In the United States, especially Florida, car accidents are one of the leading causes of serious and fatal injuries.
One of the most vulnerable areas of the body in a car accident is the chest. In a car accident, serious chest injuries are very common, even if the airbags deploy properly, and a safety belt is worn. Many accident lawyers report that they have seen victims, even of minor car accidents, who have serious and painful chest injuries.
Why Chest Injuries are Common in Car Accidents
According to medical professionals, the reason that chest injuries are so common in car accidents is because of the positioning of both the driver and the passenger in the vehicle.
The driver sits close to the steering wheel, while the front passenger is typically close to the dashboard.
This positioning means that, when the accident occurs, each person is thrown forward due to the inertia of the vehicle.
Their chests may come into direct contact with the steering wheel, the dashboard, or even simply slam into seat belts or shoulder harnesses, causing injury.
Surprisingly, chest injuries common both in lower-speed car accidents and in higher-speed collisions. This is because when the airbags do not deploy, the seat belt alone may not be enough to prevent the chest from slamming into the dashboard or the steering wheel, causing serious traumatic injury.
Causes of Chest Pain after a Car Accident
Any time you’re in a car accident, it’s important to seek medical help for any injuries or issues you may be experiencing.
A medical professional can assess the severity of your injuries, or make sure that you’re okay, and free of any common issues like whiplash or spinal damage, which can occur even in low-speed accidents.
However, if you have not yet consulted a doctor, or you felt okay right after your accident but are now experiencing chest pain, you may be suffering from one of the following conditions:
A bruised rib is exactly what it sounds like. When your ribs and sternum impact a hard object, such as the steering wheel or dash, they may be damaged by this force, and the surrounding soft tissue may become damaged and bruised, causing a dull, aching pain. The pain may come and go, or be intermittent, depending on your movements and the position of your body.
A broken rib is usually noticeable almost immediately, as it causes a tremendous amount of discomfort. As opposed to a bruised rib, which typically feels like a dull, aching pain, fractured ribs tend to feel “sharp” and may cause shooting pains. It’s common to feel additional pain when you try to breathe in deeply – because this causes your rib cage to expand, which puts pressure on the broken rib.
The ribs can be broken because of an impact with the steering wheel or dash, or even just because of the seatbelt, which arrested your movement during the collision.
A broken rib is a very dangerous condition. If you think your rib is broken, you need to get help right away, because there’s a risk that your rib could puncture your lung, heart, or another major internal organ of the chest. Go to the emergency room immediately if you believe you have a broken rib.
A simple muscle strain is another common cause of chest pains. The body reacts to sudden movements, impacts, and jerks by tensing up before the movement – and it usually does so without you even having to think about it.
This means that your muscles can become strained after an accident, leaving your chest in pain. The symptoms of a muscle strain may seem like a bruised rib, but you can tell them apart. Muscle strains are typically more “sharp” and hurt more when you’re doing something like trying to lift an object. They may also feel “stiff” and “tight.”
If you have a muscle strain, you should see a doctor. Most muscle strains are minor, but more severe strains can result in major tearing of the chest muscles, which requires medical attention and physical therapy for proper healing.
Chest Pain Due to Internal Organ Injuries
This is the most severe type of chest injury that can occur in most car accidents. You never want one of your internal organs to be injured after a car accident – and if you suspect some kind of internal injury, you need to get medical help right away.
Chest Pain Due to Heart Injuries
The heart is commonly injured in car accidents, because the ribs may impact it, or a broken rib could even cause direct damage to the heart. A heart injury requires immediate medical attention.
The most common indicator of a heart injury or heart trauma is dull chest pains, which can be either constant or intermittent, especially if these pains are located directly above the heart.
If you are experiencing dull chest pains that are intermittent or causing discomfort, you should consult a doctor immediately.
Chest Pain Due to Lung Injuries
The lungs can become bruised by a heavy trauma, which may cause swelling, internal bleeding, and the buildup of fluid. This condition can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of a bruised lung include chest pain, as well as shortness of breath, severe coughing bouts, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and difficulty or pain when breathing.
A bruised lung can be very dangerous, so you should get medical attention right away.
You may also experience a punctured lung, should a broken rib pierce your lung. This is also a life-threatening condition.
A punctured lung occurs when some kind of material, most often a broken rib, pierces part of your lung. This causes the lung to collapse, with air escaping between the lung and the wall of the chest.
The most easily-identifiable symptoms of a punctured lung include extreme shortness of breath, chest and shoulder pain, decreased sounds of breathing, lightheadedness, or an extremely high heart rate. The skin may also seem bluish, which is caused by inadequate oxygen reaching the heart.
Many people don’t want to go to the hospital to get checked out after an accident happens because they aren’t in pain immediately.
It is possible that due to adrenaline, you may not feel pain in that very moment. However, you may start feeling the brunt of your injuries after a while.
Apart from chest pains, if you are experiencing fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath or dizziness, you could have sustained an injury to the internal organs. The earlier you consult a doctor, the better. A thorough checkup can identify any injuries that need attention and your earlier diagnosis can improve your prognosis.
How Can I Prevent Chest Injuries In Car Accidents?
The most important thing you can do is wear your seatbelt.
Your seatbelt is the only thing that is protecting you from the steering wheel or dashboard. In a high-speed collision, the airbag alone will not be enough to prevent your chest from impacting the dash – especially if you’re in a frontal collision, and the steering column is pushed towards you. Your risk of a serious traumatic chest injury – or even flying out of your car’s windshield – is much higher if you don’t wear your seatbelt.
And while it’s true that seat belts can cause chest injuries – like bruised and fractured ribs – these injuries will always be less severe, compared to the injuries you would have received, had you not been wearing your seatbelt.
You may also want to get your airbags inspected, particularly if you drive an older vehicle that was made in the late 1980s or 1990s. While airbags are designed to be functional for a long time, electrical faults or other issues may cause them to deploy improperly.
Modern cars will have an “SRS” light on the dash, which indicates the functionality of the airbag. If this light is illuminated, there may be a problem with the airbags. Drive your car to the nearest repair center immediately to have it inspected, and make sure that it’s working properly. Don’t risk your life by driving a car with non-functional airbags.
While these two steps will not eliminate the risk of chest injuries in car accidents, they will help you ensure that your injuries are less severe – and help keep you safe on the road.
What Should I Do If My Chest Hurts After A Car Accident?
Before you do anything else, get medical help.
If your car accident is serious and an ambulance is on-site, get transported to the nearest hospital, to make sure that any major issues, like a broken rib or a heart or lung issue, are taken care of. Always put your life first – and make getting proper treatment your priority.
If your chest has started hurting several hours or a few days after your accident, and you thought you were okay, you should still see a medical professional, and get x-rays and diagnostic tests performed, to assess your health and the extent of your injuries.
The above situation is actually quite common. After a car accident, there’s a lot of adrenaline flowing through your body, which may distract you from the true extent of your injuries. You may not realize that you’re in pain until after you get home and have some time to decompress.
Seeing a doctor for help after a car accident isn’t just a good idea to protect your health. A proper diagnosis by a medical professional can be helpful evidence when you’re filing a claim against the responsible person’s insurance company – or if you decide to file a lawsuit for additional damages.
Have you been in a car accident?
If you have any confusion regarding your rights after a car accident or if you want to file a complaint against anyone for the accident, contact Tampa personal injury lawyer, The Law Office of Michael Herron, for a free evaluation.
You are welcome to call us for a free consultation regarding your case.
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