Broken bones are sometimes thought of as minor injuries. But broken bones can cause problems that last throughout your life. In addition to causing skeletal instability, bone fragments can damage soft tissue like nerves and blood vessels.
Broken bone injuries can happen in any type of accident, from car accidents to falls in the workplace.
Here is some information about broken bones and the compensation you can seek for them.
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How Do Broken Bones Happen?
Broken bones typically happen when a bending force overcomes the structural strength of a bone. For example, if you fall on your arm, the angle with which your arm hits the ground could cause the bone to bend, then snap.
Bones can also fracture under a sharp, powerful force. For example, the impact of a vehicle hitting your leg during a pedestrian accident could shatter the bone into three or more pieces.
Bones can fracture from forces that might not overcome the bone’s structural strength, but instead create tiny cracks that propagate over time. These stress fractures typically involve repetitive motions in the workplace, like typing, lifting, carrying, or walking.
What Are the Different Types of Fractures?
Bones can break in many ways, including:
A partial fracture does not separate the bone into pieces. Instead, the fracture only goes part of the way through the bone.
A complete fracture goes entirely through the bone, separating it into at least two pieces.
In a compound fracture, one part of the bone gets displaced and pierces the skin. The bone might protrude through the skin or recede after it fractures.
A comminuted fracture occurs when a bone shatters into three or more sections.
A stress fracture happens when small stresses accumulate to create cracks in a bone.
Tendons connect muscles to bones. Ligaments connect bones. An avulsion fracture happens when a bone fractures where a tendon or ligament connects to it. As a result, the tendon or ligament no longer connects to the bone, but only to a bone fragment.
How Do Doctors Treat Fractures?
Doctors treat fractures by immobilizing the bone. This frees the bone from the stresses and forces that can displace the broken ends of the bone. The body will form a blood clot at the fracture to rush nutrients to the site of the fracture.
Stem cells from the blood and bone marrow will grow new bone cells at the edges of the broken bone. As the cells build, they will knit together to connect the broken ends.
Eventually, the new tissue will be strong enough to hold the bone together. The process usually takes six to eight weeks.
Occasionally, the ends of the fractured bone will be displaced. When the bone does not line up, it might not heal properly. Doctors will usually try to realign the bone without surgery if possible.
But doctors may occasionally need to operate to put the bone into the best position to heal. When doctors operate to set the bone, they may use plates and screws to hold the bone in place while it heals. Doctors can use this same process to reconstruct shattered bones.
The location and stresses on the bone will determine how doctors immobilize the bone. Usually, doctors will use a combination of rest and a cast to minimize stress on the bone and encourage the healing process to begin.
What Complications Can Arise from Fractures?
Fractures can lead to complications or other medical problems. Some complications from fractures include:
A fractured skull can lead to a brain injury. Pieces of the skull can get pushed into the brain. The bone fragments can cut into blood vessels, nerves, and brain tissue, leading to tissue death.
Spinal Cord Injury
Vertebrae have a cylindrical body and wing-shaped processes. The body provides strength and stability, while the processes provide an anchor point for tendons and ligaments. The area between the body and processes forms the spinal canal where the spinal cord runs.
A fracture to the vertebral body can create fragments that can sever or compress the nerves of the spinal cord. A fracture to a process can allow the vertebrae to slip out of place and sever or compress the spinal cord.
In either case, a fractured vertebra can lead to:
- Nerve pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
In a worst-case situation, a fractured vertebra in the neck can sever the nerves running to the heart or lungs, leading to death.
Soft Tissue Damage
The broken ends of the bone can tear muscle, nerves, and blood vessels. When blood vessels tear, you might experience minor symptoms like bruising. But in severe cases, a broken bone can tear a major artery or vein, leading to death.
When broken bones tear nerves, you might lose sensation or motor control in the body part connected to the nerve.
Blood clots form at the break. These clots can enter the bloodstream. If they reach the lungs, they can cause a pulmonary embolism. If they reach the heart, they can cause a heart attack. When they reach the brain, they cause a stroke.
What Are the Risk Factors for Broken Bones?
You can fracture a bone in almost any accident. Many children break their first bone in a bicycle accident or other sporting accident. Some other types of accidents that can result in a broken bone include:
Car accidents involve a great deal of force. Your face or head striking the steering wheel, airbag, dashboard, side window, or doorpost can cause a facial or skull fracture.
Your legs striking the firewall, center console, or dashboard can fracture your knee or leg. Even the force of the airbag inflating can fracture bones in the fingers and wrists.
Falls are one of the most common causes of broken bones. Slip and fall accidents often cause a fractured hip, vertebra, skull, or wrist.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Broken Bones?
Injury compensation covers your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Broken bones can often entitle you to substantial damages. You can claim your medical expenses for treatment, physical therapy, and pain medication.
You might also claim your lost wages for the time you missed from work. You can also include the difference in income if you had to take light duty or desk duty while your broken bone healed.
Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the diminishment in your quality of life. Designed to cover everything from the physical pain of the injury to the inconvenience of losing the ability to drive, your pain and suffering compensation could be substantial.