Back injuries are one of the most frequent, and most painful, consequence of an automobile accident. Unlike injuries to other parts of the body, even a seemingly minor injury to your back can affect every aspect of your day-to-day life. In some cases, the effects of a back injury are chronic and will last the rest of your life.
The most serious type of back injury is damage to the spinal cord, which connects your brain to the rest of your body. The impact of a car accident can damage the nerves within your spine, leading to temporary or permanent paralysis. An impact to the lower or middle part of your spine can lead to paraplegia, the inability to use your legs, while a neck or upper spinal injury may cause quadriplegia, the inability to use both your arms and legs.
Another common back injury is a herniated or slipped disc. This occurs when the impact of an accident damages one of the cushions within your spinal column that separate your vertebrae. While a herniated disc may not be as severe as a spinal cord injury, it can still cause pain, numbness, or weakness. A herniated disc in the lower part of the back may lead to sciatica, a chronic and debilitating condition that causes severe shooting pains in the leg.
A third type of back injury is known as a compression fracture. Older persons are especially susceptible to this type of injury, which results from tiny cracks in the spine that eventually cause deformities in the spinal column, leading to serious pain and breathing difficulties. Many compression fractures caused from car accidents go undiagnosed and are incorrectly dismissed as a natural sign of aging.
Finally, the back is subject to “soft tissue” injuries that often go overlooked. Even a relatively low-speed vehicle collision may cause such injury which, if gone untreated, can lead to the same types of chronic pain or disability seen with other types of back injuries described above.
Always Get Proper Medical Treatment
If you've suffered any type of back injury as the result of a car accident, it is important to seek immediate medical attention and properly document any diagnosis or treatment you receive. If the accident was the result of another party's negligence, you may need to prove your injuries were not the result of a preexisting condition.
Here is a recent example from the Appellate Division, Second Department. In 2007, a Suffolk County sheriff's deputy rear-ended another vehicle. The driver of that second vehicle suffered several herniated discs as a result. At trial before the Suffolk Supreme Court, a jury held the county liable for damages.
At trial, and later on appeal, the county argued the victim's injuries arose from a pre-existing degenerative condition. But the victim's doctors testified that, to the contrary, any such precondition was “minimal and insignificant,” and it was the accident that damaged their patient's spine. The Second Department agreed there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict in favor of the victim.
In addition to getting the right medical attention, you should also consult with an experienced New York car accident lawyer who can advise you on the type of damages you may receive as the result of another driver's negligence. Contact our office today if you have any questions.