Despite the fact that modern cars are equipped with advanced safety technology, including airbags, lane departure warnings, and accident avoidance systems, car accidents remain a common occurrence on roads and highways across the country. While many of these accidents are relatively minor, and the motorists involved are lucky enough to walk away with only a few cuts and scrapes, other car accidents are more severe and can cause serious injuries, including spinal cord injuries.
According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic, car accidents are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States. If you suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a serious car accident, a skilled car accident lawyer can protect your rights and ensure that you receive the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.
How Do Car Accidents Cause Spinal Cord Injuries?
The spinal cord is a long, tubular structure made up of nervous tissues that begin at the end of the brain stem and continue to the bottom of the spine. It is encased in a column of bones, which is called the vertebrae. Between each vertebra are discs made up of cartilage, which provide some cushioning between the vertebra, as well as a certain degree of flexibility.
The sudden impact of a car accident can have a serious impact on the spinal cord. Depending on the severity of the crash, it can cause the vertebra to break, become dislocated, or bleed. In some cases, the trauma of the accident can result in damage to the nervous system. The severity of the injury often depends on the seriousness of the car accident, the exact location of the spinal injury, and the age and physical condition of the victim who was injured.
Unlike other common car accident injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and broken bones that usually heal relatively quickly, spinal cord injuries can cause other problems down the road. For example, if the vertebra is fractured in an accident, parts of the bone can eventually pierce or tear the spinal cord. In addition, the disks between the vertebra can become herniated, causing the spinal cord to suffer pressure. The following are examples of possible symptoms of a spinal cord injury:
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
- Digestive issues
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Loss of feeling
- Pain, tingling, or numbness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Stinging sensation in the back that can indicate a pinched nerve
What are Common Car Accident-Related Spinal Cord Injuries?
The type and severity of the accident will often determine the region of the spine that is injured. The higher up the spine where the injury occurs, the more likely a victim may suffer complete paralysis, or even death. There are three regions of the spine, including the following:
- Lumbar spine: Located in the lower back
- Thoracic spine: Located in the mid-back region
- Cervical spine: Located in the upper back and neck
The following are examples of spinal cord injuries that are associated with car accidents:
- Facet joint injuries: Facet joints are located at the top and bottom of each vertebra and help the spine to move and bend. Car accidents can cause these self-lubricating joints to become injured. Treatment options include physical therapy, chiropractic care, facet injections, dry needling, and ablation procedures.
- Herniated or ruptured disc injuries: Car accidents can cause the jelly-filled discs between the vertebra to shift, tear, or rupture, causing a herniated or ruptured disc. Symptoms of a ruptured disc can include numbness and shooting pain in the limbs or other areas of the body. Rest, chiropractic care, and other therapies can help, but for more serious injuries, surgery may be necessary.
- Paralysis: Depending on which part of the spine was injured, the victims may suffer some degree of paralysis. Injuries to the thoracic spine can result in paraplegia, or a loss of muscle function from the waist down. Injuries to the cervical spine may result in quadriplegia, or a loss of muscle function from the neck down.
- Pinched nerve: This injury occurs when a bulging, or herniated disc presses on one of the nerves in the spine. It can cause shooting pain, tingling, or numbness.
- Spinal cord injuries: If the bundle of nerves that protect the spinal cord are affected, spinal cord injuries can be quite devastating. If, after the inflammation goes down, the extent of the injuries remains severe, the victim will likely require ongoing medical treatment, physical and emotional support, and assistance with daily activities.
- Spinal fractures and spondylolisthesis: The impact of a car accident can cause significant harm to the body, including the spine. The sudden movement puts pressure on the body, often causing a compression fracture of the spine. This can cause the victim to suffer a spinal fracture called spondylolisthesis, which occurs when the vertebra is fractured, causing it to shift or put pressure on the spinal column. Victims may experience a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, and bladder control issues. If rest and physical therapy do not work, surgery may be necessary.
- Spinal stenosis: If a car accident victim has an existing spine issue, a car accident can cause increased pain, numbness, and other symptoms. Even if the car accident did not cause the spinal stenosis, a car accident lawyer can ensure that the victim receives a fair compensation.
- Whiplash injuries: This is the most common type of car accident-related spinal injury. Whiplash is primarily a neck injury, but it can also impact the spine. Chronic whiplash is a more serious form of the injury and can cause ongoing pain and discomfort, as well as compromise the victim’s quality of life.
How Do I Prove Fault After a Car Accident?
If you suffered a spinal injury after a car accident, it is crucial that you are able to collect the compensation you deserve. In order to reach a successful settlement amount, your insurance agent will need important details about the accident, including proof that the other driver was at fault. Request a copy of the police report and provide that document to your insurance agent. Photographs of the accident scene also provide key evidence of how the accident occurred and who was responsible.
How Can I Avoid a Spinal Injury?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid serious injuries associated with being involved in a car accident. By keeping the following steps in mind every time you get behind the wheel, you can reduce your chances of suffering a serious spinal injury:
- Always wear a seat belt: Regardless of whether you are in the driver’s seat, the passenger seat, or in the back seat, you should always wear a seat belt. It is one of the most effective ways to prevent or lessen the severity of injuries.
- Make sure car seats are properly installed: If there are children in the car, make sure that their car seats or booster seats are installed correctly.
- Make sure that airbags are in good condition: Also, make certain that there are no safety recalls. Additionally, if the vehicle has previously been in an accident, or does not have a functioning airbag, avoid driving in that vehicle.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer?
Victims of spinal cord injuries often require physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, and multiple surgical procedures. The partial or complete loss of mobility can have a significant impact on the victim’s quality of life. An experienced lawyer can:
- Assess your case: Lawyers who specialize in car accident lawsuits understand the different types of spinal injuries that car accidents can cause, as well as the economic impact it can have on the victim. They have the resources necessary to thoroughly investigate the accident and secure the maximum settlement.
- Protect your rights: Protecting you will be your lawyer’s top priority. He or she will determine whether the accident was caused by another driver or a defective part.
- Address your concerns: A lawyer will walk you through every step of the legal process, addressing all of your concerns along the way. When determining a fair settlement amount, he or she will consider all future medical needs by consulting with medical experts.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Car Accident Victims with Spinal Cord Injuries
If you have a spinal cord injury that resulted from a car accident, do not hesitate to contact our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Our skilled and compassionate legal team will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, Media, and Abington, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.