Car accident victims have come to accept that they may suffer from certain symptoms after a crash, including headaches, bruising and swelling, and lacerations. Some symptoms, such as persistent coughing, may not immediately spring to mind as being caused by a car accident. The truth, however, is that coughing could be indicative of a much more serious internal injury, like a punctured or collapsed lung.
Many car accident victims who find themselves coughing after their crash eventually discover that they are suffering from a pulmonary contusion or a bruised lung. These kinds of injuries are the result of blunt force trauma, which can rupture the capillaries and blood vessels in the lungs. Besides coughing, a person could experience soreness and bruising on the chest, tenderness, and even coughing up blood. Fortunately, pulmonary contusions aren’t life-threatening, although they can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and discomfort for several weeks after the crash.
Pulmonary embolisms occur when a blood clot, often caused by trauma, obstructs the blood vessels in the lungs. Coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and chest pain are common symptoms, although if left untreated, a person could end up suffering from pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure), a pulmonary infarction (which occurs when the lung tissue actually dies), and pleural effusion, (where fluid builds up in the membrane around the lungs).
Bruised or Broken Ribs
A bruised or fractured rib occurs when blunt force impact cracks or even shatters one or more of the ribs in the ribcage. This often happens when a person strikes the steering wheel or airbag upon impact. Common signs of a rib fracture include:
- Sharp pain when breathing;
- Abdominal pain; and
- Swelling and tenderness in the chest.
Of these symptoms, coughing is one of the most common. In fact, one study, conducted by the National Library of Medicine revealed that as many as 85 percent of accident victims who sustain broken ribs suffer from a chronic cough for up to a month after the crash. While broken ribs aren’t in and of themselves life-threatening, they can cause health problems. For instance, rib bones that are completely severed can actually become displaced in the chest cavity, or puncture nearby organs, like the lungs.
Coughing is the body’s response to an irritant in the airway or throat. After an accident, however, a cough could signify that something more serious is obstructing a person’s ability to breathe, such as a punctured lung, which in car accident cases, is often the result of a fractured rib or sternum becoming lodged in the lung’s soft tissue. Punctured lungs create a serious risk of internal bleeding or pulmonary hemorrhage. This can cause blood to block the airways, while also allowing air to seep into the chest cavity. When this happens, the lung can collapse, making it nearly impossible to breathe.
A punctured lung that is not treated can quickly collapse, which occurs when the puncture wound allows air to fill the space between the chest wall and the lung itself. When air becomes trapped in this space, the lung won’t fill properly and could even deflate entirely. While punctured lungs can go undiagnosed for a while, most people are aware when they have suffered an injury as severe as a collapsed lung. Common symptoms include shallow or rapid breathing, an inability to breathe, lightheadedness, and even a blue tinge to the skin. A collapsed lung is life-threatening when left untreated.
Bruised or Broken Sternum
The sternum is a long, flat bone that is located in the center of the chest and connects each of the ribs. In car accident scenarios, these injuries often occur after a person comes into contact with the steering wheel or airbag. Symptoms include everything from shortness of breath and chest pain to dry coughing and bruising of the chest. Fortunately, these injuries often heal on their own, although it could take up to a month for them to do so.
Get Help From an Experienced Miami Car Accident Lawyer
If you started coughing after a car crash and were then diagnosed with a lung injury, you may be wondering how you’ll cover your medical bills and lost wages. We can help you seek compensation for these, and other losses after we investigate the cause of your accident. Call 305-371-2692 and set up an appointment with one of the dedicated Miami car accident lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein today. You can also reach us via online message.