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Facial Injuries in Car Accidents: Know Your Legal Rights

Houston car accident lawyers explain common facial injuries & treatments

Car accident facial injuries can often be very serious. From a fractured nose to facial burns, facial bruising or another type of injury to the face, facial trauma often requires extensive medical treatment, including surgery in many circumstances. Moreover, facial injuries can leave scars that permanently affect your quality of life.

So how common are facial injuries sustained in car accidents? What medical treatments are available? And who’s responsible for paying for such expenses? It’s important for injury victims and their families to fully understand their rights and the legal options available to them.

Below, you can learn more about facial injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents from experienced Houston car accident attorneys who regularly represent injury victims and their families throughout Texas. If you or a loved one suffered facial trauma in a car crash caused by another driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical care, replacement income and other accident-related expenses.

How common are car accident facial injuries?

A medical study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that 51 percent of people injured in car accidents sustained some kind of facial injury. “Facial trauma was the single most common injury in these patients,” wrote the authors of the study.

How do these injuries happen?

Facial trauma sustained in a car accident often occurs when an injury victim’s face comes into contact with part of the vehicle, such as the dashboard, steering wheel or windshield. Broken glass from the windshield or other broken windows in the vehicle can also cause lacerations (cuts) to the face as a result of a collision.

Other times, facial injuries occur due to the car catching fire or an explosion caused by the car accident. Injury victims might even be ejected from the vehicle depending on the force and location of the crash.

In many instances, car crashes that result in facial injuries involve a collision with another vehicle. Such collisions are usually caused by one driver behaving in a reckless or negligent manner, including speeding, running a red light, texting while driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In the medical study focusing on facial injuries sustained in car accidents published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 51 percent of facial injuries involved a driver who tested positive for alcohol or other drugs.

What are common facial injuries?

Most facial injuries fall into two main categories –soft tissue injuries and facial bone fractures. Major soft tissue injuries accounted for 78 percent of facial injuries sustained in auto accidents. The remaining 22 percent were bone fractures.

Soft tissue injuries to the face include:

  • Facial lacerations – A cut or tear of the skin on the face, facial lacerations often occur in accidents due to glass or other debris in the vehicle cutting the skin. Facial lacerations can range from minor cuts on the surface of the skin to deep facial cuts that can affect muscles, tendons or nerves in the face as well as subcutaneous tissue, the innermost layer of skin. Lacerations can be simple or complex, jagged or V-shaped depending on how the skin was cut in the crash. Burst lacerations caused by a pointed object penetrating the skin and creating multiple lacerations also sometimes occur in car crashes.
  • Facial burns – Burn injuries to the face sustained in a motor vehicle accident can occur if there’s a fire or explosion caused by a car crash. Friction burns are caused by the skin scraping or rubbing up against a rough surface (such as seat upholstery or the road surface) during a car accident. Burn injuries are classified into four categories:
    • First-degree burns – Relatively minor burns that only affect the outermost layer of skin.
    • Second-degree burns – More serious burns that affect the outmost layer of the skin and the dermis, the next layer of skin underneath. Blistering is common in second-degree burns.
    • Third-degree burns – Sometimes called a “full-thickness burn,” this type of burn can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves and blood vessels. Third-degree burns affect the two outermost layers of skin and often appear black or brown in color.
    • Fourth-degree burns – The most severe type of burn, which can affect the skin as well as subcutaneous tissue, muscles, tendons and bones. Fourth-degree burns can be life-threatening and must be treated immediately to avoid infections, bone damage and other severe medical issues.
  • Facial abrasions – Injuries caused by the skin scraping against a rough surface. Facial abrasions can occur when someone is ejected from a vehicle and their face scrapes along the pavement. This type of facial abrasion is often referred to as “road rash.”

Common facial bone fractures include:

  • Fractured nose (nasal fracture) – A break or crack in the nose can have serious medical consequences. Excessive swelling and bleeding are common. A fractured nose can also affect a person’s ability to breathe, especially if the nasal septum has been damaged. This is why such injuries often require immediate medical attention.
  • Lower jaw fracture (mandible fracture) – Also referred to as broken jawbone, jaw fractures affecting the lower part of the jaw often result in swelling, bleeding from the mouth and difficulty speaking, chewing or breathing.
  • Upper jaw fracture (maxilla fracture) – A broken jawbone affecting the upper part of the jaw, a maxilla fracture often involves other facial injuries as well, including inflammation of the face which can cause facial bruising, misalignment of teeth and even affect a person’s ability to breathe normally.
  • Midface fractures (Le Fort fractures) – Broken bone injuries that occur in the middle part of the face. There are three types of Le Fort fractures:
    • Le Fort I – Upper jaw fractures, also known as maxilla fractures.
    • Le Fort II – Bone fractures affecting the lower part of the cheek below the eye.
    • Le Fort III – Bone fractures affecting the bridge of the nose and bones near the eyes.
  • Broken cheekbone (zygomatic maxillary fracture) – Fractures to the cheekbone caused by a collision often involve compound fractures and other facial injuries, including facial bruising and other bone fractures in other parts of the face.
  • Eye socket fracture (orbital fracture) – Such injuries involve broken bones in the area around the eye. Eye socket fractures can occur in the rim of the socket, the floor of the socket or both. Orbital rim fractures affect the thick bone area near the outer rim of the eye socket. Indirect orbital floor fractures (also known as "blowout fractures") often affect the thin floor of the eye socket or medial wall near the eye.

Serious facial injuries require extensive medical care. Many facial injuries can cause permanent damage to the face, including scarring and deformities.

Medical treatment for facial injuries

Medical treatments for facial injuries cover a wide range. Sometimes, simply cleaning and bandaging the wound to avoid infection is all that’s required. More severe facial wounds, like deep lacerations, might require anti-inflammatory drugs or stitches.

Resetting broken bones without performing surgery (a closed reduction) may be possible. But many times, open reduction surgery is necessary, especially if bone fractures need to be repositioned or there are compound bone fractures.

Many types of facial trauma require surgery, such as:

  • Reconstructive surgery, especially if the bones in the face and skull have been misaligned due to the force and impact of the crash.
  • Rhinoplasty surgery for a fractured nose, especially if there was extensive damage to the nasal septum or cartilage and bone in the upper or lower portion of the nose.
  • Plastic surgery, especially in cases involving severe facial burns and other skin damage to prevent permanent scarring.
  • Wiring the jaw shut, especially in cases involving mandible fractures (lower jaw fractures) and maxilla fractures (upper jaw fractures).
  • Installing metal plates into a fractured bone on either side of the facial bone fracture to stabilize and support the bone at the fracture location.

Emergency surgery may be necessary in some circumstances, such as if the victim cannot breathe due to facial bone fractures or inflammation.

Follow-up surgery may also be necessary, especially if there was extensive scarring or the facial bones become misaligned over time, depending on the location and severity of the facial trauma sustained.

Who pays for facial injuries in a car accident?

First, it’s important to understand how the insurance system works in your state. Texas has an at-fault car insurance system. This means the at-fault party is responsible for financially compensating injury victims for their accident-related expenses.

The at-fault party in a car accident is usually the driver who caused the collision. The at-fault driver (and their insurance company) is thus responsible for paying those damages. In some circumstances, though, a different party is at fault. For example, if you were ejected from a vehicle due to a defective seatbelt, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the seatbelt itself may be liable.

This might sound straightforward. But the reality is the at-fault driver’s insurance company (or other at-fault parties) will often do everything they can to avoid paying injury victims the money they rightfully deserve. This is why it’s important to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.

How much is my injury claim worth?

There’s no set dollar amount when it comes to facial injury claims. Studies conducted by the insurance industry have found that most car accident facial injury settlements or verdicts range from $40,000 to $150,000. However, some injury victims may be eligible to receive significantly more money.

The bottom line is you should be financially compensated for all past, present and future expenses related to your injury. This includes all medical care (including any anticipated follow-up surgical procedures), repairing or replacing your vehicle, and replacement income if you cannot work while you’re recovering from your injury, among other costs.

Some facial injuries are so severe that injury victims cannot return to work due to a permanent disability. In such circumstances, injury victims should be compensated for the anticipated future income they would have earned if they had been able to return to work. In addition, facial injuries can cause permanent scarring that affects the victim’s confidence, quality of life, and professional opportunities. Those losses can be tough to calculate, but they are real, and they deserve compensation under the law.

Calculating the full value of an injury claim can be complicated and contentious. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely insist that an injury claim is much lower than the actual total amount. An experienced attorney hired by the injury victim can negotiate with the insurance company and demand more money.

Why should I hire a lawyer?

Many legal issues often come up after a serious car accident that results in facial injuries. The driver who caused the collision might deny doing anything wrong. The at-fault driver’s insurance company might refuse to negotiate or deny your injury claim.

When you have an experienced attorney on your side, you can dictate what happens next. Your lawyer can – and should – thoroughly investigate your crash, including obtaining a copy of your official car accident report, tracking down witnesses whenever possible and consulting with accident reconstruction experts if necessary. Your attorney can also retain expert witnesses who can quantify the full extent of your damages and help advocate for the full compensation you deserve.

The Houston car accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys At Law thoroughly understand how the legal system works in Harris County and throughout Texas. That’s because we have extensive experience working with injury victims and fighting for them after an accident. As a result, we know what evidence to look for and how to compile such information into a compelling legal case.

Most insurance companies negotiate with us once they see we’re serious about your case. If not, we will not hesitate to file a lawsuit or take other legal action on your behalf, especially if an insurance company acts in bad faith.

Learn more about how we can help you with your facial injury. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation with a Houston car accident attorney who will fight for your rights. We have four offices located in the greater Houston area.

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