Can a Car Accident Trigger Post-Traumatic Arthritis?

Post-Traumatic Arthritis After a Car Accident

Being in a car accident can lead to numerous physical and emotional injuries with lifelong impacts. One such injury that can arise following an automobile collision is post-traumatic arthritis.

This chronic condition causes swelling, pain, and reduced mobility in the joints and requires comprehensive medical treatment.

If you develop post-traumatic arthritis due to another driver’s negligence in an accident, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue maximum compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other damages.

What is Post-Traumatic Arthritis?

Post-traumatic arthritis (PTA) refers to a form of degenerative joint disease resulting from acute trauma to the bone, cartilage, ligaments, or soft tissues around a joint.

It differs from the more common post-traumatic osteoarthritis since it occurs due to a known injury rather than simple everyday wear and tear over time. Post-traumatic arthritis also contrasts with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis that originate internally.

Specifically, post-traumatic arthritis emerges following fractures near joints, tears to ligaments or cartilage, or direct blows resulting in damage. The car accident may have severely harmed structures vital to smooth joint function. Later, the impaired areas spur an inflammatory process, bringing stiffness, pain, and arthritis.

What Causes Post-Traumatic Arthritis After a Car Accident?

Car crashes frequently bring the symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis. Dashboard impacts blows from deploying airbags, absorbed forces through the limbs, or trauma from shards of glass or metal can all fracture bone or directly impact joints.

Injuries like broken legs or ankles, ACL/MCL knee tears, shoulder separation, cartilage rips, and more all raise the risk for eventual post-traumatic joint issues if involved near a joint or where bone and cartilage interconnect. The initial impact triggers gradual inflammatory destruction of cushioning cartilage and other linings over months to years.

Eventually, limping or guarding injured areas accelerates wear as the joint movement grows more impaired and uneven. As the cartilage thins, underlying bone thickens and can form painful spurs or cysts. Inflamed, dense scar tissue accumulates and restricts mobility. Soon, this cascading process brings worsening arthritis and disability.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis manifestations involve revealing sources of inflammation and impairment, including:

  • Joint pain from mild to severe, depending on the stage of the disease.
  • Stiffness after periods of inactivity, with joint looseness improving somewhat with movement.
  • Swelling around the joint as irritated tissues become engorged.
  • Reduced range of motion as injuries accumulate, making joint movement more difficult or limited.
  • Crepitus or crunching/crackling noises when attempting to use the joint.
  • Joint instability, locking up, or catching at times.

In many cases, post-traumatic arthritis maintains a gradual onset, as degeneration accumulates over years following the initial accident. However, some people suddenly note inflammatory arthritis symptoms when an additional minor injury flares up the condition. This condition highlights why maintaining follow-up care proves critical even after accidents long past.

Diagnosing Arthritis in Car Accident Victims

Since post-traumatic arthritis shows non-specific signs also reflecting other diseases, accurate diagnosis requires an expert eye from doctors familiar with accident injuries and arthritic degeneration patterns.

Initial consultations begin with a history detailing prior injuries, accidents, location and nature of symptoms, aggravating and relieving factors, family history, occupational demands, and more.

Physicians conduct comprehensive physical exams, observing range of motion, swelling, muscle wasting, alignment, tingling or numbness, and other neurological signs suggesting nerve involvement. Providers may order imaging and blood tests to rule out other conditions and assess the extent of anatomical joint damage.

Standard diagnostic testing includes:

  • X-rays of bone integrity, fractures, cartilage loss, and bone spurs or cysts.
  • CT scans of bony structures in complex joints like the spine or wrist.
  • MRI scans to visualize soft tissue damage involving cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and inflammation.
  • Nerve conduction studies checking for radial or ulnar nerve impingement patterns.
  • Complete blood count tests to rule out inflammatory arthritis.
  • Synovial fluid analysis identifying particle types causing inflammation.

Using a combination of findings from the medical history, physical exam, and testing, doctors then confirm patterns aligning with trauma-induced, localized joint degeneration versus systemic types of arthritis or unrelated conditions.

Treatment Options

Since no cure exists currently for post-traumatic arthritis, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and optimizing function in the affected joint.

Common options include:

  • Oral or topical NSAIDs for decreasing inflammation and pain.
  • Braces, splints, or assistive devices to reduce strain on the joint.
  • Physical therapy for gentle strengthening and range of motion exercises.
  • Steroid injections to lower swelling and irritation directly.
  • Hyaluronic acid injections to boost natural joint lubrication.
  • Progressive procedures like debridement, realignment osteotomy, or manipulation under anesthesia to break up scar adhesions.
  • Advanced surgical options such as joint fusion (arthrodesis) or artificial joint replacement in severe cases unresponsive to more conservative care.

Doctors tailor the treatment regimen based on disease severity, location, patient age, and accessibility of different interventions. Since no single option can reverse advanced arthritic degeneration, using multiple approaches concurrently provides the best results.

Prioritizing early diagnosis and intervention offers a significant chance to curb inflammatory destruction before it becomes irreversible.

Linking Post-Traumatic Arthritis From a Car Accident

Since car crashes often bring blunt trauma, causing PTA later on, recording every detail following the event proves critical for establishing causation in a personal injury lawsuit.

We recommend cataloging accident specifics, documenting all injuries in medical records, communicating suspicions of crash-related joint damage to doctors immediately, and cooperating closely with involved legal and insurance personnel.

The initial emergency care reports, orthopedic surgeon notes, operative reports, if relevant, physical therapy evaluations, and subsequent primary care records must continually reference the car accident origin story. Otherwise, as arthritis emerges insidiously over months to years, the link to the crash may become obscured.

Hiring experienced personal injury counsel offers a neutral voice early on, asking key medical questions to ensure facts stay fresh in patients’ and doctors’ minds.

Pursuing Compensation Through a Personal Injury Claim

As with any car accident lawsuit, affected parties must establish negligence by the other motorist as directly causing their traumatic injuries to gain compensation. Since post-traumatic arthritis often emerges far after crash wounds resolve, victims face extra challenges demonstrating the link to the disease over time.

Skilled attorneys aim to quantify both the immediate and future impacts of post-traumatic arthritis using evidence like years of projected medical expenditures, costs of mobility equipment or home healthcare, reduced earning capacity, and pain and suffering burdens. Economic experts can calculate lifetime care costs and lost income figures to include as damages.

Since Wisconsin institutes a three-year deadline for filing accident injury claims from the crash date, prompt action generally proves essential before statutes of limitations expire. Anyone receiving diagnoses of car crash-linked post-traumatic arthritis must pursue legal counsel quickly to map out claim options, even without all records finalized yet. Calling a specialist lawyer allows you to grasp the available next steps.

Get Full and Fair Compensation for Lingering Injuries Post-Accident

If you suffered bodily harm and now face post-traumatic arthritis tied to another motorist’s negligence in an auto accident, our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations.

At Welcenbach Injury Law, we have helped hundreds of local drivers gain fair compensation for immediate and long-term disabling crash injuries alike. Your counsel will walk you through each phase of medical documentation, claim filing, settlement discussions, and trial preparation as necessary.

If you or a loved one experiences the pain and hardship of post-traumatic arthritis following a motor vehicle collision, contact our Milwaukee car crash attorney to schedule a consultation and case review.

Author Bio

Robert J. Welcenbach Robert Welcenbach is an Owner and Partner at Welcenbach Injury Law, a family-owned personal injury law firm in Milwaukee, WI. With more than 24 years of experience practicing law, he seeks justice for clients in a wide range of legal areas, including car accidents, class actions, dog bites, nursing home abuse, and other personal injury matters.

Robert received his Juris Doctor from the Marquette University Law School and is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being nominated and selected as a Milwaukee Personal Injury and Class Action Super Lawyer every year since 2008.

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