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An open fracture involves exposure of a fracture hematoma or a broken bone to the external environment through the skin and soft tissue. Also called a compound fracture, the wound of the skin may be in an area that is distant from the break. In most cases, the wound results from a bone fragment piercing through the skin at the time of the injury. These fractures often occur because of high-energy trauma like falls, sporting activities, and motor vehicle collisions.

If you sustained a compound fracture in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, our skilled California personal injury lawyers are here to protect your rights. Call our open fracture attorneys to learn more and receive free, friendly advice on your case at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

At our personal injury law firm, we are committed to obtaining favorable outcomes for people who have sustained traumatic injuries such as compound fractures in accidents since 1982. We have extensive experience in protecting the rights and best interests of those hurt in accidents throughout California. To learn about your rights and options for financial recovery, reach out to our legal team today for free, friendly case advice.

How are Compound Fractures Initially Treated?

Most patients presenting with open fractures will receive initial treatment in emergency room settings. From there, the physician will conduct a physical exam and inspect the patient for other injuries. The physician may also order x-rays to evaluate the severity of the break in the bone. Further imaging may be necessary.

The patient will receive antibiotics once they enter the emergency room to prevent the risk of infection. A tetanus booster may be administered if the patient has not received one in the past five years. The physician will cover the wound with sterile dressings and place the affected limb in a splint to stabilize the bones until the patient receives surgery.

How is the Severity of an Open Bone Fracture Determined?

Following is a list of several factors involved in determining  the severity of a compound fracture:

  • The size of bone fragments
  • The number of broken bone fragments
  • The damage to soft tissues surrounding the fracture site
  • The location of the injury and whether there is good circulation to soft tissues in the affected area
What are the Potential Complications of a Compound Fracture?

Some potential complications that may arise with an open fracture may include:

  • Infection: The most common complication of a compound fracture is infection. This often results from bacteria coming into contact with the wound at the moment of the trauma. Infection may occur during the healing process or when the fracture and wound have both healed. An infection of the bone can become chronic and lead to the need for further surgical procedures.
  • Nonunion: There may be difficulty during the healing process in some compound fracture cases because of vascular trauma. When the bone does not heal properly, further surgical procedures may be needed. This may include repeat internal fixation and bone grafting to the area of the break.
  • Compartment Syndrome: Among the most painful conditions that may develop after an open fracture is compartment syndrome. This involves an increase of pressure within the injured leg or arm muscles, resulting in an impairment of local circulation. When a patient presents with compartment syndrome, an immediate surgical procedure is necessary to relieve the built-up pressure. If the condition is untreated, it may lead to a loss of function and even permanent damage to the tissue.
What are the Types of Treatments for Open Fractures?

Due to the nature of compound fracture cases, most are treated in operating rooms. It is essential to seek immediate medical care to ensure proper cleaning of the wound and reduce the risk of infection. Based on the severity of the injury, the physician may administer either general or regional anesthesia during the medical procedure. Treatment may include:

  • Irrigation and Debridement: The first step in managing the risk for infection is debridement and irrigation. The debridement process involves removing dead (necrotic) tissue and contaminated and foreign material from the wound. The physician may need to extend the wound if it is small. This way, they may reach all the affected sites of soft tissue and bone. In irrigation, the open wound is washed with saline solution to promote the healing process and prevent premature healing over a foreign body or an abscess. The physician will evaluate the fracture and stabilization of the bones once the wound has been cleaned. Further treatment of a compound fracture may include internal fixation or external fixation.
  • Internal Fixation: Through internal fixation, the physician may place metal implants like screws, rods, and plates inside or on the surface of the fractured bone. These serve to maintain bone position and hold it together during the healing process. Internal fixation may be recommended in open fracture cases where the broken bone fragments may be aligned properly, there is minimal tissue or skin damage, and the wound is clean. This procedure is often carried out as an initial surgery, but it may be delayed if more time is needed to heal soft tissues.
  • External Fixation: A physician may use external fixation for an injured limb if the broken bones and wound are not prepared for a permanent implant. This is generally recommended in most serious open fracture cases. The physician may insert metal pins or screws into the bone below and above the break in this medical procedure. Carbon fiber or metal bars are attached to the screws or pins that project out of the skin. The advantage of external fixation is that it provides stabilization for the fracture while the physician treats the wound. In most cases, the external fixator is maintained until a physician has deemed it safe to perform internal fixation. However, it may also be used in stabilizing the bones until the healing process has been completed. A second procedure then removes the external fixator once the break has healed.
  • Dressing: In treating a more complex wound, temporary covering with sterile dressings may be necessary to promote healing and reduce the risk of infection. Physicians, in most cases, may apply semipermeable dressings to seal the wound until permanent closing is possible. Before sealing the wound, antibiotic beads may be inserted in the injured area as a way of providing a high concentration of antibiotics.
  • Wound Coverage: Once time has passed, the physician will use a permanent technique for wound coverage. This may include a free flap, local flap, or skin graft. In cases where there is only a loss of skin, a skin graft may be used. This is a portion of skin from a different area of the body that may be taken and used to cover the wound.
Do You Need Physical Therapy After a Compound Fracture?

The outcome of successful treatment will depend on cooperation on the part of the patient. To restore flexibility, joint motion, and muscle strength, performing exercises during and after the healing process is necessary. A physician or physical therapist may provide a patient with a plan of rehabilitation exercises best suited to their needs.

Protect Your Rights After a Compound Fracture in an Accident

When a person has suffered a compound fracture in an accident in California, they may be entitled to compensation. This may include past and future medical bills, loss of income, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering. However, the claims process is not straightforward as various factors may be involved. Watch this video to learn more.

What is the Filing Deadline for a Compound Fracture Case?

Like most states, California has laws that govern when an individual can bring a lawsuit in civil court. The statute of limitations, or time limit, to file a lawsuit is two years from the accident date. This is outlined in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1.

While it may seem like there is enough time to file, it is essential to retain an attorney immediately after a crash. The sooner a lawyer is retained, the sooner the attorney can get to work on protecting the injured party and building a strong personal injury case for fair compensation on their behalf.

How Comparative Negligence May Impact your Case

California follows a system of comparative fault. This may mean that an injured party may not receive the full compensation they are entitled to if they are in any way to blame for the accident in question. Because of this, other parties and insurance carriers may attempt to blame the injured party to limit their financial liability for the incident.

Fortunately, an experienced personal injury lawyer can protect an injured party and their best interests against unfair claims. An attorney will work to ensure their client receives the fair compensation they deserve for their compound fracture.

Why is it Important to Work with an Attorney After an Accident?

The insurance company representing the other party responsible for causing the open fracture may not provide a bodily injury claim with the full and fair compensation it rightfully deserves.

An experienced injury lawyer can help an injured party by providing an informed perspective of their case and what to expect from it. If an injured person decides to work with an attorney, they can rest assured knowing their case will be in good hands and their rights will be protected.

Discuss Your Case with an Open Fracture Attorney

If you have suffered a compound fracture in an accident caused by another party or entity, contact our personal injury lawyers in California today for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. We are available anytime to go over the details of your case and advise you on what to expect from your claim moving forward.

Editor’s Note: updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.14.23]

Image Credit: Pexels User ~ “Anna Shvets”

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