If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you may have been told that you have a thoracic injury. But what are these injuries, and what sort of compensation can you get for them? Read on to learn more about this type of injury and what sort of impact it can have on your life.
What Is Your Thoracic Spine?
Before we talk about thoracic injuries, let’s talk some about your thoracic spine. Your spine is divided into three sections: cervical, thoracic (pronounced thor-AS-sick), and lumbar. Your cervical spine includes the vertebrae in your neck, your thoracic spine covers the vertebrae in your upper back, and your lumbar spine includes the vertebrae in your lower back.
Thoracic injuries are those that impact the upper part of your torso and so often get called chest injuries. Eighty percent of blunt thoracic injuries happen as a result of vehicle accidents.
Types of Chest Injuries
There are several types of chest injuries you may experience during a car accident.
- Broken ribs – When your chest collides with a steering wheel or an airbag, it can break ribs. These fractures may be relatively minor, or they may cause more severe injuries, such as lung punctures.
- Fractured sternum – You might be surprised to learn that you can actually fracture your sternum, the bone that runs down the front center of your chest.
- Ruptured aorta – With a hard enough impact, it’s actually possible to rupture your aorta, the main artery in your body that comes straight off your heart. Rupturing your aorta can lead to massive internal bleeding, and victims of these injuries often die on the way to the hospital.
- Organ damage – The force involved in a car crash can damage several organs, including your liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, heart, stomach, and more.
- Strained or ruptured muscles – Strained muscles are one of the most common thoracic injuries and usually resolve within a few weeks. But if you rupture a muscle, it could take surgery to repair the damage.
- Ruptured diaphragm – Your diaphragm is the muscle under your lungs that helps to manage your breathing. Rupturing this muscle can cause severe breathing problems. Ninety percent of ruptured diaphragms happen in car accidents.
- Puncture wounds – If you break ribs during a car accident, they can puncture your lungs. Of course, you can also experience puncture wounds from gear shifts, steering columns, or unsecured cargo.
Keep in mind that, depending on the severity of a crash, an accident victim may have more than one of these injuries at the same time.
Symptoms of a Thoracic Injury
The symptoms you experience with a thoracic injury can vary widely depending on what sort of wound you have. Of course, chest pain can be a strong indicator that something is wrong in that area. If you experience a thoracic injury, be sure to tell your doctor what sort of chest pain you’re experiencing.
After a chest injury, you may also find that you have trouble breathing or that you feel short of breath. The pain in your chest may increase if you take a deep breath, or you may not be able to get a deep breath in at all. You might also notice swelling in your chest area, especially if you have broken bones.
Dangers of a Chest Injury
There are several problems that can arise as the result of a chest injury. For one thing, chest injuries that impact your lungs can cause breathing problems. Broken ribs may cause internal bleeding and could even puncture a lung, as well as other organs.
Chest injuries that impact the back of your chest could damage your kidneys, and injuries on the side of the chest could threaten your liver or spleen. And, of course, chest injuries can cause damage to your heart, which can be extraordinarily dangerous.
What Causes Chest Injuries in a Car Accident?
Ironically, many chest injuries can happen as a result of the safety features in your car. Seatbelts and airbags tend to collide with your chest during a crash, causing thoracic injuries.
The good news is that the injuries caused by these safety features tend to be much milder than the injuries you’d get if your chest collided with the steering wheel.
When you get into a crash, your seatbelt holds you in place, placing pressure on your chest and potentially causing bruising or broken bones.
Your airbags will inflate, keeping you from colliding with the harder parts of your car, but potentially crushing your chest. This is part of why it’s so important for children to stay in the back seat until they’re big enough – an inflating airbag can cause serious damage to small passengers.
Risk Factors for Chest Injuries
There are several factors that can increase your risk of sustaining a chest injury during a car accident. While most types of car injuries can result in thoracic injuries, some are more likely to cause these wounds than others. In particular, head-on collisions, side impacts, and rollover accidents are more likely to result in chest injuries.
People in the front seat are more likely to come away from car crashes with thoracic injuries than those in the back seat. Older passengers are also at greater risk of getting a chest injury, especially broken bones. As we age, our bones get more brittle, and we may be more prone to fractures.
What Compensation Can You Get for a Chest Injury?
If you’ve suffered a thoracic injury in a car accident, you could be entitled to compensation.
There are three basic types of compensation accident victims can recover.
- Economic damages – These damages help to cover losses that have an inherent financial value. Economic damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning potential, property damage, and more.
- Non-economic damages – Although these losses don’t have a particular dollar value, they are no less important. Non-economic damages can compensate you for pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, emotional trauma, mental anguish, and so on.
- Punitive damages – These damages are designed to punish a defendant who behaved heinously during the course of an accident. They’re very rare to recover in personal injury cases because they come with a high burden of proof.
A personal injury lawyer can help you calculate every type of damages you’re entitled to and fight for a full and fair settlement offer.
Get the Representation You Deserve
Thoracic injuries can be devastating and may cover a wide range of specific wounds. From broken ribs and strained muscles to ruptured aortas, these injuries can be incredibly dangerous. And unfortunately, most of these injuries happen as a result of car accidents.
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you could be entitled to compensation. The Gainesville personal injury attorneys at Allen Law Firm, P.A. want to help you get every dollar you deserve. Schedule a free consultation with us and discover how we can help you get a fair settlement. Call us at (877) 255-3652 today.