This post was originally published in December 2019. It has since been updated with new information and was most recently updated on November 9, 2020.
Your spine, while durable, is not immune to injury or permanent damage.
Whether you are in a motorbike accident, trip and fall, or another catastrophic event, one area prone to injury is that of the spine. The spine is split into multiple sections, and not all are at high risk for injury. Knowing which areas of the spine are more prone to injury, however, can help you better understand why you sustained the injuries you did after your accident.
The Areas Most Prone to Damage: Cervical and Lumbar Portions
While the spine is comprised of multiple regions, the ones most susceptible to damage are the cervical and lumbar regions.
Understanding the Cervical Area of the Spine – Your Neck
The cervical area of your spine starts at the base of your skull. Here you have seven vertebrae that extend down your neck and into the upper back region. Even a minor car accident can cause acute neck pain. This happens when a muscle or ligament is strained. These injuries do not require surgical intervention. Instead, they will heal on their own and may only require minor treatments to alleviate the pain.
You could suffer a more serious injury to your neck after an accident. Some common, more serious injuries to the cervical area of the spine include:
- Herniated Disc – A bulging or ruptured fragment of the disc in your spinal canal. It can occur naturally through degeneration, but also can occur prematurely due to trauma.
- Spondylolisthesis – This is a spinal disorder that may occur from genetics, but may also occur from repeated stress on the bones from recreational activities. It occurs when the vertebra slips forward into the bone beneath it.
- Whiplash – Whiplash occurs from the violent whipping motion your body experiences in an accident. The head is forced into a position of hyperextension, which then turns into flexion. While common in rear-end collisions, you can see it in falls and sports, too.
- Neck Fracture – A neck fracture means that the cervical bone has broken. It can be caused by physical trauma, such as that experienced in a car accident. The force and angle of impact will determine how severe the neck fracture is, and sometimes surgical intervention is required.
- Cervical Dislocation – A dislocation is when the cervical bone moves from its normal position and creates spinal instability. Dislocations from injury can be painful, and they will irritate ligaments holding the area in place.
- Spinal Cord Injury or Damage – A spinal cord injury can happen when a fracture, dislocation, or severe neck trauma occurs. The spinal cord, which is protected by the spine, is very delicate and controls numerous motor functions. When the spinal cord is damaged at the third vertebra or higher, it is often fatal because a person requires a respirator in order to breathe.
Understanding the Lower Back (Lumbar Spine)
The lower back of the body, also known as your lumbar spine, is the most prone to injury – especially a strain injury. Lower back pain is a common complaint following a car accident. The lower back is made up of bones, muscles, and tissues that connect all the way from the cervical spine down to your pelvic bone.
A common injury following a motor vehicle accident is a lumbar sprain or strain. When your body experiences an excessive force, such as that in a motor vehicle collision, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles all can stretch too far and create an injury. These strains often leave a victim with chronic pain that lasts for weeks – sometimes even months. In more severe cases, a person could have micro-tears in their ligaments and tendons, which can lead to further complications.
Another injury seen in the lumbar spine is an annular tear. The lumbar area has 5 vertebrae, and each vertebra has a soft disc in between it. These discs are surrounded by tissue protecting the delicate nucleus inside. These areas, especially as you age, are prone to cracks and fissures, referred to as “annular tears.”
When an annular tear occurs, you will have pain and inflammation surrounding the affected disc. Only a skilled physician can diagnose an annular tear because it typically only presents with back pain. Back pain can result from numerous injuries and activities, which is why annular tears are often misdiagnosed.
Establishing Fault in a Louisville Spine Injury Accident
Spine and back injuries can result in lifelong injuries that severely limit your ability to work and live your life the way you want to live it. While Kentucky personal injury law provides accident victims with the ability to pursue a claim against parties responsible for their injuries, it is important to understand how to prove these claims.
Most spine injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. In Kentucky, accident victims must establish each of the following elements to prove a negligence claim:
- The defendant owed the accident victim a duty of care;
- Through either some action or inaction, the defendant violated the duty of care owed to the accident victim;
- The plaintiff suffered some type of legally recognizable injury; and
- The defendant’s breach of duty resulted in the accident victim’s injuries.
While every case is different, typically, the “duty” element of a personal injury case is not disputed. For example, doctors owe their patients a duty of care to provide reasonable medical care, and drivers owe other motorists a duty of care to safely operate their vehicles. However, establishing that a defendant breached that duty and that the defendant’s breach of the duty resulted in the victim’s injuries, is a much more complicated analysis.
Can You Get Compensation for Spinal Injuries in an Accident?
Injuries to your cervical or lumbar spine can be expensive. Not only do you have the initial medical care, but you may need long-term care, corrective surgeries, and for some individuals, they may have lifelong disabilities as a result.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, and you suffered a cervical or lumbar spine injury, you have the right to compensation. The law allows you to collect compensation from the at-fault party.
Some of the compensation you may be entitled to receive includes:
- Medical Costs – You can receive compensation for any medical expenses you or your health insurance has already paid for, prescription drugs, medical equipment, surgeries, hospitalizations, and any long-term medical costs of future medical care required.
- Lost Wages – You may take time off of work to recover from your injuries. If the damage is permanent, you may be unable to work or at least return to the same job at the same earning capacity. Regardless, you are entitled to lost wages as well as any loss of earning capacity.
- Pain and Suffering – While no dollar amount will take away your physical, emotional, and mental suffering, you have the right to seek compensation for those losses.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident and now you find yourself facing an insurmountable number of medical bills, you should speak with an attorney right away. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the faster you may be able to resolve your claim and receive compensation.
To explore your options, contact attorney Seth Gladstein. He has helped countless victims just like you recover compensation after a serious accident leads to spinal injuries.
Get started with a free consultation by calling the office or requesting information online.