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Guide to Wrist Pain After a Car Accident: Causes, Symptoms, and Your Options

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X-ray image of hands and wrist.

If you experience wrist pain after a car accident that was of little or no fault of your own, you have legal options in the state of West Virginia. With the help of a trusted auto accident attorney, drivers and passengers who have suffered wrist injuries in a motor vehicle collision can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. 

An attorney may also work with accident victims to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver. Taking legal action is the most efficient way to ensure you receive fair compensation for your collision injuries. If wrist pain has begun to negatively impact the mental, physical, and financial well-being of yourself or your passengers, do not hesitate to contact a car accident attorney at The Miley Legal Group

If you are suffering from wrist pain after a car accident, first, you must learn about the source of your discomfort. Then, look at the required medical care for your wrist injury and how a personal injury attorney can help fight for the compensation necessary for medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Common Causes of Hand Injuries

After a car accident, hand and wrist pain are very common for both drivers and passengers. For drivers, hand injuries are typically caused by tightly gripping the steering wheel when bracing for impact. When the hand clenches onto the steering wheel, the energy of the car crash is directed straight into the hand and wrist on impact. 

Another common cause of hand injuries for drivers and passengers is blunt force trauma from striking something inside the vehicle. The force of impact during an accident can shift an occupant forward, backward, or sideways. The hand and wrist may forcefully come into contact with part of the automobile, including the: 

  • Airbag
  • Dashboard
  • Center console
  • Steering wheel
  • Side door or window

Hand and Wrist Anatomy: Figuring Out What’s Actually Hurting

There are 27 bones in the hand and wrist. With 14 finger bones, 13 bones that extend from the palm to the wrist, and a network of soft tissue and joints that connect them, it can be challenging to tell the exact cause of wrist pain after a car accident. Consider the anatomy of both structures to better understand where your injury might be located, and visit a medical professional to know for sure.

wrist anatomy

Anatomy of the Hand

The hand is primarily composed of 14 finger bones, medically known as phalanges. Phalanges are connected to the inside of the palm by five bones called metacarpals. There are eight other bones inside the palm called carpals, which connect the hand to the wrist. 

There are 27 joints in the hand connected by bands of soft tissue called ligaments. In addition to ligaments, soft tissues called tendons keep the rest of the hand bones together and connect muscles to bones. The hand is also home to a web of nerves, which communicate with the brain to dictate movement.

Anatomy of the Wrist

The eight carpal bones of the hand are joined by two arm bones, the radius and ulna, to form the wrist. There are three wrist joints: the radiocarpal joint, ulnocarpal joint, and distal radioulnar joint. Thick bands of ligament support these joints, protecting the flow of nerve communication between the brain, arm, and hand.

The location where ligaments, bones, and nerves meet at the base of the wrist is called the carpal tunnel. This narrow space houses a crucial nerve called the median nerve. The median nerve communicates with the brain to directly control the movement of the hand and forearm.

Symptoms Associated with Hand Injuries

If you believe your hand or wrist pain after a car accident is a sign of an injury, be mindful of the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Numbness
  • Tenderness
  • Limited grip strength
  • Inability to form a fist 
  • Discoloration or bruising
  • Warmth in the fingers, hands, or wrist
  • Burning or tingling in the hand or wrist
  • Trouble moving, flexing, or straightening the fingers or wrist

Hand and wrist injuries may not always present symptoms immediately after a car crash. If you’re experiencing pain, soreness, or swelling, seek immediate medical attention to learn if you’ve sustained one of the below hand and wrist injuries.

Doctor treating car accident victim in wrist bandages.

Common Hand and Wrist Injuries After a Car Accident

The blunt trauma of a car accident can crush or damage any of the structures in the hand and wrist. To better understand the kind of damage you’ve sustained in a car crash, hand and wrist injuries are categorized as either soft tissue injuries or bone injuries. 

Soft-Tissue Injuries

The hand and wrist anatomy are primarily composed of soft tissues, including ligaments, tendons, and muscles. A car crash can cause puncture wounds, abrasions, and lacerations to the skin, creating a deep cut into the soft tissues. These punctures can be visibly noticed after an accident; however, a medical professional must diagnose the following soft tissue injuries. 

Wrist Sprains

A wrist sprain occurs when the ligaments connecting two bones at a joint are stretched or torn. When the wrist is thrown against a hard object or bent at an unnatural angle, it can destabilize the wrist and cause loss of function, swelling, and pain at the injury site. After an auto accident, wrist sprains are categorized as Grade Three, Two, or One based on the severity.

  • Grade Three: The most severe sprain resulting from a completely torn ligament. This degree of a sprain may pull away small pieces of bone, causing an avulsion fracture. Medical or surgical intervention is necessary to heal this degree of damage.
  • Grade Two: A moderate sprain resulting from partial ligament tears. Possible loss of function may occur at this degree of damage.
  • Grade One: A mild sprain resulting from ligaments that stretch but do not tear. The injury site may experience stiffness and swelling but will not suffer any loss of function.

Inflamed Ligaments

The trauma caused by a car accident can damage the carpal tunnel where ligaments, bones, and nerves meet. Both severe inflammation and scar tissue from wrist injuries can press against the median nerve. When the median nerve is compressed, it may cause carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS can create symptoms of tingling or numbness in the fingers and hands and drastically reduce grip strength and overall function. 

Damage to Tendons

Tendons are responsible for connecting bone to muscle. The trauma of a motor vehicle collision can damage the tendons in the hand and wrist, causing tendonitis. Tendonitis is a painful inflammation of the tendons that causes swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.

Fractures & Bone Injuries

A motor vehicle accident can partially or entirely break any bone in the hand and wrist. For example, a broken phalanx is a type of hand fracture in a finger bone. A carpal bone fracture is a wrist fracture in the bone that connects the hand to the wrist.

Also common after car accidents is a broken wrist, medically known as a scaphoid fracture. A distal radius fracture, which is a break in the larger bone of the forearm, is another common blunt trauma injury.

Dislocated Joints and Bones

Any of the 27 bones and joints in the hand and wrist can become dislocated from the force of impact in a car accident. When a bone is dislocated, it moves out of its respective place within the anatomy. A dislocated bone or joint can cause severe pain at the injury site, numbness, and loss of function. 

Treating Hand & Wrist Injuries

Treatment for hand and wrist injuries after a car accident begins with an accurate diagnosis. A medical professional can complete X-rays or an MRI scan to diagnose the injury. Once accurately diagnosed, a few common treatments for a hand and wrist injury include:

  • Resting the area for 72 hours or more
  • Using a hot compress to soothe irritated nerves
  • Applying ice to the injury to reduce inflammation
  • Beginning a regimen of anti-inflammatory and pain medication
  • Wearing a medical brace, cast, or splint to restabilize bones
  • Receiving surgery to repair torn tissue or shattered bone

After an accident, one of the most important steps to take is to visit a doctor, even if you don’t think you’ve been seriously injured. Some injuries may be delayed and put you at risk of permanent damage if they aren’t caught early. If you’re experiencing hand or wrist pain after a car accident, visit a hospital or your primary physician to discover if you’ve been injured and begin a treatment protocol.

Car accident victim and attorney meet to sign paperwork.

What Can Hiring an Injury Lawyer Do For You

After sustaining a hand or wrist injury in a collision, West Virginia allows victims to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, dealing with the insurance company and calculating the total from an accident can be daunting.

A personal injury attorney works alongside car accident victims to quantify damages like past and future medical bills, lost wages, and property damage to ensure the injured party receives fair compensation. An attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and file a lawsuit against the negligent driver when necessary. Do not face the weight of medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering alone. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys at The Miley Legal Group today. We are ready to fight for your right to compensation, so you can focus on what’s most important, your healing.

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Written by
Tim Miley
Tim Miley is the founder of The Miley Legal Group. After earning his undergraduate degree in finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Tim attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Tim is admitted to practice in all courts in West Virginia and is currently a member of the American Association for Justice, the West Virginia American Association for Justice, the West Virginia Bar Association and the Harrison County Bar Association.
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The Miley Legal Group editorial department has a rigorous fact-checking process, starting with our strict sourcing guidelines.

Our writers only gather information from credible sources. This includes peer-reviewed medical journals, reputable media outlets, government reports, court records, and interviews with qualified experts.