Leg pain is fairly common after an accident, especially severe ones. If a vehicle is struck on the side at an angle or directly, a person is more likely to suffer trauma to the leg.
Some causes of leg pain are more obvious than others, such as a broken bone or crushed leg. Other causes may be hidden deep within the leg’s soft tissue or blood vessels and can create long-term or life-threatening problems if not quickly addressed.
Older adults are more prone to leg injuries and fractures as they age due to lost muscle mass and bone strength.
We’ll cover common leg injuries and their symptoms caused by car accidents, motorcycle accidents, or other traumatic incidents. Also covered will be what to do if you’ve suffered a leg injury in an accident and need help with medical bills and insurance.
Acute Leg Injuries and Symptoms
A traumatic injury to the leg after an accident can be caused by a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or the limb bending or twisting abnormally. The resulting shin or thigh pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling are likely to follow.
Bruises, also referred to as contusions, occur when blood vessels beneath the skin tear or burst. The blood leaks into the surrounding tissue and will appear blue and black at first, often changing color as it heals.
If the bruise is large and the body cannot clean up the bleeding, it may wall it off. This lump is referred to as a hematoma. Hematomas often form around injury sites and they may require medical treatment to remove if they don’t resolve on their own after a few days.
In addition to discoloration, symptoms of leg bruising often include:
- Limited range of motion (muscle bruising)
Trauma to the leg bone or surrounding soft tissue can cause the leg to swell from fluid buildup or inflammation. Large blood clots can form and break away, traveling through the body until they become stuck in the pulmonary arteries of the lungs.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after an accident:
- Chest pain
- Coughing blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Fainting or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- One leg is swollen and painful, or also becomes cool and pale
Sprains and Strains
Ligaments connect bones, bind muscles to bones, and stabilize joints. If these ropey fibers are stretched or torn, they are called a sprain. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and not being able to use a joint properly.
Stretched, torn, or pulled muscles and tendons are referred to as strains. In addition to pain, symptoms include muscle spasms, swelling, cramping, and problems moving.
Damage to soft tissues like ligaments and muscles takes varying amounts of time to heal depending on the person and the severity of the injury. Returning to normal activities too soon can reinjure the area.
In a severe crash, muscles can tear or rupture on impact. Due to their size and position when seated, muscles in the thigh are more likely to experience tears. A ruptured muscle or tendon may be accompanied by severe pain; immediate bruising; weakness; inability to use, move, or put weight on the leg; and deformity.
Leg fractures are one of the most serious types of trauma a person can suffer in an accident. The damage can be as small as a hairline fracture or as severe as a complete break that pushes through the skin.
Because the femur is the longest and strongest bone in your body, it takes a great deal of force to break it. Motor vehicle collisions and motorcycle crashes are the primary causes of femur fractures, particularly in younger individuals. A femoral shaft fracture will likely cause immediate and severe pain. It will be difficult to put weight on the limb.
The tibia is the most commonly fractured leg bone, often due to high-energy collisions like car accidents. Symptoms include severe pain, inability to walk, deformity of the leg, and occasional numbness in the foot.
Sometimes it’s obvious when a bone is broken, but not always. A broken femur may be hidden beneath the strong thigh muscles and layers of fat. A break in one of the shin bones (tibia and fibula) may be mistaken for shin splints.
See a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms as they may indicate you have a closed leg fracture:
- A deep, intense aching or sharp pain
- Bone appears bent at an odd angle
- Feeling chilly
- Trouble using the affected body part
A crash can cause the knee cap (patella) or hip to become dislocated or unstable. A joint dislocation will cause pain and prevent you from walking. If the knee joint is dislocated, it may appear deformed or bent and feel tender, swollen, or loose.
Crush injuries can happen in highly severe crashes. These usually involve high speeds and the vehicles involved are almost always totaled. Legs crushed in a car accident are incredibly painful, often resulting in permanent nerve damage, muscle loss, and disability.
Depending on the severity of the crush injury to the leg, amputation may be necessary. Losing one or both legs can be a highly traumatic experience, requiring an intense degree of medical care and life-long consequences.
Leg Injury Statistics
In 2007, of the 117 million visits to the emergency room, nearly 15% were for lower extremity injuries. The percentage of injury to legs by location, from most common to least common, is as follows:
- Hip and pelvis - 28%
- Ankle - 20%
- Knee - 16%
- Foot - 15%
- Lower leg - 11%
- Toe - 7%
- Upper leg - 4%
The most common types of legs injuries consist of the following categories:
- Strains and sprains - 36%
- Contusions and abrasions - 19%
- Fractures - 18%
- Lacerations - 8%
Fractures were found most often in the toes, lower leg, and upper leg. Strain and sprains are more likely to affect the ankles, knees, and pelvis region. Most amputations and crushing injuries affected the toes and feet.
Leg injuries that happened on a street or highway accounted for 2.5% of ER visits, although the number may be higher since more than a quarter of injuries in the study were listed as “not recorded.” Some people may also schedule a visit with their primary care physician rather than go to the emergency room.
What to Do If You Suffered a Leg Injury in an Accident
An injury to the leg can significantly alter a person’s quality of life. As Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we’re familiar with leg injury settlement cases and assisting injured victims in their recovery.
We’ve helped people whose legs were injured in car accidents, like this young man, who suffered a broken leg when the car he was riding in was t-boned. Our law firm also takes on motorcycle accident claims and pedestrian injury cases.
After being injured in a wreck, you may be wondering what your options are. Our team of trusted legal experts can help guide you on your personal injury claim, pitfalls to look out for, and tricks the insurance company may try to pull to get out of paying for your injury claim.
We offer free consultations to answer any questions or concerns you have. Contact us today to protect your rights and ensure you are fairly compensated for your leg injury.