Car accidents can cause any number of injuries, from whiplash to broken bones to head injuries. These are the types of crash-related injuries that most people are familiar with because they straightforwardly follow from the type of impact experienced in a car accident. For example, it is easy to understand how someone could suffer a brain injury if their head hits the dashboard during a collision.
Yet car accidents often cause injuries that are not as easy to see — or understand. One such injury is a hernia, which may be caused by the trauma of a crash. While it may not be as easy to understand the mechanisms of this type of injury, car accidents can and do cause hernias.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses — including the cost of treating a hernia. A seasoned Washington, D.C. car accident attorney can help you through the process, from filing the initial claim through achieving a settlement or winning a verdict at trial.
What Is a Hernia?
A hernia is a broad term for a medical condition where an organ pushes through an opening in either the muscle or the tissue that holds it in place. There are many different types of hernias, which are categorized either by where they occur or how they happen. Common types of hernias include femoral (outer groin), Hiatal (upper stomach), inguinal (inner groin), incisional (caused by an incision), and umbilical (belly button).
Car accidents can cause hernias when the trauma of the crash weakens the muscle or tissue that holds an organ in place. This often occurs in the abdominal area, leading to Hiatal hernias.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through your diaphragm. It gets its name from the small opening (the hiatus) through which your esophagus passes before connecting to your stomach. With a hiatal hernia, your stomach pushes up through the hiatus and into your chest.
Small Hiatal hernias may be asymptomatic. Larger hernias may cause a number of issues, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Regurgitation of food or liquids into the mouth
- Acid reflux
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Vomiting of blood or passing of black stools (which may be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding)
A hiatal hernia has a number of potential causes, such as being born with an unusually large hiatus, or persistent and intense pressure on the abdominal muscles. It can also be caused by injury to the abdomen, such as in a car accident.
A hiatal hernia is typically discovered when a person is examined to determine the cause of heartburn, chest pain, or upper abdominal pain. It can be diagnosed through an x-ray, an upper endoscopy, or esophageal manometry.
This medical condition can be painful and severely impact a person’s life (such as by causing them to vomit food or liquid into their mouth when eating). Treatment for Hiatal hernias depends on the symptoms and may include medications to neutralize, reduce or block the production of stomach acid. Surgery may be required for individuals who don’t obtain relief through medication or who suffer from complications due to their hiatal hernia.
The Link Between Car Accidents and Hernias
Hiatal hernias can be caused by the trauma of a car accident. This typically occurs because of seat belts. While seat belts have significantly decreased the rate of serious injury and death in car accidents, a seat belt can also cause significant damage to the tissue underneath it, including the abdominal wall itself.
In 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study that detailed two distinctive patterns of injuries after high-velocity motor vehicle crashes: (1) seatbelt sign; and (2) seatbelt syndrome. The seatbelt sign is a bruising pattern across the torso that follows the length of the seatbelt. In the seatbelt syndrome, this bruising is accompanied by an injury within the abdomen.
According to the study’s authors, the likelihood of abdominal injury for patients with a seatbelt sign is increased by between 4 and 20%, as compared to individuals without this sign. Depending on the type of seat belt used, these injuries may include tears within the abdominal wall as well as laceration of internal organs. Approximately 1% of all blunt trauma to the abdomen results in a traumatic abdominal wall hernia.
Hernias caused by seat belt trauma can be particularly difficult to diagnose. This is because patients are often laying down, face up when they are admitted to an emergency department; gravity prevents the intestines from herniating. It may take as long as 9 days after a motor vehicle accident for a traumatic abdominal wall hernia to be diagnosed.
While you should always wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle, if you are in an accident, be aware that you could suffer abdominal injuries — such as a hernia — from your seat belt. If you notice bruising on your stomach or chest from your seat belt, you may be at risk for developing a hiatal hernia. Be sure to seek prompt medical attention and follow up if you develop symptoms of a hernia, such as digestive issues, acid reflux, and/or a tender, painful lump on your abdomen.
Recovering Compensation for a Hernia Caused by a Car Accident
Generally, if you are injured in a car crash, you will be entitled to damages to cover your losses. This may include medical expenses (past and future), lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. If you have been diagnosed with a hernia after a motor vehicle accident, treatment of this condition should be covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are often more concerned about their bottom line than about making sure that people who are hurt receive appropriate compensation. The insurer may attempt to deny coverage for your hernia because:
- Your hernia was allegedly caused by another factor, such as your age or weight, and not by the accident;
- You didn’t seek immediate medical care for your hernia; or
- Your hernia may have developed over time, rather than from the trauma of a crash.
A skilled Washington, D.C. car accident attorney can fight for your right to compensation for a traumatic hernia. This may include presenting expert testimony on the difficulty of immediately diagnosing a hernia or proof that your hernia was caused by the accident. A zealous lawyer will put together documentation demonstrating that you are entitled to damages for your hernia.
Questions? Reach Out Today.
A car accident can cause many types of injuries, including those that aren’t as easy to detect, like a hiatal hernia. If you have been hurt in a crash and have been diagnosed with a hernia as a result, a Washington, D.C. car accident attorney can help you recover money for your losses.
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our team of dedicated legal professionals works hard to help victims of all types of accidents. We will work with you to put together a strong claim for damages — and fight for your right to compensation. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 202-742-1500 contact us online.