Fractures and broken bones are often caused by motor vehicle accidents. Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable when struck by a car, and they frequently sustain more severe injuries than vehicle occupants, such as head trauma and internal injuries. Any one of the 206 bones in our body is at risk of injury in an automobile accident, but among the most common bones to be fractured or broken are:
- Spinal vertebrae
- Ribs or sternum
- Leg bones, including the femur, tibia and ankle bones
- Collarbone and neckbones
- Arm or wrist
The nature of the accident often directly impacts the type and severity of broken bones suffered by an accident victim. Accident victims who are thrown from a vehicle or struck while walking across the street, for example, frequently suffer different types of fractures than car occupants, and their injuries tend to be particularly severe. Pedestrians hit by a car are prone to head trauma and fractures to the skull, spinal injury and a broken pelvis.
The following Toronto pedestrian accidents illustrate the type of catastrophic injuries often suffered in these incidents. In both cases, the at fault driver was impaired and convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Further, the accident victims in both incidents suffered psychological and emotional injuries (including depression and anger) in addition to their physical difficulties, due to the loss of quality of life brought on by their injuries.
- A 23-year-old man sustained fractures in his skull, facial bones, wrist and tibia, in addition to a severe traumatic brain injury, nerve damage in his right eye, and damage to his liver. The pedestrian was lawfully crossing Danforth Drive at an intersection, when he was struck by a car and thrown almost 30 meters. The accident victim underwent multiple surgeries and intensive rehabilitation treatment, but will never fully recover; he cannot walk unassisted, needs help with day-to-day living, and can never work again.
- Two men, aged 21 and 32, were hit by a tow truck while crossing Eglington Avenue. Both suffered head trauma and injuries to their pelvis. The 32-year-old sustained multiple fractures to his face and skull, a cracked pelvis and a fractured hip, as well as a concussion. The 21-year-old suffered even more severe injuries than his friend. His neck, collarbone, pelvis, fibula and ribs were fractured; he had bleeding in his brain; all ligaments in his left leg were torn; and he sustained multiple internal injuries, to his kidney, bladder, pancreas and spleen. Both men required multiple surgeries for their injuries and have undergone significant rehabilitation therapies. Two years since the accident, both are a long way from sustained recovery and will never be able to work in their chosen careers, if at all.
The bodies of the drivers and passengers who are inside a vehicle during a collision typically sustain a different type of trauma than pedestrians and cyclists. They are often thrown or jammed against the dashboard, and this can shatter or fracture bones, particularly the patella (knee cap), ribs, and the leg bones (the femur, tibia and fibula). In addition to broken bones, vehicle occupants often suffer other injuries in an accident, such as a herniated disc, brain injury and concussion, strains and contusions. Injury to the brain and spine can result when the body is thrown forward violently, which commonly happens during a rear-end collision.
A fracture or broken bone may heal fairly quickly or may result in permanent and severe disability and pain, or the injury may have a level of severity somewhere between these extremes. The level of injury is often related to the type of accident, but each person is unique in terms of their personal attributes – including their general health and pre-existing conditions, age and gender - and these differences also impact the severity of injury, and the speed and degree of recovery. On average, older adults take longer to recover than healthy young people, and persons with a pre-existing condition, such as a back injury, may suffer a more serious and prolonged injury and often experience greater difficulty recovering when the accident causes re-injury.
Recovery from a fracture may also be hindered by complications, such as the following.
- Chronic pain in the area of injury, such as the knee or ankle.
- Delayed or reduced healing. Severe fractures can heal slowly and/or never heal completely. Fractures to the tibia commonly heal slowly or only partially because the tibia bone gets less blood flow.
- Arthritis may develop over time, particularly when the fracture extends into the joint or through poor bone alignment
- Infection in the bone.
- Damage to nerves or blood vessels.
Compensation for broken bones and other injuries suffered in an accident
Long-term disability benefits provide a form of income replacement - typically 60 to 70 percent of your pre-disability income - but the amount depends on the terms specified in your disability insurance policy. If your injury prevents you from being able to perform the essential tasks in your job, you may claim long-term disability benefits for up to 104 months. Then, if you are still disabled after 2 years, you will be eligible for disability benefits if your disability prevents you from working at any type of employment to which you’re reasonably suited.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, including as a pedestrian or cyclist, you can claim no fault/statutory accident benefits (SABs) under your own car insurance policy or from the policy of a driver involved in the accident. Your vehicle insurer wants to be notified within 7 days of the collision (barring a serious injury that prevents you from fulfilling this obligation). Your insurance company will then forward you an accident benefits application, which needs to be completed within 30 days of the accident.
The amount of maximum benefits you may claim under SABS depends on the severity of your injury; specifically, whether it’s considered a minor injury, non-catastrophic injury or catastrophic impairment. For catastrophic injuries, an accident victim should receive a catastrophic impairment determination, entitling them to the highest level of compensation under SABs.
If your broken bones and other injuries were caused by a negligent driver, such as occurred in the above pedestrian accidents, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver to compensate you for any financial and non-economic losses (for example, for pain and suffering). If the driver was convicted of a driving offence in connection with the collision (including a criminal conviction or payment of traffic violation ticket), their conviction or guilty plea is generally accepted as proof of their negligence. In such a case, the key remaining issues to be resolved or negotiated are what specific injuries resulted from the accident and the valuation of losses associated with these injuries.
If you suffered broken bones or another serious injury in a motor vehicle accident, the most important first step you need to take is to seek prompt medical attention and follow through on your doctor’s advice for treatment. It’s also a good idea to talk to a knowledgeable broken bones lawyer at Dietrich Law to learn about your best options for obtaining compensation for your injury. Further, it’s in your best interests to act promptly, not only to avoid missing the filing deadlines for accident benefits and/or a civil lawsuit, but also to ensure that you’re well informed about which legal actions will bring you optimal compensation, given the unique circumstances of your case.