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A Collapsed Lung Resulting from an Auto Accident

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A Collapsed Lung Resulting from an Auto Accident


Pneumothorax may occur when air enters the thoracic cavity and has created pressure against the lung, resulting in a total collapse. Also known as a punctured lung, it is a rare condition that may make it challenging to breathe and result in chest pain. Immediate medical treatment is often necessary in collapsed lung cases for favorable patient outcomes. This is especially true in those that result from motor vehicle collisions.

Many traumatic injuries may accompany accidents, such as a collapsed lung. If you suffered pneumothorax in a crash because of someone else’s negligence, call our personal injury lawyers in Sacramento at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. We are available anytime to provide free, friendly advice.

Our legal team has decades of collective experience helping clients with many types of traumatic injuries, including lung trauma. We have the skills and resources to overcome the various defense tactics that insurance companies may use to downplay or deny bodily injury claims. You can depend on us for legal representation with any type of accident-related injuries and obtaining fair compensation on your behalf. Contact us today to learn more about how our personal injury attorneys may help you get your life back on track after a serious accident.

What are the Most Common Causes of a Punctured Lung?

Following is a list of the top causes of collapsed lung cases:

  • Air Blisters: Pulmonary blebs are small air blisters that may develop in an area above the lungs. Sometimes, pulmonary blebs may burst and allow air leakage into the space surrounding the lungs, potentially resulting in a punctured lung.
  • Chest Trauma: Any penetrating or blunt injury to the chest may cause pneumothorax. This type of pulmonary injury may occur during a physical assault for penetrating trauma to the peripheral lung or a traffic collision with an accompanying rib fracture causing a bronchial rupture and increased intrathoracic pressure. In other situations, it may arise as a complication during needle thoracostomy, a medical procedure that involves inserting a needle into the chest.
  • Lung Disease: When the lung tissue has sustained damage, it may make it more likely for the lung to collapse. Many underlying lung diseases may cause this, like pneumonia, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pneumothorax may also occur from cystic lung diseases such as Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome and lymphangioleiomyomatosis. Such disease may cause thin-walled, round air sacs within the lung tissue that may rupture.
  • Mechanical Ventilation: Severe collapsed lung cases may occur in patients who require mechanical assistance for breathing. A ventilator may cause an imbalance in air pressure within the thoracic cavity, potentially causing a total collapse of the lung.
What are the Risk Factors of a Collapsed Lung?

For pneumothorax cases in general, women are far less likely to suffer this type of lung injury than men are. Such cases involving ruptured air blisters occur more frequently in those ages 20 to 40 years, particularly if they are underweight and tall. Any need for mechanical ventilation or those with underlying lung disease may face a risk factor for this lung condition.

Following is a list of other risk factors:

  • Any patient who has suffered a collapsed lung in the past may be more likely to suffer another in the future, according to the American Lung Association
  • Genetics may play a role in various types of punctured lung cases
  • Smoking may increase the risk of this lung condition, particularly with the number of cigarettes smoked and the length of time
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pneumothorax?

The signs and symptoms of a collapsed lung may include the following:

  • Bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis)
  • Chest pain felt on one side that may occur when taking breaths
  • Cough
  • Fast, shallow breathing (tachypnea)
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

If any of the symptoms above are experienced, patients are urged to visit the emergency room to receive immediate medical care.

How Do Physicians Diagnose a Punctured Lung?

A doctor will perform a physical exam and ask the patient about their history of lung disease. A blood gas test may be ordered to measure carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. It may also be used to evaluate the pH of the blood to determine how acidic or basic it is. The pH range for normal blood is between 7.35 to 7.45. If the blood is above 7.45, it is said to be alkalotic. Conversely, if the blood is below 7.35, it is considered acidic.

The most common procedure used in diagnosing pneumothorax is medical imaging through an X-ray of the chest. The treating physician may also order an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan. Clinical interpretation of the signs and symptoms of a pneumothorax is necessary for prompt diagnosis and treatment of the lung condition.

How is a Collapsed Lung Treated?

The treatment plan for a punctured lung will depend on the injury’s cause, size, and severity. It may generally include:

  • Patient Observation: If the collapsed lung is minor, the physician may monitor the patient for signs of breathing or heart problems. In such cases, a doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen to ensure the condition does not worsen. The patient may then see the doctor for a follow-up appointment.
  • Surgical Procedure: A minimally invasive surgical technique that may assist a surgeon in removing lung tissue is video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). The physician may also perform mechanical pleurodesis or chemical pleurodesis by utilizing a piece of gauze. This will help in attaching the lung to the chest cavity. A patient may be a candidate for surgical intervention if they have not yet responded to other medical treatment or have a lung that fails to expand despite the chest tube insertion, both lungs affected by pneumothorax, recurrent collapsed lung, or pulmonary trauma.
What are the Possible Complications of Pneumothorax?

Most punctured lung cases often involve a healing process without issue. However, severe complications may occur. According to Cleveland Clinic, these include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart failure
  • Infection or trauma because of treatment
  • Re-expansion pulmonary edema (REPE) in which involves the rapid or precipitous expansion of a collapsed lung
  • Death
Can You Prevent a Punctured Lung?

There is no proven way of preventing pneumothorax, especially if a patient has a family history of this medical condition. However, there are steps that may be taken to decrease the chances of suffering this type of lung condition, including:

  • Follow recommendations by physicians if you engage in activities with drastic changes in air pressure, such as flying and diving
  • Quit smoking
  • Visiting the doctor regularly to observe any underlying lung conditions
Can You Get a Collapsed Lung from a Car Accident?

Many types of traumatic injuries may accompany motor vehicle collisions. Among these is pneumothorax. An auto accident may lead to this type of pulmonary injury, especially if the windshield or window has shattered. The glass fragments may puncture the chest, resulting in lung trauma.

If a patient has experienced the signs of a punctured lung and has undergone exams to confirm the injury, they may be able to claim financial compensation for economic and non-economic damages. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other accident-related losses. Once a patient has sought medical care, it is essential to reach out to a local injury lawyer to discuss their case after an accident. For information on how to select the right attorney for your lung injury case, watch this video.

What You Should Know About Accident Injuries and the Claims Process

The unfortunate reality about auto insurance companies is that most are not fair when it comes to paying bodily injury claims filed against their insured. What is more stressful is that the same approach may apply to situations where injured parties bring first-party insurance claims under their uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM and UIM) coverage. When dealing with mounting medical expenses, time lost at work, and other losses related to accident-related injuries, the last of your worries should be insurance paperwork and claim deadlines, especially when you have lung trauma.

Since a two-year statute of limitations applies to most accident cases under the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, it is essential to act quickly. Evidence necessary to prove the case must be gathered and preserved before it is lost or destroyed. If the insurer has given you or a loved one the run around on your collapsed lung case, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss some of the options that may be available to you. Unlike the insurance company, an attorney has your best interests at heart and will seek fair recovery of damages resulting from lung damage in a car accident or other type of incident.

Contact a Pneumothorax Attorney Today

Pneumothorax is a rare condition but may present serious consequences. If you are experiencing any signs and symptoms of this type of lung condition, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, seek medical attention immediately. Your physician will determine the best treatment plan suited for you and your needs.

Once you have sought medical treatment for a collapsed lung sustained in an accident, it is best to reach out to a lawyer to learn what rights you may have as an injured party. Discuss your case, including your potential options for recovery, with our injury attorneys today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

At our law firm, we understand the devastation that may result from traumatic injuries such as lung damage. Our goal is to seek justice and fair compensation for those we represent. When you are ready to go over the details of your punctured lung case, we will be here to provide free, friendly advice on how to best proceed in your situation.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 8.11.22]

Photograph Source: By “kalhh” via Pixabay

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