Damage to the Chest and Sternum Caused by Car Accidents

Driving With a Fractured SternumOne of the strongest warnings that most driving instructors will give new and inexperienced drivers is that a car can turn into a two-ton weapon if it is not operated safely. Many victims of car accidents can verify that sentiment. There are very few experiences that can compare to being injured in a crash.

One of the characteristics that makes collisions so dangerous, and causes the resulting injuries to be so serious, is how the force of the impact affects the human body. The Huntsville car accident attorneys at Martin & Helms discuss the impact of a car crash on the chest and sternum in today’s blog.

What happens to a person’s body in a car accident?

One of the first things that happen to your body during a car accident is a release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released in times of stress. This hormone prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response. When adrenaline is released into your body, there are several ways to react. The body can experience increased energy levels, little to no feelings of pain, increased awareness, heightened senses, an increase in stamina, and a rapid heart rate.

Why does this matter? Because adrenaline can be a great source of help or harm to the body during a car accident. The hormone can mask any feelings of pain, which means an injured driver or passenger might not realize he or she is injured right away. If this happens, the victim may delay seeking treatment, and a delay in treatment can make things much worse. If, for example, a person believes he or she has bruised a rib, when in fact he or she has broken a rib and punctured an organ, the internal bleeding that results can make an already serious injury life-threatening.

What factors determine the severity of a body’s injuries in a car accident?

The severity of a body’s injuries depends on several factors in a car accident. Some factors include the speed at which both drivers were traveling, whether drivers or passengers were using seatbelts, and the type of car accident. Your body travels at the same speed as the vehicle, which means your body will decelerate from the speed at which the vehicle was traveling. In this type of car accident, your seatbelt will lessen the severity of the injury, even if you are injured in the crash.

How do car accidents cause damage to the chest?

The point and force of impact can affect the damage a body sustains. Crumple zones can protect drivers and passengers, as can reinforced framing within the car, but a direct hit can still lead to serious injuries.

A person’s chest or sternum can endure severe damage from colliding with a steering wheel, an airbag, and even a seatbelt. Experiencing a minor blow to the chest can knock the wind out of a person and lead to breathing problems. Some of the more severe injuries to the chest and sternum involve damage to the heart or large blood vessels, the trachea (windpipe), a punctured lung, injury to the kidneys, injury to the spleen, and broken or fractured ribs. If a driver hits the steering wheel or door of the vehicle, these situations can cause significant damage to a person’s chest or sternum.

Seat belts do more than save lives

Wearing a seat belt may not prevent all injuries, but it will almost certainly prevent them from being fatal. For example, a driver involved in a head-on collision can also be ejected from the vehicle and suffer other severe injuries, like spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. If he or she is wearing a seatbelt – provided it has no defects – the chances of this are virtually zero.

Sternum and chest injuries caused by airbags

Depending on the nature of the car accident, an airbag is deployed in what seems like a millisecond. When airbags are deployed, the seat belts are tightened simultaneously. The most ironic aspect about airbags is that while they are used to protect and save the driver or passenger from life-threatening injury, they can still cause some damage to the driver or passenger during deployment. Some of the injuries that an airbag can cause to a driver or passenger involve burns to the chest, sternum fractures, rib fractures, and even an aorta rupture.

All of that said, airbags still prevent more deaths than they cause (again, provided they are not defective), and the combination of seatbelt/airbag is one of the safest. Seatbelts keep you in the proper seated position for when an airbag deploys, which should reduce the risk of injury from the airbag, and eliminate the risk of fatal injury in a collision.

What are some symptoms of a chest or sternum injury?

Swelling, bruising, and lacerations are all physical signs of an injury. Chest and sternum injuries, however, are likely to include damage you cannot see.

Soreness beneath the ribs or pain when you breathe are sure signs of a chest injury. Some other symptoms include experiencing pain when you cough, take a deep breath or laugh. Some symptoms of an injured sternum include experiencing intense pain that worsens when the person breathes, coughs, or rotates their torso. In any of these cases, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Your trachea is located at the bottom of your neck, but it extends into the upper chest, right around the top of the lungs. Some of the symptoms of a damaged trachea include wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, hoarseness, and coughing. In some cases where the trachea has experienced swelling, it may begin to block the person’s airway. This is a life-threatening condition, so seek medical attention immediately if you are struggling to breathe.

After a car accident injury, you may have questions about how you might recover compensation for your injuries and other losses. At Martin & Helms, our experienced car accident lawyers in Huntsville and Decatur are here to fight for justice for you. You may call us at 256-539-1990 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We also serve injured clients in Madison, Athens, and throughout North Alabama.