A total of 167,219 injury-causing vehicle crashes and 2,917 fatal crashes occurred in a recent year, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department. Car crashes pose a danger to motorists all over our state. Both drivers and passengers should remain aware of the danger involved in any car accident to ensure their health and safety. One potential type of accident injury is a chest contusion. If you have had severe injuries from a car accident then speak with the experienced auto accident attorneys at the Michael T. Gibson P.A. firm to learn what your legal options.
What Is a Chest Contusion?
Medical personnel often use the term contusion when discussing a bruise. In the simplest terms, a chest contusion means a bruise to the chest. Chest contusions sometimes result in the black-and-blue marks that we often associate with bruises. However, chest contusions also frequently don’t show any visible marks or symptoms.
The fact that chest contusions may remain invisible to the naked eye makes them especially dangerous. Crash victims may suffer injuries, but because of the lack of visible bruising, those individuals may be unaware that they are injured. They may attribute any pain to the jostling of the accident, rather than to a specific injury.
Furthermore, a chest contusion can potentially bruise or injure multiple tissues and organs. You may suffer chest contusions on your skin, but they can also occur on ribs, muscles, tendons, lungs, the esophagus, and even the heart. Contusions to any of the latter can result in especially serious, even fatal, injuries.
Because of the potential seriousness of chest contusions and their potential invisibility, victims of a car accident should always see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident. Eventually, most chest contusion victims experience symptoms, but you may not feel the symptoms immediately after your accident. Don’t rely on whether you feel symptoms of any injury after an accident to decide whether or not to see a doctor. You should see one regardless of how you’re feeling.
When you visit the doctor, describe all of the events from the accident as best as you can. If any object struck your chest, such as a steering wheel or deployed airbag, mention that to the doctor, as well. Describe any symptoms that you experience. Generally, doctors diagnose chest contusions and related injuries using MRIs, X-rays, CT-scans, ultrasounds, sonograms, and surgeries.
Follow all of the advice and recommendations that the doctor provides after you are examined, including follow-up visits, prescription medication, surgery, and physical therapy. Keep all of the related records, including bills and receipts.
What Causes Chest Contusions?
Chest contusions stem from significant blows to the chest. Nearly any type of car accident can, therefore, cause a chest contusion. Rear-end accidents can propel you forward, causing your chest to strike the steering wheel or dashboard.
Any points of impact may cause the airbags to deploy, and airbags can cause contusions to the chest. Airbags save lives and prevent many injuries, but their deployment can cause a strong impact to your chest and other areas of your body.
Finally, seatbelts can tighten around your body and cause chest contusions. The manufacture of seatbelts, like airbags, is intended to save lives, but holding you tightly in place during the impact and movement of a crash may bruise your chest.
Types of Chest Contusions
Several different types of chest contusions exist, with varying degrees of severity. Some may simply leave a surface bruised and swelling. Others may result in soreness, pain, and stiffness across your entire upper body.
The major types of chest contusions include:
A chest contusion can bruise or even fracture the sternum (breastbone). Pain, stiffness, and discomfort are the primary symptoms.
Extreme blows to the heart area can cause a myocardial contusion, which injures and bruises the heart itself. In severe cases, it can cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction), but a myocardial contusion can also sever a coronary artery or even cause a blood clot that may lead to a heart attack at a later time. Symptoms include pain and tenderness over the mid-chest area and internal bleeding.
Hemothorax refers to blood pooling in the pleural cavity (the space between the lung and chest wall). Potential causes include tears in the heart, arteries, or veins. Diagnosis often requires an ultrasound.
Pulmonary contusions damage your lung tissue. The symptoms include swelling and internal bleeding. Symptoms may not appear first, but they may manifest 24 hours or more after the accident. Secondary symptoms can include pneumonia.
Pneumothorax is a collapsed lung, generally caused by chest contusions and/or broken ribs. The primary symptoms include shortness of breath and pain, and pneumothorax may also result in low blood oxygen.
A tracheobronchial injury is an injury of the trachea and bronchus. These injuries seldom occur, but they can result in immediate death when they do occur.
Can I Sue After Receiving a Chest Contusion in a Car Accident?
If your chest contusion and related injuries stem from a car accident that was caused by another party, you are generally entitled to compensation for your injuries, if they occurred under certain circumstances. First, let’s discuss Florida law and how it applies to car accidents.
Florida operates under a no-fault insurance system. No-fault rules mean that a determination of fault is not necessary; rather, each driver goes first to his or her own insurance company, regardless of who or what caused the crash. Under Florida law, motorists with a Florida driver’s license and registration must carry a minimum of $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) coverage.
Injured individuals should seek medical attention through their PIP coverage within 14 days of their accident’s occurrence. If they don’t, then they cannot use PIP for injury compensation. PIP covers up to 80 percent of medical expenses related to a car accident, including doctor’s visits, surgery, follow-up care, prescription medication, physical therapy, medical devices, and more. PIP also covers 60 percent of lost wages from work, in case treatment or the recovery period, or both, causes you to lose time from work.
While no-fault goes into effect in most cases, Florida allows car crash victims who have severe injuries to step outside of no-fault.
The victim must have a minimum of one of the following as a result of the accident:
- Broken bone(s)
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of use of a body member or organ
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- An injury causing substantially full disability for 90 days
Severely injured victims who can step outside of no-fault can seek compensation greater than the PIP and PDL allows for medical bills, property damage, and wages lost from work. These can include not only economic damages incurred directly from the accident, but also future medical bills and wages lost from work if future treatment and curtailment of work are likely. PIP coverage may also provide compensation for noneconomic injuries, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and more.
Second, let’s discuss the various options for seeking compensation. Severely injured victims generally have two options: (1) pursuing an insurance claim against the at-fault party (a third-party claim) or (2) bringing a lawsuit in civil court. Both options require the injured individual to prove that another party caused the accident.
Should I File a Third-Party Insurance Claim or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The aim of both a third-party insurance claim and a personal injury suit is the same: to obtain justice for your injuries and the harm caused by the car accident. You should consult a personal injury attorney before making a decision on which type of claim to bring. To many people, a third-party insurance claim may seem easier than going to court.
Which type of claim to file depends on an individual’s specific circumstances. An attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance companies to help ensure that you maximize your compensation. Insurance companies use sophisticated techniques to minimize the amount of claims paid out and to protect their insured. What kinds of techniques do they use? Well, an insurance adjuster may try to pay a claim quickly but for much less than the actual value of the claim. Insurance companies know from experience that injured victims are often desperate for money following their accidents and thus will likely accept low-ball offers.
Insurance companies may also advance alternative theories of how an accident happened to make another party (not their insured), or even you, the culprit. Insurance representatives may say that your injuries are not as serious or extensive as you claim, for example.
If the insurance company in your case won’t settle for a just amount, you should file a personal injury lawsuit. Judges and juries will become involved if you take this route, and they generally show much more sympathy to victims than insurance companies.
What If the At-Fault Party Isn’t a Driver?
While many car accidents stem from driver negligence, other parties may share in the fault. What looks like speeding, for instance, may actually result from faulty brakes. Manufacturers and repair shops can potentially bear responsibility for faulty brakes, among other problems. Potentially responsible parties for a car accident include manufacturers of cars and equipment, repair shops, other drivers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians. The evidence will help in determining the at-fault driver in your accident.
How Do I Prove That Another Party Caused My Accident?
Your compensation, whether from an insurance settlement or a personal injury lawsuit, will depend on whether you have sufficient evidence that another party bears responsibility for the car accident that caused your chest contusion.
Following an accident, you should take several steps, if possible, that help to secure your safety and provide crucial evidence to support your claim. First, call 911 to report the accident. Stay at the scene unless you suffered injuries severe enough to warrant an ambulance and emergency room visit. Emergency responders will determine that. You should cooperate fully with the emergency responders and law enforcement when they arrive.
The police will compile a police report, which serves as evidence of how the accident occurred. The police will speak to all drivers involved, any eyewitnesses, and note details about the scene, such as where it occurred, when it occurred, what the environmental and road conditions were, and a description of the damage to the vehicles or property. Take care to get a copy of the police report, if possible.
Furthermore, you should exchange contact information, including insurance information and e-mail addresses, with all other involved drivers. If you see eyewitnesses, talk to them and obtain their contact information, as well.
In an age where many of us carry a smartphone, use it if you have it. Pictures constitute excellent evidence. First, take multiple pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles, damage to the surrounding area (struck barriers or vegetation, for example), and where the vehicles ended up. These pictures may help establish what happened and what led to the accident. Forensic analysts can utilize pictures to determine the causes of an accident.
Second, take multiple pictures of your injuries. If it’s dark, wait until you are in the hospital or doctor’s office, and then take pictures that show both the nature of the injury and its severity. Save all records from all doctor, emergency room, and other medical treatment visits, as well. Injuries themselves reveal a great deal about how an accident occurred, which in turn indicates fault. If you hit the steering wheel and suffered a chest contusion, for example, the cause was likely a rear-end collision.
Take care to follow the treatment recommendations of all medical personnel. The primary reason is your health and safety, of course; however, there is also a secondary reason. If you don’t see a doctor immediately, or don’t follow your doctor’s recommendations, insurance companies will find out about it. They often use these facts to argue against an otherwise valid claim. They may use your lack of initial medical treatment, for example, to argue that you must not have suffered severe injuries, and they may use your noncompliance to argue that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim.
File Your Claim in Time
Under Florida law, you must bring a personal injury lawsuit within four years from the date of your injury. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. Florida courts will dismiss any case filed after the statute of limitations has expired.
If you need more information or advice, consult our personal injury attorneys today.
Michael T. Gibson P.A.
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814