Internal injuries describe injuries that occur beneath the skin and muscle. While organ damage qualifies as an internal injury, it describes a much more specific condition.
Organ damage occurs when an internal organ’s structure or function becomes impaired. Organ damage can result from disease or trauma.
Here are the important things to note about traumatic organ damage and the ways that organ damage might affect an injury claim.
How Does Organ Damage Happen?
Organ damage can occur when the abdomen experiences trauma. Trauma that causes organ damage falls into two categories:
Blunt trauma happens when a force strikes the abdomen without penetrating it. Hitting the seatbelt during a car accident qualifies as blunt trauma. Likewise, impacting the ground after a fall can cause blunt trauma.
Blunt trauma can rupture blood vessels and organs. The organs most likely to suffer damage from blunt trauma include the spleen and liver.
Penetrating trauma happens when an object breaks the skin and impales the abdomen. The object can perforate organs as it penetrates the abdomen. It can also cause internal bleeding as it tears blood vessels.
What Organs Are Susceptible to Damage?
The abdominal organs fall into two categories:
The solid organs contain organ tissue throughout and include the:
When solid organs experience trauma, they can rupture or develop hematomas. A hematoma happens when small blood vessels in the organ rupture and blood collects inside the organ.
The hollow organs have an organ wall that surrounds a void. Hollow organs include:
When hollow organs experience trauma, the walls can tear and allow material in the void to leak out. This leakage can cause peritonitis and sepsis. Patients can also develop hematomas when small blood vessels rupture and blood collects in the organ wall.
What Are the Risk Factors for Organ Damage?
You can damage your organs in almost any type of accident. Blunt or penetrating trauma to the abdomen can happen as a result of falls, collisions, and explosions.
Some of the common causes of organ damage include:
Car accidents often cause blunt trauma due to the impact of the body on the seat belt. Since the seat belt crosses the lap, it is more likely to damage the organs in the lower abdomen.
Bicyclists often wear helmets to protect against head trauma in a bicycle accident. But bicyclists have no protective gear to guard against abdominal trauma.
When a vehicle hits a bicyclist, the impact of the vehicle on the bicyclist’s body can cause blunt trauma. The bicyclist could also become impaled on broken bicycle parts or road fixtures like signposts and fence posts.
A vehicle striking a pedestrian’s unprotected body can cause blunt trauma in a pedestrian accident. The pedestrian also risks blunt trauma when they impact the ground.
Construction sites present many opportunities for construction accidents that can cause organ damage.
Some situations that can lead to organ damage include:
- Falls from a height
- Falling objects
- Vehicle accidents
- Power tool accidents
For example, a scaffold or ladder collapse could result in blunt trauma as the victim falls to the ground.
What Are the Effects of Organ Damage?
The most immediate problem arising from organ damage is internal bleeding. Internal bleeding can lead to shock as the volume of blood in the circulatory system drops. It can also form hematomas in the organs.
After the accident victim is stabilized, localized symptoms may appear. Damaged organs may swell, causing abdominal compartment syndrome.
Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling cuts off the blood flow and nerves connecting the organ to the circulatory and nervous systems. Compartment syndrome can cause pain and damage the tissue of the organ even further. If doctors cannot restore circulation, the organs may fail.
Accident victims who experience severe swelling of the organs may experience heart and lung problems. The swollen organs leave no room for the lungs to expand or the heart to pump blood. This condition can threaten the accident victim’s life.
How is Organ Damage Treated?
For minor internal bleeding, doctors may keep the accident victim under close observation rather than subjecting the body to the trauma of surgery. Minor internal bleeding will often heal on its own without surgery. Doctors can provide blood transfusions to the accident victim to replace the lost blood.
Blunt force injuries that produce significant bleeding and penetrating injuries may require surgery. Surgeons can control bleeding and repair or remove damaged organs. They can also identify and repair leaks in hollow organs to minimize the risk of infection and peritonitis.
The accident victim will remain under close monitoring after the accident to identify any symptoms of organ failure. In some cases, organs will regain their function. In other cases, the accident victim may require an organ transplant.
What Compensation Can You Recover for Organ Damage?
When you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can claim economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical expenses and lost income. For example, after sustaining organ damage, you may have substantial medical expenses and may be unable to work during a lengthy recovery.
Non-economic damages include compensation for your physical pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of activities, and diminishment in your quality of life.
If you experience permanent organ damage in a car accident, the injury will likely justify moving outside of New York’s no-fault insurance system. This will allow you to sue the at-fault driver for both your economic and non-economic damages.
Contact a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Contact the skilled legal team at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum for a free consultation to discuss your organ injury case. Our New York City personal injury lawyers will review your case and help you to determine the best legal strategies to move forward.