What Are Soft Tissue Injuries (STIs)?
It can be challenging to build a case over a soft tissue injury. After all, this damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons is not as obvious as a broken bone.
Still, soft tissue injuries are among the most common types of damages that result in legal action. To prove that yours is an aftermath of an accident, with someone else to blame for it, you must aim to learn more about your condition.
Many parts of the human body are susceptible to STIs. And while they are rarely life-threatening, they can be exceptionally painful, debilitating and long-lasting.
Due to the nature of tissues involved in STIs, it can take a long time to heal properly and severely limit a person’s ability to move or use the injured area during treatment and recovery.
Common causes: Automobile accidents, accidents at work, and slip-and-fall accidents
Here are five things to know before you file a claim over your predicament:
1. Soft Tissue Injuries Come in ManyForms
You may experience soft tissue damage in the following forms:
- Bursitis – the inflammation of the bursae (the fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion between bones and tendons/muscles around a joint)
- Contusion – bruising caused by broken blood vessels under the skin.
- Sprains – tears in ligaments (ligaments are the tissue that connects one bone to another).
- Strains – tears in the muscles themselves.
- Repetitive strain injuries – also called repetitive stress injuries, these refer to the damage, strain, or pain and swelling of body parts due to repetitive movements or overuse.
- Ruptures – tears in tendons (tendons are the tissue that connects muscles to bones).
- Tears – Torn muscles, torn ligaments
- Tendonitis – inflammation or irritation of the tendon following a tendon injury.
- Concussions – While technically a brain injury, we classify it as soft tissue injury also
- Whiplash – an injury caused by a rapid, violent, back-and-forth or side-to-side “whipping” motion. Whiplash affects the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back.
In the cases that we review, this type of injury usually occurs in the following body parts:
- Neck and back – Bulging or herniated discs, muscle tears, muscle sprain or strain, whiplash, nerve damage
- Shoulders – Joint separation, joint dislocation, torn rotator cuff, muscle tears, muscle sprain or strain, torn ligaments, torn tendons
- Elbows and wrists – Joint dislocation, torn muscles, torn tendons, torn ligaments, carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage
- Knees and ankles – Torn meniscus, torn ACL, torn ligaments, torn tendons, joint dislocation
- Skin – Lacerations, contusions (bruising), de-gloving injuries, burns
Brain and internal organs, despite being ‘soft’, are not considered soft tissue.
2. Car Accidents Are a Common Cause of Soft Tissue Injury
If you got injured in a car accident, you might have received a number of injuries, including STIs.
Whiplash typically occurs in rear-end collisions. It is caused by the head, neck, and back being jerked back and forth violently.
STI victims are frequently diagnosed with a concussion on top of their other injuries. In rare cases, spinal injuries can cause swelling to the C1-C2 joint in the neck that mimics concussion-like symptoms but isn’t actually a concussion.
Other STIs resulting from car accidents involve people hitting their heads on the windshield or the side windows. Seatbelts can also cause significant injuries to the waist, shoulder, and neck areas. Torn rotator cuffs are common, as are hand and wrist injuries and the inevitable bulging or herniated discs in the spine and neck.
3. STIs Can Be Attributed to Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Fall was the leading cause of non-fatal unintentional injuries in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This category alone accounted for over 8 million hospital emergency visits.
Some of these slip/trip/fall accidents can lead to STIs. Ice, snow, wet surfaces, spilled liquids, uneven surfaces, and myriad other hazards are to blame for these injuries.
Unlike many car accidents where the driver sits in relative safety, restrained by seatbelts and airbags and shielded by several thousand pounds of steel vehicle, the victim is completely exposed and unprotected in slip-and-fall accidents.
As a result, soft tissue injuries in slip-and-fall accidents are frequently accompanied by much more serious injuries.
Mild to catastrophic brain injuries from striking the ground, broken bones, broken neck, broken back, broken teeth, broken jaw, facial fractures, shattered kneecaps, full-thickness muscle, ligament and tendon tears, vision loss, and skull fractures can accompany STIs in slip-and-fall cases.
One of the common threads that run through these injuries is that soft tissue injuries can cause excruciating pain and mobility loss. All of them also take a long time to heal, and many patients never fully recover from them.
4. A Soft Tissue Injury Can Be More Painful Than a Broken Bone
STIs can range from minor to severe.
For example, you can usually treat a contusion or bruise with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.). However, more serious contusions may require a medical specialist’s attention.
Rest and ice may also work for tendonitis in its acute phase. But if it leads to chronic pain, steroid injections may be needed. Surgery may be the only solution in worst-case scenarios, like when the tendon is completely torn.
In accidents caused by another person as in accidents in sports, sustaining STIs can dramatically reduce performance and raise the risk of re-injury. Healing may happen, but it comes with a loss of range of motion. That’s because the scar tissue that replaces the connective tissue is not as strong and resilient.
That’s the opposite of broken bones, which can grow stronger when they heal.
Thus, suffering an STI can limit a person’s movements, even preventing them from returning to the job they had before the accident. Such a consequence translates to economic losses. Add to these the pain and suffering brought about by the injury.
If a person or entity is liable to the accident that led to your situation, you may file a claim and recover damages. Keep in mind, though, that it’s customary to finish treatment before negotiating a settlement starts. You may also have to call in an expert witness to prove that the defendant’s negligence directly caused your injury.
It can be a journey down a long and winding road.
5. Workplace injuries are one of the most common causes of STI’s.
Back injuries, neck injuries, shoulder, wrist, elbow, and finger injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, torn rotator cuffs, bulging or herniated discs, torn meniscus and torn ACL are among the most common workplace and workers compensation injuries.
6. STI Cases May Be Eligible for Lawsuit Funding (But With Conditions)
If you’ve been injured and are considering the idea of getting a cash advance on your case, there are a couple of things you should be aware of.
If you only have soft tissue injuries, from a funding standpoint, they are considered “low-value injuries”. What that means is that the maximum amount that any lawsuit funding company will be willing to advance to you is normally no more than about $3,000 to $3,500, depending on the specific type and severity of the injury.
Something else to consider is this. Companies in this industry will tell you that they will start you out with $500 to $1,500, and then “you can always come back and request more later”. It is a standard sales pitch, and unfortunately, a lot of people fall for it.
When you eventually call back and request more later, like they said you could, they tell you the answer is no. Then they tell you that you can find companies online that will buy them out and fund additional money to you.
On soft tissue only cases, both of these are untrue. Most legal funding companies will not consider a “buyout and a 2nd advance” on soft tissue cases, so whatever money you get with the first company is most likely all you’ll be able to get until your case settles.
Learn more about lawsuit funding on soft tissue injuries.