Did You Suffer an Arm or Hand Injury As a Result of a Car Accident?
Broken Arm / Broken Wrist
I have broken my wrist/arm in a car accident. What should I do?
I cannot tell you how often someone tells me that they suffered a fracture or broken wrist/arm in a car accident. One of the most common ways this occurs is when you clench the steering wheel with your hands and the force of the impact causes your wrist to fracture or break. Sometimes if you are a passenger in a vehicle, you may have braced your hands against the dashboard. Your wrists take the brunt of the impact, resulting in a fracture or break.
Clients tell us that these injuries are extremely painful and lead to swelling around the wrist joint. We have seen some clients with osteoporosis as being more susceptible to broken wrists or fractures. A broken wrist is a break in the radius bone of the arm, about an inch above the wrist joint, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). It’s also possible to have a break within the wrist joint or to have a break in both the radius and ulna bones.
Treatment for a broken wrist/arm usually involves a cast or splint. The cast or splint is kept on the wrist for about six weeks after the injury to help the bones fuse together. A doctor may need to perform a reduction, a procedure where he or she realigns the bones before applying the cast or splint.
After six weeks in a cast, it may take you many months to return to the normal use of your wrist/arm. I have heard some clients say that they have pain in the arm for years after the fracture or break. After a car accident, health insurance, med pay, or other insurance may pay for some or all of your medical treatment.
Since Georgia is an at-fault liability state, many drivers file a claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance to recover compensation. It is important to consult with an experienced car accident attorney to understand the full value of what your case may be worth.
Rotator Cuff Injury / SLAP Tear
How can a car accident lead to a rotator cuff tear?
I have seen many clients who developed a torn rotator cuff from a car accident. Although roll-over accidents can commonly cause head injury and rotator cuff tears, perhaps the type of car accident most associated with a rotator cuff tear is a rear-end collision. Often, a driver looking in the rearview mirror in response to screeching brakes behind them can tense up their hands on the steering wheel. When the shoulder tenses up, it can absorb a large amount of force from the impact. A tear to the rotator cuff is commonly known to occur from this type of accident.
What are the signs of a rotator cuff tear?
Often, a doctor is the only one who is qualified to diagnose a rotator cuff tear. His/her findings can be very important if you believe your rotator cuff tear is from a car accident. However, some of the following signs may suggest that you have a torn rotator cuff:
- Limited motion
- A popping or clicking sound while moving your arm
- Pain throughout the arm
- Severe pain to the top or outer sides of the shoulder
How does a doctor detect a torn rotator cuff?
A doctor would ordinarily talk to you about your past medical history. He will do a physical exam of your shoulder. He will take x-rays and perhaps an MRI of your shoulder.
What treatment is available for a torn rotator cuff?
Your doctor will prescribe treatment for a torn rotator cuff depending on the severity. In some cases, rest and/or some form of physical therapy will alleviate the problems of a minor rotator cuff tear. If the tear is more serious, as seen in some of our clients, it may require aggressive physical therapy and the possibility of surgery.
If the tear is small, you may need:
- Supervised physical therapy with stretching and strengthening exercises
- Corticosteroid injections to reduce the pain
- Ultrasound (this will enhance topically applied medications)
If the tear is more serious or not responding to traditional treatment, you may have to undergo surgery. Of course, your medical doctor will help you to determine what is the best option for you.
What if the insurance company denies my claim that the rotator cuff tear is from the car accident?
Proving that your rotator cuff tear came from your car accident can be difficult. Often, a rotator cuff tear comes from ordinary wear and tear. Insurance companies often fight claims of injuries to the rotator cuff from a car accident. They often argue that the rotator cuff tear was a degenerative or pre-existing condition.
If you did not have shoulder pain before the accident, but experience pain after the accident, you may want to contact an attorney right away. If you give the insurance company a recorded statement or sign a written authorization to look at your medical history, it could damage your claim.
For a free consultation regarding your claim, call us at 770-577-3020.
My doctor diagnosed me with gamekeeper’s thumb. Can this be from my car accident?
It may be. We see many clients with unique types of arm or hand injuries in car accidents. A unique type of injury that we see from time to time is gamekeeper’s thumb.
Gamekeeper’s thumb is the name given to a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb. Most UCL tears in this location cause a bone fracture of the proximal phalanx. The differential diagnosis for gamekeeper’s thumb includes Boxer’s Fracture, Bennett’s Fracture, MCP dislocation, and Lunate dislocation.
We have seen clients in car accidents bracing themselves against the steering wheel or dashboard as a direct result of the impact. The technical, medical explanation is that they avulse the UCL from the insertion site. This leads to a UCL tear and possibly, a fracture of the proximal phalanx of the thumb of the hand.
The seriousness of this injury varies from person to person. The prognosis will depend on the degree of stretching and tearing of the UCL and the possibility of surgery. Some clients develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis near the MCP joint later in life, after the repair.
Since almost every client has some degree of tearing in the UCL, the ligament has to be reconstructed, which requires surgery. Of course, as with all medical treatment for injuries from a car accident, it’s important to use your health insurance or med pay coverage to the extent that it will pay for your medical care. It is important to consult with an experienced Georgia car accident attorney to understand the full value of what your gamekeeper’s thumb injury claim may be worth.
When I was in the car accident, the emergency room doctor took x-rays of my hand and said that I have a crushed hand. He referred me to an orthopedic doctor. How will I pay for this?
One of the more common, but less well-known, types of injuries from a car accident is a crushed hand. Often, when you have your hands on the steering wheel or brace your hands against the dashboard, the trauma from the impact can cause a crushing injury to the hand or to the fingers of the hand. Crush injuries from car accidents require immediate medical attention. Various forms of medical treatment can be helpful for treatment, especially if it is done early. Surgery is sometimes necessary.
Rehabilitation after a traumatic finger crush is vital. Physical therapists who specialize in hand therapy work with patients after these injuries to restore as much function as possible. Treatment includes a range of motion, strengthening exercises for grip and pinch, and functional retraining for activities of daily living. Exercises may be done for the entire arm, as all of the muscles weaken when the hand is not being used. Therapy is often required for several months after a crush injury.
DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that this is general information, and should not be considered “legal advice.” I have been handling personal injury cases for many years, and can offer general answers to common questions, but please do not construe anything on this website to be legal advice about your case. Each case is different. An attorney can only give legal advice when he or she understands the facts involved in your case. There are also strict time limitations on filing a personal injury claim. You should contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you have questions about your case.