Compartment Syndrome Injury in Auto Accident Lawsuits

This page will look at auto accident injury lawsuits involving compartment syndrome as one of the plaintiff’s primary injuries. We will also look at the settlement value of compartment syndrome as an injury in car accident cases.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is a serious medical condition that occurs when there is increased pressure within one of the body’s anatomical compartments, typically in the limbs. This pressure increase can decrease blood flow, which can prevent nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells.

Compartment syndrome often results from trauma, such as fractures, crush injuries, or vigorous exercise. When these types of trauma occur, blood and other body fluids accumulate in the injured area or compartment. This results in swelling and creates pressure within the compartment. When this type of pressure gets too high, it restricts blood flow to the area. The loss of blood flow for an extended period can cause tissue in the area to slowly die from lack of blood.

There are two different types of compartment syndrome: acute and chronic. The chronic type of compartment syndrome is usually not related to trauma in an accident and is generally less serious. Acute compartment syndrome is the type that we usually see in accident cases because it is almost always the result of physical injury. This type is more serious. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to permanent muscle damage, nerve damage, and even loss of the affected limb.

Symptoms of Compartment Syndrome

The most significant and obvious symptom of compartment syndrome is pain in the limb or area where the compartment syndrome is occurring. Below is a list of the clinical symptoms of compartment syndrome:

  • Severe pain that doesn’t improve with rest or pain medication
  • Pain that is more intense than expected for the injury
  • Tingling or burning sensation in the skin
  • Muscle tightness
  • Swelling and bruising

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis is usually made based on the clinical symptoms and confirmed by measuring the pressure within the compartment using a needle or catheter. Acute compartment syndrome can be a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention. The only effective treatment is surgery, typically involving a procedure called a fasciotomy. This procedure entails making a surgical incision through the skin and fascia of the affected compartment to relieve pressure and restore blood flow. Once the swelling subsides, the surgical incision can be closed.

Compartment Syndrome Resulting from Car Accidents

Compartment syndrome can frequently be the result of injuries sustained in a car accident. In fact, auto accident trauma is one of the leading causes of acute compartment syndrome. The reason for this is that auto accident commonly result in serious injuries to the limbs and any type of traumatic injury occurring in the arms or legs creates a high risk of compartment syndrome.

Compartment Syndrome Settlement Value in Auto Accident Cases

It is difficult to give a settlement value estimate for compartment syndrome as an injury in a auto accident case because it is not really an independent injury occurring on its own. Rather, compartment syndrome in accident cases is a complication that develops as a result of the primary injury (e.g., broken leg, broke arm, etc.). So compartment syndrome is more like an aggravating factor that makes an injury much worse.

When compartment syndrome results from a physical injury suffered in an auto accident, it can significantly increase the settlement value of the underlying injury. Why? Because compartment syndrome is a serious complication that can make the underlying injury much worse and result in severe pain. Compartment syndrome may also require additional surgery to treat, increasing the plaintiff’s medical expenses.

Here is an example of how compartment syndrome can impact the potential settlement value of an auto accident case. Let’s say Joe suffered a broken leg in an auto accident that was not his fault. If that broken leg heals normally after standard orthopedic surgery, his case may have a settlement value of $75,000 to $90,000. If Joe develops compartment syndrome after having the initial surgery for his broken leg and requires a second surgery, the settlement value of his case could easily double or triple to $150,000 – $200,000.

Factors That Drive Compartment Syndrome Settlement Amounts

Lawsuits involving compartment syndrome from car crashes often have high settlement amounts due to the severity and long-term implications of the injury. Here are factors that typically contribute to higher settlements in these cases:

  1. Strong Liability: Clear evidence that the other party was at fault for the accident can also increase the settlement amount. If the defendant’s negligence is undeniable, the plaintiff’s case is stronger and will lead to a higher settlement.
  2. Insurance Policy Limits: The amount of available insurance coverage can have a huge impact on your settlement.  There needs to be a way to pay any settlement or jury award. Lawsuits where the defendant has substantial insurance coverage or, even better,  where an employer’s commercial policy is involved will almost certainly lead to a larger settlement.
  3. Severity and Permanence of Injury: Compartment syndrome can lead to irreversible muscle and nerve damage, chronic pain, and disability. Cases where the plaintiff suffers permanent disability, requires extensive surgery, or long-term rehabilitation get larger settlements.
  4. Medical Expenses: The medical treatment for compartment syndrome can be extensive and costly. This includes emergency surgery (fasciotomy), hospitalization, multiple surgeries, and long-term physical therapy. The higher the medical bills, the higher the potential settlement not just as compensation for the loss but medical expenses are used by insurance companies and even jurors as a marker for the victim’s pain and suffering.
  5. Loss of Income and Earning Capacity: If the injury leads to significant time away from work or if the victim is no longer able to work in their chosen profession, the compensation for lost wages and loss of future earnings can substantially increase the settlement amount.
  6. Pain and Suffering: Compartment syndrome is extremely painful and traumatic. Compensation for pain and suffering, which includes physical discomfort and emotional distress, often forms the most significant part of any compartment syndrome settlement.

Compartment Syndrome Verdicts and Settlements

Below are summaries of jury payouts and settlement amounts in car accident lawsuits involving compartment syndrome as one of the primary injuries. These cases include lawsuits where the compartment syndrome results from auto accident injuries, and where the compartment syndrome was related to surgery or other types of injuries.

  • $750,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2024): Plaintiff, a 14-year-old female, was crossing an intersection in a crosswalk when she was struck by a vehicle operated southbound by defendant and thrown 100 feet into the air. The plaintiff reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury/concussion, a liver laceration, fractures to the left tibia, right iliac, pelvis and left humerus, developed compartment syndrome of the left leg, sustained a T3 vertebra fracture and lacerations and avulsions to the face and body resulting in scarring and disfigurement.
  • $2,590,000 Verdict (Connecticut 2024): Plaintiff fell from a ladder and suffered a tibial fracture. He underwent surgery with a closed manual reduction and external fixation, but his condition got worse after the procedure. He developed compartment syndrome in his left leg resulting in permanent injuries and he sued the orthopedic surgeon and hospital.
  • $3,318,000 Verdict (Connecticut 2023): In this premises liability cases the plaintiff had an 800 pound garage door allegedly come crashing down on him. The plaintiff claimed to suffer a crushed left lower leg resulting in multiple fractures, left shoulder rotator cuff damage requiring surgery, osteoarthritis and foot nerve damage. He said he developed compartment syndrome in his left lower extremity and suffers chronic pain.
  • $40,250,000 Verdict (Texas 2023): Plaintiff claimed to suffer bilateral above-the-knee amputations after developing hemorrhagic shock and compartment syndrome to both legs subsequent to sustaining multiple gunshot wounds fired by two unknown assailants who then stole his car in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he resided. He sued the property manager of the complex. The lawsuit contended that the defendant knew or should have known of criminal activity on the premises and in the surrounding area, and it failed to exercise ordinary care to protect the plaintiff from the danger by failing to adequately warn him of the condition and failing to make the condition reasonably safe.
  • $20,156,000 Verdict (New York 2022): 50-year-old male employed as a sergeant court officer was seriously injured when a courthouse door slammed closed on him when he was reporting to work. The plaintiff reported injuries including spinal cord compression with significant neurological sequelae as well as C3-C7 disc bulging and herniations with radiculopathy which required decompressive laminectomy and fusion surgeries using titanium rod and screws with bone grafting and resulting in severe post-surgical scarring. The plaintiff also claimed he sustained compartment syndrome and tendon damage to his right wrist.
  • $75,000 Settlement (Alabama 2022): The plaintiff, 3-years-old at the time of the accident, was being dropped off at his older sister’s house for babysitting when the sister ran over him with her car. The plaintiff suffered a lacerated spleen, fractured lower shaft of the tibia, abdominal compartment syndrome, a lip laceration, and other injuries.
  • $1,700,000 Settlement (Washington 2021): The defendant cross over the center line at a sharp bend in the road and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle in a head on collision. The plaintiff suffered a tibial plateau fracture requiring surgery open reduction and internal fixation and he developed compartment syndrome multiple times post-surgery requiring him to undergo 4 surgeries to treat the compartment syndrome.

Contact Us About a Compartment Syndrome Case

If you suffered compartment syndrome from an injury in an auto accident or another type of accident, call our national injury lawyers today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.

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