We often associate hip fractures with slip and fall accidents, however these fractures are also extremely common in car accidents. Whether you’re involved in a rear-end collision, a head-on, or any other type of accident, debilitating hip fractures can be the result. The violent impact of the collision is often compounded by our natural instinct to brace our bodies when we see that an impact is coming. We automatically extend our legs and lock our knees in position, causing the force of the impact to be transferred from the body of the car through our feet and up through our stiffened legs causing fractures to those bones.
What is a Hip Fracture?
While we might think that a hip fracture involves the big, flat bones that flare out from the pelvis, the ilia, the sort of hip fractures most often seen occur at or around the head of the femur, the large thigh bone. It is important to note that there are actually three sections to the anatomy of the hip: the ilium as mentioned above, the pubis, and the ischium. If any of these bones is fractured, it is considered a hip or pelvic fracture since the bones all work together. Forceful impact in a fall or collision can fracture any or all of these bones.
About 90 percent of hip fractures fall into one of the two following categories:
- Fracture of the Femoral Neck: This break occurs in the femur and is found an inch or two from the place where the round head of the bone meets the socket of the hip. This kind of break can involve torn blood vessels, stopping or impeding the blood flow to the femur.
- Intertrochanteric Fractures: Intertrochanteric hip fractures are located several inches more distant from the joint.
Most hip fractures require surgical repair or replacement so they can be both expensive and require long-term medical treatment. Some hip fractures heal in a matter of weeks or months. Others may never be the same.
Hip Fractures Can Change Lives
When hip fractures happen in the elderly, they can complicate life and even bring on an early death in some patients. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that the impact of a fractured hip, especially in the case of older adults, can include these serious complications:
- Higher rate of mortality,
- Inability to maintain independence and prior living conditions
- Increased need for care and supervision
- Decreased quality of life
- Compromised mobility
- Greater risk for infections
- Greater likelihood of blood clots as a result of limited mobility
At particular risk are elderly females who may suffer from bone density issues like osteoporosis are at greater risk for hip fractures and the complications associated with them. Since an accident that causes a hip fracture may well change your life forever, it’s important that you seek medical care quickly.
How Do Hip Injuries Happen in Car Accidents?
Blunt force is usually at fault when hips are fractured. When collisions occur, the laws of physics come into play. The energy from the moving vehicles is transferred to the people inside the vehicles when cars collide. The amount of physical injury to drivers and passengers depends upon the size and weight of the involved vehicles, and the speed at which the vehicles are travelling. However, hip fractures are possible even in low-speed collisions. In some particularly susceptible people, such as the older individuals mentioned above, hip fractures can often happen in the absence of particularly violent impact because the older bones are thinner and weaker. This is not the victim’s fault; it’s merely a statistical fact.
This violent transfer of energy at the moment of collision can cause passengers inside the vehicles to be forcefully thrown about inside the cabin in spite of the use of seatbelts and the deployment of airbags. Anything that you bang into during this violent energy transfer of force has the potential to cause serious injury whether you collide with the dashboard, the windows, the doorposts, or even other passengers. Of course, the physical health of the victims can play a part in the injuries as well.
How to Know if Your Hip is Broken
Following an accident, you are wise to seek medical care immediately. Even if you think you’re fine, it’s a good idea to get checked out. Know that if you have any of the following symptoms, you may have sustained a hip fracture and may need surgical intervention.
- Severe pain in the lower back or hip
- Pain in the groin at the point where the leg attaches to the torso
- Being unable to stand up
- Being unable to move your lower body
- Inability to put weight on the injured leg
- bruising and swelling around the hip
- stiffness and pain of the leg or the side injured
- Unnatural positioning of the leg or hip
What if the Other Driver Has No Insurance?
Even though Georgia requires liability insurance, not all the drivers on the road today are insured. And it often, the policy limits for these policies are sometimes insufficient to pay for the damages. In such cases, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may help pay your medical bills. In such cases, it’s a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney to know for certain which options are your best for a fair and full settlement.
Do Pre-Existing Conditions like Osteoporosis Cancel My Claim?
In Georgia, the at-fault driver or other negligent individual responsible for the accident is liable for the injuries suffered by other drivers and passengers. When someone else’s carelessness or negligence causes injury to others, the law is on the victim’s side.
Even so, that does not guarantee that the insurance company for the at-fault driver or negligent property owner will be eager to pay your claim. Quite the contrary is true. You can be almost sure that the pre-existence of conditions like osteoporosis which may have made your injury worse will come up. Nevertheless, the law in this state says that the at-fault driver must pay for damage caused by the accident even when pre-existing conditions existed.
Unfortunately, it is almost a certainty in these cases that lawyers for the defense will seize upon anything they can to blame the victim for his/her own injury. They often may make ridiculous arguments such as that the victim’s bone density could have been managed better if they had exercised more regularly and taken prescription medications and dietary supplements to strengthen bones. They very often blame any complication pf the fracture that may arise after the accident on the victim in the same way.
Fortunately, the law insists that an injured party be taken as he or she is at moment of the accident. In other words, any pre-existing conditions that may or may not have made the healing process harder cannot be considered in the jury’s deliberations or the Court’s decision-making process. To the law, the condition in which the defendant finds the plaintiff at the moment of the accident is all that matters; regardless of whether the defense tries to argue or imply otherwise.
With all of that said, the important thing to remember is that the defense will try very hard to make it seem you’re at fault, so you will need to prove that the injuries were actually the fault of the negligent individual.
How to Prove My Hip Fracture Was the Fault of the Negligent Party?
You will need to prove the negligent party was, indeed, the cause of your injury. This can be done through evidence such as:
- Police Reports
- Eye Witness Testimony
- Photos and Videos from the Scene
- Expert Medical Testimony
- Accident Reconstruction Experts
Begin gathering important documents and evidence as quickly after the accident as possible. Other records including cell phone records and data plan records can also be subpoenaed in order to prove that the at-fault driver was using a cell phone or distracted by other devices at the time of the accident.
What Will a Hip Fracture Cost?
A hip fracture has so many variables – where the fracture is located, whether and which pelvic bones are involved, how extensive the break(s) are, the overall health of the victim and, his or her age, can all add to the expense of a hip fracture. Immediate care and treatment can be expensive, but if the victim must have long-term care following the fracture matters a great deal since many of the elderly and generally infirm cannot go back to independent living following the accident the price goes up dramatically.
Beyond medical care, hip fractures in younger, working victims who have not yet retired can also create monetary losses. If your mobility suffers and you’re, say, an aerobics instructor you may need to seek new, less physical work. If your job requires you to sit for long periods of time that, too, can impact your ability to earn a living. Many factors must be considered when calculating the cost of a hip fracture.
Estimating the cost of such long-term care can be difficult and winning compensation for such care is also challenging. It may be necessary to actually file a lawsuit to be able to recover these costs.
How is Value Determined in a Hip Fracture Case?
Once the full amount of the medical bills is known, and a figure that will include future medical care and pain and suffering is established, the attorneys for both sides begin the process of negotiating a settlement for damages. They begin their negotiations from settlement amounts agreed upon in previous, cases where the circumstances were similar and work from there.
Keep in mind that insurance adjusters always have the job of settling claims for the very least amount of money possible. Without an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, the insurance company may continue to insist that the victim’s injuries were caused by things over which he or she had complete control. If the insurance company fails to make a reasonable settlement offer you may wish to hire a personal injury specialist.
As you consider hiring an attorney, be sure to ask him or her to explain their experience in handling cases like this. Seek out a law firm that offers a free case evaluation to help you understand what rights you have under the law. Certainly do not make the decision to avoid litigation based upon the insurance adjuster’s assessment of the situation. Remember, these people do not have your best interest at heart.