility, and muscle strength.
Common Bones Broken in Car Accidents
No bone is immune from fractures, since any bone can break if enough force is exerted on it, and the circumstances of each car crash are different. However, there are certain bones that are more likely to break than others in a motor vehicle accident:
- Leg: Car accidents can cause all three leg bones (the femur, tibia, and fibula) to break, and is especially possible when knees are jammed against the dashboard in the midst of a collision.
- Arm/Wrist: Similar to the leg, your arm is made up of three bones: the humerus, the radius, and the ulna. Any kind of significant trauma can cause arm and wrist bone(s) to break. These are also especially common because it is instinct for humans to put their arms and hands out during a vulnerable moment to try and protect themselves.
- Clavicle (also known as collarbone): The clavicle is the number one most broken bone. Children and teens are at a higher risk of breaking their collarbone since it doesn’t harden completely until age 20.
- Ankle: Ankle fractures often result from auto accidents, due to the common “crushing” nature of car collisions. Ankle fractures sustained in a car accident could require surgery in order to heal.
- Hip: The most commonly broken bone for people over the age of 65. Hip fractures almost always require surgery to fix.
Taking Legal Action for Broken Bone Injuries After a Car Accident
Fractures, especially those sustained in car accidents, do not heal on their own. They require medical help to heal properly, as well as cooperation and patience from the injured person in order to keep the injured site immobile. In extreme cases, some injuries may never be able to completely heal. If you sustain multiple injuries, these broken bones can severely impair your quality of life and impede you from working, leading to a loss of income as well as various medical expenses.
If you or a loved one has sustained broken bones or been otherwise injured as a result of a car crash in New York or New Jersey-especially as a result of another’s negligence-you may have a legal right to compensation for your injuries, including medical costs, loss of income, and loss of quality of life. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience handling car crash cases that involve broken bones, including a record-breaking $32,756,156 verdict for a 60-year-old army veteran who fractured his skull, hip, and received several facial fractures when he was hit by a driver who was under the influence. Other verdicts and settlements we have attained include:
- A $22,500,000 settlement for a 32-year-old husband and father who suffered compound, comminuted fractures in his left elbow after being hit head-on by another vehicle.
- A $20,181,484 verdict for a man who fractured the ulna bone and humerus in his dominant arm in a head-on collision
- A $14,000,000 jury verdict for a motorcyclist who sustained a severely comminuted tibia fracture after being hit by a truck.
- A $13,500,000 settlement for a pedestrian who sustained serious injuries, including spine, humerus, and pelvis fractures, after she was struck by a company-owned vehicle.
- A $12,000,000 settlement (with $71,643,000 anticipated payout) for a 5-year-old child who received multiple leg and pelvic fractures after being hit by a car.
- An $8,800,000 settlement for a 53-year-old woman whose ribs were broken, among other serious injuries, after she was hit while walking to pick her grandchildren up from school.
- A $4,000,000 settlement (with $19,394,595 anticipated payout) for a 12-year-old student who broke her dominant wrist, in addition to other injuries, when she was hit while crossing the street.
- A $4,000,000 settlement for a man who fractured his fibula, among other serious injuries, when he was struck by another vehicle.
- A $3,450,000 settlement for a man who suffered multiple fractures to his ankle, legs, and hips after he was hit and dragged by a bus.
- A $3,000,000 settlement for a man who sustained multiple comminuted fractures after his car was hit by an MTA bus.
- A $3,000,000 settlement for a 78-year-old woman who received multiple fractures after she was hit by a garbage truck while riding her motorized scooter in a bike lane.
- A $2,800,000 settlement for a pedestrian who received clavicle and femur fractures, among others, when he was struck by a vehicle that rolled onto the sidewalk.
- A $2,100,000 settlement for a bicyclist who sustained multiple fractures, including pelvic and facial, when he was struck by a garbage truck while riding his bike.
- A $1,500,000 settlement for a 70-year-old woman who dealt with a broken sternum and knee and ankle fractures after she and her husband were hit head-on by a vehicle while driving home.
- A $1,281,000 recovery for a man who sustained a comminuted fracture of his pelvis when his van was hit by a truck.