The injuries you suffer after a major accident can be devastating, may rob you of your ability to work, take a toll on you physically and disrupt your life. Having an accident is one thing, not being compensated for the financial loss that accompanies the accident adds insult to injury.
These accidents and injuries can be caused by car collisions, slip and fall accidents, wrecks involving motorcycles and big rig trucks and even a crash on a bicycle. Many of these injuries come up again and again in the lawsuits pursued by attorneys and victims across the country.
Negligence – A Leading Cause In Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases are based on negligence. Negligence in simple terms means that someone in a position of responsibility has acted carelessly and caused an accident and injuries. The seriousness of the injury influences the financial outcome of the case.
An accident injury lawyer provides information to the insurer or the jury into the type of injury, its inherent features and the way it will affect the harmed plaintiff in the future. In a court case, experts will testify on both sides how the plaintiff’s job and their present and future well-being is influenced by the injuries they suffered in the accident. Insurers may launch investigations into the claimant’s injury if there is doubt that the extent of the injury is being falsely presented.
The types of injuries and treatments most commonly seen by a personal injury law firm include:
Head injuries can result in disability or death. There are varying levels of injury, and although serious, some show little if any outward damage to the head initially. Head and brain injuries can be insidious for some, particularly in older individuals. Recovering from a head injury may require long hospital stays, surgery or rehabilitation. The prognosis for a head injury depends on the degree of damage. Some individuals recover with time and efforts at retraining the brain while others never recover. The cost of medical care and long-term care in more severe cases is exorbitant. Types of head injury include:
- Lacerations of the scalp: This causes bleeding, which is often profuse due to the large blood supply to the scalp. Lacerations generally require suturing, and effort must be made to prevent infection.
- Temporal Skull Fractures: A fracture of the temporal area of the skull (the area around the temple) is dangerous since the middle meningeal artery runs within the bone. Since the temporal bone is thin, even a slight blow to this area can cause significant bleeding.
- Basilar Skull Fracture: Basilar skull fractures are those at the base of the skull. In a slip and fall injury, this would involve the individual falling backward and striking his or her head on the floor or pavement. It is identified by the presence of racoon eyes and bruising behind the ears or Battle’s sign. This type of fracture can have an extension into the area of the sinuses. When that happens, bacteria in the mouth and nose can reach the brain. This can result in a serious infection.
- Depressed Skull Fracture: This sort of fracture is one where the skull is pushed in. If the skin over the fracture site is lacerated, the possibility of infection is high as with any other open fracture. On the other hand, if the skin is not broken, the possibility that infection would reach the brain is negligible.
- Skull Fractures: Skull fracture are described by their location.
- Bleeding in the Brain: Bleeding is described by whether it occurs within the brain or within the space between the fibrous layers surrounding the brain or meninges. Bleeding within the skull can cause pressure on the brain. Added swelling at the site of the bleed can increase the pressure.
- Subdural Hematoma: The dura is one of the linings of the brain. When force is applied to the head, the veins that bridge the subdural space can tear and bleed. This can cause a pool of blood to form, putting pressure on the brain. In acute situations, the blood can accumulate quickly, and the accompanying pressure can cause symptoms of headache, slurred speech, confusion, nausea and vomiting, coma and death. Older individuals, alcoholics and those on blood thinners are at a high risk, although this can happen to anyone. Smaller subdurals may not cause symptoms or need medical intervention, however, the individual should be observed for developing symptoms. Larger subdurals generally need immediate surgery.
- Epidural Hematoma: This occurs when the blood forms outside the dural space between the skull and the brain. This is a small space and the buildup of blood can cause significant pressure on the brain. It is often seen when the temporal bone is traumatized. The area within the temporal bone, which is thin, is in close proximity to the middle meningeal artery, which runs under it. If the artery tears, bleeding can occur. Generally, removing the blood and thus relieving the pressure on the brain is often necessary with anything larger than a small tear. By removing the pressure before the individual slips into a coma, their prognosis or outcome is greatly increased.
- Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: In this type of bleed, the blood builds up below the arachnoid layer of the meninges, which lies directly above the brain. It is in this area that the cerebrospinal fluid flows. Symptoms are vomiting, stiff neck and headache. This must be met with immediate medical intervention. It can cause paralysis, coma and death.
- Cerebral Contusion: This is a bruise and can cause bleeding in the brain. It is a result of 20-30 percent of brain injuries. The trauma can cause direct damage to the brain. The swelling also causes pressure on the brain. If the pressure is too great, the portion of the skull above that area may be removed and replaced once the swelling dissipates.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury: In this injury, the axons are sheared or torn. Since the axons are the highway that carries electrical impulses from one nerve cell to another, this can be devastating. Damage occurs in broad areas of brain white matter, making surgical repair undoable. Accelerative/decelerative forces can cause this as can other types of injuries that cause the brain to rotate within the skull’s housing. Some victims recover and many do not.
- Concussion: This injury is usually related to a mild impact or blow to the head. The chief symptoms are confusion, headache, loss of memory, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, fatigue and sleepiness. While there is no specific treatment, doctors usually recommend rest and a reduction of activities such as video games. Concussions are most often seen in individuals under 40.
- Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury: This represent a bruise that happens on both sides of the brain due to the brain continuing to move after impact, hitting the skull in the opposing side of the head. The bruise on the original site of impact is called the coup injury while the injury on the opposite side of the head is referred to as the contrecoup injury.
When we fall forward with our arms full, we will in all likelihood hit our face. This type of trauma is particularly disturbing both from an aesthetic sense and the time it takes to heal. Facial trauma includes:
- Facial Trauma: This injury can cause broken bones of the face such as the jaw bone, eye sockets or cheek bones. It is often caused by a forward fall without bracing oneself. Broken facial bones often require surgery. If the bones are displaced, it is necessary to hold them together with wires while they heal. Likewise, a broken jaw is often wired shut while the fracture heals.
- Dental Trauma: Dental injury is also possible in this type of fall. Broken or lost teeth require dental services, which can be costly.
Any bone in the body is subject to fracture. In slip and fall injuries, aside from skull fracture, common fractures are:
- Arm and Wrist Fracture: This occurs due to the outstretched arm movement many individuals automatically use to break their fall. A Colles’ Fracture is one type of fracture that is often seen among this group. It involves a break in the part of the radius ( the arm bone on the side of thumb) closest to the wrist within one inch from the end of the radius. This causes a movement of the wrist and hand toward the radial bone. If the bone is not fragmented, casting is used to heal the break. However, if the fracture is displaced, surgery is necessary, and the bones may be pinned to restore normal function.
- Hip Fracture: This is one of the most serious fractures. It involves a break in the femur, which is the thigh bone. This sort of fracture has significant consequences, limits mobility and usually requires hospitalization and surgery followed by rehabilitative therapy. It may lead to hip replacement surgery.
These are common injuries with trip, slip and fall accidents, particularly when the individual uses his or her outstretched arms to break the fall.
- Dislocated Shoulder: The shoulder may be dislocated with or without fracture. Twenty-five percent of shoulder dislocations are associated with a concomitant fracture. The head of the arm bone or humerus sits in a shallow cup-like structure called the glenoid fossa, which is the end of the shoulder blade. A fibrous home for the humerus is called the labrum, forming a nest for the humerus. Rotator cuff tendons help hold the joint in place as do other tendons.
Dislocation occurs when the humerus is torn from it’s nest or socket in the glenoid fossa. Most dislocations make the humerus move out in front of the joint.
- Anterior Shoulder Dislocation is common when a person falls forward with his or her arms outstretched. When this happens the shoulder should not be allowed to move and ice applied. Going to the ER immediately is necessary. Usually, a doctor can put the shoulder back in place, but on occasion, muscle relaxants are needed or anesthesia is given.
- Rotator Cuff Injury: There are several muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder. Sometimes these muscles and tendons are torn. This may respond to conservative therapy such as rest and physical therapy or cortisone injections. If the tear is large, surgery may be needed.
- Brachial Plexus Injury: The nerves of the brachial plexus start in the neck and affect the movement of the arm and hand since the nerves that innervate them start in the brachial plexus. Injury causes movement difficulties of the hand and arm.
- Biceps Tendon Tear: The biceps tendon attaches to the bones in the elbow and shoulder. A fall on outstretched arms can tear the biceps tendon. This causes pain during arm rotation as well as weakness in the arm. Tears can be partial or complete, and even a partial tear can lead to a full tear. A tear in the biceps tendon can cause shoulder injury. It is usually diagnosed by physical exam and MRI. Associated conditions include: tendinitis and impingement. Symptoms include: a popping sound, pain in the upper arm and tendon cramping with use. Conservative therapies such as ice and rest are usually indicated. However, cramping may necessitate surgery.
- Frozen Shoulder: This condition can occur after injury as the tissues become stiff, resulting in the formation of scar tissue and limited shoulder movement. Pain is a major component. Cortisone injections can be used to reduce the inflammation in the shoulder joint that builds in response to an injury. The corticosteroids are also thought to prevent tissue destruction by inhibiting enzymes the body uses to clean up cellular debris but also destroys normal cells. If coanti-inflammatorieses such as ice, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections do not work, surgery may be needed.
During a slip, trip and fall accident, many individuals experience a twisting of the knee or fall directly on it. This can cause serious damage to the knee from injuries that include:
- Patellar Fracture: This small bone in the front of knee, also called the kneecap, can be fractured during a fall directly on the knee. It protects both the thigh bone or femur as well as the shinbone or tibia and connects the tendons from the thigh to the tibia with the patellar tendon. The underside of the patella and the top side of the femur have articular cartilage, a substance that lets the bones glide easily over each other. There are several ways the patella can fracture including:
- Stable Fracture: This is one where the bone pieces remain approximated with each other. There may be a slight gap between the pieces or they may touch. Because of this, the bones will heal with casting.
- Displaced Fracture: This is a fracture where the two ends of the patella are not approximated and are separated. The articular cartilage is most likely disturbed also. Surgery is usually needed to return the pieces to their former placement.
- Comminuted Fracture: Here the patellar is broken into three or more segments. The pieces may approximate each other or not. Surgery is usually needed.
- Open Fracture: A fracture where the bones protrude through the skin. This is rare with a slip and fall accident and is more commonly found in an automobile accident.
- Treatment: If the patella fracture is stable, casting may allow the fragments to heal. Weight bearing is not always allowed, and it may be necessary to stay off the leg for six to eight weeks. If the fracture is displaced or comminuted, surgery is required.
- Distal Femur Fracture: This occurs when the thigh bone is broken at its end near the knee cap. It happens most often in older individuals due to a fall. The bone may break into two or more pieces, and casting is hard to do since the muscles of the thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings) contract. This causes the pieces of the distal femur to pull apart, refusing to heal with a cast. Sometimes skeletal traction may allow the bones to heal, and if the break is nondisplaced casting may work, however, surgery is commonly used for this type of fracture. This surgery can be complex in some cases.
- Proximal Tibia Fractures: This occurs when the portion of the tibia nearest the knee is broken. Soft tissue and blood vessel injury are common. Older individuals can experience this sort of fracture when they fall. There is pain when standing on the leg, and if the blood vessels are harmed, the person’s foot may appear very pale. The foot may also be numb. Surgery is often required with this injury.
- Meniscal Injuries: The menisci are two disk-shaped pieces of cartilage, one of which lays on the inner part of the knee (medial) and outer part (lateral) and are used to cushion the interaction between the thighbone (femur) and the leg bone (tibia). They also help to stabilize the knee. Injuries (tears) happen with twisting motion in the knee. This causes pain, swelling, knee locking or failure to move the knee properly. Depending on where the meniscus is torn, conservative treatment or surgery can be used. Arthroscopy (procedure where an instrument with a camera and through which surgical tools can be inserted is placed within the knee through a portal) is used to either remove the meniscus or suture it back together. If removed, it can be partially removed (partial meniscectomy) or a total removal of the meniscus (total meniscectomy) with the insertion of a faux disk.
- Ligament Tears: There are four ligaments around the knee: The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments. The collateral ligaments keep the sideways movement of the knee stable while the cruciate ligaments prevent the movement of the tibia (shin bone) away from the femur or thigh bone thus controlling the forward and backward movement of the knee. When the ligaments are injured, they are graded as sprains, starting with a grade one sprain (mild injury) to a grade three (total tear). The ligaments, depending on the extent of injury, can be sutured back together, or a reconstruction of the ligament can be done. Minor injury to ligaments may respond to the use of a brace.
- Tendon Tears: There are two main tendons. The quadriceps tendon, which inserts above the patella, and the patellar tendon, which inserts below the patella. The patellar (kneecap) tendon goes from the patella to the tibia or leg bone, attaching the two. The quadriceps tendon attaches the quadriceps to the patella. Together, both tendons enable the knee to be straightened. Patellar tendon tears are commonly the result of a fall directly on the knee and result in weakening of the tendon. The area may have an indent marking the spot where the tear occurred. Movement of the patella into the thigh may happen since it lost its anchor, or the person may experience loss of control over the knee. If the tear is small, a brace and immobilizing the knee may help. Cortisone injections may be used to reduce inflammation and prevent tissue destruction. If not, surgical repair of the tendon is done.
Spinal Cord Injury can cause:
- Tetraplegia: This affects all four limbs and may involve bladder and bowel function loss.
- Paraplegia: This involves sensory and motor impairment of the legs.
- Triplegia: Affects one arm and both legs. It commonly results from an incomplete spinal cord injury.
- Cervical Level Damage: This can result in the loss of breathing without assistance and full body paralysis.
- Thoracic Level Damage: This can affect muscles in the chest, mid back and abdomen. Movement in the legs is affected, resulting in paraplegia. Little control of bladder or bowels.
- Lumbar Level Damage: Injury at this level may result in loss of control of the lower extremities. Voluntary bowel and bladder function is affected.
- Herniated Disks: The spinal column is made up of vertebrae, and the vertebrae are separated by the rubbery, soft disks, They also function as shock absorbers. The disks help the back move backward or forward. Disks have a tough, outer portion that is made up of cartilage and a gel-like substance on the inside. A ruptured disk is one where the gel-like substance pushes out of its usual position and moves toward the spinal canal, ultimately putting pressure on spinal nerves. This culminates in numbness, weakness and pain.
Two prime areas where this occurs are in the neck (cervical spine) and the low back or lumbar area. Often corticosteroids are injected into the epidural space or spinal canal. The injections are capable of decreasing both the inflammation and swelling that causes pressure on the spinal nerves.
- Lumbar Herniated Disks: This occurs in the low back and can result in sciatica as the spinal nerve is irritated by the protrusion. It causes pain in the lumbar area and numbness and tingling in the leg and foot. If surgery is needed, a microdiskectomy is performed. This removes the protruding part of the disk to relieve pressure on the nerves.
- Cervical Herniated Disks: There are seven vertebrae in this section of the spinal column. Herniation can occur from C1 to C7. In this situation, a full diskectomy is done usually from the front of the neck. The disk is replaced with grafted bone or an implant to maintain cervical stability. This is called fusion surgery. Complications such as damage to the spinal nerves may occur.
- Spinal Cord Injury: When the spinal cord itself is injured in an accident, the victim may be paralysed with movement curtailed to varying degrees. The extent of the paralysis is related to the level at which the cord is damaged. The spinal cord is 45 cm long and runs from the bottom of the brain to the upper two lumbar or low back vertebrae. Beyond that, spinal roots and their coverings fill the remainder of the spinal canal. Spinal cord injury can be complete or incomplete.
- Complete spinal cord injuries are those where the spinal cord is completely severed, resulting in no function below that level. On occasion, some function may be recovered with physical therapy.
- Incomplete spinal cord injury is one where the spinal cord is not completely severed. In such cases, the person may retain some function. It can affect the anterior part of the spinal cord, resulting in damage to both sensory and motor function. Central spinal cord injury damages primarily motor function and results in loss of fine movement and paralysis of the arms. Bladder and bowel control is usually affected.
Amputation of Limbs
Accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses can all lead to injury where an amputation has occurred or must be performed via surgery. Other common amputation injuries of fingers or toes can occur from construction work site hazards, escalators and elevators, explosive devices like fireworks, and a lack of surgical cleanliness leading to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Conversion of a Degenerative Condition
Some individuals who suffer a slip and fall injury have a nonsymptomatic degenerative condition. The trauma from the slip and fall causes the nonsymptomatic condition to become symptomatic. In such cases, the individual experiences both pain and loss of flexibility due to the accident and the conversion. Once converted, such conditions can persist. This may involve the use of anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDs or cortisone.
Linking Injuries to the Accident
The common list of injuries due to accidents caused by negligence is long. Remember, you must show that the injury was caused by the accident and that the accident occurred due to the negligence of a person in control of a vehicle or property.
Make sure you seek emergency medical care or visit your doctor as soon after the accident as possible. Your doctor will identify injuries and be able to start you on the road to recovery. If you wait, the injury may worsen, and treatment will be more difficult. Be sure to tell your doctor that the injury was due to an accident, and fully describe what happened.
At the end of your visit, obtain a copy of the medical records. If you are taken to the ER by ambulance, obtain a copy of the transfer report filed by the ambulance team. They will fully describe how you were in the initial moments after an accident.