More than three million people are injured in car accidents every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Less serious injuries, such as bruises and cuts, are not always concerning; however, severe injuries, such as whiplash, broken bones, and brain injuries, can be traumatic and life changing. These common car accident injuries are often the ones that come to mind when someone thinks about auto accidents, but car wrecks can also lead to leg injuries. In fact, the NHTSA also reports that 37 percent of all head-on collisions cause leg injuries.
Why are Legs Vulnerable in Car Crashes?
When drivers and passengers are in vehicles, their lower legs are placed in a comparatively small section of the floor. If a crash occurs, the area that surrounds the legs can collapse. A collision could cause debris to crush and squeeze a person’s limbs, knees, feet, and ankles. There are various types of leg injuries that occur in car accidents. Some injuries are more common include:
- Dislocation of the leg and hip bones: When a bone comes out of its joint, it becomes dislocated. Though the injury may not be visible to the naked eye, the victim will likely experience strong pain and will not be able to move it. To diagnose this, a physician will order an MRI and an X-ray to detect damage. Treatment may include reduction, restriction of movement, or surgery. Short-term or long-term rehabilitation may also be prescribed.
- Deep vein thrombosis: This is another term for a blood clot that is lodged deep within the body. Leg trauma or a subsequent surgery after an accident can cause blood clots in the legs. Symptoms include swelling, discoloration, and pain.
- Fractured or broken hip bones: Hip bones can be fractured or broken in car accidents and can occur at the upper section of the thigh bone, or femur. This bone is the strongest and longest bone in the body and extends from the hip to the knee. When damaged, there is the possibility for a long, difficult recovery. This large bone takes long to heal, and the hip bones are integral to the body’s movement and balance. Surgeries to repair these breaks can be complicated, involving plates and screws. In some cases, complete hip replacements are needed.
- Knee injuries: These are seen more often in head-on collisions when the kneecap, or patella, is dislocated, broken, or shattered. A torn meniscus is another type of knee injury seen in car accidents, when the knee cartilage that cushions the bone is torn by a forceful rotation or twist of the patella.
Broken and dislocated kneecaps are also treated by immobilization, but surgery may be required, especially if the bone is shattered. A torn meniscus may be hard to detect, but it presents stiffness, swelling, pain, and difficulty extending the knee. Treatment for a torn meniscus includes pain relievers, ice, and physical therapy; surgery may be needed in some cases. Chronic pain, weakness, and post-traumatic arthritis are all long-term consequences of knee injuries.
- Broken leg bones: In addition to the femur, the legs contain two of the body’s other longest bones, the fibula and tibia. These can stress fracture, snap in two parts, or shatter. In some cases, a bone will be sticking out through the skin after the accident; this is an open fracture. Broken legs can also take long to heal. Broken bones are identified through x-rays, although stress fractures can be harder to diagnose properly. Treatment varies and usually takes between six to eight weeks or more. Patients may have wires, rods, pins, or splints placed before a cast is put on.
- Lacerations: Soft tissue or skin injuries on legs can be shallow and quickly heal or can cut down to the bone. Serious lacerations take much longer to heal and can affect a victim’s ability to stand, walk, sit, or carry out the activities of daily life. Some require sutures, and there is the added risk of scarring or infection.
- Strains and tears: Tendon, ligament, muscle strains, and tears can be very painful and lead to long-term problems. Physicians generally diagnose these through physical exams. Patients may require a brace or crutches until the area is healed.
- Back injuries: Hip and leg pain following a car accident could be secondary to a back injury. When the back is injured, it can cause spine misalignment that affects the legs. Something as innocuous as a back sprain can cause someone to experience shooting pain down their hips and legs. Medication may help, but not in all cases.
Is Leg Pain Serious?
Car accident victims may not think that their subsequent leg pain was caused by the crash; they may also not take it as seriously as they should. Many types of accident injuries do not show up until some time has passed. In some situations, a victim may have other injuries that temporarily overshadow his or her leg injury. Warning signs of leg injuries include consistent pain, redness, and swelling. Leg pain can be indicative of other injuries besides broken bones and soft tissue damage. It can be symptomatic of a herniated disc in the back, sciatica, or another condition. This is why a thorough check-up from a medical professional after a car accident is essential.
How Can I Prove Negligence?
If a leg injury from a motor vehicle accident was caused by another person’s negligence, the victim may wish to take legal action. In order to prove negligence, a car accident victim must show:
- Proof of duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant was required uphold a reasonable standard of care.
- Breach of duty: It must also be proven that the negligent party breached that duty of care.
- Cause: A plaintiff must prove that the negligent party’s actions directly caused his or her injuries.
- Proximate cause: This applies to whether the defendant should have known that his or her actions would have caused the accident.
How Can I Build a Case?
Since leg injuries can show up long after a car accident has occurred, victims should be evaluated and seek medical treatment as soon as possible after a crash. During treatment, it is recommended to keep organized copies of all medical records, appointments, and invoices. Any time missed from work and other expenses related to the injury, such as prescriptions, medical supplies, and mileage, should also be recorded.
Injured parties can file claims with the at-fault person’s insurance company; afterward, an adjuster will reach out for detailed information. At this time, he or she may request a recorded statement. Personal injury and property damage claims are generally handled separately, so there may be two adjusters working on the claim. If the leg injury is severe, there may be significant medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses. For these reasons, contacting an experienced car accident lawyer immediately is the best option.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Car Accident Victims Suffering from Leg Injuries
Do not ignore leg pain after a car accident as it can develop into something more serious. If you need sound legal guidance about your injury, contact one of our Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 302-888-1221. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Newark, and Middletown.