What Are Some Common Leg Injuries from Car Accidents? - Hensley Legal Group, PC

What Are Some Common Leg Injuries from Car Accidents?

Car accidents could injure practically any part of the human body, including the legs, which are notably vulnerable in collisions from the front.  In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 37 percent of “moderate or more severe” injuries and 26 percent of “serious or more severe” injuries sustained in frontal crashes […]

July 10, 2024

Car accidents could injure practically any part of the human body, including the legs, which are notably vulnerable in collisions from the front.  In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 37 percent of “moderate or more severe” injuries and 26 percent of “serious or more severe” injuries sustained in frontal crashes affect the lower extremities. 

What are some common leg injuries from car accidents?  Join us as we explore how legs may be hurt in a crash and how you can get compensated for your own car accident leg injuries. 

Car Accident Leg Injuries Can Take Many Forms 

Car accident leg injuries can take many forms, far more than we can discuss here at length. 

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the leg injuries that are most frequently treated following American car accidents.  But even if we do not address your own leg injuries, the basic principles of initiating a personal injury case for them should still apply. 

Car Accident Knee Injuries 

Knee injuries account for ten percent of all automotive injuries in the United States, according to the NHTSA. 

The knee is a complex structure, with the patella (the kneecap) connected to the thigh and shin by an array of ligaments and cartilage, and each of these components is critical to setting the leg in motion.  Even a minimal knee injury could make it harder to walk, while a catastrophic knee injury could make it impossible. 

To avoid these issues, you should treat a knee injury as soon as you can, though the shock of a collision could result in delayed knee pain.  After car accident knee injury symptoms begin to emerge, however, get treatment immediately.  These symptoms may include: 

  • Swelling 
  • Bruising, redness, or discoloration 
  • Warmth to the touch 
  • Restricted range of motion 
  • Instability 
  • Weakness 
  • Clicking or popping sounds 

Though you could treat some mild knee injuries with ice and rest, you should head to an emergency room or urgent care center if you experience: 

  • Visible deformation 
  • Inability to stand or bear weight 
  • Loss of flexion or extension  
  • Indications that the knee will “give out” 
  • High fever 

The seriousness of car accident knee injuries can vary, and among the worst are meniscus tears, torn ligaments, dislocations, and fractures.  

Meniscus Tears 

The knee contains two thick, rubbery bands of cartilage, known as menisci: the lateral meniscus, which is located on the outer side of the knee, and the medial meniscus, which is located on the inner side of the knee.  The menisci are pivotal in absorbing impacts on the knee joint, though a car accident could twist or rotate the cartilage until the meniscus tears. 

The consequences of lateral or medial meniscus tears will depend upon their severity.  A minor tear could cause swelling, stiffness, and discomfort, while a major tear could render the leg immobile.  Generally, meniscus tears can only be diagnosed accurately with an MRI, and surgery may be prescribed. 

Torn Ligaments  

The knee joint is bound together by ligaments, which are strands of connective tissue that can be stretched until they tear in the event of a car accident.  While you might be able to walk with a torn knee ligament, ambulation can be very difficult, with inflammation and pain radiating from the tear and persistent “popping” and/or “buckling” sensations.  

There are four primary ligaments in the knee, and the direction of the impact from the car accident will play a role in which, if any, of them may tear.  They are the: 

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) — The most prevalent car accident ligament injury is a torn PCL, sometimes referred to as “dashboard knee.”  The PCL controls backward movement, and it is usually torn when the knee hits the dashboard during a crash. 
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) — Controlling forward movement and rotation, the ACL can tear during a collision in which the knee is struck, twisted, or overextended. 
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) — The LCL balances the outer knee and can be torn by a sideways blow, with the pain centralized in that region. 
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) — The MCL balances the inner knee and may tear when the knee is pushed in the other direction. 

Once again, torn knee ligaments might heal by themselves with continuous support and care, though surgical repair may be necessary for full thickness tears, which may involve replacing the ligament with a section of healthy tendon. 

Dislocated Knees 

A knee is said to be dislocated when blunt force trauma shifts the knee joint out of place.   

The effects of a knee dislocation could run the gamut from pain, stiffness, and swelling on one end of the spectrum, which might be resolved with the application of a knee brace, to the inability to walk or stand on the other end of the spectrum, which could necessitate surgery. 

Knee Fractures  

The patella or kneecap is a rounded triangular bone which articulates with the femur (the thigh bone). 

If a knee strikes the dashboard with sufficient force during a car accident, the kneecap could be partially or completely broken.  If the bone is not shifted out of place, a knee fracture might heal with casting, though surgery may be needed if the patella is unstable or protrudes through the skin. 

Broken or Crushed Legs from Car Accidents 

There are three bones in each leg (not counting the patella or the bones in the pelvis or the ankles): the femur, the tibia (the shin bone), and the fibula (the smaller of the two leg bones below the kneecap).  Any of these leg bones could be broken in a car accident, particularly if a motorist is ejected or crushed.   

Leg fractures can be broadly categorized into two groups: 

  • Simple fractures (closed fractures) – These are breaks in which the bones stay inside of the body.  
  • Compound fractures (open fractures) – These are broken bones with fragments that splinter off and puncture the skin. 

While compound leg fractures are likelier to demand extensive treatment and develop infections and other complications, any type of car accident leg fracture could be a substantial setback to a driver or passenger. 

In addition to being classified as simple or compound, a leg break could fit into one of many different subcategories, including:  

  • Displaced – The ends of the bone have moved out of alignment. 
  • Comminuted – The bone has been broken into smaller pieces. 
  • Transverse – The break is perpendicular. 
  • Oblique – The break is slanted. 
  • Spiral – The bone is twisted or rotated prior to breaking. 
  • Avulsion– Intense pressure on a tendon or ligament has torn a piece of bone off of the main bone. 

Simple car accident leg fractures might be resolved with non-invasive methods such as casting, but compound fractures may require surgical intervention, possibly with the implantation of hardware to fixate the fragments, as well as the use of assistive devices and therapeutic regimens. 

Car Accident Leg Sprains and Strains 

While they may be less lifechanging than breaks or tears, car accident leg sprains and strains could present significant obstacles to afflicted drivers and passengers. 

Though sprains and strains are comparable, they affect different parts of the body, with sprains referring to soft tissue injuries of the tendons and ligaments, while strains impact the muscles.  Victims mostly become aware of leg sprains and strains because of pain, swelling, and tenderness, particularly when weight is applied.  Rest is recommended for the affected areas, as overuse after a car accident could prolong the injury.   

Leg Lacerations, Abrasions, and Bruises 

Leg lacerations are routine injuries in car accidents with vehicular intrusion or broken glass. 

By and large, you should not panic about cuts of the skin, provided that the bleeding is under control.  Most wounds can be cleaned, disinfected, and bandaged, and antibacterial ointment may be applied as well.  Nevertheless, especially deep lacerations may call for stitching, and they could leave scars. 

Abrasions are superficially similar injuries in which the skin is scraped against a rough surface, though it is not actually punctured.  As such, cleaning and bandaging might suffice. 

A vehicle occupant may also suffer bruises upon direct contact with a seatbelt, an airbag, or various elements of the vehicle’s interior.  Assuming that the skin has not been penetrated, these injuries could resolve themselves over time, with the patient resting and using ice packs until the swelling goes down. 

What Are Leg Injuries from Car Accidents Worth? 

The physical and financial toll of a car accident leg injury can be enormous, though compensation might be recoverable if you pursue a personal injury case.  But what are leg injuries from car accidents worth? 

The answer will depend upon a host of variables, such as: 

  • Liability – You must prove that someone else was liable for your car accident before you can receive anything for your injuries.  Typically, this would be the driver who hit you and the owner of his or her vehicle (if separate from the driver), though others could be liable as well.  But keep in mind that the degree to which you were liable for the incident could diminish how much you receive or even bar you from receiving anything at all.  
  • Extent of injuries – The extent of your injuries and what you spent to treat them will further influence what you can get for your case.  For instance, a strained thigh that healed after a single physician visit might merit far less than a displaced, comminuted femur fracture for which you underwent surgery. 
  • Wage loss – You might receive more for leg injuries that kept you off of work or kept someone in your household off of work to take care of you, since they would have been more fiscally detrimental to your family. 
  • Applicable insurance coverage – Regardless of how big your losses were, what you can get for them may be capped by the insurance coverage that is applicable to your car accident.  If there is only a $25,000.00 state minimum insurance policy covering the car that hit you, you will probably not get more than $25,000.00 from the insurance company, even if your losses far exceeded that figure.  In some situations, you may be able to tap into other sources of insurance coverage, such as an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy, or you could attempt to go after a defendant’s personal assets, though the chances of there being much in the way of assets might be slim. 

At its core, the value of your case will be determined by the total amount of your damages and the funds available to cover them.  You can only arrive at an accurate calculation of what your case should be worth after you finish your treatment, attain maximum medical improvement, and add up all of your bills and expenses, the effect on your past and future earnings, and the overall harm to your well-being.   

But while that is what your case might be worth in an ideal world, what it is worth in the real world will be bounded by insurance coverage and some other avenues of recovery – which could be more than enough in some cases but fall woefully short in others. 

What to Do If You Injure Your Leg in a Car Accident 

No matter what your case may ultimately be worth, there are numerous steps you should take in the aftermath of your car accident to help protect that case.  Specifically, you should remember to: 

  • Move to safety – Even though your mobility may be impaired, loitering in the street could put you at risk of another car accident, so move to safety before you do anything else. 
  • Dial 911 – If police and emergency personnel have not already arrived, dial 911 to request their presence.  Because an inaccurate police report could come back to haunt you, it is important to share a comprehensive account of what happened with the responding officers. 
  • Seek medical treatment – Any delays in care could hinder the healing process and permit doubt to be cast on the causal relationship between the incident and your car accident leg injuries, so be sure to seek prompt medical treatment, either from paramedics at the crash site or at the nearest hospital. 
  • Take pictures and shoot videos – It may be a cliché, but a picture can be worth a thousand words when it comes to assigning blame and cataloging your damages.  Use your phone to take pictures and shoot videos of your surroundings to create a visual record of the collision. 
  • Exchange information – You may not have a case at all if you cannot identify the potential defendants.  Do not leave the scene without exchanging essential information with everyone involved in the car accident, such as: 
  • Name 
  • Address 
  • Phone number 
  • Email 
  • Driver’s license 
  • License plate 
  • Vehicle year, make, and model 
  • Insurance company and policy number 

Try to take down the names and numbers of any eyewitnesses too, since they could provide independent confirmation of what occurred.  

  • Get in touch with your insurance company – Don’t wait too long to get in touch with your insurance company about the car accident, since doing so will keep you in compliance with the terms of your policy and let you take advantage of its benefits, which might include payments for doctor appointments, towing, rentals, and repairs. 
  • Stay away from other insurers – The insurers for the other parties may be eager to get in touch with you as well, but you may wish to stay away from them, since anything you say could be used against you if you do not understand your rights.  Instead… 
  • Talk to a lawyer – A knowledgeable car accident attorney could explain your rights, answer any questions you may have, and start your case off on a strong footing. 

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Make a Difference 

Car accident leg injuries can be overwhelming, forcing you to cope with skyrocketing medical bills while making it tougher for you to go to work.  Merely making ends meet could quickly become a challenge, much less staving off ruin.  And while you are certainly entitled to deal with the liability insurance carriers on your own, a veteran insurance adjuster could exploit your relative inexperience to settle your claim for pennies on the dollar or just deny it altogether.  

This is where a skilled car accident lawyer can make a difference.  Just as it won’t be the first car accident for the adjuster, it won’t be the first for your attorney either, who will be able to fend off the tactics that insurance companies deploy against novice claimants.  This is a key reason why personal injury plaintiffs with lawyers obtain settlements or judgments that are 3.5 times higher on average than the ones obtained by plaintiffs without them. 

Once retained, your attorney can launch a thorough investigation into the causes of your car accident and everyone who may be at fault for it within the time allotted by law.  After assembling an airtight case against all of the defendants, your car accident lawyer will enter into negotiations with their insurance companies to get you reimbursed for the entirety of your losses.  When confronted with compelling evidence of both your damages and the insured’s guilt, a sensible adjuster can be convinced to tender a fair settlement in order to avert a less favorable outcome at trial. 

Indeed, most car accident cases are resolved outside of the courtroom, but you might have to go to trial if a stubborn adjuster consistently comes back with lowball offers, at which point a seasoned attorney will become indispensable.  Plaintiffs who represent themselves in court only win about four percent of the time, whereas plaintiffs with professional representation win more often than not. 

Getting Injured Hoosiers What They Deserve 

If you have been hurt in a car accident because of somebody else’s thoughtlessness, reach out to Hensley Legal Group, where we have been getting injured Hoosiers what they deserve for over a quarter century.  Our dedicated Indiana car accident lawyers will be here to guide you through your legal options.   

You can schedule a free consultation with an accomplished Indiana car accident attorney now by calling or texting us at (317) 472-3333, chatting with us online, or filling out our contact form.