Car accidents can wreak havoc with your neck and back, causing injuries ranging from relatively mild strains all the way to whiplash, fractures, herniated discs, and catastrophic spinal cord injuries. Neck and back injuries are especially common in rear end accidents and falls. When you’ve suffered an injury to your neck or back in an accident that was caused by someone else, you have the right to make a claim for monetary compensation against the person responsible for your injury. The severity of the injury and the length of time it takes it to heal—if it does heal—will influence the amount of money you are able to receive from the liable party.
When You Need a Lawyer
Unless your case is a very small one with a minimum of treatment, it will not be in your best interest to try to negotiate a settlement directly with the insurance company. You should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you if you hope to receive a fair amount of compensation. Neck and back injury cases can be difficult, especially in two types of injury:
- Soft tissue injuries that can’t be proved by x-rays; and
- Catastrophic injuries, where fair compensation is so high that paying the claim represents a big dent in the insurance company’s profits. Insurers are usually willing to dig in their heels and fight against paying high value catastrophic claims, because the victim’s damages are extensive and permanent.
Types of Neck and Back Injuries
The most frequent cause of neck or back pain resulting from a car accident or other trauma is an injury to the facet joint. Facet joint pain, usually felt in the area to the right or left side center of the back of the neck, is sometimes mistaken for muscle pain. Facet joint pain causes an ache in the neck, usually radiating through the neck and shoulders, and is worse when you turn you head or look upward. Facet joint damage doesn’t show on an X-ray or MRI and can only be diagnosed by administering a medial branch block (MBB), a strong local anesthetic injected directly into the medial branch nerves leading to the facet joints.
Sprain and Strain of the Neck and Back
Sprain and strain of tendons, ligaments, or muscles in the neck and back can also be painful. Sprain and strain injuries, while the cause of substantial suffering, are difficult to prove, because they don’t show up on X-rays. Your medical records will reflect the difficulties you’ve experienced and are the main source of documentation of these soft tissue injuries.
Although chiropractic, massage, and other alternative treatments are sometimes helpful, insurance companies and juries typically give more consideration to treatment by medical doctors.
An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to make a case for these very real but subjective injuries by documenting the length of treatment, your time off of work, and your real limitations in your activities.
Some attorneys will not accept soft tissue injury cases because they can require more work. In Dallas, personal injury attorney Aaron Herbert has a history of recovering significant amounts of compensation for clients with soft tissue injuries.
Injury to an intervertebral disc can also cause severe chronic neck or back pain. The disc is a piece of gelatinous material that forms a cushion between the vertebrae that make up the spinal column. In a whiplash injury, the rapid forward and backward movement of the spine may cause a painful tear in the outer wall of the disc; or the disc may herniated or bulge out and impinge on a nerve. This causes severe shooting pain that radiates down the arm (in the case of a neck injury) or down the leg (if the injury is lower in your back), often accompanied by numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities. A herniated disc may require surgery to fuse the vertebrae.
Car accidents, falls, and workplace accidents can cause fractures of the vertebrae in the neck or back. These can not only be painful, but may threaten the spinal cord that runs through the spinal column, which is formed by the vertebrae. Surgery is often required.
Compression fractures are especially likely to occur in older adults. These are small cracks in the bones that form the spinal column, which can cause the vertebrae to collapse and deform over time, damaging the structure and alignment of the spine. Compression fractures are often overlooked. They can cause pain and respiratory problems.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury is the most serious and life-changing of all neck and back injuries. The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that connects the brain with the rest of the body through a tunnel formed by the hard vertebrae of the spinal column. If the spinal cord is damaged, paralysis of the body below the point of injury will often result.
A spinal cord injury in the neck (cervical spine) may cause tetraplegia, also called quadriplegia, which is paralysis of all four limbs and usually of the diaphragm, necessitating the use of a ventilator to assist with breathing.
An injury to the spinal cord in the thoracic or lumbar region (mid to lower back) tends to cause paraplegia, which is paralysis of the lower part of the body.
In either case, the victim is permanently paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life.
Free Legal Consultation
To learn about your legal options following an injury to your neck or back, contact the Dallas law offices of Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Specialist Aaron Herbert. With 14 years of experience, top qualifications, the highest possible AVVO rating, and membership in the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates forum, Aaron has proved again and again that he has the dedication to do what is needed to obtain justice for his injured clients. The consultation is free and you will incur no attorney fees, court, or legal expenses unless you recover.