What If I Suffered a Spinal Injury in a Car Accident?
Car accidents cause a range of injuries, from minor cuts and scrapes to broken bones, organ damage and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). One of the most traumatic and potentially life-altering types of injuries that can result from a car accident are spinal injuries. While spinal injuries range in severity from minor whiplash to permanent paralysis, and even death, most spinal injuries require extensive, ongoing medical care. If you suffered a spinal injury in a car accident that was caused by the other driver’s negligence, contact a car accident lawyer who can assist you with a personal injury claim. The costs associated with a spinal injury can accumulate very quickly, and a successful outcome will ensure that you receive the financial compensation you deserve.
How Common Are Spinal Injuries?
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), approximately 17,800 people suffer spinal injuries each year in the United States, and close to 40 percent of those injuries are caused by car accidents. When two vehicles collide, the impact causes jerking and significant compression for the passengers inside the vehicle. The faster the vehicles are traveling at the moment of impact, the greater the force involved in the impact. In most cases, this dramatically increases the severity of the spinal injury. However, even relatively minor accidents can cause serious spinal injuries, including paralysis, if your head was turned in a certain direction, the seat was not in the proper position, or you suffered from a spinal condition that made you more susceptible to additional trauma.
What Are the Most Common Spinal Injuries Caused by Car Accidents?
Spinal injuries are among the most severe types of injuries that can result from a car accident. Unfortunately, they are also among the most common. Depending on the area of the spine that is affected, and the force of the impact, spinal injuries can range from a relatively minor soft-tissue injury to permanent paralysis. The following are examples of the most common types of spinal injuries that are caused by car accidents:
- Whiplash: This is the most common car accident-related spinal injury. While whiplash is a soft-tissue injury that causes damage to the tendons in the neck, complications from whiplash can affect the spine as well. Some victims may experience chronic whiplash, which can cause ongoing pain and emotional distress. In most cases, people with whiplash will recover within a few days or weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Ice and/or heat therapy, pain medication and muscle relaxers can provide relief from the discomfort.
- Herniated or ruptured disc: The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are small bones that form the spinal column. In between each vertebrae are cushioning discs that prevent the bones from rubbing together. The impact of a car accident can cause the discs to shift, tear, or rupture. This can cause numbness and radiating pain in the area that has been affected by the injury. Treatment options include anti-inflammatory medication, epidural steroid injection, chiropractic care, and surgery, depending on the severity of the injury.
- Spinal fracture: When the impact of a car accident causes vehicle occupants to be jerked from one direction to another, the resulting impact can cause a compression fracture of the spine. A car accident can also cause spondylolisthesis, which occurs when a vertebra is fractured and moves or puts pressure on the spinal column. Depending on the nature of the accident, the victim can suffer a spinal fracture, spondylolisthesis, or both. Common symptoms include pain, numbness, and difficulty with bladder control. Treatment options include rest, physical therapy, and surgery if other, less invasive options are not effective.
- Spinal stenosis: This is not generally caused by car accidents, but a car accident can cause someone who has asymptomatic stenosis to experience pain, numbness and other complications associated with a deteriorating spine. If you suffer from spinal stenosis that was aggravated by a car accident, it is highly recommended that you consult with a car accident lawyer. The other driver involved in the accident may claim that your spinal injury was pre-existing, and not caused by the car accident. A dedicated lawyer will ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Facet joint injuries: Facet joints are located in the spine, and act as a hinge between each vertebra. These joints can become injured in car accidents. Common treatment options include physical therapy, facet injections, chiropractic care, dry needling, and ablation procedures.
- Spinal cord damage: These tend to be the most serious types of spinal injuries as they can cause permanent paralysis in the body below the injury site. Even if the damage to the spinal cord does not result in paralysis, the victim can experience impaired movement and sensation. Treatment options may be limited to experimental treatment and clinical trials.
What Are the Common Symptoms of a Spinal Injury?
There are a wide range of symptoms you may experience if you suffered a spinal injury in a car accident, the severity of which will depend on the nature of the accident and the force of the impact. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Loss of sense of temperature and touch
- Loss of sexual function
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Painful sensation along the spine
- Problems with digestion
- Tingling sensation
What Are the Costs Associated with a Spinal Injury?
Treating a spinal injury can be extremely costly, particularly if the injury resulted in permanent paralysis, and you are unable to return to work for an extended period, or permanently. Whether you require surgery, ongoing physical therapy, prescription medication to treat your injury, or the car accident caused a more serious, permanent spinal injury, the medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses start to accumulate very quickly. According to the NSCISC, the following are examples of annual healthcare costs and living expenses for victims of spinal cord injuries:
- Paraplegia injury: First year expenses totaled approximately $550,380 and were $72,910 for each subsequent year.
- Quadriplegia injury: First year expenses totaled approximately $1,129,300 and were $196,100 for each subsequent year.
How Do I Prove That My Spinal Injury Was Caused by a Car Accident?
Any time you are injured in a car accident, it is crucial that you seek immediate medical attention. If you believe that you suffered a spinal injury, notify the healthcare provider of any pain, discomfort, numbness or tingling that you are experiencing, and the area of your spine that is affected. The healthcare provider will order tests, including an MRI or a CT scan, to determine the type and severity of your injury. These tests will help the doctor diagnose your injury and recommend the most effective course of treatment. The test results may also help prove that the car accident caused the injury, so make sure that you obtain copies of all medical records and test results.
The key to a successful personal injury claim is that you are able to prove that the other driver was negligent at the time of the accident. In order to prove negligence, your claim must show the following:
- The other driver’s careless or irresponsible behavior caused the accident.
- You suffered a spinal injury as a result of the accident.
- You suffered damages as a result of the accident and the spinal injury.
When filing a claim, it is important to understand that insurance companies are in the business of making money, and they will resort to a range of tactics to avoid paying a hefty settlement. For example, they may argue that your spinal injury was caused by something other than the car accident, or that you were liable for causing the accident. The more evidence you are able to collect that proves that the other driver is at fault, the more likely it is that you will have a successful claim. Make sure that you collect the following evidence from the scene if you are physically able to do so:
- Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles involved, skid marks on the road, the position of the vehicles, and any other images that will help prove fault.
- Talk to witnesses who saw the accident happen and ask if they would provide a statement.
- Obtain a copy of the police report, which may specify which motorist was at fault for causing the accident.
Savannah Car Accident Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Advocate for Victims of Spinal Injuries
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal injury in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Savannah car accident lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly review the details of your case and determine who is responsible for causing the accident. If negligence was involved, we will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. With our offices located in Springfield, Georgia, we proudly serve all clients of Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.