Vehicle accidents cause approximately half of all back injuries in the U.S. each year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. The impact of a rear-end, head-on, or “T-bone” wreck can dislocate or fracture your vertebrae, damaging the nerves of your spinal column. If bone fragments from your broken vertebrae pierce the spinal cord tissue, you could suffer long-term immobility or paralysis.
Types of Back Injuries Caused by Car Crash Impacts
Back injuries commonly caused by vehicle crashes include:
- Soft tissue damage
- Lumbar strains, sprains, and fractures
- Thoracic fractures
- Compression fractures
- Bulging or herniated discs
When a Car Crash Caused a Spinal Cord Injury
The most serious back injuries sustained in car accidents are spinal cord injuries (SCIs), which are categorized as complete or incomplete. A complete SCI leaves you with no feeling or mobility below the place where your spine is damaged. You could be permanently paraplegic (paralyzed from the waist down) or quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down).
If you sustain an incomplete SCI, you might retain some sensation and mobility below the point of injury, but you could still be seriously debilitated. Incomplete SCIs include:
- Central cord syndrome. Injury to the center of the spinal cord leaves you with mobility in your legs but none in your arms.
- Posterior cord syndrome. Trauma to the back of the spinal cord reduces your coordination but allows you to feel some sensation.
- Anterior cord syndrome. Damage to the front of the spinal cord causes lost sensation below the point of impact and affects your body temperature.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome. Injury to one side of the spinal cord reduces your mobility and sensation on that side of the body but not on the other.
- Cauda equina syndrome. Damage to nerves between the spine’s first and second lumbar region causes numbness and pain below the waist and can affect bowel or urinary function.
- Spinal stenosis. Dislocation or fracture puts pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in loss of sensation, weakness, and/or balance problems.
Possible Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
The early symptoms of SCIs include:
- Back, neck, or head pain
- Tingling and numbness in toes or fingers
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of coordination, mobility, or balance
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Breathing problems
- Hearing trouble
- Sexual dysfunction
If You Hurt Your Back, Seek Medical Attention Promptly
SCI symptoms are not always evident immediately after the car wreck that causes them. Even if you don’t think you’re badly hurt, you should seek medical care right away after any accident that causes trauma to your back or neck. Even whiplash sustained in a car crash might damage nerves in your upper spinal column.
A physician’s exam and diagnostic testing can reveal an SCI of which you’re not yet aware. Early diagnosis gets you started right away on treatment and increases your chance of recovery. A visit to your doctor or a hospital emergency room also provides documentation that is vital to your claim for damages against the at-fault driver. It proves when and how you were hurt.
Do You Need a Texas Car Accident Lawyer?
A serious back injury can make it difficult or impossible for you to work, sleep normally, participate in family activities, attend to your personal hygiene, or perform necessary daily tasks, perhaps for the rest of your life. You’re likely to require surgery and/or other very expensive treatments, and your ability to work could be seriously compromised. If you’ve injured your back in a Texas car accident caused by someone else, you’re entitled to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Because back injuries often require expensive treatment and result in significant lost income, the insurer might try to dispute, devalue, or deny your claim, in which case you may file a personal injury lawsuit and seek fair compensation in court. To recover damages through the insurance claim process or at trial, however, you must be able to prove the other driver’s negligence caused the injuries that have damaged you economically and non-economically. Doing so is likely to require the help of an experienced car accident lawyer. If you don’t have legal representation, the insurer will offer you a fast, low settlement that won’t even cover your medical expenses and could leave you on the hook for bills you cannot pay. You should never accept a settlement offer for a car crash back injury without consulting an attorney.