Spine injuries after car accidents occur frequently. The most common car accident injuries result from a direct blow to the spine and acceleration-deceleration. Some of these are less severe, don’t cause major issues, and leave no lasting consequences. On the other hand, there are spinal injuries that can cause severe lifelong issues and even death.
Just as you shouldn’t delay in seeking medical help, you shouldn’t wait to contact an auto accident law firm about your case. Doing so may mean the difference between getting your life back on track after a personal injury or trying to deal with mounting medical bills, missed work, and no financial compensation after your accident.
A licensed attorney for personal injuries practicing in Virginia will be experienced in car accident cases and can help you get the medical treatment you need quickly.
Whiplash Is probably the most common injury to the spine. It is caused by the sudden deceleration of the body and the head and body moving forwards and backward. These movements cause flexion and extension of the cervical spine, and their overstretching is often the cause of painful symptoms. In most cases, patients complain of neck pain and stiffness, pain radiation to the head, down the spine and upper extremities, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Symptoms usually resolve with time, but there are some cases when patients have long-lasting symptoms. (1)
Lower back strain
The injuries resulting from lower back strain are the same as whiplash. Sudden deceleration of the body cause the body and lumbar spine to flex. This movement is then followed by an extension of the lumbar spine. When repeated several times during a car accident, the sharp movements can cause overstretching of the lumbar spine and muscles, resulting in painful symptoms. Most patients complain of low back pain and stiffness of the spine. (2)
Disc herniation is another possible spine injury after a car accident. Spinal discs are small structures located between two vertebrae that play the main role in absorbing pressure and shock. Younger individuals can absorb trauma well. However, as we age, we become more fragile. Car accidents, especially, can break our vertebrae and cause fluid to leak out, resulting in disc herniations. If this herniation presses against the spinal cord or nerve roots, it can cause symptoms. The most common symptoms include neck or back pain, pain radiation down the arms or legs, numbness, and tingling. Treatment of disc herniations after a car accident depends on the size of the herniation, the location of the herniation, symptoms, how long the symptoms last, and age of the patient, among others. Generally speaking, disc herniations can be treated non-surgically using pain killers, physical therapy treatment, bed rest, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatment. In more severe and long-lasting symptoms, disc herniation can be removed surgically. (3)
Radiculopathy can be caused by pinching of the spinal nerve in the neck or back or by hyperextension or flexion of the spine. This force can cause disc herniation or movement of nerve roots, resulting in them pressing against surrounding structures. This will cause pain down the arms or legs, numbness, and tingling in the same areas. It can also cause a loss of strength in these body parts. (4)
Contusion of the spine can happen in car accidents and is caused by outer pressure on the spinal cord. This blunt trauma will cause bleeding and inflammation at the impact site, causing the area to become swollen. The main symptom of spinal contusion is numbness of the body part. This numbness starts immediately after the impact and the affected area can increase as the swelling of the spinal cord increases. Spinal contusions often cause pain and loss of strength and function. A major spinal contusion can be the cause of temporary or permanent paralysis. It can also cause issues with bladder control, bowel movements, memory, speech, blood pressure, and breathing. An MRI is a great diagnostic tool that can show the spinal cord in detail and reveal the contusion area. Patients with spinal contusion require aggressive rehabilitation and physical therapy treatment. The treatment usually lasts for a long period of time. (5)
Fractures and dislocations
Fractures and dislocations of the spine can happen after car accidents, especially after major car accidents and rollovers. The common causes include excessive flexion or extension of the spine or a direct blow to the spine. Older patients and patients with preexisting osteoporosis have a higher chance of spinal fractures. Some fractures, especially cervical spine (neck) fractures can be very dangerous, leading to permanent paralysis or even death. The most common symptoms include strong pain in the spine that increases with movement. In cases when bone fragments press against the spinal cord or nerve root, they can cause radiculopathy symptoms. On examination, there is pain on palpation of the injured area as well as with pressure and movement. X-rays can show the presence of fracture or dislocation. In cases where there is a fracture or suspected fracture or dislocation, a CT scan is the next step in the diagnosis process. CT scans can show the fracture in more detail. Major fractures with the displacement of bone fragments usually require surgery. The goal of surgery is to keep the bone fragments in place so that the fracture can heal. Usually, screws and rods are used to stabilize the fracture. Minor fractures with no significant displacement of bone fragments can be treated without surgery. (6)
Spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injuries rarely occur after an accident, however, chances of a spinal cord injury increase in cases involving major accidents or in rollover car accidents.
Even seemingly mild cases can turn severe in a matter of hours, unfortunately leading to situations where hiring a wrongful death lawyer — rather than a lawyer for spine injuries or personal injuries — becomes necessary.
It can be complicated to navigate the legal and medical systems on your own — but you don’t have to.
A personal injury attorney who focuses on accident law can guide you through the process of documenting, recovering from, and being compensated for your traumatic car accident.
The spinal cord is located inside the spinal canal and is protected by bones. A major force is required in order to injure the spinal cord. The symptoms of spinal cord injury depend mostly on the severity of injury and the location of the injury. Generally speaking, the higher the injury, the more serious the symptoms. In the case of a complete spinal cord injury, there will be a loss of control of muscles and sensitivity below the level of injury. In the case of an incomplete injury, only motor or only sensory function below the injury level is lost. Some of the symptoms of a spinal cord injury include loss of muscle control, loss of sensitivity, loss of bladder and bowel control, and impotence. MRI scans are able to clearly show the spinal cord and location of the injury. Immediately following the injury, it is important to prevent further damage, allow normal breathing, and prevent shock. Medication such as steroids can help prevent swelling of the spinal cord and more severe symptoms. In cases when a fracture or dislocation is the cause of spinal cord injury, immobilization and surgery are treatment options. In all cases, however, patients with spinal cord injuries will require long-lasting rehabilitation and physical therapy treatment. (7)
Settlements vary depending on the severity of your damages, but even if an injury doesn’t appear to be very serious immediately following the accident, it might cost you years of stress and pain if you don’t act quickly.
You need a personal injury attorney who focuses on accident law and wrongful death claims resulting from auto and truck accidents to guide you through the process of getting the compensation you deserve.