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Back Injuries from Car Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents continue to be a top public health challenge in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 3 million people across the country suffer non-fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents annually. Due to the intense thrashing motion that happens in most accidents, one of the most commonly injured areas is the back.

Types of Back Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

The back spans much of the body and is composed of ligaments, muscles, tissues, tendons, and bones that are sensitive to the excessive force exerted on the body during an accident. Many factors contribute to the type and severity of back injury that a vehicle passenger may suffer during a car accident, such as:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Where the passenger is seated in the car
  • Whether or not they are wearing a seat belt
  • The point of impact on the vehicle (front, side, or rear)
  • Whether or not the passenger anticipated the collision and had time to prepare for the impact

Back injuries range in severity and may not be immediately obvious after an accident. If you were involved in an accident, it is important to undergo a medical examination as soon as possible. A medical professional may perform tests like an x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or myelogram to determine if you have sustained a back injury. While many different types of injuries can occur, common back injuries resulting from car accidents include:

Herniated Disc
The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by discs that consist of a tough outer layer which encapsulates a soft interior. A herniated disc occurs when a force is applied to the back, such as the force of a car accident; the rough, sudden movement can cause a disc’s outer layer to rupture, allowing the soft interior to leak into the spinal canal. Pain occurs when the contents of the disc press against nerves in the spinal canal.

Symptoms of a herniated disc may take time to become evident. Common symptoms include back pain that radiates to other areas of the body such as down the leg, burning sensation, numbness, and muscle weakness. While most herniated discs can heal with conservative treatments, severe cases may require surgery to repair.

Spinal Fracture
Spinal fractures occur when one or more vertebrae in the spine are broken, usually as a result of a high velocity impact like an auto accident. Minor fractures can heal with rest but severe injuries may require surgery. Those suffering from a spinal fracture should seek medical treatment as soon as possible as fractures left untreated can lead to permanent spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, and even paralysis.

Types of spinal fractures include:

  • Compression fracture: Occurs when bones in the spine weaken and crumble, usually as a result of loss of bone mass, tumors, or other abnormalities
  • Burst fracture: A fracture that occurs when major trauma compresses the vertebrae, causing the vertebral body of the bone to break in multiple directions
  • Chance fracture: Horizontal fracture caused by the pulling apart of the vertebrae from a violent force, usually a car accident

Symptoms of spinal fractures include neck or back pain, tingling, numbness, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, and loss of bladder or bowel control.

Spinal Cord Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents account for almost half of all new spinal cord injuries each year in the U.S. Any damage to the spinal cord or nerves in the spinal canal is considered a spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal cord injuries are very serious as they commonly cause permanent damage to strength, sensation, and other bodily functions below the point of injury. These injuries can have drastic effects on your physical, mental, and social health.

When an injury occurs on the spinal cord, it will generally impact the area of the body below the site of injury. If the injury occurs high up on the spine (the cervical spine), it is possible that paralysis or even death may occur. Symptoms of spinal cord injury include but are not limited to loss or weakened sensation, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness or loss of motion, muscle spasms, numbness, and digestive problems.

Back Sprains/ Strains
In the back, muscle tendons connect muscle to bone while ligaments serve to connect bones to joints or bones to each other. A back strain is a twist, tear, or pull to a muscle or tendon in the back while a sprain is an injury to a ligament.

Excessive stress on back muscle can lead to a strain. Sprains often result from falls, sudden twists, or blows to the body that force joints out of their normal positions, stretching ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. The sudden force of a car accident can cause these injuries. Symptoms include pain that worsens with movement, muscle cramping or spasms, and decreased range of motion.

Spondylolysis is a stress fracture or break in a small bone in the vertebrae called the pars interarticularis. The pars interarticularis connects the facet joint to the main part of the vertebra. Spondylolysis is the term used to describe the condition that occurs when a vertebra slips out of place due to the pars interarticularis weakening or breaking. This condition usually occurs as a result of trauma.

Most people with spondylolysis do not experience any symptoms and can unknowingly live with the condition for years. In other cases, patients experience persistent aching in the lower back that worsens with movement. Other symptoms include tightness and muscle spasms in the hamstrings.

Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of space in the spine that is usually caused by wear and tear on the spine over time. Most people experiencing spinal stenosis may be asymptomatic but it is possible to experience numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the back. Car accidents do not directly give victims spinal stenosis, but the impact from the accident can cause them to start feeling symptoms that they previously did not.

For example, a collision can cause a person with an asymptomatic case of spinal stenosis to become symptomatic, causing pain, numbness, and other symptoms that otherwise would not have been present. In such cases, accident victims may want to contact a lawyer about filing for compensation for this injury.

The Law Firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy is known for landmark results, including a $110 million verdict for a cyclist paralyzed from the waist down and a $32 million verdict for a pedestrian struck by a drug-impaired driver. Our attorneys offer free legal consultations to accident victims. Please call 212-736-5300 to speak with a Block O’Toole & Murphy lawyer today.

Filing an Auto Injury Lawsuit

Back injuries caused by car accidents may require costly medical treatments and long recovery times. These injuries can be completely life-altering, leaving victims unable to return to the same quality of life they experienced prior to their accident. If you have suffered a back injury in an auto accident that was caused by the negligent behavior of another party, it may be in your best interest to pursue legal action to obtain compensation for your losses.

If you are interested in pursuing legal action after being involved in a car accident, it is important to know that the statute of limitations, which is the amount of time you have to file a claim, varies from state to state. For example, in New York State you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against other drivers, in most cases. If you are filing a lawsuit against a public entity such as a municipality or a public authority such as the MTA, you have to provide a notice of claim within 90 days of the accident. After providing notice, you have one year and 90 days to file a lawsuit for an injury. An experienced lawyer will be able to guide you through this process.

In order to help your case, it is important that you have evidence from your accident such as a copy of the police report, photographs from the accident scene, as well as any medical records documenting your injury. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to support your case.

Reach Out to an Experienced Auto Injury Lawyer

It is crucial that you contact a car accident attorney who is well versed in the medical information that is involved in your case. A skilled attorney will be able to understand the details of your accident and help guide you to the receiving the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience working with clients who have suffered severe back injuries in car accidents. They understand the difficulties involved in coping with a severe injury and are dedicated to helping accident victims seek justice for their losses.

Notable auto accident results for clients who suffered back injuries include:

  • $9,263,326 Jury Verdict for a NYC taxi passenger who suffered nerve damage to his lumbar spine requiring surgery after the cab he was riding in was involved in a multi-vehicle rear-end collision
  • $6,000,000 Settlement for a city bus passenger who sustained back injuries requiring surgery after the bus he was riding in collided with another vehicle at a Brooklyn intersection
  • $5,500,000 Settlement for a 43-year-old driver who sustained serious spinal injuries requiring surgery after his vehicle was sideswiped by a semi-truck
  • $5,160,916 Verdict for a 38-year-old vehicle passenger who sustained injuries that required two spinal fusion surgeries after his vehicle was hit by another vehicle that ran a stop sign
  • $4,250,000 Settlement for a 42-year-old man who suffered severe back pain following a rear-end accident in Westchester County
  • $4,100,000 Verdict for an accident victim who sustained herniated discs when the vehicle he was riding in was rear-ended on the Triborough Bridge
  • $4,000,000 Settlement ($19,394,595 anticipated payout) for a 12-year-old student who sustained severe back injuries after she was struck by a vehicle in a Brooklyn crosswalk
  • $4,000,000 Settlement for a client who suffered multiple herniated discs when her vehicle was struck by another car making a left turn
  • $3,400,000 Settlement for a 49-year-old man who sustained multiple back injuries when he was struck by a New York City Parks Department vehicle in Central Park

If you have suffered injuries as a result of another party’s negligent actions, please call our office at 212-736-5300 or contact us online to receive a FREE legal consultation. We serve New York and New Jersey

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