The force that accompanies the impact of a car accident makes the neck and spine especially vulnerable to injury. That’s one reason why it’s very common to have a back injury after a car accident, even if you don’t realize an injury has occurred immediately afterwards. Another is the structure of the spine itself.
The spine extends from the base of your skull to your tailbone. The entire spinal column is made up of small bones called vertebra. The area where one vertebra joins to the next is called a facet joint. Like other types of joints throughout your body, facet joints are what allow the spine to move in different directions.
There is cartilage between the facet joints, which gives the joints flexibility. Flat, round, gel-like cushions called the inter-vertebral discs act as a shock absorber between the vertebrae. The spinal cord and nerves pass through an opening in the middle of the vertebrae called the spinal canal.
The shape of the spine is also designed to protect it. Even when you ‘stand up straight’, like your parents and teachers probably told you as a child, the spine has a natural ‘S’ shape when viewed from the side. These curves help support your body’s weight and make it more resilient to stress than it would be if it were straight.
The spine also consists of soft tissue including tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The muscles provide movement while the tendons and ligaments connect muscle to bone and bone to bone. During a car accident, damage can occur to any area of the spine, leading to damage and pain.
How Car Accidents Cause Back Injuries
When a car crashes, usually what happens is it runs into another vehicle or it is hit by another driver. This impact causes the human body to move in the direction of the crash and then back in the opposite direction. For example, if you are struck by another vehicle from behind while sitting at a traffic light, the force will cause your body to go as far toward the rear of your vehicle as possible until you hit the headrest. Most of the impact will be to your head and neck. After that, you will be thrown toward the front of the vehicle, whipping your body in the other direction.
Many people think of whiplash as the injury that occurs to the neck during a car accident. It actually refers to the motion caused by a car crash that causes the head to snap backward and then forwards. Although whiplash occurs most often from being struck in the rear end, it can also occur with other types of accidents including those involving pedestrians. In fact, pedestrians are at an even greater risk for all types of back injuries due to the lack of protection between them and the vehicle that strikes them. But even a seemingly minor fender bender can result in serious back damage.
Wearing your seatbelt and driving a car with properly working airbags makes it less likely that you will be injured in a car crash.
Whiplash can lead to injuries of the spinal discs or facet joints. The types of injuries include ruptures, fissures, cracks, and tears. Different injuries to the neck and back can cause pain and a loss of mobility. When nerves are damaged, they can have an impact on the extremities farthest from the spine. The nerves that run through the spinal column deliver messages from the brain to the rest of the body. When damaged, they may be unable to communicate efficiently, preventing the body from responding normally to the brain’s signals.
The more severe the impact of the crash, the more severe and longer-lasting the symptoms are likely to be. They may last for days, weeks, months, or even for years. It’s important to note that while the pain varies from minor to debilitating, the symptoms don’t usually manifest fully until twelve hours after the accident and they aren’t limited to the neck area. You may feel back pain throughout the length of the spine including the lower back region. Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Severe Headaches
- Constant Fatigue
- Blurry Vision
- Ringing in the Ears
- Jaw Pain
- Travel Anxiety
- Sudden Numbness in the Arms and/or Legs
Other Types of Lower Back Injuries
Whiplash injuries are more common with rear-end or front-impact crashes.
There are also other types of injuries that can occur from these and side-impact accidents. When the ligaments in the lower (lumbar) back are over-stretched, they may tear or become strained. This type of back injury often occurs in side-impact accidents.
A herniated disc occurs when the protective outer casing of the disc is ruptured, allowing the inner disc to ‘bulge’ out. This often results in the compression of the nerves, leading to severe, long-term pain.
Sometimes a car accident can cause spinal stenosis, a condition in which the channel where the vertebrae rest becomes narrowed. This condition is especially difficult to prove because it often occurs naturally with age.
Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident: Compensation for Your Treatment & Pain
Any back pain needs to be diagnosed after an accident. Even if you initially only feel mild discomfort and soreness, get it checked out. You need to have the cause of your pain documented. There are many ways that your spine can be injured. There are also a variety of treatments available. You need the right one for your condition to reduce the impact on your health as much as possible. You also need a record of your medical treatment to get compensation for your injuries.
Never dismiss back pain of any type or degree after a car accident. Failing to get proper treatment could result in the condition getting worse. It also makes it more difficult for an auto accident injury attorney to prove the accident caused your injury and pain. You might think “accidents happen” and it couldn’t be helped that another driver hit you. But people’s actions and inactions are the cause of car accidents. If someone else hit you, they need to pay for your medical treatment.
How Much Will Your Back Injury Cost?
All back injuries are different because the people who have them are different. You have a certain level of pain tolerance. You also have different responsibilities that place various physical demands on your body. Often, doctors recommend trying other types of treatment before turning to surgery. You may need therapy for months to get the results you need. Sometimes therapy is used after surgery to restore movement to the joint.
Medical treatment is very expensive these days. It starts with diagnostics to pinpoint the exact cause of your pain. The doctor needs to know the extent of the damage to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Treatment may last for weeks, months, or even longer. If the other driver is responsible for your injury, you have the right to pursue compensation for your current and future medical treatment.
There’s also the problem of not being able to work. You use your back for everything you do, from the time you get out of bed in the morning until you turn in again that night. It provides balance and support and gives you the means to function. Your back injury may limit your ability to work. It may make the job you rely on for your income more difficult or impossible. It could also alter your ability to earn an income for the rest of your life. You only have one chance to get compensation for all of your expenses. This includes lost income, pain and suffering, current and future medical expenses, and property damage.
Delayed Back Pain After a Car Accident
Sometimes a back injury is apparent immediately after an accident. Often, it takes hours or days before the pain sets in. You might leave the accident scene feeling as though you escaped without a scratch. Sometimes the symptoms don’t appear to be connected to the accident. Dizziness and headaches might seem to be related to stress more than an actual injury. But if you look back at the symptoms of whiplash, you’ll see that it isn’t always clear where the pain is coming from.
The best approach is to go to a doctor for a complete examination immediately after the accident. Even if you don’t have any pain, there may be some damage you haven’t detected yet. The longer the time period between the accident and the attempt at medical treatment, the more difficult it will be to get compensated for your damages.
Should I See a Doctor After An Accident If I Already Have Back Problems?
Millions of people suffer from one kind of back pain or another. Some manage their condition with medications, physical therapy, pain treatments, or alternative therapies like yoga and acupuncture. If you have existing back pain, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be compensated for your injuries due to a car accident. This includes injuries that make your existing condition worse or new injuries that cause new sources of pain.
If treatment for your existing condition has been consistently documented, it could be to your advantage. You have a thorough record of the extent of pre-existing damage and symptoms prior to the accident.
It’s true, insurance companies may try to prove that your injury was pre-existing to prevent having to pay you fair compensation. If the injury from the accident was to the same area as the existing one, it can present a more challenging case for your auto accident attorney. Just make sure you provide all of the available information to your attorney when you have your case evaluated. Considering the cost of medical treatment today, increasing the severity of an existing injury could mean thousands of dollars of difference in your medical costs.
How Do I Know if the Accident Was the Other Driver’s Fault?
Despite new laws, distracted driving continues to be a problem on Texas roads and highways.
Injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers are on the rise. Among those are a fair share of back injuries. In many cases, it’s apparent that the other driver is at fault when they strike your vehicle. It’s simply a matter of not having their eyes on the road.
Any time another driver hits you because they are breaking the law, they are at fault. That includes texting while driving or driving while under the influence. Of course, it isn’t up to you to declare the other driver at fault. But your attorney can use the evidence in your case to decide. He knows the laws and which factors are likely to prove your case.
Getting medical treatment is always the first thing to do when you are in a car accident. Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. Getting an evaluation from a qualified auto accident attorney should be second. He knows what you need to do to prove your case and the time frame for completing your claim. The clock is ticking from the time of the accident. You don’t want to wait for a few months or years to see if symptoms of a back injury decide to emerge!
The attorney will use a variety of documents including the traffic accident report and your medical records to evaluate your case. You need to think about providing adequate legal proof from the start. Your injuries don’t have to be immediate or seemingly severe. It’s in your attorney’s best interest to only take cases he believes he can win. That’s how he gets paid and how he maintains a reputation as a successful and effective legal representative.
If you’ve been in a car accident, don’t let any more time pass without getting a medical examination. Back and neck injuries can be debilitating and have a serious impact on every area of your life. Contact Bill Berenson to speak with a member of his firm or to schedule an appointment for a professional evaluation of your case. Get the compensation you need and deserve to treat your back pain and live your life to the fullest again!