Automobile-related trauma is the leading cause of facial injuries. Shattered glass can pierce the skin, steering wheels and airbags can cause facial fractures, and being thrown from the vehicle or off of a motorcycle can leave a person with road rash and torn skin.
Injuries to the face are different from other types of accident trauma. Our faces represent who we are and how people perceive us. They also contain many of the primary ways we interact with the world: sight, smell, and taste.
Survivors of car and motorcycle accidents who suffer facial injuries often endure distress long after the event due to scarring or disfigurement. Painful and expensive surgery may be needed to correct the damage done.
We’ll review the types of facial injuries common after an accident, then review the latest in medical treatment and personal injury compensation.
Causes of Facial Wounds in Accidents
Injuries to the face can happen in any type of motor vehicle collision: head-on, rear-end, and side-impact. Facial injuries may be caused by:
- Being ejected from the car
- Being ejected through the windshield or window
- Debris or flying objects
- Foreign objects puncturing the vehicle
- Hitting the airbag
- Hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or other hard object stored in the vehicle
- Shattered glass
Types of Accident Face Injuries
After the moment of impact, it can be difficult to understand the extent of damage to the face. Swelling, numbness, and pain after an accident is often reported. Beneath these symptoms are a range of injuries that can affect a victim.
Fractures of the Face
The most common injury to the face after an accident is a nasal bone fracture (broken nose). Other facial injuries may include zygomatic complex fracture (broken lower jaw), orbital blowout fracture (broken eye socket), and maxilla fracture (broken upper jaw).
Damage to facial bones may result in permanent deformities that have a lasting impact on the victim’s appearance. Also, if there are facial fractures, then there is a strong possibility the injured victim suffered a traumatic brain injury as well.
Open Wounds on the Face
A victim can suffer abrasions, soft tissue defects, friction burns, and lacerations due to a crash. Deep cuts and skin tears can leave lasting damage to nerves, muscles, and connective tissue.
Severe lacerations can alter or destroy the lips, eyes, nose, and ears. Eye injuries, in particular, may leave a person impaired or blind. Such physical alterations not only impact a victim’s self-esteem but will also reduce their quality of life.
A serious accident may cause a fire or explosion, resulting in the skin of the face being badly burned. Skin grafts must be used to repair the damage for severe burns to the face. Afterward, the injured victim is usually left with permanent scarring and nerve damage.
Face Injury Treatments
Unless there is significant bleeding or interruption of the airways, a person who goes to the hospital will be stabilized first before their facial injuries are diagnosed and treated. Face injuries are a type of head injury; the neck and head should be examined to see if any damage was inflicted to the spine or brain.
If the patient is lucid, a doctor will examine the patient’s motor and sensory nerve functions in the face. They will want to know if there has been any damage to the tear ducts, ear canals, facial nerves, inner mouth, teeth, underlying bones, and eyelids, and to what extent.
After the exam, the face injury is irrigated with saline to remove debris and any foreign material. Diluted hydrogen peroxide can also help with cleaning but should be used with caution.
Open wounds that are closed soon after the accident reduce the chance of infection and improve cosmetic outcomes. Treating physicians may use sutures, adhesives, tape, and staples depending on the type of tissue damage and the depth of the injury.
If severe swelling is present, photos of the patient before their injury can help with surgical closure and future reconstruction.
How Long Does a Facial Injury Take to Heal?
Prior injuries to the face and medical history can influence how quickly a person’s facial wounds heal. Be honest with the treating physician about your health and habits so that the recovery phase goes smoothly.
After receiving the initial treatment for their face injury, the patient must take care of their wound. Ointments can keep the injury site moist and prevent scab formation — this encourages the growth of new skin instead of scar tissue.
Antibiotics may be provided for bite wounds, puncture wounds, and wounds that contained debris, contamination, or jagged edges. Patients who experience a delay in the closure of their wounds or are immunocompromised should also receive antibiotics.
Complications after a facial injury range from mild to severe. Scars are the most common consequence of facial reconstruction and repair.
Other complications include nose-related issues, hypoesthesia (loss of touch or sensation), and eyelid deformities. Patients who face complications often need to undergo secondary operations.
The good news is that thanks to advanced imaging techniques and a wide array of reconstruction procedures, a patient is more likely to regain form and function to their face after a traumatic accident.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Facial injury treatment and reconstruction is a tremendously time-consuming, painful, and expensive process, especially if the wounds were catastrophic.
Broken jaws may need to be wired shut for weeks. Plastic surgeons may be required to treat facial injuries and minimize scarring. A variety of specialists usually work together to treat a patient with a face injury. There also may be other injuries a patient is trying to cope with, such as a concussion, broken limbs, or internal wounds.
Even with the best treatment available, facial scarring and deformities are common. This can reduce a person’s quality of life, lead to emotional and psychological distress, and impact financial earnings.
People who suffer facial injuries due to a car accident or other negligence deserve to be compensated for the harm done to them. Injured victims can receive compensation for payment of medical bills and procedures, lost income, future lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Gary Martin Hays & Associates are experts in Georgia personal injury law, having earned more than $1 billion for our clients, including car accident victims who suffered facial injuries, scarring, and disfigurement. If you are suffering from a severe facial injury due to no fault of your own, contact our law firm today for a free consultation.