Car Accidents Can Cause Spinal Injuries

Lever & Ecker, PLLC August 14, 2017 Car Accidents

Unfortunately, car accidents can leave their victims with severe spinal cord injuries. According to the Mayo Clinic, of all the spinal cord injuries that occur in the United States, 35% of them are caused by car accidents. Victims of these accidents are often thrown from vehicles or jostled around within the vehicle with tremendous force. This force can cause an enormous amount of trauma to the body and can be devastating for a person’s spinal structure.

Since the spinal cord is essential to a person’s body functionality, an incident that causes trauma to it can alter a person’s life forever.

Spinal cord injuries can cause a victim to lose their independence (relying on another person for what used to be everyday duties), and burden them and their families with a lifetime of medical costs. If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligent acts of another driver, New York law allows you to seek legal compensation for the injuries suffered through a personal injury claim.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal injury is caused when an accident transpires, and the victim encounters injuries to their spine such as:

  • Herniated or bulging disks – There are 23 total discs in a human vertebra. These disks sit in between 24 vertebrae, and when someone encounters trauma to their back, these disks run the risk of becoming herniated or bulged. Herniation happens when disks break open, and the inner cartilage bulges outwards. Bulges occur when the damage pushes a disk out of its natural positioning in between the vertebrae.
  • Soft tissue bruises and tears – Collisions can cause a number of soft tissue ligaments, tendons, and muscles that surround the spine to tear or stretch. When this occurs, it can have an effect on thousands of nerve endings, which can cause excruciating pain.
  • Flexion distraction fractures – These occur most often in head-on car accidents when the people involved are wearing seatbelts. This type of injury is caused by the upper vertebra and spinal cord bending violently forward on the point of impact. The seatbelt holds the victim’s lower back and pelvis in place, and the upper body’s violent movement forward puts so much pressure on the upper back that a person’s vertebra fractures.
  • Transverse process fractures – A collision’s unpredictable impact on a victim’s body can cause the spine to twist and turn in all sorts of directions. When this happens, the spine can turn past its natural radius resulting in a transverse (crosswise) fracture.
  • Dislocation – These fractures are among the most common back injuries that occur in vehicle crashes. When a vertebrae fractures, soft tissue from other areas around it will tend to move into the fractured area.

While some spinal cord injuries cause severe damage like paralysis, others cause “minor injuries” that can also lead to decreased quality of life such as:

  • Pressure/pain in head, neck, or back
  • A recent onset of poor coordination
  • Tingling or numbness in limbs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Unusual bladder/bowel movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty breathing

There are many types of effects that a spinal cord injury can have on a person’s life including:

  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia
  • Anterior/posterior cord syndrome
  • Surgeries

How to Diagnose a Spinal Cord Injury

There are three main ways to diagnose a spine injury, and they are:

  • X-ray – Perhaps the most basic way of diagnosing bone fractures and misalignment.
  • Computer Axial Tomography Scans (CT/CAT scans) – A CT scan will often identify damaged disks and spinal cords. It can also detect cartilage and fluid damage when disk ruptures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI) – An MRI will be able to detect most injuries to a spine and the nerve surrounding it. It’s excellent at identifying herniated disks, misalignments, and nerve damage.

Pursuit of Compensation for a Spinal Cord Injury

Just like any personal injury case, the quest for damages will start with presenting viable evidence. The types of evidence commonly utilized in spinal cord injury cases include:

  • A police report. A police report is critical to an accident injury case. A report will usually contain details of the accident scene, names of witnesses, details of tickets (if applicable), an officers opinion of fault in the crash, and more.
  • Witness Contacts. Witnesses are important in a case because they may have evidence of negligence in an accident. If a witness saw a driver in an accident make a negligent move, that testimony could be crucial to a settlement.
  • Photographs – There is nothing more revealing in an accident case than pictures. The more photographs you have, the better. Take photos of your car, impact points, skid marks, traffic signals, etc.
  • Medical Records – Your medical records are vital to your case. They will enable a lawyer to show that your injuries could be directly related to your accident. Make sure you go over the doctor’s notes are precise and clear. If they are hard to understand, make sure you clarify that with your doctor.

Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries often require a long and painful course of treatment and an extremely long road to recovery (if recovery happens at all). Victims of spinal cord injuries almost always have to deal with expensive medical costs associated with emergency room care, medications, hospital stays, physical therapy equipment, and more. Additionally, victims are almost always not able to work and earn a living while on the road to recovery.

Through hiring a New York car accident lawyer, victims have a chance to pursue compensation for their suffering through recovering damages for:

  • Past, present and future medical bills
  • Assistive equipment costs (wheelchairs, oxygen, home modifications)
  • Lost wages and future lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

Beware that in New York, the law has set a specific time frame for filing a claim in a spinal cord injury case. It is important to file your claim within this period because if you do not, you will be unable to collect damages even if you have a case.

Contact our Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone close to you has been involved in a car accident that has caused a possible spinal cord injury, it is important to contact an attorney who can guide you and your family through the legal process. Our experienced and motivated team of personal injury lawyers here at Lever & Ecker, PLLC are experienced in all types of motor vehicle accident cases and are here to help you in any way we can.