How Much Compensation Should I Get for My Clavicle Fracture?
There are lots of dangers cyclists face while on the road, but experienced bicycle accident attorneys will tell you that one of the most frequent dangers comes from parked cars. Clavicle fractures are all too common in bike accidents, especially when distracted drivers, or Uber passengers, open their door into an oncoming bicyclist.
Such an accident can happen fast, and even advanced and cautious cyclists have been “doored.” Some even refer to the collarbone injury — which can occur in all kinds of crashes because cyclists are usually flung from a bicycle and land on a shoulder or with their arms extended — “a right of passage” because it’s so common.
Why are Broken Collarbones so Common in Bicycle Accidents?
“For cyclists, the collarbone was basically made to be broken. When we fall, we often extend the arm to break our fall,” explains writer and medical doctor Dominic Briscomb. “The force travels through the arm up to the shoulder. The collarbone is usually the weakest link in the chain and tends to break first.”
You or a cyclist you know have likely experienced a clavicle injury at some point. Clavicle fractures account for about 5% of all adult fractures. They can range from mild — requiring a sling for a few months that can help mend the bone back together — to severe, where surgery and implantation of hardware is needed for multiple or severe breaks.
It may not be obvious at first that you have a clavicle fracture. Unlike broken arms or legs, they can be difficult to spot with an untrained eye — though a bad break could result in bone penetrating the skin.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says signs of a fracture in addition to severe pain may include:
- Sagging of the shoulder downward and forward
- Inability to lift the arm because of pain
- A grinding sensation when you try to raise the arm
- A deformity or bump over the break
- Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone
Most diagnoses of a broken collarbone are made via X-Ray, so that health professionals can clearly evaluate the injury and treatment options. A CT scan may also be ordered for more detailed images.
In the case of a severe fracture, you may need open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery.
If you believe you have a clavicle fracture, you should seek out medical attention and have the injury assessed. If it heals wrong, you could end up with more pain or a worse injury down the road.
How Much Compensation Should I Get for My Clavicle Fracture?
There are lots of factors that will determine the outcome of your personal injury case that involves a clavicle fracture. Severity of the injury — including whether it requires surgery and how long it takes to heal — is a significant component of any personal injury case. A more severe injury may mean more health care is required, increasing your medical bills and, possibly, compensation. There are other factors as well, such as whether you were partially at fault for the bicycle accident, and whether you have to miss any work because of the injury.
Unfortunately, being injured because of a driver’s negligence often comes at a big cost to the injured party. Between copays and balance bills, medical treatment can be expensive even if you have good health insurance. And time off of work, and incidental expenses like needing to pay for help around the house or eat more meals out to avoid the work of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen with an injured arm, can all add up.
Always remember that insurance companies are looking out for their bottom line — not you. If you’ve been involved in an accident that’s led to a clavicle fracture or any other injury, you should seek out a professional legal opinion. Seeking out a lawyer who has experience working with injured cyclists will give you the best chance of getting fair compensation. Bicycle accident lawyers will have lots of experience with clavicle fractures, and will know what a fair settlement is. Consultations are free by Bay Area Bicycle Law, and you’ll be working with the only Northern California-based law firm that specializes in representing cyclists.
How to Fall Better
The normal reaction to a bike crash as a cyclist is to reach your arms out to break your fall, but that could result in a more serious injury.
Experts recommend you should hold onto your handlebars. Instead of increasing your chances of breaking your arm or shoulder bones, you’ll fall onto your side. While in theory, it doesn’t sound like a better option, if it could mean a less severe break.
On the way down, try to bend your elbows, which will absorb some of the impact of the fall instead of sending it up into your collarbone.
It’s important that with any serious injury on a bicycle, you take the time to heal. Getting back in the saddle too soon could extend or worsen an injury and prolong your time off the bike.
For a simple clavicle fracture, it may take around six to eight weeks to heal in a sling. It’s important to keep your shoulder as still as possible while the bones mend. Medical professionals will have more specific advice for your injury, especially if you need surgery.
Physical therapy and pain medication may also be needed, and you shouldn’t operate a bike unless given the green light by your doctor.
In most cases, once you’re completely healed up, there are no limitations.
Preventing Common Injuries
Clavicle fractures are just one of many common injuries for cyclists. Others include back pain, friction injuries and pain in the patellar tendon, which is located just below the knee and becomes painful when it does too much work unassisted by your gluteal muscles when you’re working your legs.
Resting, stretching and using gear properly can alleviate many of the common aches and pains that come with cycling.
For Drivers: The “Dutch Reach”
As a cyclist, you’re likely to be a more cautious driver when you opt for four wheels instead of two, but opening a car door into an oncoming cyclist can still happen.
Cyclist Michael Charney recommends a simple technique to drivers to avoid such collisions. It’s often called the “dutch reach” — common in European countries where the number of cyclists is high — and he explains it to the New York Times like this: “When you are about to exit the car, you reach across your body for the door handle with your far or opposite hand. This action forces you to turn toward the side view mirror, out and then back over your shoulder to be sure a bicyclist is not coming from behind. Only then do you slowly open the door.”
Some studies have shown that the maneuver actually works really well at preventing door collisions with cyclists, and now both Massachusetts and Illinois teach it as a part of the state driver manual. Many cycling classes offer the tip too, so that we can all act better and share the road.