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San Francisco Bone Fracture Injury Attorney

A fracture, simply put, is a broken bone. However, a bone can be fractured in many different ways. There are three main causes of fractures: trauma, osteoporosis, and overuse. A fracture caused by overuse is sometimes called a stress fracture or hairline fracture. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bone to “thin.” This thinning makes the bone weak and more susceptible to fractures. Finally, a fracture can be caused by a severe trauma such as a fall, an automobile accident or a gunshot wound. Even though bones are hard, they do have the ability to bend and “absorb” an impact. However, if the trauma exceeds the bones ability to bend, the bone will break.

Common causes of fractures include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Skiing accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Sports accidents
  • Gunshot wounds

Types of Fractures

A fracture may be classified in many different ways depending on how the bone was broken. The four main classifications are:

  • Incomplete fracture: a cracked bone that does not break all the way through
  • Complete fracture: a bone that is broken all the way through
  • Simple fracture (closed fracture): a broken bone that does not pierce the skin
  • Compound fracture (open fracture): a broken bone that pierces the skin

Doctors also use the geometry of the break to describe the fracture. Different geometries lead to different levels of stability, resulting in different healing times. The less stable the geometry, the harder it is to fix. Some of the more common forms of geometry include:

  • Greenstick fracture: an incomplete fracture on one side of the bone that is common in children. This fracture resembles green tree branch that is bent too far, causing one side to break and the branch to bend.
  • Transverse fracture: a complete or incomplete fracture that is perpendicular to the bone—most common trauma fracture.
  • Impacted fracture: a complete fracture where the bones are jammed together—this form is sometimes difficult to diagnose.
  • Spiral fracture (torsion fracture): a complete or incomplete fracture caused by traumatic twisting such as in a ski accident.
  • Comminuted fracture: a complete fracture where the bone breaks into more than two pieces.
  • Displaced fracture: a complete fracture where the bones remain parallel but are misaligned.
  • Avulsion fracture: a fracture where the tendon or ligament is separated from the bone due to some trauma.

Diagnosing Fractures

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a fracture injury and should seek medical attention:

  • Movement or touch causes extreme pain
  • The skin near the break is bruised
  • The limb seems shorter than normal
  • You cannot support your weight
  • You have a bump or swelling
  • In extreme cases, the bone may be seen protruding through the skin

A doctor will x-ray the area of the suspected fracture to diagnose the fracture and to help formulate a treatment plan. Occult fractures, impacted fractures and hairline fractures are difficult and sometimes impossible to spot with an x-ray. In these cases, the doctor will have to rely on a physical examination.

Treatment of Fractures

All fractures require time to heal. However, the fracture must be stabilized. For a stress/hairline fracture, this might mean minimizing use of that bone by limiting the patient’s physical activity or requiring the patient to use crutches. A more serious fracture will require a doctor to immobilize the bone. To do so, the doctor will decide whether “external fixation” or “internal fixation” is appropriate. Methods of external fixation include casts, splints, and braces. Methods of internal fixation include metal plates, pins, and screws. In either case, the bone must be immobilized for several weeks to allow it to heal completely. The use of crutches or a wheelchair will probably be required for fractures of weight-bearing bones.

Surgery will be required to install internal fixation and sometimes to repair soft tissue injuries such as an avulsion or a separated tendon or ligament. A doctor may prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories to help the patient deal with the pain.

Recovery

Fractures require weeks to heal. During this time, the patient must limit his activity to allow the fracture to heal. Even after the bone has healed, the patient will likely be faced with several weeks of physical therapy for the muscles that atrophied from lack of use due to the fixation.

Joint Injuries

A joint is the place where two bones meet. Besides bone, joints are made up of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. Ligaments are the thick tissue that holds bones together whereas tendons are the thick tissue that attaches muscles to bones. Cartilage is the tissue that coats the ends of the bones to help the joint move freely.

Ligaments and Tendons

A sprain is an injury to a ligament whereas a “strain” is an injury to a muscle or tendon. The different levels of severity for tendon and ligament damage follow:

  • Grade 1: stretching of the ligament or tendon with minimal disruption of fibers
  • Grade 2: tearing of up to 50% of the ligament tendon
  • Grade 3: a complete rupture of the ligament or tendon

Signs of injury of both ligaments and tendons include swelling, pain, limitation of movement, and instability. Recovery time can range from days to years depending on the severity of the injury. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases suggests you see a doctor under the following circumstances:

  • You have severe pain and cannot put any weight on the injured joint.
  • The injured area looks crooked or has lumps and bumps (other than swelling) that you do not see on the uninjured joint.
  • You cannot move the injured joint.
  • You cannot walk more than four steps without significant pain.
  • Your limb buckles or gives way when you try to use the joint.
  • You have numbness in any part of the injured area.
  • You see redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury.
  • You injure an area that has been injured several times before.
  • You have pain, swelling, or redness over a bony part of your foot.
  • You are in doubt about the seriousness of the injury or how to care for it.

Cartilage

The human body incorporates three types of cartilage—fibrocartilage, elastic cartilage, and hyaline cartilage. The surfaces where bones meet (the joint surface) are coated with hyaline cartilage. The purpose of this type of cartilage is to provide shock absorption and a frictionless surface that allows the joint to move freely.

Most cartilage injuries are caused by direct trauma. Although cartilage damage can be seen on an x-ray if there is accompanying bone damage, an MRI is usually needed for a proper diagnosis. Arthroscopy can be used by a surgeon to diagnose the extent of the injury, to clean out any floating pieces, and repair damaged cartilage.

When do I need a lawyer?

If a fracture or joint injury is caused by a third party either intentionally or indirectly through their negligence, you should consult with an attorney to determine your rights of recovery. In our legal system, the victim of negligence or an intentional act is entitled to be “made whole” by the person responsible.

If you or a loved one have suffered a fracture or joint injury, contact experienced personal injury attorney William E. Weiss at (888) 622-7274 or by e-mail for an immediate assessment of your case. Personal injury matters are extremely time sensitive – act now to protect your right to recovery.

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