Each day in Washington, D.C., there is an average of 72 car accidents — a yearly total of 26,459 crashes in 2017 alone. Of those 72 accidents, 18 collisions result in injuries. In many cases, these injuries will lead to serious, debilitating pain.
Even fender benders and other minor traffic accidents can lead to significant injuries, such as neck and lower back pain. While it may not be obvious immediately after an accident, these types of injuries can cause lifelong challenges for sufferers.
When a person is not diagnosed with a back or neck injury soon after a collision, they run the risk of never being fully compensated for their injuries. Working with a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can help you avoid this outcome. Your attorney can guide you to the right resources, help you get medical treatment — and get you the settlement or court verdict that you deserve.
Why Neck and Back Injuries Occur in Car Accidents
The mechanisms of a motor vehicle collision are simple yet brutal. One vehicle slams into another and the sudden force often causes the occupants of one or both vehicles to suffer injuries. Our necks and backs — which anchor our bodies — are particularly sensitive to the type of impact often seen in these collisions.
As a car, truck or SUV hits another vehicle (or even an object, such as a telephone pole), the sudden force causes everything and everyone in the vehicle to move in the direction of the object being hit. Restraints and other items in the car, like the dashboard and steering wheel, will stop this motion — but not without causing damage to the bodies of the driver and passengers.
Our necks and backs are delicate and consist of a string of vertebrae stacked along a cord, which contains a bundle of nerves. These vertebrae are separated by soft discs that cushion the hard bones of the vertebrae as they move. When our spinal column is subject to the extreme force generated by car accidents, it may become damaged as a result.
Common Neck and Back Injuries from Car Crashes
While any number of injuries can lead to neck and back pain, one of the most frequent diagnoses is whiplash. This type of injury involves a violent jerking of the neck from a sudden change in momentum, usually caused by a driver hitting another vehicle from behind. This causes soft tissue damage to the muscles and ligaments of the neck
Whiplash is characterized by neck pain and stiffness, along with loss of range of motion in the neck. People who suffer from this condition may also suffer from headaches, fatigue, dizziness, back pain, and tenderness or pain in the shoulders, upper back, or arms. Many people with whiplash also find that their neck pain increases with movement.
In some wrecks, a severe impact may cause spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord is the thick bundle of nerves that extends from the brain through the spinal column. These nerves allow the brain to control all of the body’s functions, both conscious and unconscious.
Any damage to the spinal cord can cause permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the injury site. This may include loss of movement, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of or altered sensation, difficulty breathing or coughing, changes in sexual function, exaggerated reflex activities or spasms, and/or pain or an intense stinging sensation.
High-speed impacts may also cause spinal fractures, including in the neck and spine. A person who breaks their neck or spine may not survive this type of injury. If they do, they may suffer from lifelong side effects, including chronic neck and lower back pain.
Finally, any type of car accident can cause soft tissue injuries, which include contusions, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, stress injuries, and strains. In comparison to a fracture or spinal cord damage, these injuries may seem minor — but they can cause severe pain. In many cases, soft tissue injuries require ongoing treatment or surgical intervention. They may lead to limited mobility or permanent disability if the injury cannot be effectively treated.
The Importance of Seeking Medical Treatment
It may be tempting after what seems like a minor car accident to just go home or head to work and go about your day. Doing so would be a mistake.
Neck and lower back injuries often don’t show up right after a car accident. It may take a few days or even a few weeks for you to start feeling sore, stiff or other symptoms of an injury to your neck or back. Going to the hospital or to your doctor right after a car accident can protect you in several ways.
First, getting a diagnosis as soon as possible will help you get the treatment that you need. Your doctor will be better able to address the problem if they see you immediately after an accident, rather than one month or two months down the road, when your injured body parts may be swollen and inflamed.
Second, if you fail to seek treatment right away, the insurance company may use this to try to deny your claim. They may argue that it was your own decision to not seek treatment that caused your injuries or made them worse. This can limit your overall recovery.
Third, the insurance company may claim that your neck and back issues are actually from a pre-existing condition, and not from the accident. The sooner that you seek a diagnosis and treatment, the better your attorney will be able to fight back against this argument. After all, if a doctor saw you shortly after the crash and made a note of the injury along with its cause, it is hard for the insurance company to argue that it was pre-existing.
Questions? We Can Help.
Neck and back injuries can cause long-term pain and disability. If you have suffered this type of injury from a car accident, a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can help you get the money that you need to get your life back on track. This may include damages for lost wages, medical expenses, future medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more.
Patrick Malone & Associates works with clients who have been injured in car accidents and other types of personal injury cases. We firmly believe that our clients can achieve justice through the civil legal system — and that we can use our experience to help them do just that. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 202-742-1500 or contact us online.