According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of eye injuries every year in this country. When you think of injuries that happen in car accidents, you probably think of bruises, scrapes, back pain, or whiplash. Forceful impact from a vehicle collision can also result in trauma to the eye.
Eye injuries are among the most painful and disabling injuries a person can experience. They can cause discomfort, infection, and vision impairment. A serious eye injury or vision loss can interfere with work, family, and overall quality of life. When a careless driver’s actions cause another person’s life-changing eye injury, they should be held accountable.
Read on to learn the different types of eye injuries, how to recognize the signs of an eye injury, and what to do if a negligent driver caused your condition.
Abrasions, Laceration, and Punctures
During a crash, dirt, glass, and metal can become airborne. Just one tiny speck of debris can cause significant discomfort. Larger pieces of debris can actually scratch or puncture the surface of the eye, causing corneal abrasions. These injuries may require surgery to prevent permanent damage and/or vision loss.
Motor vehicles contain several chemicals that power them and enable them to function. Damage sustained in a serious collision can release these chemicals, causing a risk of exposure for the occupants.
Airbags in particular contain chemicals that enable them to fill quickly during a collision. If the airbag becomes perforated, it releases these chemicals into the cabin. Passengers exposed to these chemicals risk chemical burns to the upper body, including the eyes.
Optic Nerve Avulsions
The optic nerve is located at the back of the eye. Its job is to transfer visual information gathered from outside world to the brain for processing through electric impulses.
If the optic nerve becomes damaged by disease, radiation, injury, or trauma like a car accident, the injured individual may be left with permanent vision loss. Unfortunately, once the nerve fibers are damaged, they cannot be healed or regenerated.
Early detection and treatment for some causes of optic nerve damage can slow the effects of the condition. However, in a sudden traumatic event, like a crash, the damage is generally irreversible.
An orbital fracture is a break in the bones surrounding the eyeball. This type of injury is usually caused by blunt force trauma. Car accidents are a common cause of orbital rim fractures which are injuries to the bony outer rims of the eye sockets.
Minor orbital fractures do not require surgical repair. Surgery is recommended for more severe fractures that impede proper movement of the eyeball in its socket.
The retina is comprised of tissue that lines the eye and transmits messages to the brain through the optic nerve. Trauma to the eye or rapid acceleration or deceleration can cause a torn retina. When left untreated, this serious condition can result in permanent vision loss.
Damage to the eyelid can also occur during car accidents. Punctures, tears, and lacerations can be quite painful and leave the eyeball vulnerable to injury. In some cases, stitches are used to repair eyelid injuries. However, care must be taken to ensure they do not cause abrasions and other injuries to the cornea that complicate and prolong the healing process.
There is no denying that airbags are invaluable for saving lives and preventing serious car accident injuries. Unfortunately, they come with their own risks. Vehicle occupants often complain of immediate pain, redness, and impaired vision after airbag deployment.
For an airbag to function as intended, it must deploy suddenly and with intense force. The average airbag deploys at a speed of up to 186 miles per hour and fills within 0.03 seconds. As the airbag explodes, it makes direct contact with the head and face, sometimes before there is even time for the driver or passenger to blink. That contact can damage the outer surface of the eye.
Corneal abrasions are common airbag eye injuries. Retinal tears and detachments are more serious and can lead to irreversible vision loss. As noted above, airbags sometimes release toxic chemicals when they are deployed, leading to burns that may result in long-term damage.
Brain Injuries Can Affect the Eyes
If brain damage occurs in the area of the brain that controls perception and visual processing, symptoms might include:
- Blurred vision.
- Double vision.
- Decreased visual field.
- Reduced peripheral vision.
- Weakness in the muscles that move the eyes.
Eyes may not function well together to see objects moving inward or at a distance. Vision problems after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are complex and challenging to treat because there is typically more than one cause. Someone who has TBI-related eye symptoms should see an eye doctor who specializes in vision problems due to brain injuries.
What Are the Signs of a Possible Eye Injury?
After a car accident, it is important to assess everyone at the scene for injuries. If you or anyone in your vehicle has eye pain, vision changes, or obvious signs of an eye injury, it is critical to get medical attention. Serious conditions that go untreated can result in full or partial vision loss.
Signs of an injury include:
- Bleeding: Small red or black spots in the eye or redness in the white part of the eye.
- Eye appearance changes: One eye may protrude or appear sunken, pupils may appear to be different sizes.
- Pain and swelling: Soreness, especially when you try to open or close the eye, swelling can be local to the eye, the eyelid, or in the face.
- Vision changes: Including burry vision, double vision, black spots, or flashes of light.
Managing an Eye Injury Until Help Arrives
The steps you take immediately following trauma to the eye can sometimes impact your prognosis and recovery. Always proceed with caution and call for help. Doing too much could cause more damage than doing nothing in many cases, especially if your eye is punctured or lacerated.
Avoid attempting to remove debris that is stuck in the eye or apply any pressure to the area. Do not rinse the eye with water unless you have suffered a chemical burn. In that case, flush the eye with clean water to remove the hazardous substance. It is best to wait until help arrives and remain calm and place a sterile cover over the injured eye.
A serious eye injury can be life-changing, especially if it causes permanent vision problems. If you have a devastating eye injury due to an accident that was not your fault, contact a lawyer to determine if you have grounds to bring a claim for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.
To help your lawyer build a strong case, be sure to save and make copies of any documents related to your accident, including a police report and medical records.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Manage Claims for Clients With Debilitating Eye Injuries
If you are dealing with eye pain, damage, or vision loss after a car accident, contact one of our Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC for assistance. Call us at 302-888-1221 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, Newark, and Middletown.