Eye injuries, also referred to in the medical and legal communities as ocular injuries, occur more frequent in accidents than one would think. Whether it be a car accident, slip and fall, or work related accident, this type of injury can have a debilitating effect on one’s life. The ability to see and see clearly is taken for granted as part of our daily lives.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine reported that more than 75,000 eye injuries were suffered in motor vehicle crashes that resulted in emergecy room visits between 2001 and 2008. This shows how common eye injuries are from accidents. What many people don’t know, however, is that victims of eye injuries may be entitled to financial compensation in Massachusetts.
COMMON TYPES OF EYE INJURIES
Eye injuries comes in all forms and can range from severe to minor. In some cases, the more severe types of eye injuries can result in a permanent disability, such as loss of vision. Below are some of the more common eye injuries that we have come across in Massachusetts at our office in personal injury cases.
Blunt Force Injuries
There are blunt force injuries where the eye can be injured without being punctured. These are referred to as a closed eye injuries where blunt force alone can damage the cornea, retina, lens and/or optic nerves. When a large object hits the eye most of the impact is taken by the surrounding bone and if severe enough can result in an orbital fracture. With an orbital fracture you’ll see symptoms, such as double vision, the eye may appear recessed in the socket, and/or diminished sensation over the injured area. Blunt force injuries can occur in car accidents when a person strikes the dashboard or steering column. They can also occur when someone slips of a foreign substance or ice and falls striking their face and eye socket area on the ground.
Ocular Penetrating & Perforating Injuries
An ocular penetrating injury is one in which an object penetrates the eye, but does not go through the eye and exit. Perforating injuries, however, is one where an object penetrates the eye creating both an entrance and an exit wound. These are rather severe injuries and can result in vision loss or, in more extreme cases, loss of the eye. In some cases, however, a penetrating eye injury from a projectile can easily be missed because the signs are sometimes subtle. We have handled cases where an object from the road, another car or inside the victim’s vehicle is projected into the air as a result of the impact from a car collision and penetrates or perforates an eye.
Chemical Eye Injuries
Chemical eye injuries occur when a chemical is exposed to the eye causing an injury, such as a burn. Certain industrial jobs, such as carpentry or manufacturing, make this type of injury more likely. With chemical injuries the pain may cause you to close your eyes, but this will only trap the irritant next to the eye and could cause even more damage. It is important to flush out the eye immediately and seek medical help. Chemical exposure to the eye may result in only minor burning and discomfort, but even in that case, they should be taken seriously. Some chemicals can cause permanent damage, including vision loss.
Corneal abrasions are more commonly referred to as scratched eyes. This type of injury is also seen in car accidents and in the workplace. Corneal abrasions result from getting poked in the eye or rubbing the eye when a foreign substance gets in the eye, such as sand or dust. Corneal abrasions are very uncomfortable and painful resulting in redness to the eye and/or extreme sensitivity to light. Corneal abrasions can also make your eye susceptible to infection from bacteria or a fungus. Certain types of bacteria and fungi can enter the eye through a scratch and cause serious harm in as little as 24 hours. Even blindness can result. This is especially true if whatever scratched your eye is dirty or contaminated. Infections of the eye from scratches can result from many unexpected sources in an around the workplace. We have also seen corneal abraisions from a dog bite. Specifically, in one situation, a little girl suffered a corneal abrasion when a dog bit the girl in the face and caused a serious scratch to the eye.
Swollen Eye (a/k/a Black Eye)
A swollen eye, or as it is commonly referred to, a black eye, is a trauma based injury. The best immediate treatment is the placement of an ice pack over the injured area. You should also seek out medical care to ensure there is no internal damage. Eye hemorages can occur from eye trauma. In these types of injuries they eye looks worse than it is. Blood vessels in the eye have broken casing the white part of the eye to turn bright red. An eye hemorrhage, for the most part, is painless and does not cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Over the course of several weeks the blood will clear and the eye will return to a normal appearance.
EXAMPLE OF EYE INJURY CASES
A recent client of ours was a passenger in a motor vehicle that was involved in a rear end collision at a fairly high rate of speed. The force of the impact caused his head to slam against the dashboard. The extreme force of that strike resulted in the client suffering a detached retina. A retinal detachment is a very serious injury where the retina pulls away from the supportive tissue of the eye. The retina, located at the back of the eyeball, allows light and impulses to the brain which form images. Depending on the severity of the detachment surgical repair may be needed. In the case, our client’s detachment resulted in the permanent loss of vision to one eye.
In another example, a client of ours was selecting lumber from a pile at a national hardware chain. He was bending down under a shelf inspecting 2 x4 ’s when a metal band used to bundle the lumber sprang up hitting him directly in the eye. His injury resulted in a rupture of the globe. In this case the penetration to the eye was so severe that the client was left with a permanent loss of sight and facial disfigurement.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUFFER AN EYE INJURY IN AN ACCIDENT
- Get Medical Attention: Eye injuries should never be taken lightly. If you suffered an eye injury in an accident, you should treat it as an emergency and seek medical care immediately. You only have one pair of eyes and they should be treated with the utmost care. Chemical eye injuries are potentially dangerous because they can be blinding injuries and should be treated immediately. If you've been splashed in the eye with a caustic substance, run a steady stream of warm over the eye for about 15 minutes. Let the water run into your eye and down your face, then seek immediate medical care. In extreme situations such as a penetrating eye injury or an eye knocked out of the socket, go directly to your nearest emergency room. Never treat an eye injury as anything but potentially dangerous and seek immediate medical care.
- Seek Legal Help: An accident victim, who suffers an eye injury, may be entitled to financial compensation. If the accident and resulting injury to the eye was caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, the injury victim has the right to file a claim for compensation. Likewise, if an employee suffers and eye injury on the job, that employee has a right in Massachusetts to pursue a claim under workers compensation, no matter whose fault the accident was. Insurance companies, their adjusters and lawyers scrutinize accident cases in hopes of not having to pay compensation. This is why anyone, who suffers an eye injury in a car accident, should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. An experienced Massachusetts accident attorney will identify all potential liable parties, protect their client’s rights, and know what steps to take in pursuit of the maximum compensation possible.
If you, or someone you know, suffered an eye injury in an accident, contact us today or call (508) 879-3500 to schedule your free case evaluation. We are more than happy to talk to you.