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Blindness after an Accident

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Approximately 1.3 million Americans are considered legally blind. Diagnoses of blindness are expected to increase over time due to the increasing age of the population. By 2030, there will be an expected 2.4 million legally blind people in the United States. Blindness is not only caused by age and natural disease processes. Blindness can be caused by an automobile accident or other incident that results in trauma to the eye region.

Car accidents often involve high-impact airbag deployment, shattered glass, and spillage of hazardous chemicals. Traumatic injuries to the facial region in an auto accident can cause injuries to the eyes that result in vision impairments, including blindness. Blunt force trauma to the face can damage the delicate optic nerves or result in a torn retina. Flying debris during a crash can directly strike the eye.

Most of the time, an eye injury is unilateral, meaning only one eye is affected. Of course, it is also possible to sustain trauma to both eyes, but it is less common.

If you or a loved one has suffered blindness due to a car accident or other incident that was the result of another party's negligence and would like to discuss your legal options with a seasoned Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney, call us at (916) 921-6400.

Table of Contents

What is Blindness?

Many people think that blindness means a total lack of sight, but there are different types of vision impairment. For instance, color blindness is a form of the condition. Some vision-impaired people have the ability to see light and shapes but without definition. Only a small percentage of people who are blind are in complete darkness. Many worldwide are known as “legally blind” without vision correction but can see perfectly while wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses. Of the 300 million to 400 million people worldwide who are considered legally blind, only about 50 million are completely unable to see. 

Causes of Blindness

While sometimes blindness is present from birth, vision impairment is mostly caused by a disease, condition, or circumstance affecting people sometime during their lives. Examples include:

  • Cataracts. Cataracts cause clouding of the eye lens and can usually be improved or corrected with surgery. Many cataracts are caused by a lifetime of sun exposure.
  • Glaucoma. Glaucoma involves increased pressure in the vitreous humor of the eye, which damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma has no cure but can be treated with eye drops or surgery.
  • Traumatic Injuries. Trauma to the eye can come in the form of blunt trauma or penetrating trauma. Examples of blunt trauma include an impact from a motor vehicle accident or being struck in the eye by a baseball bat or ball, causing disruption of the globe.  Injuries caused by trauma to the eye are usually unilateral (affecting only one eye).
  • Macular Degeneration. This eye disease most often affects older people and is one of the major causes of lost vision in those older than 60. It involves progressive damage to the macula. There are two types of the disease, wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. There is no cure for the condition, but there are medications to slow the progression. Laser surgery is also used to treat the disease.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetes can cause retinopathy. This condition is usually bilateral. Controlling blood sugar can slow the progression of this condition.
Risk Factors for Blindness

There are several risk factors for blindness. Some are avoidable, and others are unavoidable. They include:

  • Age. The risk for many types of blindness increase as we get older. About 80 percent of conditions that cause blindness occur in those older than 50.
  • Participation in activities that could cause blunt force or penetrating trauma to the eye.
  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Vitamin A malabsorption
Diagnosis of Blindness

In most cases of blindness, the eye will appear damaged. A visual acuity test may be delayed until the eye has healed to its maximum capacity. Then the vision is checked with a Snellen eye chart, which uses letters of different sizes to see what the vision is. If the vision is too bad to use the Snellen eye chart, the examiner can ask the patient how many fingers they are holding up or what they can see, such as shadows, movement, light, etc. There are also instruments doctors use to view behind the eye, to assess damage to the retina, for example. Because blindness can be unilateral or bilateral, each eye needs to be examined separately.

Emotional Complications of Blindness

Following a loss of vision, especially one that occurs suddenly can cause significant depression and anxiety related to not navigating the world around you as you once did. The world can feel extremely isolated to the blind person. There will be understandable anxiety after a sudden loss of vision as the person learns to connect with places and people they can no longer clearly see. The individual often has to take classes to learn how to get around in the city and navigate obstacles such as stoplights and vehicle traffic. These valuable classes can help people gain an element of control over their lives. 

Contact an Attorney With Experience in Blindness

Losing vision, whether completely or partially, unilaterally or bilaterally, is a life-changing event. If you suffered traumatic injuries that resulted in vision loss due to someone's negligence, you must talk with a lawyer who understands the nature of catastrophic injuries. 

I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Please reach out to us to go over the details of your potential claim at (916) 921.6400 or (800) 404.5400. We can set up a no-obligation consultation or simply offer free and friendly advice.

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Image by Tobias Dahlberg from Pixabay

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