Read to learn more about common spinal injuries from car crashes, the signs and symptoms to monitor, and when to talk to a personal injury attorney.
Spinal injuries are amongst the most traumatic and severe injuries that can result from a car accident.
Unfortunately, spinal injuries from a car crash are not always apparent immediately, as signs and symptoms can worsen in the hours and days following an accident.
This makes it critical that you see a doctor if you were involved in a serious car crash, as being medically evaluated can help you receive an early diagnosis and immediate medical care.
David Aylor Law Offices sees the long-term impacts of spinal cord injuries to car accident victims in South Carolina. Ensure that you get the care you need following a car accident. Get in touch with a member of our team today to learn more.
How Car Accidents Can Cause Spinal Injuries
Considering that the average weight of a car is about 2,800 pounds, the shock of two vehicles colliding and the energy this creates can cause significant trauma to the human body. This force alone can cause significant injuries to the spine as the human body is thrust forward with the force of the collision. Further trauma can be caused by being thrown against other structures in the vehicle, resulting in damage to the spinal cord and column.
In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of injuries to the spine and spinal cord, accounting for roughly 40% of spinal injuries each year. However, the severity and type of injury the spine sustains will depend on a lot of factors including the intensity of the accident and where on the spine the damage occurred.
Common Types of Car Accident Spinal Injuries
The spinal column, which extends from the base of the skull to the hips is composed of 33 bones (called vertebrae) as well as intervertebral discs between each vertebra. There are various areas where the spinal column can be damaged in a car accident.
The resulting potential spinal injuries include:
Whiplash is one of the most common causes of neck pain after a car accident, particularly when one is rear-ended. Whiplash is a cervical spine injury that occurs when the neck and back suddenly snap back and forth rapidly, causing damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Whiplash is classified as a soft tissue injury as it does not cause damage to bones.
Symptoms of whiplash usually are not apparent right away and can develop days after an accident. Whiplash can cause ongoing side effects following an accident including neck pain and dizziness that can last for months.
Intervertebral discs, also called spinal discs, are rubbery discs that sit between vertebrae and provide cushion and protection to vertebrae by acting as shock absorbers.
A herniated disc occurs when, as the result of trauma to the spine, a crack in the intervertebral disc causes the soft, gel-like interior of the disk to leak out. This material can then press on surrounding nerves within the spinal column, causing numbness, tingling, and/or shooting pain.
The force exerted on the spine during a car accident can also result in a spinal fracture. A spinal fracture is when a traumatic injury causes one or more vertebrae in the spine to shatter or crack, causing intense pain. Bone fragments from spinal fractures can also damage spinal nerves or the spinal cord, leading to additional complications.
Another common injury to the spine that can occur during a car crash is spinal stenosis. This is when an injury to the spine causes inflammation that leads to the narrowing of the spinal canal, reducing space for the spinal cord. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to numbness, weakness, and intense pain.
Spinal cord injuries
Any tearing, nicking, bruising, or stretching of the spinal cord during an accident can result in severe damage that can lead to impaired movement and sensation.
Considering the spinal cord makes up one-half of the central nervous system, damage to its nerve fibers may prevent communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
Spinal cord injuries are categorized as either complete or incomplete depending on the severity of the damage caused.
An incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) means that a victim still has some sensation or mobility below the damaged area, while a complete SCI results in a victim losing all feeling and mobility below the site of the injury.
A complete SCI is a particularly serious injury that may cause paraplegia (which is the paralysis of both legs), or tetraplegia/quadriplegia, resulting in the paralysis of both arms and legs.
Common Signs of Spinal Injuries After a Car Accident
Signs and symptoms of spinal injuries can vary greatly, and these injuries can be deceiving as symptoms may not appear for days after an accident. This makes it important that you never underestimate the severity of a car accident, and that you look out for signs of potential spinal injuries including:
- Neck pain
- Feeling dizzy or tired
- Severe headaches
- Stiffness in the neck/shoulders
- Muscle spasms
- Limited neck movement
- Radiating pain down the arms and/or legs
- Tingling or numbness in your arms, hands, legs or feet
- Loss of or limited sensation
- Loss of or limited mobility
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
As a general rule, it is always recommended that you are evaluated by a medical professional following a car accident, as, even if you feel fine, you may have internal injuries. However, it is particularly important that you see a doctor if pain or other symptoms develop in the days following an accident.
You should also seek emergency medical attention if any of the following symptoms appear after an accident including:
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing
- Numbness or loss of sensation in fingers, hands, toes, or feet
- Intense pressure in the head, neck or back
- Loss of control or coordination
If any of these symptoms appear, you should go to the emergency room immediately, as, without proper treatment, these injuries can cause permanent damage.
How Are Spinal Injuries Treated?
The treatment you will need if you suffered a spinal injury during a car accident will depend on the extent and severity of your injuries. While minor whiplash or a herniated disc may only require rest, painkillers, and physical therapy, other injuries may require extensive surgery to repair the damaged spinal column.
If you suspect that you sustained a spinal injury in a car accident, seeking immediate medical attention is critical, as your doctor will be able to run tests to determine the severity of your injuries, which will help them to develop a treatment plan.
Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
When you partner with an experienced personal injury attorney, they can help collect evidence proving the other driver’s negligence. They can either work with the insurance companies to negotiate a proper settlement, or they can file a lawsuit to recoup expenses that occurred as a result of your injuries. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future income, future medical care, as well as pain and suffering.
Feel free to contact us at David Aylor Law Offices to learn more about how partnering with an experienced personal injury attorney could benefit you if you suffered severe spinal injuries in a car accident.
FAQs About Car Accident Spinal Injuries
Can spinal injuries be avoided?
You can reduce the risk of severe spine injuries by wearing your seatbelt, ensuring that you have working airbags, and by following the speed limit.
How do I know if I’m entitled to compensation for my injuries?
Whether or not you may be entitled to compensation depends on a variety of factors, so it is important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney for advice on how to proceed with your case.