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Car Accidents and Neck and Back Injuries

Car accident victims often wonder why their body is feeling a certain way after a collision. Sometimes the collision involves a massive impact; on other occasions the collision appears modest. The New York City personal injury trial lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are often approached when someone is experiencing neck pain or back pain after a car crash. Their confusion is evident. Below, the experienced serious injury lawyers answer your concerns and try to dispel the confusions.

Car accidents are chaotic. They are often followed by feelings of shock, fear, pain, and a general sense of, what on earth just happened to me? The human body responds in a particular way after a car collision.

What happens, from your body’s perspective, is a number of forces push and pull your body when there is an impact to the car you are in. The way these forces push and pull you can break, tear, crush, and shift the structures inside your body. Some injuries are easy to see and understand, others are not. A bone that is solid and straight may simply break or crack under force. Your spine, however, is neither solid nor straight; it is made to bend and twist, to hold you upright and absorb shock, to protect your spinal cord and the nerves that branch out from it. Spinal injuries can be extremely painful and difficult to understand. And the number one cause of spinal injuries are auto and motorcycle accidents, accounting for more than 40 percent of new spinal cord injuries in the U.S. each year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Your spine can be injured in a car accident in a number of ways. The term “whiplash” might sound familiar as a common description of the quick and forceful push and pull back of the neck one frequent force that occurs in car crashes, but it does not tell you much about what parts of the neck or cervical spine were injured and what the recovery will be like. Sometimes, the impact causes the muscles in the back or neck to tighten or contract severely to protect the spine, resulting in inflammation, strains or tenderness to the spinal muscles. Other times, the impact causes the boney aspects of the vertebrae in the spine to actually crack or break. And more commonly, the impact causes one or more discs to be herniated, disrupted, compressed or torn.

The discs are round cushiony parts of the spine, located between the vertebrae, which normally provide stability, support and shock absorption. A disc might be thought of as a water balloon or a jelly donut that has a soft inside contained in an outer skin (annulus). When a traumatic impact occurs to the spine, the disc can break open (rupture) or move out of place (herniate). For example, the disc can be pushed into the hole in the vertebral bone where the nerve root branches off from the spine and travels down to the feet or up to the hands. When disc material is pushed into this space, it crowds the opening and compresses the nerve root, resulting in neurological systems down the legs or up the arms.

Disc injuries can be extremely painful and disruptive of normal daily activities. Disc injury symptoms can range from neck or back pain to loss of feeling in the hands or toes, altered posture, changes to the gait or stride, limited ability to grip or hold objects, numbness or tingling radiating from the spine down to the legs and feet or arms and hands. And treatment for disc injuries, can vary greatly as well, and often involves multiple reevaluations by a doctor to determine what might be able to help, depending on the individual patient and the disc injury involved. Some disc injuries can be alleviated through medications, physical therapy, and/or other therapies such as acupuncture or massage therapy. Other times, injecting steroids directly into the problematic area of the spine (epidural steroid injections) can provide relief. Sometimes, surgery is necessary to clear extruded disc materials or to remove the disc entirely and replace it with an artificial or semi-artificial device. Sometimes, even after all of these treatments, the disc injury will still cause pain and restrict the individual’s ability to move about and participate in various activities. Unfortunately, many people who sustain spinal injuries suffer symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Block O’Toole & Murphy, LLP fights to protect the rights of those who sustain spinal injuries in car accidents. Our lawyers have unparalleled experience and expertise in cases involving spinal cord injuries and works hard to ensure that victims recover to the fullest extent possible under the law. For example, Block O’Toole & Murphy obtained a $2,925,000 settlement for a victim who sustained a bulging disc to his lower back (lumbar) spine and underwent a fusion surgery and a revision surgery after his vehicle was broadsided by a school bus. The firm obtained a $1,500,000 settlement for a victim who sustained a herniated disc in the lower back in a rear-end collision and underwent a laminectomy surgery. The firm recovered a $1,200,000 settlement for another victim whose herniated disc in the neck was aggravated when her vehicle was rear-ended by a pick-up truck at a red light.

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy, LLP are available for a free consultation at 212-736-5300. You can also learn more about the firm by visiting the firm’s website at

Sources: Mayo Clinic;