Car accidents can lead to long-lasting physical trauma, including fractures. Fractures are simply broken bones. Any sudden, intense impact in a collision can potentially fracture the bones in your body.
From your skull to your toes, there are between 206 and 213 bones in your body – a sufficient amount of area vulnerable to fracture. If you recently experienced a fracture after a collision, read below to learn more about this injury and how a personal injury lawyer can help.
What is the difference between a fracture and a broken bone?
Fractures and broken bones both refer to the same injury. Medical professionals may use either term interchangeably. Both terms essentially mean that there has been a crack in the bone.
Fractures, or broken bones, may be so small that an X-ray is necessary to see them. These are known as hairline cracks. They can also be major breaks, where the bone has completely broken or shattered.
What are common signs of a fracture?
Depending on the severity of the impact and any existing physical conditions, symptoms can range in severity. The following are typical signs of a fracture.
- Immobility or loss of function
- Inability to hold weight
- Bone protruding through skin
What types of fractures can occur during a car accident?
As mentioned above, there are over 200 bones in your body. You can experience a fracture of many major bones. Below are common types experienced as a result of a car accident.
A collision can cause a serious impact that injures your head and skull. Luckily, your skull is in place to protect your brain – but it can only withstand so much pressure. If a collision causes a head impact, there’s a likelihood the skull has broken. This typically happens when the head is impacted by the windshield, ground, or flying object.
This is a serious injury that has long-term, life-altering effects. If you or a loved one has experienced a skull fracture, it is possible that the impact has also affected the brain. Please consult with a medical professional about any sustained injuries resulting from a head impact.
Your collarbone, or clavicle, is an extremely sensitive area prone to damage in a collision. Typically, a broken collarbone occurs when sudden and blunt movement causes you to impact your seatbelt. This may seem counterintuitive because your seatbelt is designed to protect you, but it can only withstand a certain amount of force.
Upper/Lower Arm Fracture
There are three bones in each of your arms that are vulnerable to fracture in a car accident. Your upper arm bone is the humerus. Your lower arm contains two bones: radius and ulna.
These bones are susceptible to injury when you extend them forward during impact. People typically try to brace themselves on their dashboard or airbag, which causes fractures during a high-impact collision.
Like an arm fracture, wrist fractures typically occur when the driver or passenger(s) brace themselves by putting their hands in front of them. The wrist contains 8 tiny bones, and these bones connect to the forearm bones - the radius and ulna. With 10 bones in total, this area is susceptible to fracture.
When the bones in your rib cage crack, a rib fracture occurs. A rib fracture can range in severity. A simple crack can heal without major intervention with a typical healing time of six weeks. However, severe rib fractures can cause broken pieces and sharp bone edges that impact blood vessels and organs.
This type of fracture can make an impact on one’s ability to breathe. It is also quite painful. A medical professional will be able to diagnose the severity of the rib fracture and treatment options.
In a car accident, there is potential for spinal injury. This injury can occur at any point along the spine, from the neck to the lower back. It can be caused by whiplash in a rear-end accident or rapid, intense motion that puts pressure on discs and vertebrae.
Spinal fractures can be very serious, especially if spinal cord or nerve injury has occurred. This injury can cause back pain, as well as bowel dysfunction and numbness in limbs. In the most severe cases, a spinal fracture can lead to loss of consciousness or brain injury.
Your hip contains a “ball and socket” joint that keeps your thighbone connected to your pelvic bone. When a hip fracture occurs, it is most likely located in the upper thighbone or femur. You may experience pain, mobility issues, or misalignment in your hips.
At the base of your spine sits your pelvic bone. It protects sensitive organs including your bladder, intestines, and rectum. While a pelvic fracture can occur during a high-impact collision, it is not the most common type of fracture.
If a pelvic fracture does occur as a result of a car accident, the results can be severe. A pelvic fracture can lead to bleeding and organ injury.
Upper Leg Fracture
In high-impact collisions, the front of the car can cave in and impact or pin your legs. This impact can injure your upper leg, or thighbone, which consists of your femur bone. Despite being the strongest bone in the body, it is still susceptible to injury.
Lower Leg Fracture
In your lower leg, you have two bones: the tibia and fibula. You can think of them as your shinbone (tibia) and calf bone (fibula). Like an upper leg fracture, a lower leg fracture can occur as a result of a car crumbling and implementing force on your legs.
What causes a fracture in a car accident?
When you get into a car, you expect the car to safely carry you from Point A to Point B – and everywhere in between. Every year, manufacturers add new safety features to vehicles to lower the chances of a severe accident. Newer cars have safety features like cameras and automatic braking to avoid accidents.
However, the chance of collisions and resulting injuries remains. Fractures especially are likely to occur in the following scenarios.
Even if you secure yourself with a seatbelt, your body can still jerk forward aggressively. This fast movement can particularly impact your head and neck, causing them to jerk suddenly forward and backward. People typically refer to this as whiplash. While whiplash typically impacts the head and neck, it can also cause injury to your shoulder and collarbone.
If passengers do not wear seat belts and an accident occurs, they may be completely ejected. This event can cause serious injury, such as fractures, upon impact against glass, car interiors, and the outside ground. Proper seat belt use avoids ejection.
In a severe collision, the car itself can crumble and push inward. This can crush car occupants, pinning them into the vehicle or between objects. Rapid, intense crushing can cause serious fractures and other injuries.
In an accident, you may feel an immediate instinct to reach forward to protect yourself. This may include bracing with your hands forward on the dash or in front of your face. This instinct may seem protective, but it might further cause injury. Bracing yourself during a car accident can lead to the dashboard's force breaking your arm or wrist.
Your car may contain objects inside that move around during an accident. These objects may fly and directly impact your body, causing fracture or injury.
How are fractures diagnosed after a car accident?
A fracture may not be immediately obvious. Severe cases may present themselves with a fracture in protruding bones, deformity, and extreme pain. In these cases, the fracture is quite conspicuous. However, even dull pain can be a sign that a fracture has occurred.
After an accident, it's very important to get medical help, even if you can't see any injuries right away. A qualified medical professional will be able to consult with you and perform expert assessments.
Doctors use X-ray machines to confirm small or large fractures when diagnosing a broken bone. They may also recommend a CT scan or MRI if the fracture isn’t visible in the X-ray or if they need a more detailed view of surrounding tissue.
How are fractures treated after a car accident?
Once your physician can paint an accurate picture of the fracture, they will make a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Treatment times may vary depending on the severity of the accident, the location of the fracture, and other factors. Typical treatments are below.
Splints or Casts
For mild cases, the doctor will recommend a splint or cast. This keeps your bones immobile as they heal.
If a healthcare professional recommends a splint, you can expect to use it for 3-5 weeks. Casts usually require a longer length of wear, between 6-8 weeks. During this time, your physician will conduct regular checkups to monitor healing.
In some cases, a physician may recommend a non-surgical procedure called closed reduction. Closed reduction involves your physician pushing and pulling your body to realign your bones. This may sound painful; however, physicians provide pain relief to ease any discomfort.
To ease pain and promote comfort, your physician may prescribe a local anesthetic, sedatives, or general anesthesia. After the doctor successfully performs a closed reduction, they may set your bones to heal in a splint or cast.
In a fracture case, medical professionals have several surgical options.
As mentioned above, realignment of your bones may be a necessary procedure after a fracture. You may do well to heal after closed reduction with a splint or cast. However, your physician may recommend surgery to secure your bones in place with internal fixation.
In internal fixation, surgeons insert metal pieces to secure your bone in place so it can heal. These metal pieces may include a rod, plate, screw, pins, and/or wires. Each of these pieces is safe to stay inside your body, and they may stay depending on recommendations from your physician. Surgery will be necessary to remove them.
Similar to internal fixation, external fixation includes metal supports but on the exterior of your body. Screws will be placed on both sides of the fracture and connected through a brace or bracket. This is not a long-term solution, and it is usually recommended before an internal fixation.
Your physician may recommend replacing it with an artificial joint, depending on the fractured joint. This is known as arthroplasty. Artificial joints are made of safe materials to be placed inside your body and mimic the mobility of your real joint.
These artificial joints can be metal or ceramic. In some cases, they may be made of heavy-duty plastic.
In cases of severe displacements or slow healing, bone grafting may be recommended. Bone grafting involves adding additional bone tissue to the fractured bone. Once this additional tissue is added, internal fixation may be conducted to secure all components together.
Do I need an attorney if I have suffered a fracture in a car accident?
Any type of physical trauma, including a fracture, can result in mounting medical bills and lost wages. Even more, the psychological and emotional turmoil can impact your quality of life. When someone else's negligence caused this suffering, you deserve compensation to help you recover.
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Orleans can protect your best interests. Whether you or a loved one suffered a fracture, this is an urgent sign that legal support is critical. An initial consultation will allow you to share the details of the incident and learn your best course of action.
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is waiting too long to find legal representation. However, you need to find legal representation, whether the injury was minor or severe. Do not wait to secure representation. A qualified attorney can fight for the compensation you deserve and handle delicate conversations with insurance companies.
How can Huber Thomas help if I’ve been in an accident?
You shouldn’t face your accident case alone. As an experienced personal injury law firm, Huber Thomas can help you navigate the challenges in the aftermath of an accident. We’re in your corner every step of the way, never settling until we secure the compensation you need to fully recover. Contact us today for a free consultation.