Broken bones are an extremely common and yet fairly serious car accident injury. Bones are tough and can absorb a certain amount of impact, but they are not indestructible, and car accidents typically involve forces strong enough to break a bone.
Broken bones are sometimes referred to as fractured bones. Although some people assume that a “fracture” is different from a “break,” it is simply a more precise medical term for a broken bone. The two things are essentially the same, and so you should not get confused when you hear people talking about fractures.
Just about any bone in the body can be affected by a car accident. However, some of the more common fractures resulting from car accidents involve the bones in the arms and legs, ribs, skull, hip, pelvis, and spine.
Nor do broken bones only occur in car accidents. Just about any type of accident, including accidents involving other types of heavy equipment, slip and fall accidents in stores, or even intentional physical assaults, can result in a broken bone. If your injury was caused by another party’s negligence or other misconduct, then they may be held liable for your injury.
Bone fractures are painful, and even the most minor fractures typically take several weeks to heal. They usually need special medical attention, including some form of immobilization while the bone heals.
Types of Fractures
There are a few different types of bone fractures, some more severe than others.
In an incomplete fracture, a bone cracks, but does not break in two pieces. The opposite is known as a complete fracture, in which the bone does break all the way through. Complete fractures tend to be more serious than incomplete fractures.
In a non-displaced fracture, the bone is broken in two (i.e. a complete fracture), but the pieces are lined up in the same positions that they would be in if the bone had not been broken. In a displaced fracture, however, the pieces of the bone are not aligned. Displaced fractures tend to be more serious than non-displaced fractures.
In a closed fracture, the bone may have been seriously damaged, but the skin above the bone is intact. In an open or compound fracture, however, the broken bone has pierced the skin and is poking out of the body. As you might imagine, compound fractures are more serious than closed ones.
Aside from these, there are a few other types of bone fractures which may occur. For instance, sometimes the bone breaks into more than two pieces. This is known as a comminuted fracture, and tends to be one of the more serious types.
In addition, children’s bones may have special complications, such as greenstick fractures (in which the bone is bent) and growth plate fractures, which may damage the bone’s eventual growth.
When a bone fracture occurs, in most cases it will be immediately obvious. Most fractures are extremely painful.
Although the pain of a broken bone can be severe, this is ultimately a good thing, because it lets you know that something is wrong and that you should see a doctor. Immediate medical attention after a fracture greatly increases your chances of optimal healing.
In addition to pain, you may notice bruising, swelling, or tenderness in the area of the fracture, or the area may be crooked, deformed, or bent at an odd angle. If the fracture was a compound fracture, you will likely be able to see the broken bone itself. You may feel tired or weak, or even lose consciousness.
Not all broken bones are obvious, however, and it occasionally happens that a person misses a fracture for a very long time. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you will likely experience an adrenaline rush, which may hide the pain of the fracture. And sometimes, a fracture may be mistaken for a sprain.
That is why, if you think you may have fractured a bone, you should see a doctor as soon as possible! Your doctor will be able to examine your bone and take x-rays to determine whether or not is broken.
A broken bone almost always requires some form of medical attention, and sometimes this medical attention can be quite extensive.
Your doctor will most likely want to immobilize the broken bone while it heals. Bones may be immobilized by a splint, cast, or other such device. If the bone is displaced or at risk of displacement, then you may also get a surgery to hold it in place with plates or screws. After the bone has healed, this hardware can sometimes be removed.
During the early phase of the bone healing process, your doctor will likely also prescribe you medications to handle the pain.
Bone healing takes 6-12 weeks in most cases, and can take longer. However, you can speed the process up somewhat by eating healthily, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and exercising when possible, so long as this does not put any pressure on the fracture itself.
After your cast or splint comes off, you will likely need some physical therapy to get the injured part of your body back up to speed. This is partly as a result of the bone fracture itself, and partly as a result of the fact that, after being immobilized for several weeks, the muscles in the injured part of your body will be a lot weaker than they previously had been. (Of course, even with this drawback, immobilization is absolutely necessary for the bone to heal.)
Sometimes, although fortunately not often, a fracture fails to heal. This is known as a nonunion. Nonunions can sometimes be fixed, but in a few cases, the fracture will never fully repair itself. This can happen to anyone, but the elderly are at much greater risk, as are smokers and people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes.
Even in cases where a bone does not fully heal, however, there are a variety of medical treatments that can reduce pain, increase mobility, and help the sufferer return, as much as possible, to normal.
Certain types of bone fractures also have their own complications. If a skull fracture occurs, then the sufferer is at high risk for a traumatic brain injury. Likewise, if a fracture of the spine occurs, then the sufferer is at a high risk for spinal cord injury, which may lead to partial or complete paralysis.
Both of these can be serious: brain injury can lead to permanent cognitive impairment, while spinal cord injury can lead to partial or complete paralysis. However, these injuries are not the same thing as a fracture, but are injuries in their own right. Not all fractures of the skull or spine lead to brain or spinal cord injury, and these two problems can occur in other ways as well.
When to Talk to a Lawyer
Although relatively common, bone fractures are still a very serious injury. Even though you will most likely heal fully, you will almost certainly suffer a lot of pain and inconvenience in the short to medium term, and perhaps into the long term as well. This can be difficult, especially on top of dealing with the existent stress of a car or motor vehicle accident.
With the right treatment, most bone fractures have a very good prognosis. However, the best treatment can be expensive, and if you were injured as a result of another party’s negligence, then you have every right to expect that the negligent party’s insurance will pay you damages for the injury which was caused you.
If you have suffered a broken bone, whether in a car accident or any other type of accident, then you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. They will bear the burden of dealing with your case and give you the peace of mind that you need to focus on healing, all while fighting for you to receive the maximum possible amount of damages so that you can get the best treatment possible.