At some point in your life, you will likely experience back problems, whether from getting older, poor posture, or some other reason. In some cases, your back issues may cause other problems — such as sciatica, a type of nerve pain. If your back was injured in a car accident and triggered sciatica as a result, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The pain from sciatica can be intense. If left untreated, it may even cause permanent nerve damage. In these cases, a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can help you file a claim so that you can get the compensation that you need to recover from your injuries.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica is a condition that causes pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve. This nerve branches from the lower back through the hips and buttocks on each leg. In most cases, sciatica only impacts one side of the body.
The most common cause of sciatica is when the sciatic nerve is compressed, often by a herniated disc, bone spur on the spine, or a narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis). When the nerve is compressed, it becomes inflamed, and pain and numbness may result in the affected leg.
The symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain that radiates from the lumbar spine to the leg, typically from the low back to the buttock, and the back of the thigh and calf
- Pain that may be worse when coughing or sneezing, or when sitting for a prolonged period of time
- Numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot.
Sciatica pain can vary from a mild ache to a sharp burning sensation. Some people have excruciating pain from sciatica. Untreated, sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage.
A doctor can diagnose sciatica through a physical exam, along with imaging tests. These tests may show the presence of the underlying cause of sciatica, such as a herniated disc or bone spurs. Tests may include an x-ray, MRI, CT scan, and/or an electromyography (EMG) test to measure the electrical impulses produced by your nerves and your muscles’ response.
To treat sciatica, doctors may prescribe prescription medication to calm the inflammation as well as physical therapy to prevent future injuries. In some cases, a steroid injection can help to control the pain. If sciatica causes loss of bowel or bladder control, progressively worsening pain, or significant weakness, surgery may be necessary.
The Link Between Car Crashes and Sciatica
One of the leading causes of sciatica is compression of the nerve due to an issue within the spine. These types of injuries are often caused by a traumatic injury, such as a motor vehicle accident. Any impact to the lumbar spine or the sacral spinal nerve roots may damage the nerves, leading to sciatica. In addition, fragments of broken bone within the spine may compress the sciatic nerve.
One of the primary causes of sciatica is a herniated disc. The force of a car accident can cause a herniated or slipped disc, which can then trigger sciatica. Whenever a person experiences a back injury during a vehicle collision, particularly to the lower back, sciatica may result.
If you have been in a car accident, you should seek medical treatment immediately — particularly if you have lower back pain or pain radiating down one leg. Seeing a doctor after a wreck can protect your health and wellbeing, as well as a potential recovery in a car accident claim. A physician can diagnose your condition, and ensure that you are getting the treatment that you need to prevent permanent damage.
How You Can Obtain Compensation for Your Accident-Related Sciatica
If you have been involved in a car crash in Washington D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This may include money for past and future medical treatment lost wages, and reduced earning potential. In addition, you can often recover money for your pain and suffering and other intangible harms that you have suffered (like disfigurement or scarring).
The process for obtaining compensation for an accident-related injury like sciatica typically starts with a consultation with a car accident lawyer. These initial meetings are usually offered free of charge and include an evaluation of your claim based on the attorney’s knowledge of the law and experience handling these types of lawsuits. A lawyer can advise you of your options, including whether you may be able to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
If you decide to hire an attorney, your lawyer will thoroughly investigate your case in order to prepare a claim. The facts of your case will be analyzed in light of laws on negligence and damages in your jurisdiction so that your lawyer can make a strong argument for why the other driver was at fault under the law — and why the insurance company is liable for your damages. In most cases, this includes sending a demand letter to the other side’s insurance company. This letter will outline what happened, why the insurer’s driver was responsible, and your injuries or losses. It will conclude with a demand for a settlement.
After receiving a demand letter, the insurance company will perform its own investigation, and will usually counter with a settlement offer of its own. In many cases, the offer from the insurance company will be far lower than your actual losses. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced attorney; your lawyer can negotiate the best possible settlement for you, based on the facts of your case, or take your case to court for a jury trial if a fair settlement isn’t possible.
The insurance company may also use its own attorneys to make a legal argument for why the company’s insured wasn’t at fault. This is where your lawyer can use his experience and knowledge to counter the insurance company.
The insurer may shade the facts to its advantage, for example, or use an interpretation of the law that simply isn’t fair or correct. After all, the company’s goal is to minimize or deny claims. Your attorney will make an argument about how this interpretation is legally wrong — and may even inform the insurance company that based on its experience if the case goes to trial, a jury verdict will likely be much higher than what you are asking for in a settlement. This is why it is critical to work with a lawyer with trial experience; the insurance company is more likely to take them seriously.
The majority of personal injury cases result in a settlement. However, if the two sides cannot agree to a settlement, then your attorney may pursue a lawsuit in court. This has to be done within a certain time frame, known as the statute of limitations.
For example, most personal injury cases in the District of Columbia must be filed within 3 years of the date that you knew or should have known of an injury (with some exceptions to this general rule). Maryland also has a 3-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, while Virginia has a 2-year statute of limitations. Your lawyer can make sure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations, and can explain the special rules for filing a claim against the government.
If a lawsuit is filed, the parties will then go through a process of discovery, which involves exchanging information in requests for production, interrogatories, requests for admissions, and depositions. Your lawyer will draft these requests and interrogatories in a manner that is designed to get information that will help your case based on the legal standards for your jurisdiction.
For example, a request for admissions may ask the other driver to admit that the driver was texting and driving during the accident. A request for production may ask for records from the other driver’s navigation system (or “black box”) to demonstrate the vehicle was speeding.
At the same time, the other side will be serving requests for production, interrogatories, and requests for admission to your attorney. Your attorney should be prepared to respond in a way that complies with the law while best advancing your case and protecting your interests. For example, if the insurance company asks you to produce information about a past medical issue unrelated to your back injury or sciatica, your attorney can object to the question — and may even go to court to prevent the disclosure of this information.
During discovery, you may be asked to participate in a deposition. At a deposition, the insurance company’s lawyers will ask you questions, under oath, about the accident, your injuries and other relevant facts. Your attorney will also be there to protect you from any abusive questioning. For example, if the insurance company’s lawyer keeps asking you the same question phrased in a different way (to get you to trip up or accidentally change your story), your attorney can object. In some cases, your lawyer may even stop the deposition to prevent the other side from badgering you or asking abusive questions — and may even ask the judge to intervene.
Even after a lawsuit is filed, most personal injury cases will settle before trial, particularly if your lawyer has trial experience and the insurance company is aware of the possibility of a difficult court battle. If there is a trial, your lawyer will walk you through the steps, including jury selection, opening statements, testimony, closing arguments, jury instructions, and the verdict. If you are unsatisfied with the verdict or a ruling that the judge made during the trial, you may be able to file an appeal.
Hurt in an Accident? Contact Us Today.
Pain from sciatica isn’t just uncomfortable — it can seriously interfere with your ability to work and perform day-to-day activities. Sciatica may be caused by trauma or injury to your back from a car accident. In these situations, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you recover the money that you need to focus on your health.
Patrick Malone & Associates only represents people who have been injured by another party’s negligence or intentional misconduct. We work tirelessly to get clients the compensation they deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 202-742-1500.