The spine is made up of many vertebrae (bones) that form a column from our neck to the base of our spine.
The inside of this spinal column is like a freeway for our spinal nerves and muscles that control bodily functions from head to toe. Since our spines are an integral part of our bodily functioning, back injuries can limit body function throughout the body.
Types of Back Injuries: An Overview
The back is divided into three sections:
- The cervical region (vertebrae of the neck)
- The thoracic region (vertebrae of the upper back), and
- The cervical region (vertebrae of the lower back).
Injuries can occur in any of the three regions.
Herniated discs can happen anywhere along the spine. Between each vertebra, spinal discs cushion the bone and absorb the shock of our daily activities. A herniated disc occurs when the inner part of a spinal disk is squeezed through a tear in the outer layer. Herniated discs are often caused by traumatic injuries or sudden strains.
To understand what a herniated disc might look like, imagine a jelly donut. If something compresses the jelly donut, the outside will tear, and the jelly will ooze out from inside the donut. The donut is the outer layer of the spinal disc and the jelly is the inner layer. When the “jelly” slips out of a spinal disc, it presses on spinal nerves causing pain that can be torturous.
Since this kind of injury happens on the inside of our bodies, we can’t see it.
Symptoms of herniated discs include:
- Arm or leg pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Weakness in the muscles
If you are involved in any kind of accident with impact, you could suffer a herniated disc back injury.
Fractures, or broken vertebrae, can range from a compression fracture, where the crushed bone crumples into itself, to burst fractures, in which the pieces of bone are propelled out into the spinal tissue, nerves, and spinal cord. Fractured vertebrae can be painful and mobility limiting.
Spinal fractures commonly occur in the thoracic (middle) or lumbar (lower) spine.
They can be the result of a high-impact trauma, such as:
- Car or motorcycle accident
- Fall from a considerable height
- Gunshot wound
Patients with fractured vertebrae often have other injuries that require immediate treatment. The spinal cord or spinal nerves may also be injured when vertebrae are fractured.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury is damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves in the back. People who suffer spinal cord injuries may experience:
- Permanent changes in strength, feeling, and bodily function below the site of the injury
- Permanent and severe neurological impairment
- Full or partial paralysis
Spinal cord injuries can be the most severe back injuries.
Whether a spinal cord injury leads to paralysis depends on two factors. First, where along the spinal cord the injury occurs, and, second, the severity of the spinal cord injury.
The severity of a spinal cord injury is referred to as “complete” or “incomplete.” An injury is complete if the accident victim loses all feeling and ability to control movement below the point of injury. It is incomplete if the accident victim still has some movement and feeling below the injured area.
Spinal cord injuries of all kinds can result in one or more of these symptoms:
- Loss of movement of the limbs or extremities
- Lost or changed sensation, including the ability to feel hot, cold, and pressure or touch
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Uncontrollable exaggerated movements or muscle spasms
- Changes in sexual function, sexual sensation, or fertility
- Intense stinging pain caused by nerve damage in the spinal cord
- Trouble breathing, coughing, or expelling secretions from the lungs
In addition to these symptoms, you may experience other signs and symptoms after an accident that indicate an extreme injury for which you should seek emergency treatment. These extreme injury signs after an accident include:
- Intense back pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- Weakness, loss of coordination, or paralysis in any part of the body
- Tingling, numbness, or loss of feeling in hands, fingers, feet, or toes
- Loss of balance or difficulty walking
- Difficulty breathing after an injury
- Awkwardly positioned or twisted neck or back
Anyone who experiences an intense trauma to their head, neck, or back must seek immediate medical attention and should be evaluated for spinal cord injury. Unlike other serious injuries, spinal injuries are not always immediately apparent.
When the spinal cord is injured, numbness or paralysis can happen immediately or it may gradually appear as the swelling or bleeding in the spinal column increases.
What Causes Back Injuries?
Car accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injury. However, there are many causes of injury to all parts of the back.
Back injuries can be caused by a fall from a height at a worksite. Back injuries at work are also commonly the result of repetitive motions. Workplace injuries may be covered by workers’ compensation. We handle workplace injury cases of any type, including oil rig accidents.
Crushing injuries, whether caused by a work accident or a car crash, can include back injuries. In Texas, where recreational vehicle use is popular, back injuries sometimes result from recreational vehicle accidents. Our law firm has experience handling all kinds of recreational vehicle injury cases, including ATV accidents and boating accidents.
No matter what the circumstances were of your back injury, you have the right to medical treatment.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue Compensation For a Back Injury in Texas?
Under Texas’ statute of limitations, an injured person must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of injury, or their right to sue is lost forever.
Even though the statute of limitations does not apply to filing an insurance claim, you should contact an attorney about your legal options as soon as possible after an injury. After the two-year deadline passes, the insurance company knows that a personal injury lawsuit is no longer an option. At that point, it is difficult for even the best lawyers to negotiate a fair settlement.
Keep in mind that different rules apply if you’re seeking benefits through a workers’ compensation insurance policy. Our workers’ compensation lawyers can help you navigate the process and work to recover full benefits on your behalf.
What Happens If I’m Blamed For the Accident That Caused My Back Injury?
Don’t hesitate to contact our law firm just because you think you may be at fault for the accident that caused your injury. You can still recover compensation even if you were careless or negligent.
Texas had a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% bar to recovery. After an injured person proves that another party was at least partly responsible for the accident, they are entitled to recovery. However, damages are barred when a victim’s proportionate responsibility exceeds 50%.
The percentage of responsibility for the accident is assigned between culpable parties.
Then, the injured person’s damages are reduced by their percentage of the liability. For example, if you are 30% at fault, you will only receive compensation for 70% of the damages you incurred. A party with 30% responsibility for $300,000 in losses will only recover $200,000 under comparative negligence rules.
Contact Our Houston Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you are living with a back injury after a traumatic event, like a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our experienced Houston personal injury attorneys have what it takes to get you the money you deserve.
Brian White is part of the 3% of Texas lawyers who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Our law firm has an established track record of winning compensation for our clients.