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Why are Knee Injuries Common in Car Accidents?

August 18, 2021

Knee Injuries

In a car accident, vehicle occupants can suffer a host of different injuries, such as cuts and lacerations, broken bones, and neck and head trauma. Other common car accident injuries are ones that involve the knees. Knee injuries are especially concerning for a few reasons.

Unlike other injuries, knee problems are not always immediately obvious. They may go undiagnosed and untreated for days or even weeks. Without proper medical attention, a knee injury can affect a person’s ability to bend the leg, stand, or even walk. Many knee injuries require surgical repair followed by extensive rehabilitation.

Knee injuries are common after motor vehicle accidents because the knees are particularly susceptible to twists, tears, and dislocations. As passengers are suddenly thrust forward by the force of impact in a crash, the knees can slam against the dashboard.

What are Common Knee Injuries?

Listed below are common car accident-related knee injuries and available treatment options.

Cartilage Tear

All bones are coated in cartilage that facilitates smooth movement. The knees contain two rubbery, semi-circle-shaped pieces of cartilage called menisci. Wear and tear can damage this cartilage, as well as traumatic impact.

Treatment for cartilage damage in the knee generally involves surgery when the injury is severe enough to make day-to-day tasks difficult. During surgery, the affected cartilage is either trimmed down, smoothed, or removed altogether.


A dislocated knee is a serious injury, where the thigh bone becomes disconnected from the shin bone. When this happens, it is important to get immediate medical attention to reposition the knee and prevent more serious issues, like nerve damage or a vascular obstruction.

With a dislocated knee, the primary goal of treatment is to minimize the damage to surrounding nerves and blood vessels. For some patients, a graft or transplant is needed to repair a damaged artery. If a clot has formed, the surgeon will remove it by performing an arterial bypass or embolectomy.

Broken Kneecap

A fracture of the kneecap or patella is another common knee injury that occurs with traffic accidents, especially head-on collisions. The patella is a free-floating bone that attaches to the quadriceps and the tibia. Its location makes is vulnerable to fractures. This injury is also referred to as dashboard knee.

Treatment for a fractured kneecap varies depending upon the location and extent of the break. If the broken pieces of bone are not out of alignment, surgery may not be necessary. The doctor may apply a split or cast to keep the pieces in position as they heal.

In many cases, surgery is needed to realign and secure the bones with pins, screws, plates, or wires. Sometimes, the surgeon removes small pieces of the kneecap that cannot be successfully reconstructed.

Ligament Tear

Most car accident knee injuries involve the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL is one of two ligaments that crossover the middle of the knee. They connect the thigh bone to the shin bone and stabilize the entire knee joint.

A sudden or direct blow to the knee is one way the ACL can be damaged. In mild cases, the ligament will overstretch, but it will not tear. A more forceful impact is more likely to tear the ligament partially or completely.

Treatment for a torn ACL also depends on the severity of the injury and how it impacts the patient’s mobility. Some patients function well with rest and rehabilitation to regain stability and strength, while others require surgery to replace the torn ligament.

Patella Tendon Tear

The patella tendon connects the patella to the shin bone and stabilizes the patella during activity so it can do its job to protect the knee joint. Like the injuries discussed above, a patella rupture can happen during all types of activities or accidents. Any sudden blow to the front of the knee can be enough to tear the patella. A sudden pop with impact is a clue that something is damaged. The kneecap may be displaced, and the person who has been injured can feel unstable when walking.

Some patients may not need surgery for a partial tear of the patella tendon, but they must immobilize the knee joint to give it time to heal and prevent further damage. A complete patellar tendon rupture will likely require surgery. If the patella tendon has completely separated from the patella, the doctor might drill a series of small holes in the patella to anchor the tendon in place.

What are the Signs of a Knee Injury?

Knee injuries are not always apparent after a collision. It may be a few hours or even days before symptoms appear. Here are some of the signs of damage to the knees:

  • Clicking or popping sounds: While these sounds may indicate a sudden injury from a car accident, they can also be signs of a chronic condition or overuse.
  • Discoloration: A knee injury can lead to infections that cause redness or yellowing of the affected area.
  • Impaired movement: Movement may be limited and accompanied by pain when a knee injury is present.
  • Feeling of instability: The knee joint is likely compromised if it is hard to bear weight when standing, or it feels like the knee may give out if one takes a step.
  • Pain: Beyond temporary soreness resulting from a crash, pain that happens when the knee is touched or moved may indicate a serious injury.
  • Temperature changes: If the area is hot to the touch and swollen, the injured person may have an infection or blood clot brought on by a knee injury.

Recovery After Knee Surgery

Since recovery from knee surgery often requires the patient to avoid bearing weight on the knee, the patient cannot resume their regular activities for several weeks. Once they can put weight on the knee, there may be weeks or months of physical therapy as well. Some patients may regain some mobility in the knee joint after surgery, but many others never regain 100 percent of movement after a serious knee injury.

Knee surgery and rehabilitation is both physically, emotionally, and financially taxing. If the injured person is unable to work during this process, they face steep medical bills. In 2018, the average cost for a nonfatal disabling injury was a staggering $96,200, according to the National Safety Council.

Car accident victims may consider bringing a personal injury claim against the careless driver who caused their debilitating knee injury. In Virginia, the law requires a plaintiff to prove the other party is at fault in order to collect damages. That is where a skilled lawyer comes into play. Their job is to build a strong case based on the facts to show that negligence occurred. Speeding, distracted driving, running a red light, drunk driving are all examples of negligent driving.

Medical expenses are among the compensatory damages an injured victim may be able to recover. A victim may be able to obtain damages for the following:

  • Doctor visits
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Hospitalization
  • Orthopedic care
  • Prosthesis
  • Medication
  • Surgery

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Victims Suffering From Catastrophic Knee Injuries That Were Caused by Negligent Drivers

If you were in a serious collision and have an extensive knee injury, a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help. Proving fault in Virginia is not easy. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will work tirelessly to build the strongest case possible to show how your car accident-related knee injury has changed your life. Call 757-352-2237 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Based in Virginia Beach, we assist clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-352-2220