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When can you recover damages for your blunt trauma?
When we think about blunt trauma, we often think about someone being attacked with a dull weapon (such as a baseball bat). But blunt trauma can result from crashing a vehicle, falling from a ladder, or even falling into a body of water.
In this article, we’ll take a look at blunt trauma injuries, including the effects of blunt force trauma and how these serious types of injuries are treated under personal injury law.
What is blunt trauma?
Blunt trauma (sometimes called “non-penetrating trauma” or “blunt force trauma”) is an injury to the body caused by direct contact with a dull object or surface.
Blunt trauma is distinguishable from penetrating trauma, which involves an object (such as a knife or bullet) piercing the body.
Causes of blunt trauma
Blunt trauma is most often the result of motor vehicle crashes.
When a vehicle comes to a complete stop after striking another vehicle or a fixed object, the occupants continue forward until they come in contact with some part of the automobile (for example, the airbag, steering wheel, dashboard, front windshield, or back of the front seat). In the case of a pedestrian or motorcycle accident, blunt force trauma may occur when a moving car comes into contact with a person who is not in a car.
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force. In accident cases, the net external force—which can be another vehicle, fixed object, or road—is what causes blunt trauma.
Other common causes of blunt trauma include:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Sporting incidents
The man landed on top of Taylor.
The medical examiner concluded that both Taylor and the man who jumped from the parking garage died via blunt force trauma.
Effects of blunt trauma
Blunt trauma is classified as an injury itself, but it can lead to other conditions. These conditions can broadly be categorized as follows:
- Contusions. Contusions (also called “bruises”) result when capillaries underneath the skin surface are ruptured, but the skin surface is left intact.
- Abrasions. Abrasions result when the superficial epidermis (the top layer of skin) is worn or scraped off.
- Lacerations. Lacerations (also called “cuts”) result when the skin is torn, leaving strands of subcutaneous tissues (the innermost layer of skin) bridging the wound.
- Internal hemorrhages. Internal hemorrhages (also called “internal bleeding”) refer to bleeding that occurs inside the body when a blood vessel is damaged.
- Fractures. Fractures (also called “broken bones”) result when the continuity of a bone is broken.
The severity of blunt trauma depends on the amount of kinetic energy (energy of motion) transferred and the tissue to which the energy is transferred. To put it another way:
The severity of the injury depends on the force and location of the impact with the blunt object or surface.
A large force applied to a sizable area over several minutes will result in vast tissue damage, which increases the chance of death. On the other hand, a smaller force applied to a smaller area will result in less tissue damage.
What organs are most often affected by blunt trauma?
Blunt trauma is particularly dangerous when it affects your internal organs.
When blunt trauma is caused by a car accident, the trauma is most likely to affect the organs within your abdomen. This generally occurs when your abdomen strikes the steering wheel, belt system, airbag, or another interior part of the vehicle.
Blunt abdominal trauma can cause damage to the spleen, liver, kidneys, bladder, diaphragm, and large and small intestines. Injuries to these internal organs can lead to hemorrhage (release of blood from damaged blood vessels), which may result in hypotension, a decrease in blood pressure, or hypovolemic shock.
The brain is another organ commonly affected by blunt trauma. A bump, blow, or jolt to your head can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is defined as a disruption in the normal function of the brain.
Can I sue for blunt force trauma?
Whether or not you can file a personal injury lawsuit after suffering blunt trauma depends on the cause of the blunt trauma. Generally speaking, to file a lawsuit, someone else must be responsible (at fault) for your accident.
For example, you probably can’t file a lawsuit if you get drunk and drive into a tree (although you may be able to file an insurance claim depending on your coverage), but you probably can file a lawsuit if someone rear-ends you and your head strikes the steering wheel.
Blunt trauma lawsuits are typically based on negligence or intentional torts.
If your blunt trauma was caused by someone else’s carelessness, you can file a negligence lawsuit against them.
To prove negligence, you must establish that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care,
- The defendant breached the duty of care, and
- The breach was the direct and proximate cause of your blunt trauma.
Accidents that result in negligence claims include:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Swimming accidents
- Sports accidents
If someone intentionally causes your injury, it’s called an intentional tort.
For example, if someone shoots you or hits you with a baseball bat, they have committed an intentional tort. In addition to the criminal action that may be brought, you can seek damages by filing a civil lawsuit.
What happens if the blunt trauma occurs at work?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides financial compensation to employees who are injured on the job. For example, if a construction worker falls from scaffolding and suffers blunt trauma, they may be able to receive compensation by filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
What’s more, workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy in most states. This means that if you’re injured on the job, you can’t sue your employer but must instead file a workers’ compensation claim.
Potential damages for blunt force trauma
The goal of a personal injury claim is to make the plaintiff “whole” again. To put it another way, personal injury lawsuits are supposed to return the plaintiff to their pre-accident condition, financially speaking.
In most states, you can recover the following damages after sustained blunt trauma:
- Economic damages. Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of consortium.
- Punitive damages. If the defendant acted intentionally or with gross negligence, the plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior.
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