Why Should I Have a Lawyer for My Eye Injury/Vision Loss Case?

If you don't hire a lawyer that has experience with cases involving eye injury or vision loss, it's possible the insurance company will do one or more of the following: 

  • Deny your eye injury/vision loss claim and tell you that the condition is degenerative.
  • Ignore your calls, hoping you tire and go away.
  • They make an offer to you that is less than what you think is fair.
  • Say your eye injury wasn't a result of the car accident, or that there is no physical evidence to support your injury claim.

If any of the above happens, you NEED to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your claim.

What Type of Eye Injury Can I Be Compensated For?

If your eye injury includes any major or minor trauma to the eyeball, causing damage to the eyelid, iris, cornea, optic nerves, or orbital bone, it's likely you can make a recovery for your injury. 

The orbital bone, also known as "the orbit," consists of seven bones that serve as the encasing to the open socket of the eye. These bones come together to serve as a natural barrier that can protect the eye from many types of injury. We've helped several clients that suffered breaks to their orbital bone. 

With regard to a proper diagnosis, it's likely you'll consult with an ophthalmologist to properly have your eye injury diagnosed and treated. 

What's the Difference Between an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist?

An optometrist is licensed to provide primary eye care services needed by the general public. They typically diagnose and treat conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatisms, and other related conditions. 

Optometrists will also prescribe glasses and contact lenses as well perform minor surgical procedures such as removing foreign matters from the eye.

An ophthalmologist is a licensed M.D. and specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are trained to provide a full and complete range of treatment to the eye. Their capabilities range from prescribing glasses and contact lenses, to performing complex and delicate eye surgery. 

Often, ophthalmologists will also perform research in areas specific to the eye in attempts to help advance technologies related to eye trauma and their treatment and care.

What Are Common Types of Eye Injuries?

Corneal Abrasions: The most common of eye injuries is the corneal abrasion. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface on the front of your eye. An abrasion to this area of the eye resulting from an accident can come from many sources: broken glass, air bag, steering wheel, and/or any contact with blunt or sharp objects. 

Accidental contact accounts for the majority of corneal abrasions. And though an abrasion may not sound serious, these types of injuries can often be very painful and interfere with a person's daily tasks.

Bruising or Black Eye: A black eye is usually the result of blunt force trauma to the eye. The tissue around the eye becomes discolored and may exhibit a black/purplish tint for an extended period of time. The discoloration is a result of the blood and other fluid that collects in the small area around the eye.

Often times in an auto accident, a person may be struck in the face with an air bag, leaving them with a black eye.  Additionally, a person that suffers a broken nose will exhibit two black eyes. This can occur in spite of the fact that no direct contact was ever made with the eyes.

Orbital fracture: An orbital fracture occurs when one or more of the bones surrounding the eye are broken. The orbit is the bony, circular area around the eye.  It also serves as a source of natural protection for a person's eyes. An orbital fracture is not uncommon in auto accidents, as these types of breaks are usually the result of significant trauma. 

Severe injury to the eyeball is also not uncommon with orbital fractures, as a person's vision is usually affected with this type of injury.

Chemical burns: This type of injury occurs when a harmful chemical (or sometimes only the chemical's vapor) comes into contact with a person's eye(s). Chemical burns should be treated as a medical emergency, and a person should receive immediate medical care anytime a harmful chemical has come into contact with their eye(s). These types of burns can result in a loss of vision, and even a loss of the eye  itself, if not treated immediately and accurately. 

Immediately following an auto accident in which air bags have deployed, a person may complain of irritation or a burning sensation in their eyes.  The source of this irritant is a powder that exists in all air bag systems.  The air bag powder serves as a type of lubricant at the time of deployment to ensure proper release of the safety device. Often, this type of burn is temporary; however, there have been instances involving more severe effects regarding air bag burns due to older, more harmful powders that were once used in air bag systems.
Hyphema: This occurs when blood enters the anterior chamber of the eye. This chamber is located in the front portion of the eye's interior where fluid flows in and out, providing nourishment to the eye and its surrounding tissue. A hyphema is usually associated with injury to the eye and blood seen in the eyeball. This should be considered a medical emergency and requires immediate medical care.
Eyelid lacerations: Eyelid lacerations can result in injury to the eyeball depending on the depth and severity of the cut. An ophthalmologist will need to examine the eye to ensure there is no damage to the eye itself.

What Are Common Symptoms of an Eye Injury?

Only a physician can correctly and accurately diagnose an eye injury; however, you may experience any of the following symptoms that indicate serious injury:

  • blood in the eyeball
  • changes in the shape of the iris or pupil
  • mild or moderate eye pain
  • physical deformity of the orbital bone structure and/or eye socket

How Are Eye Injuries Typically Treated?

The treatment of an eye injury will depend on many factors:

  • the person's age, medical history, and general health
  • the details of the injury
  • the location of the injury (especially important for orbital fractures)
  • expectations for the recovery period
  • your opinion and/or preference of the treatment type 

Certain eye injuries will almost always require some form of treatment:

Chemical Burn: the physician may irrigate your eye with special eye drops, or flush the eye with water. Surface anesthetic may also be applied if the pain is severe. If the chemical burn has caused traumatic injury, hospital admission and surgery may be required.

Scratch or Abrasion: treatment may be as simple as covering the eye with a patch and avoiding contact with the eye.  Generally, a scratch or abrasion will heal without complication; however, if the abrasion is severe, additional medical treatment may be needed.

Hyphema: you should never attempt to treat this condition yourself without first consulting with an ophthalmologist.  Attempting to cover the eye without first consulting an ophthalmologist may cause further damage.  Successfully treating hyphema depends on how quickly you receive treatment and comply with instructions. Fifteen to 20% of people will experience further bleeding 3-5 days after their initial injury, yet another reason why proper medical treatment is essential.   

Orbital Fracture: depending on the severity and location, your doctor may prescribe ice packs, decongestants or an antibiotic to prevent possible infection. If the fracture is severe, and is affecting the eye's movement or vision, surgery may be required. 

Often, your doctor will refer you to a plastic surgeon for severe fractures to the orbital bone. The surgeon may be required to remove bone fragment; ensure eye muscles have free range of motion so that double vision does not occur; and/or restore the original bone structure so that your eye socket does not look sunken or abnormal in appearance.

The action you take following your eye injury can often mean the difference between sight and blindness.  When trying to gauge the damage done to your eye, remember that self-diagnosis is never a reliable form of evaluation.  It is essential to see a doctor as soon as possible.

If you have suffered any damage to your eye, no matter how minor, please contact our law office and ask to speak to one of our attorneys before you talk to the insurance company. We can offer you free advice and help you make the best decision with regard to settling your claim, and there is never any obligation to hire us.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller