Orthopaedic (Musculoskeletal) injuries are unfortunately common in car accidents. Sudden movement of the body after impact can lead to muscle strains, sprains and torn ligaments and tendons, while contact between the body and hard car surfaces or stationary objects outside the car can cause cuts, bruising, fractures and dislocations.
Many of these injuries are relatively minor, but more serious injuries and traumatic orthopaedic injuries may take multiple surgeries to repair. While full recoveries are possible, sometimes an injured person continues to experience debilitating long-term symptoms, including nerve damage, chronic pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion of extremities.
Occasionally, however, orthopaedic injuries from car accidents are so severe that they are deemed catastrophic. A catastrophic injury designation under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, also known as (SABS) generally means a person has acquired a significant, life-altering permanent disability.
While no amount of money could ever truly compensate you or a loved one after a catastrophic orthopaedic injury, obtaining this designation is an important way to cover some of the costs that arise when you suffer a severe disability. The catastrophic orthopaedic injury team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers have the experience, knowledge and skill to help you access these benefits.
Orthopaedic injuries in car accidents.
Common types of injuries.
In many car accidents, the force of the collision causes a driver or passenger’s body to move unexpectedly and sometimes beyond its usual range of motion. Common injuries from this kind of movement can include:
- Whiplash associated disorder - a neck injury caused when the neck moves suddenly or violently. A person experiencing the effects of whiplash may have symptoms including pain, tenderness, stiffness, limited range of motion and/or numbness in their neck. Sometimes symptoms can also include sleep disturbances, dizziness, blurred vision and ringing in the ears. Early treatment of whiplash tends to lead to better outcomes and faster recovery times.
- Muscle strains - when muscles, ligaments or tendons are stretched or twisted after a body is jerked by a sudden force, they can become strained. Strains can happen anywhere in the body but are frequently found in the lower back. This injury can result in pain, stiffness, soreness and debilitating muscle spasms.
- Dislocation - dislocation occurs when the normal position of a joint or another body part is disturbed. While dislocations most frequently occur during slip and falls, hip dislocations commonly occur in car accidents. When a driver slams on the brakes to try to avoid a collision, they may extend their legs. If a collision occurs when the knee is locked, the force can sometimes dislocate the femur’s head at the hip socket.
When there is blunt force trauma in a crash, additional injuries often occur:
- Fractures - broken bones, whether complete breaks or other types of fractures, tend to result in moderate to severe pain, swelling, and bruising. A person with a fracture may also have difficulty bearing weight in an affected area.
- Back injuries - the spinal column is a common site of injury in car accidents. Blunt force trauma may cause vertebrae to fracture or be crushed. Sudden movement or jerks can also result in herniated discs or dislocated joints.
Severe orthopaedic injuries.
Although many of these common orthopaedic injuries can be treated effectively with a combination of rest, physical therapy and surgery, when an accident victim has multiple types of injuries, especially in the same area of the body, rehabilitation can become much more complicated.
In cases where the accident has caused severe lacerations to limbs, nerve damage affecting limbs, or shattered bones, the resulting injuries may not respond well to treatment. In these cases, limbs may require amputation or a person may experience permanent disability with loss of function in one or more limbs.
When an orthopaedic injury is this severe, it may meet the threshold for a catastrophic designation under SABS.
SABS definitions of catastrophic orthopaedic injuries.
SABS categorizes injuries into three tiers when assessing access to benefits. Individuals falling under the Minor Injury Guideline (bruising, cuts, muscular sprains and strains and whiplash-related injuries) can receive up to $3,500 for medical-rehabilitation costs. More severe injuries would be eligible to access as much as $65,000 of medical-rehabilitation and attendant care funding for up to five years.
To be eligible to access funds for the highest tier of injuries, a person must obtain a catastrophic injury designation. At least one of eight criteria must be met. For orthopaedic injuries, this would include:
- Injuries causing paraplegia or tetraplegia (according to permanent grades on the ASIA Impairment Scale and the Spinal Cord Independence Measure). Such impairment may require urological surgical diversion, an implanted device, or intermittent or constant catheterization in order to manage a residual neuro-urological impairment. The injured person may also have impaired voluntary control over anorectal function that requires a bowel routine, a surgical diversion or an implanted device.
- Severe impairment of ambulatory mobility or use of an arm, or amputation that results in trans-tibial or higher amputation of a leg; amputation of an arm or another impairment causing the total and permanent loss of use of an arm; or severe and permanent alteration of prior structure and function involving one or both legs according to the Spinal Cord Independence Measure, Version III, item 12 (Mobility Indoors).
- A combination of these and other injuries resulting in at least 55 percent impairment of the whole person, unlikely to improve with time.
When insurers dispute the severity of an injury.
The significant difference in compensation between catastrophic injuries and the next tier of injuries means it's in the insurance company’s interest to dispute a catastrophic designation where possible. In some cases it is clear that a SABS applicant has an injury that meets the criteria. In cases where limbs have been completely amputated or where paralysis is definitively permanent, an insurer may accept the designation without challenge.
However, in other cases, often called ‘threshold cases’, the extent of the victim’s injuries may not be as clear-cut or the prognosis for recovery may be less definitive. In these cases, an insurer may have the accident victim visit medical practitioners chosen by the insurer for further evaluations and testing.
How can Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers help?
With 60 years of experience in the personal injury field, our team knows very well how distressing it can be when accident victims are denied benefits. At a time when you are coming to terms with what an acquired disability will mean for you or your loved one, discovering that you must fight to get what you rightfully deserve can feel overwhelming.
Gluckstein’s catastrophic orthopaedic injury team wants you to know that you are not alone in this fight. Our experienced, knowledgeable and skilled personal injury lawyers have helped hundreds of people like you to access the funds they need for their recovery.
By calling on our network of medical experts, we can build a strong argument in an effort to convince your insurer to settle your claim fairly. And, if we need to proceed to a hearing to get you the compensation you are rightfully owed, you can be confident that our cases are always built to be court-ready.
Pursuing a civil case for a personal injury can be expensive, but at Gluckstein we believe accident victims should not have to risk financial ruin to get justice. We will never ask for payment unless we are successful in negotiating a settlement or winning a court award.
With a member of Gluckstein’s catastrophic orthopaedic injury team as your fierce advocate, your energy can be focused on rebuilding your life and other important parts of your recovery.
Full-circle client care.
At Gluckstein Lawyers, we treat our clients the way we treat our family: with respect, with dignity and with empathic, compassionate and attentive care. By pioneering the use of client liaisons, we ensure you will have a person dedicated to helping you not only understand how your case is progressing, but also to connect with resources and support that will improve your life after a traumatic injury.
Even after the life of your case, we are always here for you and your loved ones. As proud supporters of disability advocacy and support organizations, we want to do everything we can to help our clients live their best life.
Sustaining a catastrophic orthopedic injury can be one of the most challenging events a person can experience in their life. Trust Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers to be there for you on your journey to recovery. Together we can work to get you what you need and deserve as you move confidently toward the future.
Our personal injury lawyers in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, and Barrie serve clients across Ontario and are here to work with you. Contact our personal injury law firm today for your no cost, no obligation initial consultation.
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