Many people have heard of common injuries that result from accidents, such as brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and bone fractures. However, another common—and commonly misunderstood—accidental injury type is soft tissue injury. Read on for more information about this type of injury, the complications that it may cause, and the legal process of pursuing compensation if you have suffered a soft tissue injury.
If you have suffered soft tissue injuries, contact an Orlando personal injury lawyer from Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney about your legal options.
What Are Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue injuries involve damage to skin, muscles, tendons, or ligaments. These injuries are different from hard-tissue injuries, which involve broken bones, as well as internal injuries, which involve damage to an organ—such as the lung or the spleen.
Some of the most common types of soft tissue injuries that may result from an accident include:
- Whiplash: Whiplash refers to a type of soft tissue injury that occurs in the neck as a result of a violent back and forth motion commonly experienced in car accidents. The name of the condition refers to this motion, which resembles the cracking of a whip. Symptoms of whiplash include pain or stiffness in the neck, a worsening of pain when moving the neck, loss of range of motion in the neck, headaches that generally start at the base of the skull, tingling or numbness in the arms, dizziness, fatigue, and pain or tenderness in the shoulder, back, or arms. While most people recover from the symptoms of whiplash within a few weeks, the condition can sometimes result in complications, including chronic pain. Those most likely to suffer these complications include individuals whose symptoms began suddenly, whose symptoms were more intense than anticipated, who are older, or who have previously suffered whiplash. Additionally, individuals who acquire their injuries through high-speed impacts also face a higher likelihood of complications.
- Lacerations, avulsions, and abrasions: These three terms describe open soft tissue injuries, where the skin has been separated, leading to blood loss and a risk of infection. Lacerations are often described as jagged-edged cuts through the skin; avulsions feature a chunk of missing skin or tissue that has been torn away. Lacerations and avulsions often require sutures to close the wound and may result in permanent scarring. Abrasions occur when the skin is sloughed off or rubbed away due to contact with a rough surface, such as a roadway. Abrasions are often treated similarly to burned skin and produce a similar risk of infection and scarring. Abrasions are even referred to in degrees, like burns, with first-degree abrasions affecting only the top layer of skin; second-degree abrasions impacting the external skin, as well as the skin layer beneath it; and third-degree abrasions extending to the tissues beneath the skin layers.
- Contusions: Contusions are not open, but rather feature a pooling of blood beneath the skin and can result in pressure on blood vessels in the affected area and even a restriction of blood flow in that area.
- Sprains: Sprains are partial tears to a ligament that are generally caused by a wrenching or twisting motion. Sprains most commonly occur in jointed areas, such as the ankles, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
- Bursitis: This condition features inflammation of the bursa, which is the fluid-filled cushion located between bones and muscles or tendons. While this type of injury is commonly associated with overuse, traumatic injury to the affected joint can also produce bursitis.
- Strains: Muscle or tendon strain, like bursitis, is often associated with overuse injuries. However, strains can also occur due to force or trauma, and involve stretching the muscle or tendon past the point of comfort.
Soft tissue injuries can occur in almost any type of accident, including:
- Car accidents in which part of the body may come in contact with rough surfaces, such as the roadway or sharp objects inside the vehicle, including glass or metal.
- Motorcycle accidents, which commonly produce an injury known as road rash, which is a type of abrasion caused when exposed skin makes contact with the roadway at speed, causing the skin to be sloughed or torn away. Another type of soft tissue injury that results from motorcycle accidents is known as biker’s arm, which refers to tendon and muscle damage in the arm caused by the body’s instinctual attempt to catch itself when falling by extending the arms.
- Bicycle accidents, which produce many of the same soft tissue injuries as motorcycle accidents.
- Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents that result from an individual slipping or tripping on debris or clutter in walkways or other hazardous property features that cause a person to fall either from height or on the same level.
- Caught in/between accidents, which are relatively common and result in a person or part of a person’s body being caught in a piece of mechanical machinery or in between two objects. This type of accident often results in sprains due to the wrenching or twisting motion required to free oneself from the objects compressing the body part.
Complications of Soft Tissue Injuries
In the realm of accidental injuries, many people mistakenly think of soft tissue injuries as minor injuries that will resolve with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However, severe soft tissue injuries can require medical interventions, such as surgical repair of the affected area to improve the loss of range of motion associated with scarring that occurs in joints, as well as—in the case of open injuries—the need for skin grafts to fix the appearance of scarring.
Soft tissue injuries can also result in severe, or even life-threatening, complications, including:
- Infection: This risk of infection is most prevalent in open tissue injuries. The introduction of dangerous bacteria into an individual’s bloodstream through an open wound causes infection. Infections are sometimes superficial, meaning that they only affect the skin; deep incisional, meaning they extend into the deep layers of muscle beneath the skin layers; or they can involve the body organs. Signs of an infection include: fever, pus, or cloudy fluid draining from the wound; redness around the wound; increased swelling or pain at least 48 hours after the injury occurred; a bright red rash that looks like a sunburn emanating from the affected area; a red streak extending from the wound in the direction of the heart; the wound has a foul odor; the wound occurred at least 10 days ago and is not showing signs of healing.
- Deep vein thrombosis: This condition often occurs after an individual has suffered a contusion. Deep vein thrombosis refers to a condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg. This complication may present with a charlie horse-type pain in the affected leg, as well as swelling, tenderness, redness, and warmth in the leg caused by the inability for blood to flow freely through the limb. This condition comes with a potentially fatal complication known as a pulmonary embolism, which is caused when a blood clot breaks free from the leg and travels through the circulatory system to the lung.
- Acute compartment syndrome: This is a condition caused when pressure in the muscles builds up to a dangerous level as a result of swelling or bleeding, decreasing blood flow, and the ability to deliver nourishment and oxygen to the affected area of the body. Acute compartment syndrome is considered a medical emergency, as failing to seek treatment for the condition can lead to muscle rupture or tissue death.
- Myositis ossificans: This is a condition in which bone tissue develops inside of a muscle or other soft tissue after an injury has occurred. The areas most likely to be affected by this condition include the large muscles of the arms and legs. This condition arises when the body makes a mistake in the healing process, releasing immature bone cells into the injured area instead of muscle cells.
- Rhabdomyolysis: As a result of direct or indirect muscle injury, this condition occurs when muscle fibers die and release their contents into the bloodstream. Rhabdomyolysis often results from crush injuries, such as those that are sometimes suffered in motor vehicle crashes, falls, or collapsed buildings, as well as electrocution, lightning strike, or a third-degree burn. The condition presents with certain symptoms: muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs, or lower back; muscle weakness or difficulty with moving the arms or legs; and dark red or brown urine or a pronounced decrease in urine output. Rhabdomyolysis may also cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, rapid heart rate, confusion, and lack of consciousness. The effects of this disorder include irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest, damage to the blood vessels in the affected area, and damage to the liver or kidneys.
- Post-traumatic muscle fibrosis: Fibrosis is a condition that occurs after trauma in which muscle tissue is replaced by connective tissue. The effect is the abundance of this fibrous tissue, presenting as scarring, in the muscle, which interferes with the ability to use that muscle and loss of strength and control in the affected area. The condition often results in the need to surgically remove the fibrous tissue to aid in the healing of the wound and use of the affected part of the body.
- Muscle herniation: This condition causes the muscle to bulge through the fascia after blunt trauma, resulting in a solid mass of muscle tissue that can be seen and felt in an examination. This hernia often causes significant pain and disfiguration, which surgical intervention can resolve.
For each of these potential physical complications that require surgical intervention, the potential exists for surgical complications, including adverse reactions to anesthesia and infection of the post-surgical site.
Recovering Damages Related to a Soft Tissue Injury
As you can see, soft tissue injuries can result in far more than a need for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Instead, they may result in life-threatening issues and life-altering implications. If you suffered a soft tissue injury due to an accident that the careless or reckless actions of someone else caused, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can explain to you the process for obtaining compensation for your injury-related expenses and the impacts that your injury has on your life.
A personal injury lawsuit, which is a civil tort claim that seeks to determine legal liability for your damages, may provide relief for you even if your injury resulted from a car accident that Florida’s no-fault insurance system would generally cover.
Florida requires drivers who wish to register their vehicles in the state to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) policies, which provide up to $10,000 and cover a portion of your expenses, including medical expenses and lost wages, in the event of an accident. However, because these soft tissue injuries can produce dire consequences, such as permanent and significant loss to a bodily function and permanent or significant scarring, often these cases involve a personal injury claim.
The following damages are available to injured individuals who file personal injury claims:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment, emergency transport to the hospital, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, the services of physicians or surgeons, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation
- Lost wages due to injuries that prohibit you from working or cause you to miss work to attend medical appointments
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your injury results in a permanent disability that prevents you from working or from earning the same level of income as you earned before the accident.
- Non-economic damages, including physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, and loss of the enjoyment of life
Do not let others convince you that your soft tissue injuries are minor and that you do not deserve compensation for the damages you have incurred as a result of an accident. Contact a personal injury lawyer about your legal options, and put his or her experience in this type of injury to work for you.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814