Knee injuries from a car accident run the gamut from basic soft tissue injuries to fractures. The only thing to know for sure about knee injuries is they are painful and challenging to treat. Medical expenses and lost wages due to knee injuries are frequently immense, with some people facing long-term pain.
Nearly all types of car accidents cause knee injuries and usually, from blunt force trauma.
Accidents Producing Knee Injuries Include:
Head-on Collisions: The force of a head-on collision results in the steering wheel or dashboard hitting your knee. In severe accidents, the impact pushes the engine onto your lap resulting in fractures, burns, and wounds on your needs and legs.
T-Bone Accidents: Impact trauma is possible for T-bone accidents because you can still hit the console or gear shift. However, side impacts cause twisting in your body, which can transfer to your knee, tearing ligaments, including your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Side Collisions into a Stationary Object: Much like a T-bone accident, the side impact causes blunt form trauma into the dashboard or console but also twisting and tearing.
Rear-End Collisions: The common knee injury in a rear-end collision is dashboard knee. This injury occurs when the forward force of the impact crashes your knee into the dashboard. Sometimes, this impact causes painful soft tissue injury, but some impacts are harmful enough to fracture your kneecap.
If you sustain a knee injury in an auto accident, chances are you also injured your back, neck, spine, or other extremities. It is essential to see a doctor soon after the collision and call top personal injury attorney Raphaelson & Levine. The opposing insurance company will fight your claim and the extent of your injuries, so the best way to ensure compensation for your injuries and lost wages is to secure legal counsel.
Types of Knee Pain After a Car Accident
Common Symptoms of Knee Injuries Include:
Pain: Pain severity and location help doctors assess the type of injury. Depending on whether your injury arose from blunt force trauma or ripped tendons, you will feel anything from a dull ache to burning. Severe pain indicates extensive injury.
Swelling: Fractures, sprains, and tears cause swelling. Its primary cause is inflammation, but it can also indicate internal bleeding or fluid build-up.
Heat: Heat in an injured area arises during the healing process. Increased blood flow to the region raises the temperature and brings more oxygen to your knee so it can repair tissues quicker. If heat remains, you may have an infection, and that raises immediate medical issues. However, a cool knee is not a good sign as that indicates slow blood flow.
Discoloration: Injuries, especially impact bruises, may turn your skin red, purple, or black. If the bruise is infected, it turns yellow or green.
Weakness: Walking may become painful or impossible. You may also find you cannot put weight on the affected leg.
Popping Noises: Even if you can walk, listen for popping noises as you move. These sounds indicate fractures or permanent changes in your knee.
Reduced Range of Motion: If you cannot bend or straighten your leg completely, see a doctor. This reduced range of motion indicates a severe knee injury.
Symptoms may arise right after a direct blow, or you may not feel them until the next day. Even if you do not believe you suffer severe pain, know that it is the type and location of the pain that matters. Serious damage does not always present as excruciating pain.
Common Car Accident Knee Injuries
When you visit the doctor for a car accident knee injury, prepare to discuss the pain's location and extent. The doctor will examine your knee and take you through a series of range of motion tests from this exam, doctors determine what type of injury you sustained.
Common Types of Knee Injuries After Motor Vehicle Accidents Include:
Knee Fracture: A direct blow from your steering wheel or dashboard may cause a kneecap fracture. However, the bones surrounding your kneecap can also break. Bones may crack or break clean, leaving fragments floating around your knee. You may require a brace or splint to limit motion and help your knee kneel. Serious injuries may require surgery. Unfortunately, many knee fractures develop into arthritis.
Patella Injury: The patella is another name for your kneecap. It can fracture, but it also bruises and dislocates. Patella injuries almost always result from a knee impact. Casting and immobilizing devices help heal these injuries, but complex fractures require surgery.
Knee Dislocation: A dislocation occurs when bones in your knees are knocked out of place. Minor injuries pop back on their own, but significant dislocations immobilize you and require surgery. The most serious knee dislocation injuries result in amputation, infection, and even death.
Cartilage Tear: Knee cartilage includes articular lining and meniscus. The articular lining is a rubbery tissue that covers the end of your bones. It helps your knee bones glide smoothly over each other as you bend and straighten your knee. Meniscus cartilage acts as a cushion between your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). It acts as a shock absorber. Of these two, the meniscus is most likely to tear since it takes on most of the pressure of your knee's performance.
Knee Sprain: Sprains result from over-stretched ligaments. While they are often painful and limiting, they are easier to treat. Rest and limited movement often resolve sprains. You can sprain any knee ligament, including the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Medial Crucial Ligament (MCL), and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury: This injury is also associated with dashboard knee. A blow to a bent knee is the most frequent cause of a PCL injury. The PCL allows the knee to bend, and it is the strongest ligament in your knee. Swelling, reduced range of motion, and pain can indicate a PCL injury when you bend your leg.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury: ACL injuries are common with athletes since they result from quick movement, twisting, jumping, and landing. It is the freak one-bad-move injury that often keeps athletes out for a season. However, if a car accident causes you to twist your leg or move to the side quickly, you can sustain an ACL injury. It often accompanies other injuries in the knee.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury: This injury also results from an impact. It normally accompanies other ligament injuries and limits range of motion. Pain from an MCL tear localizes to the interior of your leg in the knee area, while ACL and PCL injuries create pain in the kneecap area.
Types of Treatment for a Car Accident Knee Injury
When you sustain a knee injury, doctors start with the most conservative treatment and escalate when your pain and range of motion fail to resolve.
Most Treatment Plans Follow This Course of Action:
Pain Medication: If the doctor does not detect fractures or tears, your first step is pain medication plus RICE--or rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Sprains may still require casting and wrapping, and the doctor will instruct you to limit activity.
Physical Therapy: As pain resolves, doctors may send you to physical therapy before you resume normal activities. The treatment involves putting your knee through a series of exercises so you gain strength and range of motion. If you require surgery, physical therapy is always a part of your treatment plan. However, you may receive this treatment even if you do not need surgery. Physical therapy treatments include stretching, balancing, ultrasound message, or electrical nerve or muscle stimulation.
Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy, except it focuses on your activities of daily living (ADLs) rather than just moving your body. If your knee injury compromised your ability to walk, use stairs, take a shower, you might attend occupational therapy to redevelop fine and gross motor skills. In cases of permanent disability, the occupational therapist helps you design your home to make ADLs easier for you.
Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation is the general term for your medical treatment period. During rehabilitation, you may rest, work limited hours, perform physical therapy exercises, and work on returning to normal activities. Besides strength exercises in your therapy appointments, you may also have a home exercise program.
Surgery: If the severity of the injury warrants it, surgery may be the first line of defense. This approach is the case if you sustain an extensive fracture or tear. However, if your knee fails to heal with more conservative methods, you may undergo arthroscopic surgery or another procedure to ascertain the source of pain and make repairs.
Depending on the extent of your knee injury, recovery time may require eight weeks or several years. Many ACL, PCL, and MCL ligament repair surgeries require rehabilitation efforts for up to a year, and sometimes longer. In some cases, knee damage never heals fully, and patients develop arthritis and other chronic pain conditions.
Can I File a Knee Injury Claim?
The statute of limitations for car accidents in New York is three years. If you fail to file a lawsuit during that period, you lose all rights to compensation.
Your first step to filing a knee injury claim is to seek medical treatment. You must have a record of your injury, symptoms, and treatments before you can collect damages. The claim process starts with filing a claim with the other driver's insurance policy, where you try to settle your claim for a fair amount. If you fail to reach an agreement, you need to file a complaint in court, serve it on the defendant, and proceed with a lawsuit.
However, your focus should be on feeling better, not insurance companies, opposing parties, and paperwork. If you hire our firm, we will take care of these legal aspects while focusing on your recovery and health. That course of action is less stress on you while also ensuring you receive compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one have been injured and have questions about your legal options, contact Raphaelson & Levine today. Our personal injury lawyers have helped thousands of New Yorkers understand their next steps following a serious injury.
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Established in New York, NY, his personal injury law firm has obtained numerous million-dollar verdicts. With over twenty-five years of experience as a personal injury attorney, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).