Can Car Accidents Lead to Chest and Heart Damage?

Heart problems after car accidentDriving is the most dangerous behavior most Americans engage in daily. While vehicles have come a long way in terms of safety, a serious car accident can lead to severe blunt force trauma.

The heart is well-protected within the sturdy ribcage, making it resistant to injury. However, when significant force is applied – such as from a crash – it can result in blunt cardiac injury (BCI). BCI is a medical term describing damage to the heart that occurs due to blunt force trauma, often seen in situations such as car accidents where there is a direct impact to the chest area.

According to the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, BCI commonly occurs in motor vehicle accidents and incidents involving pedestrians struck by vehicles, contributing to up to 20% of motor vehicle collision fatalities.

In the context of car accidents, BCI takes several forms:

  1. Cardiac contusion: Cardiac contusion is the most common form of BCI resulting from car accidents. It involves direct damage to the heart muscle, potentially leading to a range of cardiac complications such as heart attack, ventricular rupture, or septal rupture.
  2. Rib breakage: According to, “Upper rib fractures can cause injuries to the large vessels that bring blood to and from the heart.”
  3. Pericardial injury: This injury results from a strong impact or sudden pressure increase in the abdomen. It can cause the pericardium, the heart’s protective membrane, to tear, leading to severe heart problems.

What are the 6 most common causes of BCI from car accidents?

  1. Direct impact: The most common cause of BCI in car accidents is a direct impact to the chest area, often from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or other hard surfaces within the vehicle. This impact can transmit force to the heart, causing injury.
  2. Secondary trauma: Secondary trauma is when a primary injury, such as broken ribs or fractures, directly lead to injury to the heart.
  3. Seatbelts: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Seatbelts are a crucial safety feature, reducing fatal injuries by approximately 43%. However, seatbelts are engineered to distribute energy to the clavicle, chest wall, and upper pelvis, which in some cases can lead to serious injury. This type of injury is known as seatbelt syndrome. In the event that a cardiac injury occurs due to seatbelt syndrome, a San Antonio product liability attorney can help navigate the complex legal proceedings to hold manufacturers liable for injuries and their after-effects.
  4. Airbag deployment: Although airbags are designed to reduce injuries as well, they can also cause BCI if they deploy with excessive force or if the occupant is positioned too closely to the airbag at the moment of deployment, leading to secondary trauma that can affect the heart.
  5. Bicycle accidents: BCI can occur when a cyclist is struck by a vehicle, especially larger cars such as an SUV. The impact can subject the cyclist to substantial forces, potentially leading to secondary trauma to the heart.
  6. Pedestrian strikes: Pedestrians struck by motor vehicles can suffer BCI in similar ways to cyclists.

Heart injuries affiliated with car accidents will often take time to manifest, but there are warning signs that are vital for victims to be aware of.

What are the signs of cardiac contusion?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you have a mild cardiac contusion, you might not experience any symptoms apart from an elevated heart rate.

In the case of a severe cardiac contusion, the symptoms can mimic those of a heart attack. Typical cardiac contusion symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Nausea or an upset stomach
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pain in your chest or ribs

No matter the severity of your car accident, it is important that you seek medical evaluation about even the mildest symptoms. You should call an ambulance promptly at the accident scene for immediate assessment and to avoid driving post-accident, even if you feel able. In addition to better ensuring the safety of yourself and your passengers, having a medical professional document injuries immediately after your accident will help your attorney in negotiations with insurance companies and in potential court proceedings when pursuing a personal injury claim.

Should I file a lawsuit if I sustained a BCI in San Antonio car accident?

If you suffered blunt cardiac injury as a result of a car accident in San Antonio, a lawsuit may be the only way you can get the help you need. This type of injury not only requires immediate medical care, but often long-term care as well. You may need surgery or even a heart transplant, if the damage is severe enough. If your heart does heal, you may need to take medications for the rest of your life.

You may also find yourself unable to work and support your family as you once did, at a time when the bills are higher than ever. You should not be responsible for the financial burdens created by someone else’s negligence. This is why you need a San Antonio car accident lawyer to help you hold the responsible party accountable for your injuries and long-term expenses related to your recovery.

At Pat Maloney: Accident & Injury Attorney, we will diligently advocate for your best interests. If you have been the victim of a car accident in the San Antonio area, do not delay. Our team is here to help during this hard time. Call or contact us today for a free initial consultation with a San Antonio car accident attorney.