Spinal Cord Injuries That Can Be Caused by a Car Accident

Key Points:

  • Prevalence and Vulnerability: Car accidents regularly cause trauma to the spinal cord. Even with protective measures like seat belts and airbags, the spinal cord remains highly susceptible to injury during collisions. The firm mentioned has noted that almost every day, they hear from someone experiencing symptoms related to spinal cord injuries from car accidents.
  • Spinal Impact from Car Accidents: The immense force from car accidents often affects the spine severely due to its central role in human anatomy. Collisions can cause the spine to stretch, compress, or twist in harmful ways, leading to fractured or dislocated vertebrae and damaged intervertebral discs. The type and severity of spinal injuries can vary based on numerous factors, including the crash’s speed and angle and the use of seat belts.
  • Specific Spinal Injuries: The article lists various spinal injuries resulting from car accidents. These include whiplash, herniated discs, spinal cord contusion or bruising, spinal fractures, and spinal cord compression. Each injury has its unique symptoms, medical specialists for consultation, estimated medical costs, recovery time, and treatment options.
  • Identifying Symptoms and Seeking Treatment: Recognizing spinal injury symptoms after a car accident is essential for effective recovery. Symptoms can range from persistent pain in the neck or back to numbness and paralysis. Even if symptoms appear mild, a thorough medical examination, including X-rays or MRIs, is recommended to determine the extent of potential spinal injuries. It’s advised to initially consult an emergency room physician or a primary care doctor, who might refer patients to specialized experts like neurologists or orthopedic surgeons for further assessment and treatment.

Car accidents frequently inflict trauma on the spinal cord. As attorneys that focus on car accidents, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to deepen our understanding of the spine. Even with safeguards like seat belts and airbags, the spinal cord often bears the brunt of a collision’s force and displacement. This vital structure is vulnerable, and its injuries can reverberate throughout a victim’s life.

How Do Car Accidents Impact the Spine?

The sudden and violent motion of a collision—whether from a head-on impact, side crash, or rear-end collision—can jolt the spine, causing it to stretch, compress, or twist in unnatural ways. Vertebrae, the series of bones that protect our spinal cord, may fracture or dislocate. Intervertebral discs, the cushions between these bones, can rupture or become herniated, pressing on nerves and leading to intense pain and potential neurological issues.

The nature and severity of spinal injuries from car accidents can vary widely based on factors such as the speed at which the crash occurred, the angle of impact, and whether or not occupants were wearing seat belts. On the other hand, high-speed collisions can cause more severe injuries like spinal fractures or spinal cord damage, which may lead to permanent disabilities. Given the spine’s crucial role in everyday mobility and function, any injury to it demands immediate attention and comprehensive care.

Understanding Key Spinal Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents

**The dollar amounts provided below are approximate figures intended to offer a general understanding of potential costs. They should not be taken as precise or definitive values.


  1. Description: Injury to the neck’s soft tissues caused by rapid forward and backward movement of the head.
    • Symptoms: Neck pain, stiffness, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision.
    • Medical Specialists: Orthopedists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors.
    • Estimated Medical Cost: Varies, but generally from $2,500** to $10,000**.
    • Estimated Time to Recovery: Few weeks to several months.
    • Treatment Options: Physical therapy, pain medication, muscle relaxants, cervical collars.

Herniated Disc

  1. Description: A rupture of the intervertebral disc causing it to press on spinal nerves.
    • Symptoms: Pain, numbness, weakness in the affected limb.
    • Medical Specialists: Orthopedists, Neurosurgeons, Physical Therapists.
    • Estimated Medical Cost: $20,000** to $50,000** or more, depending on the need for surgery.
    • Estimated Time to Recovery: Several weeks to several months.
    • Treatment Options: Physical therapy, pain medication, corticosteroid injections, surgery in severe cases.

Spinal Cord Contusion or Bruising

  1. Description: A bruise or bleeding on the spinal cord.
    • Symptoms: Pain, weakness, numbness, or paralysis below the level of the injury.
    • Medical Specialists: Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Rehabilitation Specialists.
    • Estimated Medical Cost: $30,000** to $80,000** or more, based on severity.
    • Estimated Time to Recovery: Weeks to months; some effects might be permanent.
    • Treatment Options: Medication for swelling, surgery, rehabilitation.

Spinal Fractures

  1. Description: Breaks or cracks in the vertebrae.
    • Symptoms: Pain, difficulty moving, numbness, tingling, weakness.
    • Medical Specialists: Orthopedic Surgeons, Neurosurgeons.
    • Estimated Medical Cost: $50,000** to $150,000** or more, based on severity and location.
    • Estimated Time to Recovery: Several months to over a year.
    • Treatment Options: Bracing, surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation.

Spinal Cord Compression

  1. Description: Pressure on the spinal cord due to various reasons like a herniated disc, fracture, or blood clot.
    • Symptoms: Pain, numbness, weakness, loss of coordination.
    • Medical Specialists: Neurosurgeons, Neurologists.
    • Estimated Medical Cost: $35,000 to $90,000 or more.
    • Estimated Time to Recovery: Weeks to several months.
    • Treatment Options: Medications, surgery, radiation therapy (in case of tumors), rehabilitation.

Identifying Spinal Injury Symptoms After a Car Accident

Recognizing the symptoms of a spinal injury following a car accident is crucial, as immediate medical intervention can significantly impact recovery. While some symptoms manifest immediately, others might take hours or even days to become apparent due to the initial shock or adrenaline rush after the accident. Common symptoms include sharp, persistent pain in the neck or back, often intensified when moving. Many individuals also report a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in their extremities, such as fingers and toes. Numbness, muscle weakness, or even paralysis in parts of the body can indicate nerve damage from a spinal injury. Additional signs include difficulty walking or maintaining balance, reduced sensitivity to heat, cold, or touch, and problems with bladder or bowel control. Some people also experience difficulty breathing, especially if the upper spine is affected.

If any of these symptoms manifest after a car accident, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Even if symptoms seem mild or fleeting, they can be indicative of more severe underlying damage. A thorough medical examination using diagnostic tools like X-rays or MRIs can provide a clear picture of any potential spinal injury.

Which Medical Experts to Consult After a Car Accident for Spinal Assessment?

After a car accident, an immediate assessment by an emergency room physician or primary care doctor is crucial. For more detailed evaluations related to spinal injuries, consider consulting:

  • Neurologist or Orthopedic Surgeon: In-depth diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Physical Therapist: Rehabilitation and pain management.
  • Chiropractor: Spinal adjustments and alignment.
  • Occupational Therapist: Assistance with daily tasks and cognitive improvements.
  • Pain Management Specialist: Chronic pain relief strategies.

Consequences for Delaying Medical Treatment for a Spinal Injury

Delaying medical treatment after sustaining a spinal injury in a car accident can have numerous consequences, both from a health and a legal perspective. Here are some of those consequences explained:

Health Consequences:

  1. Aggravation of Injury: Waiting to treat a spinal injury can lead to the worsening of the initial damage. What might initially be a manageable injury can progress into a more severe or permanent issue.
  2. Complications: Delay in treatment can result in complications, such as infections, the development of blood clots, or increased inflammation. Any of these complications can have long-term detrimental effects on health.
  3. Reduced Mobility: Some spinal injuries, if not treated promptly, can lead to decreased mobility over time. This can affect one’s ability to perform everyday tasks and may become permanent.
  4. Chronic Pain: Without timely intervention, acute pain can become chronic, leading to a lifetime of discomfort and the need for ongoing pain management.
  5. Neurological Issues: Spinal injuries can impact nerve function. Delaying treatment might exacerbate nerve damage, leading to problems like numbness, tingling, or even paralysis.
  6. Increased Medical Costs: Treating a worsened injury or addressing complications from a delay can end up being significantly more expensive than if the injury was treated immediately.
  7. Prolonged Recovery Time: The time it takes to heal and recover can be substantially longer if there’s a delay in receiving medical care.

Legal Consequences:

  1. Reduced Claim Value: If you delay medical treatment after a car accident, the defense can argue that your injury was not severe enough to warrant immediate attention. This can lead to a reduction in the value of your personal injury claim.
  2. Causation Issues: One of the primary arguments the defense will make is that the delay in treatment indicates that the car accident did not cause the injury. Instead, they might suggest the injury was pre-existing or was caused by an unrelated event after the accident.
  3. Lack of Medical Documentation: Immediate medical treatment provides documentation that links the injury directly to the accident. By delaying treatment, there’s a lack of contemporaneous medical evidence to support the claim.
  4. Questioned Credibility: An insurance adjuster might question the credibility of a claimant who waits to seek medical attention. They might wonder if the claimant is exaggerating their injuries or if other motives are at play.
  5. Statute of Limitations: While not directly related to the delay in treatment, it’s essential to remember that personal injury claims have a statute of limitations. If one spends too much time contemplating whether to get treatment, they might also delay in seeking legal recourse, potentially missing the window to file a claim.

In conclusion, it’s crucial, both for health and legal reasons, to seek immediate medical attention after a car accident, especially if there’s any suspicion of a spinal injury. The repercussions of waiting can be long-lasting and significantly impact the trajectory of one’s recovery and legal compensation.

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