An overview of chest injuries
A personal injury to the chest may occur as a result of an accident or deliberate penetration such as being stabbed. Blunt traumas to the chest are also fairly common. Depending on the level of force and type of trauma, a blow to the chest may cause either minor bruising or damage to the organs inside.
Minor chest injuries
Pain to the chest wall which becomes more pronounced with movement of the shoulder, arm, ribcage or trunk of the body is symptomatic of a minor chest injury.
Chest pain will usually last for a few days after the injury occurs and will be aggravated by breathing deeply, coughing, sneezing or pressing on the damaged area.
In most cases medical attention will not be needed and rest and anti-steroidal pain relief are the best mode of treatment. However, if the pain becomes too unbearable or you are thinking of making a personal injury claim, a visit to a doctor or health care professional is advisable.
Being punched, hit with a blunt object or falling awkwardly could cause a rib to crack or break or cause damage to the cartilage of the ribcage. Those with a rib fracture may experience a sharp, severe localised chest pain that worsens when they breathe, cough or lie on the chest area.
While the ribcage provides protection for some of the body's major organs, if damaged the ribs can lead to further injury. For example, broken ribs can collapse inwards and puncture the lung which is potentially fatal.
Serious chest injuries
The most serious chest traumas are recognised by severe pain and difficulty breathing immediately after the injury occurs. In many cases such symptoms indicate that the lungs, heart, blood vessels or other internal organs have been damaged, for example:
- A blow to the front of the chest (sternum) can damage the heart, large blood vessels or tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach (oesophagus).
- A blow to the chest can damage the lungs or the airway (trachea).
- A blow to the back of the chest can damage a kidney.
- A blow to the side of the chest or lower chest can damage the liver or spleen.
With an estimated 100 knife attacks against adults in the UK every day it is not any wonder why stab wounds to the chest are so common. These are usually serious and can be fatal if any major arteries or organs are punctured and bleeding is not stopped immediately.
However, it is worth remembering that serious internal chest injuries are not always so easy to spot as they can occur independently and are not always a result of an obvious external injury.
Types of serious chest injury
The most serious types of chest injury include:
- Myocardial contusion - bruising of the heart muscle usually caused by a blunt trauma; in less serious cases the affected area regains function without permanent scarring
- Flail chest -the chest wall moves inconsistently during respiration, owing to multiple rib fractures allowing some ribs to move independently from the rest of the ribcage
- Sucking chest wounds - an open chest wound which allows air to be sucked into the chest with inhalation
- Pulmonary contusion - bruising of the lung resulting from a shock wave passing through the tissue
- Haemothorax - blood or fluid in the pleural cavity (the space between the lungs and the walls of the chest), most commonly due to lung injury
- Pneumothorax - air in the pleural cavity, causing compression and collapsing of the lung
- Cardiac tamponade - mechanical compression of the heart as a result of large amounts of fluid collecting in the pericardial space and limiting the heart's normal range of motion, causing low stroke volume and shock
- Aortic rupture - rupture of the largest artery in the human body, causing failure of the heart to pump sufficiently
Chest injuries and airbags
Chest injuries, along with whiplash injuries, are a common consequence of vehicle accidents. It is not unusual for the chest to suffer a crush trauma during a rear end collision as it can be thrown against the wheel at speed with the weight of the whole body behind it.
The advent of frontal airbags as a standard requirement in all new car models since 1998 has helped the majority of chest crush injuries to decline. However, this is not an end to the issue since airbags have been known to cause other personal injuries when they inflate such as burn injuries to the chest and face. However, these minor friction burns are considered preferable to potentially fatal chest injuries by most.
Chest injury treatment and advice
If you suspect that you or somebody else has a chest injury you should seek medical treatment from a professional as soon as possible:
- The chest should be inspected for any open wounds, tenderness, and unequal respiratory motion so that the seriousness of the injury can be determined.
- Any foreign bodies that have been inserted into the chest during a penetrative injury should not be removed by anyone other than a medical professional.
- A completely airtight dressing should be applied immediately to cover any hole that extends into the chest cavity.
- The injured party should be positioned so that their injured side is facing down.
- The neck and back of the injured party should be immobilized after a possible chest injury has been sustained.
- The injured party should be provided with pure oxygen to aid breathing.
- CPR should be given by a qualified first aider if necessary.
- An X-ray may be necessary to determine whether internal injuries have been sustained.
Compensation amounts for chest injuries
Compensation for chest injuries is difficult to determine because the majority of awards relate to industrial disease such as asbestosis rather than traumatic injury as detailed above.
The level of compensation awarded within the following brackets is affected by:
- Age and gender of those suffering
- Severity of scarring
- The effect on the capacity to work and enjoyment of life
- The effect on life expectancy
Up to £2,150
Fractures to ribs, causing serious pain and disability over a period of weeks.
£1,250 to £3,000
Injuries leading to collapsed lungs from which a full and uncomplicated recovery is made.
£3,000 to £6,750
Toxic fume/smoke inhalation, resulting in some residual damage but not permanent interference of lung function.
£6,750 to £10,000
Relatively uncomplicated injury (such as a single stab wound) causing some permanent tissue damage but no significant long-term effect on lung function.
£17,500 to £30,000
Damage to chest and lung(s) resulting in some residual disability
£36,000 to £55,000
Traumatic injury to chest, lung(s) and/or heart, causing permanent damage, impairment of function, physical disability and reduction of life expectancy.
£55,000 to £82,000
Total removal of one lung and/or heart damage with serious prolonged pain and suffering and permanent significant scarring.
Making a personal injury compensation claim today
If you have suffered a personal injury, such as trauma to the chest, through no fault of your own then it is likely that you are entitled to make a compensation claim.
Our personal injury solicitors have an excellent success rate with such cases and can help you to claim for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and the recovery of medical costs such as prescriptions and specialist treatment. Read more about what you can claim for.
We work on a no win, no fee basis. What this means is that, in the event your case is not successful, you won't be charged a penny. It means that making a claim is a completely risk free process - this lets you focus on getting better, not worrying about money.
Making a personal injury claim couldn't be simpler. Just call 0800 197 32 32 or fill out one of our online forms and we will call you back at the time you request.