After a car accident, one of the most frightening symptoms is chest pain. Since it can be a serious symptom, it is necessary to have it evaluated by a medical professional. Initial emergency responders are trained to check for traumatic injuries such as fractures, head injuries and others. Chest and sternum pain, particularly if not immediately apparent or severe, can easily be overlooked. In addition, it might not appear for several hours or days after the crash. After this, the pain may begin to escalate in terms of severity. Let’s look at the causes of chest/sternum pain after an accident and what needs to be done.
Three Common Causes of Chest Pain After a Car Accident
There are several causes of chest pain after a car accident that are most frequently seen.
Ribs protect the lungs and heart from damage. They are strong bones and held in place by muscle. One of the common causes of a fractured rib is a motor vehicle accident. The majority of broken ribs are those that are cracked. In such injuries, conservative measures are taken to relieve pain, and the injury generally heals within one or two months.
Sometimes, the rib is broken into jagged pieces. These pieces are capable of damaging internal organs such as the lungs. Some symptoms of a broken rib are pain with pressure, worsening pain with deep respiration or when the body is twisted.
Complications of a broken rib include:
- Blood vessel damage: If one of the top three ribs is fractured, it can cause serious damage to the aorta or other main blood vessels in the area.
- Punctured lung: A jagged, fractured rib can puncture the lung and cause it to collapse. This is an immediate medical emergency.
- Other organ damage: Although more flexible and rarely broken, in the two lower ribs, a jagged fracture can damage the liver, spleen or kidneys.
Predisposing reasons a rib can fracture are usually linked to osteoporosis or cancer that has spread to the ribs. These conditions weaken the bone and make it more likely a fracture will occur.
The ribs can also be bruised. This usually heals within a few weeks. It is not life-threatening but can be painful.
The sternum is the large flat bony plate where the ribs meet via cartilage. It protects the lungs, blood vessels and the heart. It can also be bruised by the impact of a car accident, most noticeably by the steering wheel, dash or chest restraints. Symptoms of a bruised sternum include discoloration of the overlying skin, stiffness, swelling and tenderness to touch.
Doctors will diagnose it by physical examination. An X-ray might be done to make sure the sternum is not fractured. A bruised sternum will generally heal without intervention in two to four weeks. Ice packs, anti-inflammatory medications and refraining from heavy lifting are indicated.
The most common cause of sternal fractures is trauma to the chest. Some people are more likely to develop a sternal fracture such as those with curvature of the spine (kyphosis) or osteoporosis. Older individuals, due to weakened bones, can also develop a sternal fracture. The consistent use of steroids also makes one more prone to such fractures.
- Symptoms include pain with breathing, particularly a deep breath, laughing or coughing. Movement of the arms may also cause pain since the muscles are attached to the sternum. Lifting heavy objects can cause discomfort and should be avoided until the injury heals.
- A lateral X-ray or CT scan can be used to diagnose a fractured sternum. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat a sternal fracture. If the bone is displaced, surgery may be needed. Repeat radiographs or CT scans are done to monitor healing progress.
- Recovery usually takes several months and may be longer if surgery is needed. It is important to take deep breaths several times a day after leaving the hospital. This helps reduce the chance of a chest infection. If you develop a fever or difficulty breathing, it is crucial to get in touch with your physician. Don’t take antitussive medications that reduce coughing. It is best to support the chest when coughing. If the pain is still severe after two months, the injury needs to be reevaluated by a doctor.
- If stiffness develops in the arms, spine and shoulders after recovery, physical therapy may help.
Legal Help After a Chest injury
If you’ve been in a car accident and suffer chest trauma, you may find yourself besieged by medical bills, lost wages and periods of rehabilitation due to broken ribs or injury to the sternum. In some cases, the major blood vessels or lungs may be injured. This is all the more unsettling if the accident was not your fault. It is wrong that you should pay for someone else’s mistake. This is the reason many consult a car accident lawyer.
Hiring a Chest Injury Attorney
Some of the things a lawyer will do to help you achieve justice and fair compensation include:
- Investigate the accident: This means going to the site of the accident to obtain information that can prove the other driver was at fault. Police records are generally reviewed, and witness statements can be employed to build a strong case against the negligent driver.
- Deal with insurance companies: Your lawyer will stand in your place and answer insurance company questions. He or she will also deal with appraisers, who are an integral part of the insurer’s information gathering protocol.
- Obtain expert opinion: An attorney will use medical experts to go over the hospital records as well as those from your physician to determine the extent of the injury.
- Negotiating with the insurance company: Your lawyer will begin negotiating with the insurance company to reach a favorable settlement. If the insurer will not agree to provide the compensation you deserve, the attorney will take the case to civil court.
- Your lawyer will ensure that you receive monetary compensation as soon as possible: If there is a delay in receiving a settlement check, your attorney will intercede.
If you need assistance after a car accident involving a chest injury, the Law Offices of David Azizi can provide you with a free review of your important claim. To get started, contact us online or call (800) 991-5292.