Back injuries after a car accident can manifest in many ways. Back injuries can even cause pain or numbness that seem disconnected from the back or neck. These injuries can be the first sign of nerve damage that could remain with you for the rest of your life.

Here is some information about the medical and legal significance of back injuries.

The Science of Back Injuries

Your back includes muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. These structures help support your body and protect your organs and spinal cord. Your back also provides flexibility for walking, bending, and twisting.

The back has four regions. Injuries to these different regions can produce multiple symptoms:

  • Cervical: The cervical spine forms the neck. Injuries to the cervical spine can cause symptoms in the arms and shoulders.
  • Thoracic: The region between the neck and lower back makes up the thoracic spine. Symptoms in the legs usually accompany a thoracic back injury
  • Lumbar: The lumbar region is in the lower back. Lumbar spine injuries usually produce symptoms in the lower back and buttocks.
  • Sacral: The base of the spine is made up of the sacrum and the coccyx.

Now let’s take a look at some of the most common types of back injuries that result from motor vehicle collisions.

Common Back Injuries Caused by Car Crashes

Car accidents involve a lot of energy. Even at low speeds, the sheer weight of the cars involved can cause serious injuries to people.

When a collision occurs, seat belts and airbags prevent the occupants from bouncing around in the vehicle or being ejected. However, these safety restraints come with a price. The people inside the car can also experience jolting and twisting. These forces can strain muscles, crush spinal discs, and crack vertebrae.

Some examples of back injuries include:

  • Muscle strain: The muscles of the back may be strained, causing pain and weakness in the back. Muscle strain in the neck is a characteristic of whiplash.
  • Spondylolisthesis: Vertebrae are the bones which make up the spine. When these bones fracture, they can slide out of place. This is called spondylolisthesis, and can lead to a painful spinal cord injury.
  • Disc injury: Intervertebral discs are the cushions between the vertebrae. When the discs experience force from a car accident, they can be compressed. A compressed disc can bulge or herniate, leading to pressure on the spinal cord.

Pressure on the spinal cord from damage to vertebrae or discs can lead to severe back pain. Pressure on the nerves can also cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the limbs and buttocks. Nerve pressure can even lead to loss of bladder and bowel control.

Prognosis for Back Injuries

Minor back injuries such as muscle strains can heal with time and physical therapy. Severe back injuries, however, might never heal on their own.

For example, fractured vertebrae can develop arthritis which can compress the spinal cord. Similarly, bulging and herniated discs do not heal. As a result, a back injury could cause symptoms throughout your entire life.

Although some back injuries cannot be cured, treatment can reduce the pain.

A few of the treatments that can help with back pain include:

  • Physical therapy: Strengthening the muscles in the back can support the spine and reduce pressure on the nerves.
  • Steroid treatment: Epidural injections of steroids can reduce pain and inflammation in the spinal column.
  • Surgery: As a last resort, surgery can stabilize the spine.

For many accident victims, back injuries will lead to the degeneration of discs and post-traumatic spinal arthritis. These conditions will cause recurring or chronic nerve pain, muscle weakness, and loss of sensation that lasts a lifetime. Since this dim prognosis means a lifetime of treatment, a back injury can be a major factor in a personal injury claim arising from a car accident.

Personal Injury Claims for Back Injuries

Back injuries can result from many types of car accidents, including:

  • Pedestrian accidents: A pedestrian striking a vehicle, or the pavement can receive severe back injuries even at low speeds.
  • Bicycle accidents: Cyclists have almost no protection against collisions. As a result, cyclists often suffer back injuries from a car accident.
  • Motorcycle accidents: Motorcycles are capable of traveling at high speeds. During a car accident, motorcyclists can break vertebrae, rupture discs, and strain muscles in the back.
  • Truck accidents: A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh 20 times more than a car. This size difference can result in serious back injuries to a car’s driver and passengers.

Regardless of the type of car accident that resulted in a back injury, personal injury cases for back injuries have some common characteristics.

Diagnosing a Back Injury

A personal injury claim for a back injury must be supported by a diagnosis. Doctors use a variety of diagnostic tools to identify a back injury, including:

  • X-rays: Fractures and slipped vertebrae can be diagnosed with an x-ray. However, x-rays are best suited for bones and provide only limited information about the condition of discs.
  • CT scans: Disc problems like ruptured or herniated discs can be diagnosed with CT scans.
  • MRIs: Because of the cost, MRIs are usually reserved for pre-treatment imaging.

In some cases, the symptoms and location of the back injury will support a diagnosis without imaging the back.

Compensation for a Back Injury

Damages arising from a back injury can involve many forms of costs and expenses, including:

  • Medical bills: Damages include current and future out-of-pocket medical expenses. This includes medical treatment, physical therapy, and prescription and over-the-counter medication. Some accident victims require mental therapy to deal with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other emotional difficulties. Damages include expenses for mental health treatment.
  • Lost wages: Many accident victims miss work due to their back injuries. Damages include wages that were lost during their time off from work.
  • Diminished earning capacity: Some people who suffer back injuries must change careers. For example, a truck driver who suffers a back injury might be unable to sit long enough to drive their route. Damages include the reduction in earnings due to a career change.
  • Pain and suffering: Damages can include compensation for pain and suffering resulting from painful back injuries.

Back injuries after a car accident might linger for a lifetime. However, compensation from a personal injury claim can help accident victims obtain the treatment and recovery they need. Getting an experienced car accident attorney involved immediately after you discover a back injury can help you recover a full monetary award from those responsible.

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