“I was in an automobile accident and have a broken arm. I am missing work… what do I do?”
If you or a loved one were involved in an automobile accident and suffered an injury to your arm or leg, first and foremost you should seek medical attention immediately for proper diagnosis, treatment and healing.
Arm and leg injuries are often serious in the way they impact an accident victim’s life, often making it difficult to work, accomplish basic everyday activities or enjoy hobbies. What’s more, these injuries can take weeks or even months to fully recover, which causes great personal and financial hardship on the accident victims.
For these reasons and more, it’s important you consult with an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney if you or a loved one suffered an arm or leg injury in a serious crash.
Broken bones and other common accident-related limb injuries
Several types of injuries to a person’s appendages can occur in an automobile accident.
For example, injuries to the hand, wrist and arm are common in serious accidents because most people have at least one hand gripping the steering wheel at the time of the accident. Your extremities can also be injured when the airbags are deployed. Your extremities may be injured due to torn ligaments, dislocated joints and damaged tendons.
But undoubtedly, one of the most serious injuries to your limbs is broken bones.
Broken bones can happen when your body violently comes into contact with something inside or outside of the vehicle during a collision. The force of 2 vehicles smashing into each other—or a single moving vehicle hitting a stationary object—can create a bone-shattering shock. Bone breaks can be caused when the force of the accident tosses your body forward or backward in a violent way, causing your limbs and bones to twist or bend unnaturally.
A broken bone is the result of direct trauma. Common areas of impact are the dashboard, steering wheel, side door or door handle, and the side window of the vehicle. An automobile accident causes an extreme force inside the vehicle.
Types of arm fractures caused by auto accidents
- Humerus fracture. A crack or break in the upper arm, this injury is usually caused when you attempt to brace yourself against the steering wheel or the dash just before or during a collision. Complications of humerus fractures could include adhesive capsulitis, avascular necrosis of the humeral head, heterotopic bone formation, radial nerve palsy, and malunion and various deformity of the elbow.
- Radius or ulna fracture. A crack or break in the bones of the forearm, this type of fracture is usually caused if your arms were outstretched when the force of the impact occurred. Other than a car accident, these fractures commonly occur when you fall on an outstretched arm. Complications of radial fractures could be tendon irritation and rupture, nerve injury, malunion, nonunion, pain syndromes, loss of reduction and post-traumatic arthritis.
- Elbow fracture. Elbow fractures are extremely painful. Different types of elbow fractures include:
- Distal humerus fracture. A crack or break at the elbow joint, this type of elbow injury is caused by receiving a direct hit to the elbow, such as a dashboard or car door. Complications of a fractured distal humerus can be a disabling condition to the joint and cartilage that leads to elbow stiffness and arthritis, as well as posterolateral rotatory instability, ulnar nerve palsy, weakness, deformity and increased risk of lateral condylar fractures due to the malunion.
- Supracondylar fracture. An upper arm crack or break slightly above the elbow, this type of elbow fracture is also caused by a direct hit to the elbow. Early complications of a supracondylar fracture include vascular injury, nerve injury, and compartment syndrome. Late complications include malunion and stiffness.
- Olecranon fracture. This area of the elbow is commonly referred to as the “funny bone” and is located at the tip of the elbow. A direct blow to this bone could cause it to fracture. Complications of an olecranon fracture could be a nonunion, hardware failure, infection, ulnar neuritis, heterotopic bone formation and elbow stiffness.
- Condylar fracture. A fracture to the elbow knob, this type of injury is again frequently caused by a direct blow. Complications of this injury, if it is not properly treated, could lead to nerve damage.
Types of leg fractures caused by auto accidents
The bones in the leg that are most commonly broken in auto accidents are the:
- Femur, or thigh bone (the largest bone)
- Tibia (the lower bone in the front portion of your leg)
- Fibula (the bone that runs parallel with the tibia in the back part of your leg, or calf area)
- Metatarsals (the bones in your foot)
Symptoms of a broken arm or leg
Some of the most common symptoms of a broken arm or leg include:
- Tenderness and bruising
- Intense pain and increased pain with movement
- Evident deformity when compared to the other limb
- Open wound (either from the accident or from the bone puncturing the skin)
- Inability to move the limb or walk
- Decreased sensation in the area
Treatment of a fractured bone or injured limb
In general, most doctors, paramedics and other healthcare professionals take the following steps to help treat a person who has broken their arm or leg:
- Stabilize the limb
- Apply ice
- Apply a splint or partial cast
- Prescribe pain medication
In severe cases, the fracture may require hospitalization if:
- There are severe lacerations
- The bone has broken through the skin
- Nerve damage is involved
- Blood vessel damage is involved
- There are complicated fractures that involve the joints, multiple breaks or cannot be stabilized in the emergency room
Restricting the movement of a broken bone in your injured limb is critical for proper healing. The use of a splint or cast is typically used for immobilization. Crutches, a walker, or a cane may be used to keep weight off the affected body part for 6 to 8 weeks or longer, during which medication can be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
Surgery may be needed to implant internal fixation devices, such as plates, rods and screws. In some cases, your doctor may recommend an external fixation device to frame outside your limb that is attached to the bone with pins. Depending on the severity of the bone break, you may need to be placed in a rehabilitation facility for a time. This is usually the case of a hip, pelvis or femur fracture. Physical therapy may be necessary, as may occupational therapy.
Breaks to any of these bones are serious. Complications of a fractured arm or leg can cause further injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Surgical complications such as infection, injury to the nerves and blood vessels, blood clots and fat embolism may also arise. Breaks to the femur, in particular, can be life-threatening as it is one of the largest and strongest bones in your body.
Long term symptoms after a fracture include muscle weakness, limited standing and walking, gait abnormalities, some intermittent pain, and inability to return to pre-injury work.
Torn ligaments, dislocated joints and damaged tendons
What is a torn ligament?
It is a tear or strain in a ligament when a joint is overstretched or twisted. Ligaments can have incomplete or total tears. An incomplete tear will feel like a severe strain, but a total tear can be as painful as a broken bone.
A torn ligament will cause pain, inflammation, bruising and can often cause instability. If you have a torn ligament in your ankle, for instance, you could have difficulty walking. Recovery can take several weeks and should be directed by a physician. A torn ligament is common in the knee, ankle, wrist and thumb—body parts that can all be injured in an automobile accident.
What is a dislocated joint?
A dislocated joint is an injury in which the bones of a joint are knocked out of place due to force. Joints can be dislocated from an injury from a fall, auto accident, or participation in sports. This is a painful injury in which you are temporarily deformed and immobilized your joint. The dislocation is generally caused by trauma.
Treatment for a joint dislocation is medication, manipulation and rest or surgery. Dislocations are very painful and cause the affected joint area to be unsteady or immobile. They can also cause strain or tear in the surrounding muscles, nerves and tendons.
Dislocations often affect the finger, shoulder, knee, elbow, hip and jaw. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability of the joint, loss of ability to move the joint and a visibly deformed joint.
What are damaged tendons?
Tendons are soft, band-like tissues that connect muscles to bone. When the muscles contract, the tendons pull the bones and cause the joints to move. When the tendon is damaged, movement may be limited.
A damaged tendon may feel weak or painful. Common areas that suffer tendon damage are the heel and elbow. Tendon damage causes pain, stiffness, and loss of strength. The area may be tender, red, warm or swollen if there is inflammation. Treatment is usually rest, ice packs, pain relievers and range of motion exercises.
Many of these injuries have similar symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible so that you will have the right diagnosis and receive proper treatment.
Knee bursitis, torn meniscus, ACL injury
Your knee is a very vulnerable part of your leg. It has cushion-like sacs called “bursae” that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles. Striking your knee on the dash during a collision can happen, which might damage the bursae. The bursae can become inflamed, which causes pain, swelling and problems moving your knee.
A torn meniscus is when the cartilage in the knee is twisted too much. This can cause tearing, which causes swelling, pain and stiffness in the knee.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects your femur to your tibia and provides stability and flexibility to your knee joint. An ACL injury causes pain, swelling, weakness and popping in the knee joint. Many times injuries to your ACL require surgery.
Another common injury to knees and legs during a crash is ligament damage, which causes pinching or severing of nerves, tendons or muscles in the legs. Lacerations can also occur. In severe accidents, a limb may even be severed or later removed (amputated) to prevent further bodily damage or death.
Injured in an accident? Get answers from our Atlanta injury attorneys
Injuries to your limbs are critical. Our arms and legs are essential to everyday activities. We use our arms to pick up items, drive vehicles, hug our loved ones and much more. We use our legs to get us from one place to another and move around.
Serious arm and leg injuries can prevent you from working or enjoying hobbies, exercise and sports. These injuries are very painful and can be life-altering, either temporarily or permanently. The treatment can be intensive, lengthy, time-consuming and extremely expensive. If treatment is not rendered immediately, the results can be catastrophic and permanent.
If you or a loved one suffered arm and/or leg injuries following a crash, first seek immediate medical attention. Then, seek the help of a reputable, knowledgeable attorney at Scholle Law to represent your best interests. We can help convey to the insurance company the pain, inconvenience and effects on your life that the injuries have caused.