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Broken Sternum Car Accident Settlements

A broken sternum is a serious injury you can get from a car accident. It means your breastbone is broken, which can cause a lot of pain and need medical care. If this happens to you, you might be able to get money, called a settlement, to help pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and other costs. Settlement amounts can range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on the severity of the injury and other factors. This money can help you recover and deal with the effects of the accident. Knowing how to get a settlement is important for making sure you get the help you need.

What Is A Broken Sternum?

A broken sternum, also known as a sternal fracture, is a break or crack in the breastbone, which is the long, flat bone in the chest’s center. The sternum connects the rib bones via cartilage and serves as an anchor for several muscles involved in breathing.

Sternal fractures typically occur due to blunt force trauma to the chest, such as from a car accident, a fall, or a direct blow to the chest area. The severity of a sternal fracture can vary, ranging from a hairline crack to a complete break that causes displacement of the bone segments.

Symptoms Of A Broken Sternum

Pain: Pain in the chest area, particularly with movement or when breathing deeply.

Tenderness: The sternum may feel tender to the touch, and there may be swelling or bruising around the chest.

Difficulty Breathing: Breathing deeply or coughing may exacerbate the pain, leading to difficulty taking deep breaths.

Visible Deformity: In more severe cases, there may be a visible deformity or abnormal movement of the sternum.

Crackling Sensation: Some individuals may experience a crackling sensation or sound (crepitus) when touching the affected area.

Causes Of A Broken Sternum

A broken sternum, or sternal fracture, typically occurs due to blunt force trauma to the chest. Some common causes include:

Car Accidents: Motor vehicle collisions, especially those involving high-speed impacts, can exert significant force on the chest, leading to sternal fractures. The impact from a steering wheel, dashboard, or seatbelt can cause injury to the sternum.

Falls: Falls from significant heights or onto hard surfaces can result in sternal fractures, particularly if the chest area impacts a solid object during the fall.

Sports Injuries: Contact sports, such as football, hockey, or rugby, can sometimes lead to sternal fractures due to direct blows to the chest from collisions with other players, equipment, or the ground.

Assaults or Physical Altercations: Intentional blunt force trauma to the chest, such as from punches, kicks, or other acts of violence, can cause sternal fractures.

Industrial or Workplace Accidents: Accidents in industrial settings or construction sites where heavy machinery or equipment is involved can result in chest injuries, including sternal fractures, due to crushing or impact injuries.

Repetitive Stress: Although less common, repetitive stress or strain on the chest area, such as during intense physical activities or weightlifting, can potentially lead to sternal fractures, particularly in individuals with weakened or compromised bones.

Broken Sternum In Car Accident

A broken sternum, or sternal fracture, is a common injury resulting from car accidents, especially those involving high-speed collisions or direct impact on the chest area. When a vehicle comes to a sudden stop or is struck by another vehicle, the occupants can be forcefully thrown forward, causing them to impact the steering wheel, dashboard, or seatbelt with significant force. This force can result in various injuries to the chest, including sternal fractures.

The sternum, being a relatively flat bone located in the center of the chest, is vulnerable to fracture when subjected to blunt force trauma. The severity of the fracture can vary, ranging from a hairline crack to a complete break with displacement of bone fragments.

Symptoms Of A Sternal Fracture In A Car Accident

Chest Pain: Pain in the chest area, particularly with movement or breathing deeply, is a common symptom of a sternal fracture.

Tenderness and Swelling: The sternum may feel tender to the touch, and there may be swelling or bruising around the chest.

Difficulty Breathing: Breathing deeply or coughing may exacerbate the pain, leading to difficulty taking deep breaths.

Visible Deformity: In more severe cases, there may be a visible deformity or abnormal movement of the sternum.

Crackling Sensation: Some individuals may experience a crackling sensation or sound (crepitus) when touching the affected area.

Causes Of Sternum Fractures In Car Accidents

Here are some common causes of sternum fractures in car accidents:

Impact with the Steering Wheel or Dashboard: During a car accident, especially a frontal collision, occupants can be thrown forward with significant force. If they are not properly restrained by a seatbelt or airbag, their chest may impact the steering wheel or dashboard, leading to a sternum fracture. This is particularly common in accidents where the vehicle decelerates suddenly, causing occupants to lurch forward.

Seatbelt Injuries: Seatbelts are crucial for preventing more severe injuries, they can also cause chest injuries in high-impact collisions. The force of the seatbelt restraining the body against the seat can sometimes result in chest contusions, bruising, or even sternum fractures, particularly if the collision is severe.

Airbag Deployment: Airbags are designed to reduce the risk of injury in a collision, airbag deployment can also cause chest injuries, including sternum fractures. The force of the airbag inflating rapidly and impacting the chest area, especially if the occupant is sitting too close to the airbag or is not properly positioned in the seat, can lead to sternum fractures.

Medical Treatment For A Broken Sternum

Here’s a breakdown of the medical treatment for a broken sternum

Immediate Medical Attention

Importance of Seeking Prompt Medical Care

Early Diagnosis: Seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for early diagnosis and appropriate management of a broken sternum. 

Assessment of Severity: A healthcare provider will conduct a thorough evaluation to assess the severity of the injury, including determining if there are any associated injuries to the chest, ribs, or internal organs.

Pain Management: Immediate medical care can provide pain relief measures to alleviate discomfort and improve patient comfort.

Initial Assessment and Diagnosis

Physical Examination: A healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination, assessing the chest area for tenderness, swelling, bruising, and visible deformities.

Imaging Tests: X-rays are commonly used to confirm the diagnosis of a broken sternum or a CT scan may be ordered to provide more detailed images of the chest area and assess for associated injuries.

Treatment Options

Non-surgical Treatments

Pain Management: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may be prescribed to manage pain and discomfort associated with the broken sternum.

Rest and Immobilization: Resting the chest area and avoiding activities that exacerbate pain are essential for allowing the sternum to heal properly. 

Immobilization techniques, such as wearing a chest brace or supportive bandages, may be recommended to stabilize the sternum and prevent further injury.

Physical Therapy: Once the acute pain subsides, a physical therapist may prescribe exercises to improve chest mobility, strength, and flexibility. These exercises can help prevent stiffness and facilitate a quicker recovery.

Surgical Interventions

Internal Fixation: In cases of severe sternal fractures with significant displacement or instability, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgeons may use metal plates, wires, or screws to realign and stabilize the fractured sternum.

Sternotomy Repair: If the broken sternum occurs as a complication of a surgical procedure, such as open-heart surgery, additional surgical repair may be required to ensure proper healing and prevent further complications.

Rehabilitation And Recovery Process

Follow-up Care: Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers are essential to monitor the healing progress and address any concerns or complications that may arise.

Gradual Return to Activity: As the sternum heals, patients are advised to gradually increase their activity level while avoiding strenuous activities or heavy lifting until cleared by their healthcare provider.

Long-term Management: Depending on the severity of the injury and individual factors, some patients may experience lingering discomfort or limitations in chest mobility. Ongoing management may involve periodic medical evaluations, physical therapy sessions, and lifestyle modifications to promote optimal recovery and prevent recurrent injuries.

Legal Aspects of Car Accident Settlements

Understanding Car Accident Settlements

What it is and its purpose?

A car accident settlement is an agreement reached between parties involved in a car accident to resolve their legal claims without going to trial. The purpose of a settlement is to compensate the injured party (plaintiff) for damages incurred as a result of the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. Settlements provide a quicker resolution compared to going to court and often avoid the uncertainty and expense of a trial.

Difference Between Settlements and Court Verdicts

Settlements are voluntary agreements negotiated between the parties, often with the assistance of their attorneys and sometimes with the involvement of mediators or arbitrators. In contrast, court verdicts are decisions rendered by a judge or jury after a trial. Verdicts are legally binding and typically result from cases that cannot be resolved through settlement negotiations.

Determining Liability

Role of Fault in Car Accident Cases

Liability in car accident cases is based on the concept of negligence, which refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm to others. The party at fault, or negligent party, is typically responsible for compensating the injured party for their damages. Determining fault involves assessing factors such as traffic laws, eyewitness testimony, police reports, and evidence from the accident scene.

How Liability is Established

Liability is established by demonstrating that the defendant (at-fault party) breached their duty of care owed to the plaintiff (injured party) and that this breach directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. 

This often involves proving the following elements

  • Duty of Care: The defendant had a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to meet the standard of care expected in the given circumstances, such as by violating traffic laws, driving recklessly, or engaging in negligent behavior.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused or substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.
  • Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual harm or losses as a result of the defendant’s negligence, which may include physical injuries, medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage.
A car accident victim with a broken sternum undergoing medical treatment.
A person receiving medical attention for a broken sternum sustained in a car accident.

Calculating Settlement Value for a Broken Sternum

Factors Influencing Settlement Amounts

Medical Expenses

The cost of medical treatment, including emergency care, hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical care, forms a significant part of the settlement. Keep detailed records of all medical expenses incurred due to the sternal fracture.

Lost Wages and Earning Capacity

If the injury resulted in missed work or reduced earning capacity, you can claim compensation for lost wages. This also includes any future income you might lose due to the injury’s impact on your ability to work.

Pain and Suffering

Non-economic damages such as physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are also factored into the settlement. These damages are subjective and can vary based on the severity of the injury and its impact on your daily life and well-being.

Role of Insurance Companies

Evaluation of Claims

Insurance companies assess claims based on various factors, including the extent of liability, the severity of the injury, and the damages incurred. They may use formulas or software programs to calculate settlement amounts, but these calculations often serve as starting points for negotiations.

Dealing with Insurance Adjusters

When dealing with insurance adjusters, it’s essential to provide thorough documentation of the accident, your injuries, and associated expenses. Be prepared to negotiate and advocate for fair compensation. Consider consulting with a personal injury attorney who can handle communications with the insurance company and negotiate on your behalf.

Calculating Settlement Value

To calculate a potential settlement value for a broken sternum, you would typically:

Total Economic Damages: Add up all economic damages, including medical expenses and lost wages.

Non-Economic Damages: Estimate non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, using methods like the multiplier method (multiplying economic damages by a factor) or the per diem method (assigning a daily value for pain and suffering).

Negotiation and Adjustments: Insurance companies may offer a settlement amount lower than what you calculated. Negotiate based on the strength of your evidence and the advice of your attorney.

Considerations: Be mindful of policy limits and the likelihood of successful litigation if a fair settlement cannot be reached.

Steps To Take After Sustaining a Broken Sternum In A Car Accident

1. Assess Your Condition

Check yourself for any signs of injury, focusing on the chest area.

If you experience severe pain, difficulty breathing, or suspect internal injuries, seek medical attention immediately.

2. Call for Emergency Medical Assistance

If you or anyone else involved in the accident is injured, call emergency services (911 or local emergency number) for immediate medical assistance.

Inform the dispatcher about the accident and any injuries, including the suspected sternal fracture.

3. Stay Calm and Avoid Movement

If you suspect a sternal fracture, try to avoid moving unnecessarily, as movement can exacerbate the pain and potentially worsen the injury.

If you need to exit the vehicle due to safety concerns, do so slowly and carefully, avoiding sudden movements.

4. Document the Accident Scene

Gather information about the accident scene, including photographs of the vehicles involved, any visible injuries, and the surrounding environment.

Obtain contact information from witnesses and exchange insurance details with other drivers involved in the accident.

5. Seek Medical Evaluation

Even if you don’t experience immediate severe symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation promptly after a car accident, especially if you suspect a sternal fracture.

Follow the recommendations of emergency responders and healthcare professionals regarding transportation to the hospital or urgent care facility.

6. Receive Diagnosis and Treatment

At the medical facility, healthcare providers will conduct a physical examination and order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, to confirm the presence and severity of the sternal fracture.

Follow the recommended treatment plan, which may include pain management, rest, immobilization of the chest area, and, in some cases, surgery.

7. Follow-Up Care and Rehabilitation

Attend all follow-up appointments with healthcare providers to monitor the healing process and address any complications.

Follow rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy recommendations to restore strength and mobility to the chest area.

8. Keep Detailed Records

Maintain thorough records of all medical evaluations, treatments received, and expenses incurred due to the sternal fracture.

Keep copies of medical reports, prescriptions, receipts, and any correspondence with insurance companies.

9. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

If the sternal fracture resulted from the car accident, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling car accident cases.

An attorney can provide legal guidance, help you understand your rights, and assist in pursuing compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

10. Follow Legal and Insurance Procedures

Cooperate with insurance companies involved in the accident investigation and claims process.

Provide accurate and timely information, but avoid making statements or signing documents without consulting your attorney.

Legal Representation

Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer

Benefits of Legal Representation

  • Expertise: Personal injury lawyers specialize in navigating the complexities of personal injury law and can provide valuable legal guidance.
  • Maximizing Compensation: Lawyers can assess the true value of your claim and work to maximize your compensation by considering all relevant factors, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Negotiation Skills: Experienced attorneys are skilled negotiators who can advocate for your interests and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to secure a fair settlement.
  • Litigation Support: If negotiations fail to yield a satisfactory outcome, lawyers can represent you in court and pursue litigation to ensure your rights are protected.

How a Lawyer Can Help in Securing a Fair Settlement

Evidence Gathering

Lawyers can gather evidence, such as medical records, accident reports, and witness statements, to support your claim and strengthen your case.

Legal Strategy

Attorneys develop strategic approaches tailored to the specifics of your case, ensuring all relevant legal avenues are explored to secure fair compensation.

Handling Communication

Lawyers handle all communications with insurance companies and opposing parties, relieving you of the stress of dealing with complex legal processes.

Objective Advice

Legal representation provides you with objective advice based on legal expertise, helping you make informed decisions throughout the claims process.

Choosing the Right Lawyer

Key Qualities to Look For

Experience: Look for a lawyer with extensive experience handling personal injury cases, particularly those involving sternal fractures or similar injuries.

Reputation: Research the lawyer’s reputation in the legal community, including client reviews, testimonials, and case outcomes.

Communication Skills: Choose a lawyer who communicates effectively and keeps you informed about the progress of your case.

Track Record of Success: Evaluate the lawyer’s track record of successful settlements and verdicts in personal injury cases.

Resources: Consider the firm’s resources and capabilities, including access to expert witnesses and investigative resources.

Questions To Ask During The Initial Consultation

Experience: Ask about the lawyer’s experience handling personal injury cases, specifically those similar to yours.

Case Strategy: Inquire about the lawyer’s strategy for handling your case and how they plan to pursue maximum compensation.

Communication: Discuss communication preferences and how frequently you can expect updates on your case.

Fees and Costs: Clarify the lawyer’s fee structure and any upfront costs or expenses associated with your case.

References: Request references from past clients or examples of similar cases the lawyer has handled successfully.

The Settlement Process

Filing a Claim

Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant evidence related to the car accident and your sternal fracture. This may include accident reports, medical records, witness statements, and documentation of expenses.

Notify the Insurance Company: Inform the at-fault driver’s insurance company about the accident and your intention to file a claim. Provide them with the necessary information and documentation to support your claim.

Initial Evaluation: The insurance company will conduct an initial evaluation of your claim to assess liability and the extent of damages. They may request additional information or documentation during this process.

Submission of Claim: Submit a formal claim outlining the details of the accident, your injuries, and the damages you are seeking compensation for.

Common Pitfalls: Avoid common pitfalls such as providing recorded statements without legal representation, accepting a quick settlement offer without fully understanding your rights, or signing any documents without reviewing them carefully.

Negotiating a Settlement

Know Your Worth: Understand the value of your claim based on the factors we discussed earlier, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Documentation: Provide thorough documentation of your damages, including medical bills, receipts, and any other evidence supporting your claim.

Remain Firm but Flexible: Be prepared to negotiate with the insurance company. Remain firm on the value of your claim, but also be open to reasonable offers and compromises.

Consider Legal Representation: Consider hiring a personal injury attorney to handle negotiations on your behalf. An experienced attorney can advocate for your rights and help maximize your settlement.

Accepting a Settlement Offer: Consider accepting a settlement offer when it adequately compensates you for your damages and the risks of going to trial outweigh the potential benefits of a higher settlement.

Going to Court: When Settlements Fail

Preparing for Trial: If negotiations fail to reach a satisfactory settlement, you may proceed to litigation. Prepare for trial by gathering additional evidence, preparing witnesses, and understanding court procedures.

Litigation Process: During litigation, both parties present their cases to a judge or jury. This includes presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, and making legal arguments.

Possible Outcomes: The court will ultimately decide the outcome of the case, which may result in a judgment in your favor, a settlement reached during the trial, or a verdict in favor of the defendant.

Appeals: Keep in mind that either party may choose to appeal the court’s decision if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.

How long does it take to settle a broken sternum car accident case?

It varies. It could take months to years depending on factors like the severity of the injury, negotiations, and court proceedings. Getting fair compensation often takes time and patience.

What if I was partially at fault for the accident?

If you were partially at fault for the car accident that resulted in your sternal fracture, it could affect your ability to recover damages in some states. Different states have different laws regarding comparative or contributory negligence, which determine how fault is assigned and how it impacts compensation.

What types of damages can I claim in a broken sternum case?

In a broken sternum car accident case, you may be eligible to claim various types of damages, including:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Disability and Disfigurement
  • Punitive Damages

Seeking Compensation for a Broken Sternum? Call Us Today!

If you or a loved one has suffered the pain of a broken sternum due to a car accident in Chicago, you don’t have to handle it on your own. Our team of car accident lawyers in Chicago is ready to assist you. Call us today (312) 598-0917 for a free consultation on your situation. We’re here to support you and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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