The spinal cord sends nerve signals from the brain to other parts of the body and vice versa. When the spine gets injured, limited mobility, debilitating pain, numbness, or complete loss of use can follow. Car accidents are the cause of most spinal injuries. The part of the spine that is injured and the severity of the injury will determine how much function is impaired and how permanent the impairment will be. If suffered a car accident spine injury, an experienced attorney can investigate the accident and seek compensation for your injuries. Chuck Franklin Law has been litigating serious personal injury cases involving spinal injuries in Arizona for more than 35 years. You can contact Chuck Franklin directly at 480-545-0700 to schedule a free consultation.
The Anatomy of the Spine
The spine significantly affects mobility. As described by the University of Maryland Medical Center, the spine is the frame that provides the structure for the body. The spine is composed of small bones called vertebrae that stack atop one another from the pelvis to the base of the skull. Vertebrae are separated by cushions called discs. They are connected to ligaments, tendons, and joints.
Vertebrae have openings in their centers that allow the spinal cord to run the length of the spinal column so the brain can communicate with the rest of the body. The spine protects and supports the delicate nerve tissues that allow our bodies to function. Spinal vertebrae are classified into the following four segments:
- Cervical – Cervical vertebrae are the first seven vertebrae below the base of the skull.
- Thoracic – Thoracic vertebrae are the next twelve vertebrae in the mid-back.
- Lumbar – Lumbar vertebrae are five vertebrae in the lower back.
- Sacrum – The sacrum is at the end of the spine and includes the tailbone.
Injuries to the spine are described by the segment of the spine that is affected. When vertebrae are injured in a car accident spine injury, the spinal cord may be damaged as well.
Spinal Injury Facts and Statistics
According to the National Spinal Cord Injuries Statistical Center (NSCSC), there are close to 18,000 new spinal cord injuries in the United States each year. There are almost 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries at any point. The life expectancy for persons living with spinal cord injuries is significantly lower than for persons without spinal cord injuries.
Other recent spinal cord injury statistics reported by the NSCSC include:
- The average age at the time of the injury has increased from 29 in the 1970s to 43 since 2015.
- Almost 80% of those experiencing spinal cord injuries are men.
- The most common result of a spinal cord injury is incomplete quadriplegia, which means all four limbs are affected but still possess some amount of sensory and motor function.
- Persons with spinal cord injuries are more susceptible to death from pneumonia and septicemia.
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Injury from a Car Accident
During a motor vehicle accident, car accident spine injuries occur from the trauma caused to the body by the force of impact. Sometimes a spinal injury is suspected immediately. In other situations, the symptoms of injury may not appear for days or even weeks following an accident. Prompt medical attention after a potential spinal injury can help victims receive the care they need, as well as document their injuries.
After a car accident, Johns Hopkins Medicine says the following symptoms suggest a spinal injury may have occurred:
- Sharp pain in the head, neck, or back
- Numbness or tingling
- Inability to control any part of the body
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble with balance/walking
Be aware of symptoms that may develop over time. Some injuries to the spine set in motion circumstances that can create further damage in the future.
Car Accident Spine Injuries and Pre-Existing Conditions
Injuries to the spine can include damage to the soft tissues connected to the vertebrae, the vertebrae, and the spinal cord. But what happens when a person who had low back pain before a car accident suffers a lumbar injury? The law says that when a new injury makes an old injury or existing medical condition worse, the injured person may be entitled to compensation for the additional damage.
The challenge with pre-existing injuries or conditions is separating the injury that pre-existed the car accident from the new injury following the accident. If someone with low back pain before an accident develops numbness and tingling in their legs after the accident, the accident may have exacerbated the cause of the low back pain and caused new damage to the spinal cord. Medical records that clearly detail the different symptoms can help demonstrate the differences.
Long-Term Prognosis for Spinal Injuries
Spinal injuries following car accidents can be debilitating. These injuries can take months or years to heal. Some spinal injuries never heal. Injuries to the spinal cord are the most serious type of spinal injury and rarely heal completely. The Shepherd Center reports that 85% of the people with spinal cord injuries who survive the first 24 hours will be alive ten years later, and 60% will be alive 25 years later.
Persons with spinal cord injuries tend to be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses (primarily pneumonia) and blood poisoning by bacteria (septicemia). However, in recent years both the quantity and the quality of years lived after a spinal cord injury have been increasing.
Get Help Recovering for a Spinal Injury Caused by a Car Accident
Spinal injuries can completely disrupt and change a person’s life for months, years, and even a lifetime. If you have suffered a car accident spine injury, seek medical treatment right away to get a diagnosis and prevent further damage. Extensive and ongoing medical care may be necessary to restore maximum function.
Chuck Franklin of Chuck Franklin Law has the personal injury experience and knowledge to capably help clients with spinal injuries from car accidents. Consider scheduling a free consultation with Chuck Franklin by calling him directly at 480-545-0700.