A spine injury from a car accident is a serious and potentially life-altering personal injury. Trauma to the cervical spine, lumbar spine or thoracic spine can damage or sever the spinal cord and cause paralysis from the neck down or from the waist down. Nearly 40% of these injuries are caused by car accidents.
The medicine involved in an injury to the spine can also have important implications on a lawsuit, in particular a life care plan and future damages based on life-altering consequences that can occur for years and even decades after an initial trauma to the spine.
There are three main regions of a person’s spine. They are:
- Cervical spine (neck and upper back)
- Thoracic spine (mid-back – about the same level as your lungs)
- Lumbar spine (lower back)
When this injury occurs, the consequences are usually to the areas of the body below the injury site on the spine. That’s why injuries that occur high up on a person’s spine – especially near the neck – are so dangerous. They could result in quadriplegia or paralysis from the neck down.
It’s vital that an auto accident victim seek immediate medical attention, care and treatment if they are suspected of having suffered this injury.
Immediate medical attention is the best chance to avoiding permanent damage to the spine and to maximize the chances of recovery.
What is a spine injury from a car accident?
A spine injury from a car accident is an injury to the cervical, lumbar or thoracic spine. If it impairs, interferes with or severs the spinal cord – which contains the nerves that connect a person’s brain to the rest of the body and is protected by the spine – then the injury could result in paralysis.
Paralysis involves permanent damage to the spinal cord and nerves of the spinal cord, resulting in loss of the ability to control movement or feel sensation and disruption of other body functions below the injury site.
A an injury that involves all or nearly total loss of sensory and motor function is referred to as “complete” paralysis. If some sensory or motor function remains, then the paralysis is called “incomplete.”
These injuries are commonly identified by the vertebrae (the bones of the spine) affected. This will also usually correspond to the area of the body that may have lost function or sensation, although indirect consequences of this injury can affect systems and organs throughout the body.
Nearly 40% of all spine injuries are caused by car accidents. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) reports that every year since 2015 “vehicle crashes are the most recent leading cause of injury” to the spine (39.3%). (See: NSCISC, National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), “Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance,” 2019 SCI Data Sheet)
The forces of impact involved in a car accident cause trauma to the spine, the spinal cord and the nerves of the spinal. The force of impact from a collision does not need to be severe or violent to cause a spinal cord injury and even paralysis. Factors that can also cause spine injury from a car accident include whether a person’s head was turned, seat position in the vehicle, the height, weight, gender, and whether the occupant suffered from conditions such as degenerative disc disease that made them more susceptible to trauma.
Symptoms of spine injury from a car accident
If you were involved in a collision and you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, then you may have suffered a spinal cord injury and you should immediately seek medical attention:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of motion
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of sense of temperature
- Loss of sense of touch
- Feeling a tingling sensation
- Difficulty breathing
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pinching sensation along your spine
- Painful stinging along your spine
- Problems with your digestion
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
The most devastating and life-altering effect of a spine injury from a car accident is paralysis. This occurs when a person’s spinal cord is so damaged by a car accident that he or she loses the ability to move his or her arms and legs. In addition to the loss of movement below the injury site, the person loses feeling and sensation.
Quadriplegia is paralysis that results in little to no movement or sensation from the neck down. It is most often associated with injuries to the cervical spine.
However, paraplegia refers to paralysis that only affects the lower half of the injured person’s body, i.e., from the waist down. This occurs most often with injuries to the thoracic spine.
Spinal cord injuries require extensive treatment costs, so it’s important to consult with an injury attorney who has experience handling spinal cord injury lawsuits. The attorneys at Michigan Auto Law have significant experience helping victims who have suffered from these injuries after a motor vehicle collision. Our attorneys regularly educate other lawyers in Michigan and at seminars throughout the country on how to properly handle lawsuits, the future medical needs and life care plans involved in lawsuits, and how to properly document the full extent of the injuries, harms and losses when trauma has occurred.
Significantly, thanks to the research done by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, we have a clear picture of what the yearly health care costs and living expenses will be for spinal cord injury survivors (not counting lost wages, lost fringe benefits and lost productivity):
- SCI survivor who suffered quadriplegia – 1st year expenses are $1,129,302 and $196,107 for each subsequent year
- SCI survivor who suffered paraplegia – 1st year expenses are $550,381 and $72,909 for each subsequent year
(Source: National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), “Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance,” 2019 SCI Data Sheet)
Can I sue for spine injury from a car accident?
Yes. You actually may have two different lawsuits if you have suffered a spine injury from a car accident.
If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to your spine injury from a car accident, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills, attendant care, medical mileage, replacement services and lost wages because your injuries have prevented you from returning to work.
You can also bring a lawsuit to sue the at-fault driver for the injuries, pain and suffering compensation, future wage loss and economic costs and future medical care required as a result of your car accident-related injuries.
Suffer a spine injury from a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law first
If you have suffered a spine injury from a car accident, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.