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October 18th, 2021

Do You Have Knee Pain After a Car Accident?

When a serious car crash happens, people inside the car are subject to powerful forces and potential injury. While whiplash and back injuries occur on a regular basis, knee injuries from a car accident are also very common. Knee pain after your accident can be a sign of serious trouble on the horizon.

Knee injuries can be very debilitating, interfering with your ability to work, care for children, or participate in sports. With so much at stake, it is important to preserve your ability to receive coverage for medical expenses and other long-term costs of injuries sustained in a car accident by seeking professional help right away.

Why Are Knee Injuries So Common After Car Accidents?

The knee joint is a complex structure that is easily damaged when it impacts the steering wheel, dashboard, or other parts of your car’s interior. One study of auto accident injuries found that 37% of victims sustained a knee injury.1 The common types of injury include:

  • Bruising or lacerations
  • Tears to tendons, ligaments, or cartilage
  • Fractures or dislocations of the kneecap

Because of the complex nature of the knee and the tendency of soft tissue injuries to occur, you may not know the extent of your injuries until you develop knee pain after your car accident.

Serious Knee Injuries Associated with Car Accidents

There are several serious knee injuries that are sometimes collectively called “Dashboard Knee.” Some of these can become long-term problems that cause chronic pain or inhibit range of motion.2

  • Torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Ligaments provide stability to the knee joint. When one is damaged or torn, it causes severe knee pain.
  • Torn MCL (medial collateral ligament). When the knee is bent into an unnatural position, this ligament can be torn or damaged. Torn ligaments may require surgery to repair.
  • Torn PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). Another ligament of the knee that can be damaged on impact with the dashboard or steering wheel is the PCL, which has long-term impacts on the stability of the joint
  • Cartilage injuries. Pads of cartilage cushion the bones of the knee, and these can be torn or slip out of place during an accident.
  • Dislocated knee. In high-speed car crashes, the bones in the knee may pop out of the joint. Knee dislocations are serious injuries that usually include torn ligaments and cartilage damage as well.
  • Knee fractures. A patella fracture is a break in the bone of the kneecap. The shin bone may also be broken in this type of accident. Knee fractures require a long recovery time of at least 6-8 weeks, with crutches and physical therapy.

Symptoms of Knee Injuries Following an Accident

Immediately after your accident, or in the days following, you should take note of any of these symptoms of serious knee injury:

  • Swelling of the knee joint, which can indicate a serious ligament or cartilage injury
  • Deformity, which means your knee doesn’t look normal, with lumps or bumps sticking out, as it is often associated with fractures or dislocation
  • Hearing a popping sound, either when the injury occurs or when you attempt to move your knee
  • Instability in the knee joint, making it feel loose, wobbly, or likely to buckle
  • Inability to bear weight, or severe pain when attempting to walk
  • Stiff knee joint that cannot be straightened without assistance

Treatment and Recovery from Knee Injuries

Depending on the type of injury, knee injury symptoms can persist for years and require expensive medical treatments. Over time, arthritis may develop. It is important to seek medical attention immediately following an accident to receive the care and equipment you need to recover. Possible treatments you might need include:2

  • Rest and elevation for knee sprains and minor injuries
  • Immobilization with a cast or brace, requiring you to use a wheelchair or crutches
  • Physical therapy to strengthen damaged tissues and improve mobility
  • Surgery to repair severe tears, dislocation, or complex fractures

Do You Have Symptoms of Knee Injury After an Accident?

It can be difficult to know how serious your knee injury is after a car accident. Soft tissue injuries often get worse after an injury occurs, leading some victims to falsely assume that it is “just a sprain.” Insurance companies often try to rush accident victims into accepting a small settlement that will not fully cover the long road to recovery.

Seek medical attention immediately and be sure to pursue any follow-up appointments or additional diagnostic testing that your doctor recommends. It may be wise to obtain a second opinion about a traumatic knee injury to make sure it is not more serious than it appears. Be careful about accepting any early settlement offers until you fully understand the extent of your injuries and your rights to compensation.

There is no substitute for sound legal advice when you are injured in a car accident. Your initial consultation is free with Schechter, Shaffer & Harris LLP. Our accident attorneys have over a century of combined experience and help you receive full and fair compensation for your injuries. We understand the tactics that insurance companies use to limit their losses and protect their bottom line. Contact us today to help protect yourself and your family’s future.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/598118/
  2. http://sterlingmedgroup.com/soft-tissue-injuries-car-accidents/
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