Broken bones happen frequently. By age 65, half of Americans have broken at least one bone. These fractures almost always happen due to accidents or overuse.
In most cases, bone fractures heal in six to eight weeks. But in some cases, broken bones can lead to serious complications, including arthritis, blood clots, and infection.
If you’ve suffered from broken bones, you might not know what to do, especially if someone else caused your injury. Here are some facts you should know about broken bones and what you can do to recover compensation for them.
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How Do Broken Bones Happen?
Doctors define bones as the calcified structures of your musculoskeletal system. This definition excludes cartilage, which are soft pads that cushion joints. It also excludes ligaments, which are bands that hold bones together. Instead, cartilage and ligaments are defined as soft tissue, even though your skeleton would not work without them.
Bones provide structure to the body. In other words, bones hold your body up. Tendons anchor muscles to the bones to move them. Together, the muscles, tendons, and bones move your body.
Bones also protect your body. Your ribs protect your organs. Your brain sits inside the protective structure of your skull. The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal in your spine.
But bones can be broken. Fractures happen when a force overcomes the natural strength of the bone and breaks it into at least two pieces. The fracture will often tear blood vessels and nerves in the bone. Torn blood vessels can bleed and cause bruises. When this happens, you might experience pain and a loss of sensation from severed nerves.
As the body reacts to the bone fracture, the injury site often becomes inflamed and swollen.
What Are the Different Types of Broken Bones?
Bones can fracture in many ways, including:
Compound fractures, also called open fractures, happen when at least one end of the fractured bone breaks through the skin.
When the fracture does not break the skin, you have a closed fracture. Compound fractures usually result from trauma like bicycle accidents and pedestrian accidents where you experience a large force on your bone.
A displaced fracture happens when the broken ends of the bone move out of alignment. As a result, a gap or misalignment separates the fractured pieces. Since the ends do not match up, doctors will need to realign the bones for them to heal correctly.
A non-displaced fracture occurs when the broken parts of the bone remain aligned.
A comminuted fracture means that the bone has broken into at least three pieces. Doctors also refer to a comminuted fracture as a shattered bone. Crushing injuries, such as those suffered in workplace accidents, can cause a comminuted fracture.
Treatment for a comminuted fracture depends on the quantity and size of the bone fragments.
Ligaments connect bones. Tendons connect muscles to bones. Stress on a tendon or ligament can fracture the bone. In an avulsion fracture, the bone to which the tendon or ligament anchors breaks off the rest of the bone.
Repetitive motions can stress your bones and create small cracks. Under normal circumstances, these cracks will heal with rest. But if you repeat these motions without resting, they will propagate across the bones into a stress fracture.
Stress fractures can happen in workers who repeatedly lift, carry, or walk as part of their jobs.
How Do Doctors Treat Broken Bones?
Doctors treat broken bones by first ensuring that the broken edges match up. You may need surgery in the case of a displaced or comminuted fracture. This surgery will rebuild the broken bone and secure the pieces in place with plates and screws. If the pieces are too small, doctors can use bone grafts to fill any gaps.
In a compound fracture, doctors may also need to clean the open wound. This will reduce the risk of infection in the wound.
Once doctors rebuild the bone, they immobilize it with a cast or splint. A clot will form over the broken ends. Over the next six to eight weeks, your body will rebuild the broken bone.
After the doctor removes your cast, you may need physical therapy. This therapy will strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that might have atrophied during your recovery.
What Complications Can Arise from Broken Bones?
Broken bones sometimes cause complications. Some of the more serious complications include:
Infections happen when bacteria enter your body. Between the toxins released by the bacteria and your body’s immune response, an infection can make you very sick.
If bacteria get into a bone through a fracture, you may develop osteomyelitis. This bone infection can kill bone cells and cause the bone to weaken. Doctors may need to remove dead bone tissue to treat the infection in severe cases.
The blood clot that forms over your fracture protects the wound and helps the fracture heal. But pieces of the clot can break off and enter the bloodstream.
If they enter the heart, you could suffer a heart attack. If they block the blood vessels running to the lungs, you suffer an embolism. You will suffer a stroke if the clots reach the brain.
These conditions can cause death.
Arthritis and Bone Spurs
When your fracture heals, the bone will not have the same shape as before. This can stress your joints, leading to arthritis.
The bone cells in the healed fracture will also have a slightly different composition than the rest of the bone. These cells can form a bone spur.
How Do I Recover Compensation for Broken Bones?
Florida uses a no-fault insurance system for car accidents. This system can limit your right to sue for broken bones unless you suffer a permanent injury like a brain injury. If you suffered a broken bone in another type of accident, such as a slip & fall, Florida’s no-fault limits do not apply.
You can seek both economic and non-economic damages when you sue for injury compensation. Economic damages cover your financial costs like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover your pain and suffering.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Broken bones are serious injuries. They can even cause permanent injuries that could support a lawsuit under Florida’s no-fault insurance system.
To discuss your broken bones and your options for recovering compensation for them, contact Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers for help. Our Clearwater personal injury lawyers can help you get back on your feet again after your accident.