xray of a human spine

How Car Accidents Can Cause Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are caused by damage to a person’s vertebrae, ligaments, or spinal column disks or to a person’s spinal cord itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, a traumatic spinal cord injury can result from a sudden blow to your spine that can fracture, crush, or compress your vertebrae. Vehicular accidents are amongst the top causes of spinal cord injuries.

According to data from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, since 2015, 38.6% of spinal cord injuries have been caused by vehicle collisions. Drivers and passengers can suffer damage to their spinal cord or the surrounding tissue, ligaments, discs, and/or vertebrae after a blow is delivered to this region during the crash. Those who do not wear their seatbelt are at an even greater risk of suffering this type of injury.

What Are the Spinal Cord & Vertebra?

The brain and the spinal cord are the major parts of the central nervous system. Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that sends nerve impulses to and from your brain to the rest of your body, and your spinal cord travels from the base of your brain, down the middle of your back, and to your waist. The vertebra are the rings of bone that surround your spinal cord and that create the spinal column.

Common Spinal Cord Injuries Sustained in Car Accidents

A spinal cord injury is the damage inflicted on the spinal cord or surrounding areas and can cause a loss of mobility and/or feeling in the body, and the spinal cord only has to be damaged not entirely severed for a loss of function to occur. The severity and impact of a spinal cord injury will depend on the circumstances of the accident and what part of your spinal cord/column is damaged.

There are two primary types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete injuries. While a complete spinal cord injury can result in permanent damage and paraplegia or tetraplegia, an incomplete spinal cord injury occurs when the spinal cord is only partially damaged. With incomplete injuries, victims will likely still be able to move and have some feeling depending again on the severity and location (i.e. cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacral region) of the injury.

Spinal injuries commonly sustained in vehicular accidents include:

  • Whiplash. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained after a vehicle collision, especially in rear-end accidents. This injury occurs when the neck snaps back and forth swiftly, which can damage the tissue and nerves in your neck.
  • Herniated discs. The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers and cushion the vertebrae, and they have a soft center with a tough exterior. A herniated or ruptured disc occurs when the soft center of the disc leaks through cracks in the disc exterior, which can put pressure on the surrounding nerves.
  • Spinal fractures. Your vertebrae can fracture because of a car accident; while mild fractures may cause a person pain that worsens with movement, more severe trauma and fractures can cause other serious conditions. These conditions include burst fractures, where multiple vertebra fractures can cause paralysis, flexion fractures, which commonly occur in head-on collisions where the body is thrown forward partially (because of a seatbelt) and tears the vertebra, and vertebral compression fractures, which cause the vertebra to collapse into a wedge shape while the back remains in position.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This injury occurs when one of your vertebrae slips out of position; if the vertebrae slip too far, it can press on the surrounding nerves, which can cause pain or numbness.
  • Spinal stenosis. This injury occurs when your spinal structure narrows and puts pressure on your spinal cord and nerves. The impact of the collision may cause this injury but you may also develop spinal stenosis if you aggravate your back in the days following the accident.
  • Paralysis. After a car accident, you may suffer from paraplegia (loss of function from the waist down) or quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down).

Signs & Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

You may notice the following symptoms after an accident, which indicate you may have a spinal cord injury.

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Loss of sensation
  • Altered sensation (i.e. feeling hot or cold, recognizing a touch, etc.)
  • Spasms
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Changes in sexual function, sensitivity, or fertility
  • Pain or a stinging sensation

More severe symptoms you may experience that signal you should immediately seek emergency services include:

  • Impaired breathing
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Extreme pain or pressure in your neck, head, or back
  • Oddly positioned or twisted neck or back
  • Weakness or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, fingers, or toes

Should You See a Doctor If You Suspect You Have a Back or Neck Injury?

If you are involved in a car accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. After suffering any trauma to your head, neck, or back, it is even more important for you to see a doctor. Certain symptoms or pain may appear gradually as your adrenaline and shock wears off or days after the accident. A healthcare professional can examine you to detect any issues or damage as soon as possible and can advise you on what to be mindful of in the coming days.

Suffered Spinal Cord Damage in an Accident? Contact Our Firm.

At MR Civil Justice, our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients fight for their right to fair compensation. Spinal cord injuries can have a profound effect on your quality of life and financial future as you may require physical therapy and rehabilitative services. If your spinal cord injury was caused by negligence, you can fight to be compensated for your economic and non-economic damages, including but not limited to:

  • Incurred medical expenses
  • Future medical bills (for ongoing care)
  • Pain and suffering (emotional and physical)
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Costs of assistive technology (i.e. motorized wheelchairs, etc.)
  • Costs of need home modifications (i.e. stair lifts, ramps, etc.)

Once you retain our services, we can help you calculate the damages you are owed and collect evidence to establish liability. Our team will handle all the case legalities and support you throughout the entire process so you can take the time you need to heal.

To learn more about our services, contact our firm online or via phone (214) 307-8387 today.

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