You might think of a broken bone as a minor injury. But these injuries can require significant medical treatment and physical therapy. They may even keep you out of work for weeks or months.
Fractured bones can happen in almost any type of accident. But the type of accident could affect the compensation you can get in a personal injury claim.
For example, suppose that you break a bone in a car accident. Florida’s no-fault insurance system could limit your compensation to only a fraction of your medical expenses.
Here is a guide to broken bones and the compensation you can get for them.
How Do Broken Bones Happen?
Bones have a breaking strength. When a force exceeds that breaking strength, the bone will fracture. Thus, if you get hit by a car in a pedestrian accident, the force of the car hitting your body could break your ribs.
Bones can also break from forces less than their breaking strength. This often happens from repetitive stresses, like standing, lifting, carrying, walking, or even typing. The repetitive stresses create tiny cracks in the bone. Over time, the cracks propagate and cause a stress fracture in the bone.
What Are the Different Types of Broken Bones?
Bones can fracture in a few different ways. The two main characteristics of a fracture are:
Displaced or Non-Displaced
A non-displaced fracture means that the broken ends of the bone have remained in the correct place and orientation. A stress fracture will typically remain non-displaced since it usually results from crack growth.
A displaced fracture means that the broken ends of the bone have separated. Compound fractures fall into the category of displaced fractures. In a compound fracture, one broken end of the bone displaces so far that it breaks the skin.
Similarly, in a comminuted or shattered bone, the bone breaks into three or more pieces. Oftentimes, these bone fragments will move away from each other after the fracture.
Open or Closed
This characteristic refers to whether the skin has broken. Thus, a compound fracture by definition is an open, displaced fracture.
A fracture that remains closed can still damage other tissue. For example, the broken end of the bone can tear muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves without breaking the skin.
What is the Treatment for Broken Bones?
Bones can heal if the broken ends are close enough to each other. A blood clot will form over the broken ends, and the bone will develop a callus. This callus includes small blood vessels, cartilage, and spongy bone tissue. Over a few weeks, bone cells form in this matrix, knitting the broken ends back together.
To encourage healing, the doctor must stabilize the bone. For a displaced fracture, the doctor will first need to reposition the broken ends in their correct orientation.
Doctors will sometimes operate to put the broken ends in the correct position and orientation for healing. The doctor might secure the broken ends with plates and screws.
When a bone shatters into multiple pieces, doctors might not have all of the pieces for reconstruction. They might need bone grafts to fill any gaps in the bone. If too many pieces are missing, doctors might need to amputate.
In an open fracture, doctors need to clean the wound and treat the accident victim for possible infection. Any debris in the wound can carry bacteria that can cause an infection. A bone infection, called osteomyelitis, can weaken and kill bone cells.
After realigning the bone, the doctor will immobilize it with a cast, brace, or splint. This will prevent the broken ends from moving out of alignment. A bone typically takes six to eight weeks to heal.
What Complications Can Arise from Broken Bones?
Broken bones can have many effects that go beyond the pain and inconvenience of the fracture. Some complications include:
If a bone fractured along a growth plate in a young person, the bone might not grow after it heals. This can result in a shortened bone that causes a noticeable asymmetry. It could even cause a limp or other physical problem.
A fracture naturally forms a blood clot to facilitate healing. The body should naturally absorb the blood clot. But occasionally, a piece of the blood clot will break off and travel through the bloodstream.
This blood clot can cause death or serious illness. If it travels to the heart, it will cause a heart attack. A blood clot in the lungs will cause a pulmonary embolism. If it reaches the brain, it will cause a stroke.
A skull fracture can lead to a brain injury. The skull protects the brain. When it fractures, the brain can get damaged. And if the skull fractures inward, fragments of the skull can damage the brain by penetrating it.
What Are the Risk Factors for Broken Bones?
Many accidents can produce broken bones, including:
When your body hits the seatbelt, airbag, steering wheel, dashboard, or side door, you can fracture bones. While they may save your life, the safety equipment in your car can break bones. The seatbelt can fracture your ribs, and the airbag can fracture your facial bones.
Falls at home, in a business, or at work can lead to broken bones. You can fracture your hip, vertebrae, shoulder, or skull in the fall. You might also fracture your knee, wrist, or arm trying to break your fall.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Broken Bones?
The compensation you can get for broken bones could depend on your accident. Florida uses a no-fault insurance system for car accidents. This system limits your recovery after a car accident to your no-fault insurance benefits.
However, in some cases, your injuries may allow you to work outside of the no-fault rules for compensation. If you suffer a permanent injury or your medical expenses exceed your policy limits, you may pursue a personal injury claim to seek the remaining value of your damages.
If you suffered a broken bone in a different type of accident or your car accident injuries are permanent, you can claim your full losses, including non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
This can be an important source of compensation for a broken bone because of the painful nature of broken bones and the inconvenience you will endure while the bone heals.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer
Contact Hollander Law Firm, P.A. for a free consultation to learn about the compensation you can receive for your broken bones. Our Florida personal injury lawyers can discuss the facts of your case and help you to determine a strategy to move forward.