Knee pain is a common health issue that affects people of all ages. Knee pain is often the result of an injury. It can be caused by a repetitive activity at work or as the result of a traumatic incident such as a fall. Many different types of activities on the job can lead to a serious knee injury.
If you have injured your knee on the job, you are entitled to be compensated for damages such as medical expenses, surgery, medical equipment, rehabilitation or physical therapy and disability. Knee injuries can be painful and costly to treat. They could also potentially end your career. Anyone who has suffered knee injuries that require extensive medical care and rehabilitative treatment would be well advised to understand their legal rights and options.
Understanding Knee Injuries
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), in 2010, there were about 10.4 million patient visits to doctors’ offices due to knee injuries such as fractures, dislocations, sprains and ligament tears. An injury to the knee is one of the most common reasons people see their doctors.
Understanding the anatomy of the knee and how its different components work will give a victim a better perspective of his or her knee injury. The knee is a complex joint with many parts. This makes it vulnerable to a variety of injuries and ailments. The knee is the body’s largest joint and is made up of four main components: bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
There are three bones that meet to form your knee joint: the thighbone or femur, the shinbone or tibia and the kneecap or patella. The ends of these three bones are covered with articular cartilage, a slippery substance that keeps the bones gliding smoothly across each other as you bend or straighten your leg. Two wedge-shaped pieces of meniscal cartilage act as shock absorbers between your thighbone and shinbone. The meniscus is tough and rubbery to help cushion and stabilize the knee joint.
Ligaments are like strong ropes that hold the bones together and help stabilize the knee. Your knee joint has four ligaments. Also, there are tendons that connect muscles to the bones. The quadricep tendon connects the muscle in front of your thigh to your kneecap and the patellar tendon stretches from your kneecap to your shinbone.
Types of Knee Injuries
The knee joint, though intricate in design, is still a delicate mechanism and one that is susceptible to injury. Frequently treated knee injuries include fractures around the knee, dislocation, sprains, strains and soft tissue injuries. In most cases, the injuries involve more than one knee component. The following are some of the most common types of knee injuries.
Fractures: The most common bone that is broken in the knee joint is the kneecap. The ends of the thighbone and shinbone where they meet to form the knee joint can also be broken. Many fractures in the knee joint are commonly caused by traumatic events such as slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents, falls from heights and car accidents. Broken bones often take a long time to heal completely. Depending on the nature and extent of the break, knee injury victims may have to undergo lengthy rehabilitation including physical therapy, which could prove costly. Some fractures may result in permanent injuries or disabilities, preventing the victim from returning to work. In some cases, the victim may never regain the strength, mobility or flexibility he or she had prior to the injury.
Dislocation: A dislocation occurs when the bones of the knee slip out of place either partially or fully. For example, the thighbone and shinbone can be forced out of alignment and the kneecap can also slip out of place. Dislocations can be caused by trauma resulting from falls, car accidents or high-impact sports, etc.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries: The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL is often injured during sporting activities such as soccer, football and basketball. Changing direction rapidly can tear the ACL. About half of all ACL injuries occur with damage to other components in the knee such as the meniscus. ACL injuries can also occur as the result of traumatic events such as a fall. The posterior cruciate ligament could become injured from a blow to the front of the knee when the joint is bent. This could occur in car accidents and sports-related contact incidents.
Meniscal injuries: Meniscal tears are among the most common knee injuries. Sudden meniscal tears often happen during sports. A squatting or twisting movement involving the knee can cause a tear. Older people are more likely to have a degenerative meniscal tear. Since cartilage weakens and wears thin over time, aged or worn tissue is more prone to tears. Even an awkward twist of the knee when getting up from a chair may be enough to cause a meniscal tear.
Tendon tears: The quadriceps and patellar tendons can be stretched or torn as a result of falls, direct force to the front of the knee or landing awkwardly from a jump.
Bursitis: A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between moving tissues of the body. There are three major bursae in the knee. When a bursa becomes inflamed, the condition is known as bursitis. This is commonly caused by tissue trauma or strain injury. It could also be caused by infections.
Symptoms of Knee Injuries
Pain and swelling with difficulty in bending the knee is one of the most common symptoms of knee injury. If the swelling occurs immediately, it may mean that you’ve suffered a fracture or a ligament tear. If the swelling increases over a period of time, meniscal or cartilage injuries may be the cause. Symptoms that point to knee injuries include a feeling of instability of the knee or popping or grinding in the knee.
“Locking” is the term used when the knee joint refuses to completely straighten. This is often due to torn cartilage. Limping or lack of mobility is another symptom of knee injury. You should seek medical attention right away if there is almost immediate swelling in the knee, if the bones appear deformed, if you are unable to bear weight, if the pain is intolerable or if there is loss of sensation below the injury site.
Causes of Knee Injuries
A number of traumatic events leave us vulnerable to knee injuries:
Car accidents: A knee injury may occur during a car crash if the exterior of the knee hits the vehicle’s interior. The impact between the knee and interior of a car (door, window or dashboard, etc.) is usually a quick and hard strike. Knee injuries in car accidents could also occur because of severe twisting or hyperextension of the leg. Car accidents may result in ligament or meniscal tears, soft tissue injuries, fractures and dislocations. These injuries can result in permanent knee problems requiring surgery and/or intense rehabilitative therapy.
Slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents: What seems like a simple trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall accident can lead to a painful knee injury. This type of injury can affect the ligaments, tendons or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) located around the knee joint. It can also have an impact on the bones, cartilage and ligaments that make up this complex joint. If you trip and fall awkwardly, you may land on your knee and injure it seriously.
Falls from elevations: Workers such as those in construction face a greater risk of falling from higher elevations. Among other injuries, workers may suffer significant knee fractures that could prevent them from returning to work for a long period of time.
Workplace injuries: Knee injury can also be caused due to repetitive strain in the workplace involving activities such as lifting, carrying or bending. These types of injuries are usually covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Compensation is available for medical expenses, a portion of lost wages and rehabilitation costs.
Treatment for Knee Injuries
Almost all knee injuries require more than one visit to the doctor. If surgery is not needed then doctors will recommend rest, ice, compression and elevation. Other recommendations may include strengthening exercises and physical therapy. If rest and therapy fail, surgery may be recommended. Each knee injury is different depending on the nature, extent and location of the injury.
Treatment options also depend on the age and activity level of the victim.
For example, an ACL injury would require surgery in a young athlete or a construction worker, but it may be treated non-surgically with physical therapy in an 80-year-old who is not very active. Many knee injuries can also be treated surgically with an arthroscope, where a camera is used and small punctures are made in the knee to insert instruments.
Knee Injury Prevention Tips
There are several safety measures we can take to prevent knee injuries:
- Always buckle up when you are in a car.
- Do not carry objects that are too heavy.
- Use a step stool and do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
- Before you are involved in a sporting activity, make sure you stretch and warm up your muscles. Wear knee guards to prevent injuries.
- Use the correct technique or positions when performing work so that you do not strain your muscles.
- Use equipment that is appropriate to your size, strength and ability. Avoid repeated movements that can cause injury.
- If you feel that certain activities at your workplace are causing repeated pain or soreness, call your human resources department for information on other ways of doing your job or to talk about using different equipment.
Compensation for Injured Victims
If you have suffered a knee injury as the result of a traumatic event, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. For example, if you have suffered a knee injury in a car accident, you can seek compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault driver. If you have suffered a knee injury in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, the negligent property owner or manager can be held accountable.
If you suffered knee injuries on the job, you can seek workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. In addition, you could file a third party claim for significant money damages against a party other than the employer that caused or contributed to the accident. Examples of third parties include general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, manufacturers of defective products, etc.
Damages that can be claimed by knee injury victims include:
- Medical expenses: All expenses relating to medical attention including emergency transportation, emergency room costs, hospitalization, surgeries, cost of medication, braces and other medical equipment.
- Lost wages: Work time and earnings lost during the recovery process.
- Rehabilitation: Knee injuries often require extensive rehabilitation such as physical therapy. Most medical insurance policies do not cover such treatment fully. The patient often ends up paying out of pocket.
- Past and future pain and suffering: This refers to the physical pain and emotional suffering experienced by the victim as the result of the knee injury.
- Permanent injuries: Compensation for injuries that result in permanent conditions such as lack of mobility, strength or chronic pain.
- Disability: This also refers to permanent conditions such as inability to walk or being confined to a wheelchair as a result of a knee injury.
- Lost future income: If an individual is unable to return to work due to a debilitating knee injury, he or she is entitled to receive compensation for lost future income as well.
Contacting an Experienced Knee Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered serious knee injuries, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com