What to Do if You Have Back Pain after a Car Accident

Every day in New York state, an average of three people die from vehicle accidents. Almost 137,000 people in the state, on average, get sent to the Emergency Room every year after accidents on the road, and more than 12,000 end up hospitalized.

In the United States, car and other vehicle crashes are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries, which often have devastating consequences. Even a relatively minor car accident can cause back injuries because our backs can't safely absorb the immense force of a crash.

Back injuries can be expensive to treat and can severely affect your life. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your losses and injuries, but it is difficult to navigate the legal system by yourself. Insurance companies may try to take advantage of people who file claims without being represented by a lawyer, and you could miss out on much of the compensation that the law provides. 

It's important to find a lawyer with the experience, strength, and compassion to give you all the help you need. Our award-winning personal injury law firm, Raphaelson & Levine, has helped clients receive a total of more than $700 million in settlements and verdicts. We are the “Voice of the Injured,” and our goal is to provide our clients with hope for a better future. We invite you to call us today at 212-268-3222 for a free consultation.

Types of Back Injuries Caused by Motor Vehicle Accidents

The spine is made of 33 small individual bones called "vertebrae." These are typically divided into three sections: the cervical vertebrae in the neck, the thoracic vertebrae in the upper back, and the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. 

Many structures of the body surround the vertebrae of the spine -- muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, and nerves. Injury to any of these may cause pain that can range from mild to debilitating. Sometimes back pain is temporary, but in other cases, it is permanent and can only be treated, not cured.

These are some of the most common injuries people get in car accidents that are likely to cause back pain:

Whiplash Injuries

The most common form of neck injury is whiplash, which is often caused by low-speed rear-end collisions. The force of the impact of a vehicle crash makes the head jerk back and forth in the whip-like motion that gives this injury its name. The violent motion can stretch or tear the neck’s muscles and tendons.

Mild cases of whiplash can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medication and exercise and will usually get better by themselves. More serious cases may cause chronic neck pain and require more extensive medical care.

Muscle Strains and Sprains

The impact from an auto accident can tear or abnormally stretch back muscles and tear ligaments away from their attachments. Symptoms of these soft-tissue car accident injuries include pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, and/or spasms.

Home treatments for mild and moderate cases include anti-inflammatory medication and applying heat and cold. More severe cases may require physical therapy and can take longer to heal.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Spinal discs lie between the vertebrae. Any problems with the discs can cause severe back pain from the discs themselves or because they are pressing on nerves. Degenerative disc disease is often age-related  wear and tear on the discs over time, but the impact of a car crash can cause an instant disc injury.

Treatment options range from medication to surgery, depending on the nature and severity of the condition.

Spinal Cord Injuries

A sudden blow to the spine can cause severe, permanent, and disabling injuries. Spinal cord injuries are the worst type of back injury. For younger people, car accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries. 

Someone with spinal cause injuries may lose function and sensation below the injury site. In addition to total or partial paralysis, spinal cord injuries can cause chronic pain, blood clots, infections, and other severe problems. 

Lumbar Spine Injury From Car Accident

The lumbar spine is the low back, just above the sacrum, which is the lowest part of the spine. In the numbering system that doctors use, the vertebrae in the lumbar spine are numbered L1 through L5, and they are the spine's largest vertebrae. The lumbar spine provides stability to the back, and the muscles in the lumbar region are the spine's strongest. 

A car accident can strain or sprain the muscles of the lumbar spine, causing lower back pain, swelling, and bruising and limiting the car accident victim's ability to move.

Thoracic Spine Injury Caused by a Car Accident

The thoracic spine is the upper and middle back, between the neck and lumbar spine and supporting the rib cage. The vertebrae are numbered T1 to T12. Injuries to the thoracic spine are often the most severe back injuries.

High-speed car accidents that cause sprains or fractures in the thoracic spine can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Spinal Cord Injury After Car Accident

The spinal cord consists of nerve cells and fibers extending from the brain stem to the lower back. It runs through the vertebrae, which surround and protect it. The vertebrae, spinal cord, and the discs between the vertebrae make up the backbone or spinal column.

A crucial role is played by the spinal cord, which carries signals from the brain to the body. Spinal cord injuries caused by car crashes are the most serious back injuries. These injuries can result in paralysis, loss of sensation, or death.

Herniated Disc From Car Accident

The sudden impact of a car crash can damage discs, and the consequences can be severe. The spine has 23 discs that separate the vertebrae and cushion and seal the spaces between them. A herniated disc, also commonly called a slipped disc, occurs when a disc gets damaged, and its soft inner core leaks out. The disc becomes displaced and can press on nearby nerves. Pain can be intense. A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine but is more common in the lumbar region (lower back), where it can cause numbness in the legs and feet. Herniated discs in the cervical spine (neck) can make the arms and hands numb.

Common Symptoms of a Back Injury 

Back injuries are common after car crashes. Sometimes, the symptoms don't appear until the next day. If you have any of the following symptoms after a car accident, you should see a doctor right away, even if they are mild. Don't take any chances! Back injuries can cause permanent disabilities. You should become aware of the common symptoms of back injuries to know when you need to seek medical attention.

Symptoms That are Warning Signs of a Back Injury:

  • Pain, which can be mild, moderate, or severe.
  • Pain that radiates down the buttocks and legs.
  • Stiffness.
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, legs, or feet.
  • Difficulty standing or walking.
  • Muscle spasms.

What to Do if You Feel Back Pain after a Car Accident

Our backs are a complex and delicate system of nerves, bones, discs, muscles, and tendons. They hold us up, enable our movements, and carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body. All the components of the back are vulnerable to injury, especially to the kind of forceful, sudden impacts that occur in car accidents. The effects can be devastating. You should get medical attention after a crash as soon as possible to get a diagnosis and begin any necessary treatment.

Once you have seen a doctor, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Claims for back injuries are often complex and, because the amount of money at stake can be high, the other party’s insurance company will often put up a fight. The back injury lawyers at the Raphaelson & Levine law firm will vigorously represent you and help you get all the compensation the law provides. 

Treatment for Back Injuries in NYC

In New York City, we are fortunate to have many excellent doctors and hospitals. Treatments for back injuries depend on the type and severity of the injuries.

Common Treatments Include:

  • Diagnosis using an MRI, CT scans, or x-rays.

Short-Term Care May Include:

  • Resting for a few days after the accident.
  • Over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatories.
  • Prescribed painkillers or muscle relaxants.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Corticosteroid injections.
  • Chiropractic care.  

Long-Term Care Which May Include:

  • Surgery, which may be required for spinal cord injuries, herniated discs, and fractures.
  • Physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
  • Support groups.

Compensation for a Back Injury Due to a Car Accident

If you were injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and for any income you lost from not being able to work the way you could before the accident. You may also be eligible to get compensation for your pain and suffering, and this amount can be substantial. 

Back injuries can be deceiving. The onset of pain can be delayed, and the pain may be mild even if the injury is severe and potentially disabling. You should monitor yourself for any unusual sensations in your back and get medical attention immediately if you experience even mild back pain or discomfort. The sooner you start any necessary treatment, the better your chances are for recovery. Getting a medical exam early on is also helpful for documenting the extent of your injuries and how they will affect your life. This will be helpful when you file a claim for your injuries and need to prove that you are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.

Discuss Your Legal Options with a Personal Injury Attorney

The skilled back injury attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine have helped thousands of New Yorkers get compensation for their injuries. If you were injured in a car crash, we invite you to contact our Manhattan law office at 212-268-3222 for a free consultation in English, Spanish, Mandarin, or Russian. We would be glad to answer your questions, explain what’s involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit, and discuss your legal options. You can have a better future!

Sources
Andrew Levine
Andrew J. Levine is a partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, in New York, NY. A graduate of Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. For 15 years he has been widely trusted and respected as a formidable attorney but acknowledged as a reasonable and ethical collaborator who impresses clients, judges and jurors alike. Andrew has been featured in New York Magazine as one of New York’s “Top Personal Injury Litigators” and recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Personal Injury Attorney in New York.”
View Attorney Profile