Understanding Pelvic Injuries Caused by Vehicle Accidents

Understanding Pelvic Injuries Caused by Vehicle AccidentsCar accidents are a leading cause of serious injury. Pelvic trauma in particular can be life-altering, if not life-threatening, depending on the exact nature of the injury.

While most people think of the pelvis as synonymous with hips, it is really “a basin-shaped structure that supports the spinal column and protects the abdominal organs.” Contained within the pelvis are all of your reproductive organs as well as your bladder, rectum, and descending colon (part of your large intestine). It also protects the cauda equina, the bundle of nerve roots at the base of your spinal cord. Per Johns Hopkins, most pelvic fractures are the result of car and motorcycle accidents.

The pelvic structure is a strong one, and it can withstand a tremendous amount of force; this makes pelvic fractures “relatively uncommon,” per research published by the National Library of Medicine. What is common, however, is “a high rate of associated injuries, occurring in 12% to 62% of patients with pelvic fractures.” Per the research:

Pelvic fractures make up about 10% of fractures in blunt trauma patients. Over 16% of patients with pelvic fractures have at least one associated injury. The most commonly injured structures are intraabdominal, with the liver, spleen, and kidneys occurring most often…. It is estimated that up to 24% of pelvic trauma patients have a urethral injury, and 20% have an associated bladder laceration….

Pelvic nerves and vascular lesions are also relatively common…. Blood loss can also come from the fractured bones.

When you sustain severe pelvic trauma in a vehicle crash – as a driver, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian – the chances are good that you will suffer vascular injuries (veins and arteries) and/or organ perforation. Both types of injuries can cause internal bleeding and increase the risk of infection through leakage of the bowel and large intestine. If the cauda equina is damaged, you could end up paralyzed.

What are the symptoms of pelvic injuries?

NYU Langone Health says the primary signs of pelvic fractures include “significant, sharp pain in the hip or groin and swelling, bruising, and tenderness in the skin at the site of the injury. Depending on the severity of the fracture, a broken bone may prevent you from putting any weight on the affected hip.” Other signs of potential pelvic injuries include:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Difficulty walking
  • The inability to walk at all
  • A numbness or tingling feeling in the pelvic area
  • Pain that surrounds the pelvis and the abdomen
  • Experiencing discomfort while standing
  • Signs of infection, including fever

How seat belt use contributes to pelvic injuries in vehicle crashes

The three-point safety seat belt is designed to “spread the stopping force across the pelvis and upper body. Because three point belts spread the force across more of the body than two point belts, they minimize the strength of the force in one area, minimizing injury” in that one area. However, by spreading the force across the pelvis, the seat belt can actually increase the chance of a pelvic injury and seat belt syndrome, which refers “to the musculoskeletal and visceral injuries associated with the force transmitted by the seat belt” during a crash.

The risks can also be different, and greater, for the elderly and for children. As most seat belts are designed to protect an adult body, there are already risks for children who are not properly restrained; this is why using a car seat or booster seat is so critical to keeping smaller and/or younger children safe. For elderly drivers and passengers, however – especially those with osteoporosis or other bone-related conditions – the force of a collision may be enough to shatter the bones of the pelvis. Both the very young and the elderly face additional challenges when it comes to treatment, too. Pelvic injuries typically require surgical intervention, and anesthesia can present dangers for the elderly and the young.

How a Richmond car accident attorney can help

Your pelvic injuries can affect your ability to move your hips and legs, which can in turn affect your ability to work, care for yourself, or live the life you planned. In many cases, severe pelvic injuries can leave you permanently disabled.

The Richmond-based injury attorneys of Phelan Petty can assist you if you sustained pelvic trauma in a car accident. A personal injury claim or lawsuit can allows you to seek compensation for any medical expenses, lost income (including loss of future earnings), property damages, and pain and suffering you endured, as well as any additional damages related to your car accident. Our role is to show a jury the true extent of your injuries and losses. To do this, we not only analyze any video footage and photos of the scene and your injuries, but we also review your medical and employment records, speak with your doctors and financial planners, and use cutting-edge technology to present your case.

At Phelan Petty, we focus on helping the catastrophically injured find a new path forward. If you have sustained pelvic trauma or any injuries in a car accident, our Richmond-based team is here to help. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. Serving clients throughout Virginia.