Of all car accident injuries, back injuries have a unique ability to affect us. Nearly every movement you make relies on something related to your back. You can’t walk, bend over, or even sit comfortably when your back is in pain. So, while every car accident injury should be taken seriously, back injuries can cause pain that stops us from doing normal things and going about our everyday lives.
Back injuries are common in car accidents, trucking accidents, and other motor vehicle collisions. This article will answer many important questions, such as whether you can get damages for back injuries after a car accident, how an Alabama personal injury lawyer can help you protect your rights after a back injury, and much more.
All about the back
What we call “the back” is a complicated network of bones, cartilage, nerves, and muscles.
Bones. When you think about the bones in your back, you probably think about your spine. The spine is not one bone but a chain of small, connected bones. These small bones are called vertebrae. When joined together, they form the vertebral column.
As shown in the photo above, the vertebral column has four main sections. Doctors use these sections to identify the vertebrae. So, a “C4” injury means that you injured your fourth cervical vertebra, “L5” refers to the fifth lumbar vertebra, and so on.
Cartilage. A bone rubbing on another bone would cause a great deal of pain. So, while the vertebrae are connected, they do not lay directly on top of one another. A small disc made of cartilage – the same stuff that makes up our ears and noses – lies between each vertebra. The discs also contain a jelly-like substance that provides extra cushioning.
Nerves. Of course, the most important nerve tissue in the back is the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a tube of nerve tissues that sends commands from the brain throughout the body.
But the spinal cord is not the back’s only connection to the nervous system. Several major nerves run through the spinal column, including the sciatic nerve that controls leg movements. Damaging the spinal cord near the area where a nerve exits the spinal column might also damage the nerve.
Muscles. Your back contains several major muscles. It also acts as the anchor for several muscle groups. For example, your latissimus dorsi helps you move your arm and shoulder.
Why are back injuries after a car accident so serious?
Your back plays a role in nearly every bodily movement. Actions such as bending over, lifting your arm, and shaking your head use the nerves and muscles in your back. Your back also supports many parts of your body. For example, the cervical vertebrae support your head. Because the back controls or contributes to so much that your body does, a back injury can affect many parts of your daily life.
Back pain can also affect you when you aren’t technically moving. Back pain can make it difficult to sit or stand still for long periods of time. Experts note that back pain can even interfere with a person’s ability to sleep.
Back pain often lasts for a long time. Healing from a back injury can take months. But even after the initial treatment is finished, the pain might not end. Several studies report that effects from a back injury can remain for months or even years after the event that caused the original injury.
Treatment for back injuries can be expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average 12-month cost of a non-fatal injury to the vertebral column in 2021 was $7395, making it second only to traumatic brain injury and abdominal damage.
Here’s the bottom line: Back pain affects every area of life and should be taken seriously.
What causes a back injury after a car accident?
Back injuries usually result from damage to the nerves, discs, or muscles in the back. Car accidents often involve people quickly going from a normal speed to a sudden stop. The fast stop can cause a person to jerk forward or slam into a hard surface. Either of these forces can cause back injuries.
Perhaps the most severe back injury is damage to the spinal cord. A serious car crash can cause the spinal cord to be crushed, compressed, or severed. Because the spinal cord sends nerve signals throughout the body, spinal cord injuries can cause complete or partial paralysis.
Even when there isn’t paralysis after a car accident, damage to the nerves surrounding the vertebrae can cause significant issues. For example, an impact to the lumbar spine can damage the sciatic nerve. This injury is commonly known as sciatica. Sciatica often slows reflexes or makes it difficult to move the leg, feet, or toes. Some people also experience numbness in these areas.
Damage to the discs in the back is also common after a car accident. A herniated disc (sometimes called a ruptured or slipped disc) occurs when a car accident trauma forces some of the jelly-like substance out of the disc. Though this might not seem like a big deal, there isn’t a lot of room in the spinal column. So the gel pushes on nerves which causes a lot of pain. A bulging disc – which occurs when the disc’s jelly is under pressure but hasn’t been forced out – causes similar issues.
What are the most common back injuries after a car accident?
People experience many types of spinal injuries and back injuries after car accidents. While this is not a complete list, here are a few back and spine injuries that often happen in car accidents:
- Fractured vertebrae
- Dislocated vertebrae (spondylolisthesis)
- Pinched nerves (e.g., sciatica)
- Herniated discs (also known as ruptured discs or slipped discs)
- Bulging discs (also known as protruding discs)
- Facet joint injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Sprained back ligaments
- Strained back muscles or tendons
- Lower back pain
Another thing to note is that car accidents often make preexisting injuries worse. So, if you had an existing back injury before the accident, it’s not uncommon to find that your recent car accident retriggered the injury or made it worse.
Moreover, the pain of a back injury after a car accident can affect your sleep and mood. So, the physical pain of back injuries is often accompanied by depression and other types of emotional distress.
Can I get compensation for back injuries after a car accident?
Generally, yes. To get compensation, you (or rather, your Alabama car accident lawyer) will have to prove that the other driver had a duty to drive carefully but did not do so. Then, your accident attorney will show that the other driver’s failure created new injuries or made your existing injuries worse. In most cases, people who can prove these facts are eligible for compensation.
If your back is injured in a car accident, you may be eligible for many types of damages. You could receive economic damages to compensate you for money spent on bills or co-pays for hospitalizations, surgeries, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and other medical treatments. If your back injury causes you to miss time from work, you might also have a claim for lost wages. If your back pain prevents you from going about your normal life, you might be entitled to pain and suffering or other emotional damages. Your Birmingham accident lawyer can help you decide which damages are most appropriate in your case.
What should I do if I think I suffered a back injury after a car accident?
If you’ve suffered a back injury in a car accident or think that you might have, taking certain steps can help you protect your legal rights.
First, see a doctor immediately. Do not wait. Some back injuries – such as herniated discs – tend to show up immediately. Others can take months or weeks to appear. And because the back controls so much, problems in another part of your body could be related to your back. So, see a doctor as soon as possible after your accident. Having a clear medical record will make it harder for the other driver to argue that your injuries were caused by something other than the car accident.
Second, keep good records. Organize your medical records and medical bills. Keep them in a safe place. If your back pain is interfering with your daily life, keep a journal. Be sure to list when and how your back pain prevented you from going about your daily life. These practices could help your accident attorney argue for pain and suffering.
Finally, you should see an Alabama personal injury attorney as soon as possible. As you can see, back pain is complicated, so car accident cases involving back pain can be complicated as well. Instead of handling these complex issues yourself, find an experienced Birmingham personal injury lawyer who can handle the legal issues for you.
How can an Alabama personal injury lawyer help me after a car accident?
A Birmingham accident lawyer can do many things for you if you suffer a back injury during a car accident. First, the lawyer can talk to the insurance company on your behalf. Remember, the insurance company wants to deny your claim. Your attorney can help you respond to their requests and arguments in a way that protects your rights.
A lawyer can also help you decide how much your case is worth. Insurance companies tend to offer “lowball” settlements that don’t reflect your economic or emotional losses. An Alabama accident attorney can help ensure you get a fair amount for your case.
A personal injury lawyer can also handle administrative things like filing a lawsuit, communicating with the court, or talking with other attorneys. Most people have little experience with these things, but your Birmingham personal injury lawyer can handle these tasks and much more. Letting your accident attorney handle it will leave you free to focus on healing and putting your life back on track.
Have you been injured in a car accident?
We hope this article has helped you learn more about how to handle back injuries after a car accident. If you’ve suffered a back injury or any other type of injury after a car accident, trucking accident, or other motor vehicle accident, do not hesitate to contact Collins Law. Our team has experience with many types of accidents and injuries. Call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool to make an appointment for a free consultation.