What Happens to the Spine During a Car Accident?
Car accidents are among the most common causes of traumatic spine injuries. While the spine is extremely important, it is also extremely fragile. When car accidents happen, the forces involved are more than enough to cause serious damage not only to the spine itself, but also to the spinal cord—which is a bundle of nerves running the length of the spine from the brain to the lumbar region. Spinal fractures and spinal cord injuries often have life-altering effects; and, while some can be treated, others have no known cure.
7 Ways Car Accidents Cause Spine Injuries
When dealing with an injury that damaged the spine during a car accident, understanding how the injury happened is critical for providing an accurate diagnosis and determining what treatment options are available. Broadly speaking, there are seven ways that car accidents can cause spine injuries:
The spine can only bend so far before suffering damage. In a car accident, bending the spine beyond its limits can lead to various types of injuries. This is true whether the spine bends side-to-side (i.e., in the event of a side-impact or T-bone accident) or the spine bends forward or backward (i.e., in the event of a head-on or rear-end collision).
Twisting the spine during a car accident can have effects similar to bending. In a car accident, various factors can result in a severe twisting motion, from the car rotating in the crash to the victim being ejected from the vehicle. Excessive twisting can damage both the spine and the spinal cord—and both short, rapid twists and being pinned in a twisted body position can have similar effects.
If the spine bends too far or twists too much, it will break. Spinal fractures are severe injuries that require emergency medical treatment. In some cases, prompt treatment can avoid the risk of long-term damage by relieving pressure on the spinal cord caused by the fractured vertebrae. But, many spinal fractures will have permanent, and often life-altering, consequences.
Injury to the spine during a car accident can also result from blunt-force trauma. If an object hits the back or neck during a car accident, or if a driver or passenger falls onto his or her back after being ejected, this can cause a potentially life-changing break in the spinal column as well.
Compression is another common cause of spine injuries resulting from car accidents. Rollovers and other types of accidents can cause spinal compression, and this can potentially cause fractures, herniations, and various other types of injuries. While the discs between the spinal vertebrae are there to serve as shock absorbers and prevent compression injuries, they can only withstand so much force before they rupture and fail.
Impingement occurs when the nerves in the spinal cord are placed under pressure from cracked or dislodged vertebrae, ruptured discs, or other factors. Nerve impingements can range widely in terms of their treatability and long-term risks, but prompt treatment will be necessary in most cases.
As mentioned above, the discs in the spine can rupture when placed under pressure due to compression. They can rupture due to blunt-force trauma and other causes as well. While ruptured discs (also referred to as herniated discs) are often treatable, they can cause severe pain and limitations; and, in the case of a car accident, they will often be accompanied by other spinal injuries.
In severe car accidents, the trauma involved can sever the spine. A severed spine is referred to as a complete spinal cord injury, which means that the injured driver or passenger will typically lose all function below the location of the injury. In the most severe cases, severing spine injuries can be fatal.
Treatment and Recovery for Spine Injuries from Car Accidents
For drivers and passengers who suffer spine injuries during car accidents, their treatment options and prognoses depend heavily on the severity, nature, and location of their injuries. As noted above, while many spine injuries are treatable, some are not. To maximize their chances of fully recovering or living as normal a life as possible, car accident victims should seek treatment promptly, and they should consult with a lawyer about seeking financial compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and other financial and non-financial losses.
If you or someone you love hurt their spine during a car accident, we encourage you to contact an Orlando car accident lawyer at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter as soon as possible for a free case review. During your complimentary initial consultation, we will listen to your story, assess the merits of your case, and explain your legal options.
To speak with a lawyer at our Orlando, FL law offices about your situation in confidence, please call (800) 766-1000 or request a FREE consultation online today.