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Back Pain After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Back Pain After Car Accident: What To Do

Do you know what to do for back pain after a car accident? Most people don’t.

If you have an idea of what you should be doing from what someone told you in high school gym class many years ago, consider that the thinking on what to do for this injury after any sort of trauma has completely changed in recent years.  

Back pain after a car accident, or injury after any trauma, should be taken seriously. If it is not properly diagnosed and treated, the result may be a lifetime of pain and disability.

In order to make the fastest possible recovery and protect their legal rights, it is important that people know what to do if they have any backaches following a collision, what types of specific injuries may be causing the pain, and what kinds of testing and treatment they can expect.

What To Do If You Have Chronic Back Pain After Car Accident

To ensure that you get the best medical care to make the fullest recovery and to make sure you receive the legal compensation you may be entitled to, follow these steps on what to do if you have chronic back pain after a car accident:

  1. Get examined by your doctor immediately: Time is of the essence when it comes to properly diagnosing an automobile crash-related injury.  The aching may be from a mechanical connective tissue or soft tissue injury, but that acute, chronic back pain after a car accident can also be caused by an extruded spinal disc fragment that may cause permanent nerve injury or even paralysis.  Unfortunately, as an injury lawyer, I’ve seen both conditions and the point is that you don’t know what is causing that intense, acute pain immediately following a crash.  Therefore, the sooner a person seeks treatment for an injury, the sooner he or she can begin receiving the necessary and appropriate medical care to get them on the road to good health. 
  2. Get medical treatment and the appropriate diagnostic imaging to rule out a more severe potential injury and to rule in what the actual cause of your backache is so it can be treated appropriately.  Plus, early medical documentation in the emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the automobile crash is the cause of your injury.  Early treatment and medical documentation is what insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care.  Showing a clear temporal relationship of the chronic back pain after a car accident and documentation of the injury and treatment also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your injury if it was caused by another driver’s carelessness behind the wheel.  Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, makes it often harder to get reluctant insurance companies to pay for your treatment, and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement after a crash.
  3. Don’t “tough it out”: No matter how slight or seemingly inconsequential the backache may seem to you, it could very likely be the beginning of what could become a serious injury if not treated promptly and properly.  As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many people who thought they had a minor injury right after a collision but within days or weeks the pain became severe and incapacitating.  Often what is happening here is the trauma or the crash causes a tear in the tough outer annulus part of a spinal disc, and then as people continue to move about and perform daily activities, more and more disc material begins to jut out of that tear in the annulus.  This can lead to a herniated spinal disc and surgery.
  4. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people suffering from back pain after a car accident: This is crucial for so many reasons.  The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what you may be entitled to.  An experienced injury attorney can help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness. 
  5. Tell your auto insurance company about your injury: Be sure to include your injury in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the crash.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  6. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your collision: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.

Can you sue for back pain after a car accident?

In Michigan, you can sue for back pain after a car accident. You can sue for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your crash-related back injury, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash. You also have to prove that your back injury constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under Michigan’s No-Fault Law.

If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off –Michigan No-Fault benefits related to your injury, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills and lost wages.

What causes back pain after a car accident?

Your back pain after a car accident may be the result of your back muscles and tendons being injured and/or your ligaments being stretched or torn by the physical trauma of the crash. Your back pain may also be caused by a herniated disc or fractured vertebrae. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Types of injuries after a crash

Based on our experience helping people who have suffered an injury after a crash, our attorneys have compiled the following list of some of the most common types of injuries after a crash that people frequently suffer:

  • Lumbar sprains and strains
  • Fractures (lumbar and thoracic vertebral fractures)
  • Spinal cord injuries to the back
  • Herniated discs (lumbar or thoracic)
  • Bulging discs
  • Ruptured discs
  • Protruding discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Bone alignment problems
  • Soft tissue damage

Where to go for back pain after a car accident?

If you are experiencing back pain at the scene of the car accident, then you should call for paramedics and go to the emergency room as soon as possible. 

However you leave the crash scene, you should go directly to an Emergency Room for medical diagnosis, care and treatment. 

Alternatively, you can try to see your family doctor that same day or as soon as possible after the crash but be aware that most family doctors will not be able to perform imaging to see if you have suffered a disc injury.  Most family doctors will prescribe pain and/or anti-inflammatory medication and tell you to wait and see.  

If you have back pain after a car accident an for whatever reason you cannot see a doctor on the same day of your crash, then the key is to make sure to seek out medical care as soon as possible. 

Diagnostic testing

Diagnostic testing is a key part of diagnosing and treating an injury after a crash.

Below are the diagnostic tests most frequently used by hospital and doctors to identify, diagnose and then treat injuries of crash victims.  An MRI is the most accurate, but most hospital Emergency Rooms will use a CT scan because it is cheaper and faster to perform.  An x-ray will tell you if there is a fracture in the spinal vertebrae and an EMG is used to determine if there is nerve impingement or nerve damage caused by an injury. These are the four most common diagnostic tests that people will undergo for backaches:

  • X-rays
  • CT Scans (Computerized Tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • EMG (Electromyography)


There is a wide range of possible medical treatments for people who are suffering from back pain after a car accident. It is not “one size fits all” so the right treatment will depend on the person, the nature and severity of the injury, the presentation of specific symptoms, and that person’s health and physical condition. 

Based on our attorneys’ experience, we know that the treatment options following this injury may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • Short-term bracing for the neck
  • Steroid injections to relieve pain
  • Surgery

Most pain after a collision can be thought of as mechanical.  Bed rest and pills were common older ways to treat backaches, but the focus now is on also getting people to some level of activity, such as light walking as tolerated.  When it comes to surgery, it is very important to note that unless there is a burst or extruded spinal disc, that this is extremely uncommon for people to undergo right away after a collision. There are many factors that go into a doctor’s eventual determination that surgery is the best course of action, but usually surgery is recommended after more conservative treatment modalities have failed to significantly improve pain and function. 

Backaches caused by any type of injury can still be very serious, and can even cause permanent pain and permanent disability, even when surgery is not recommended.

How long does back pain last after a car accident?

There is not a general answer that will apply to how long back pain will last after a car accident but in general most people with pain in this region of their body will see improvement within the first few months as injured connective tissue begins to heal.

The length of time that a person’s backache will last will depend on many factors, including the nature of the specific type of injury, what the diagnostic imaging shows, how soon treatment was begun, and the effectiveness of those treatment options.

Need help with back pain after a car accident? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law.

If you have suffered from chronic back pain after a car accident and/or an injury and you have questions about your legal rights and the significant legal compensation that you may be entitled to, call us toll free at (248) 353-7575  for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

Back Pain