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Herniated Disc After A Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Herniated Disc After A Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Many people suffer from a herniated disc after a car accident. Without proper treatment, this injury can result in chronic pain, disability and even paralysis if the spinal cord is damaged.  Prompt medical attention is necessary to achieve the best possible recovery. 

This injury can occur in any of the three parts of the spine: cervical spine (neck), lumbar spine (lower back) and thoracic spine (mid-back).

This particular injury can cause a victim to suffer neck, back, arm or leg pain as well as numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness at the site of the herniation or in areas serviced by nerves affected by the herniation.  Often surgery is recommended when a herniation is causing nerve impingement and weakness.  

What is a herniated disc after a car accident?

A herniated disc after a car accident occurs when the force of the crash causes one of your vertebrae (bones of the spine) to push into your spinal canal where it may compress, put pressure on or otherwise irritate your spinal cord, which is the bundle of nerves that carries messages from your brain to the different parts of your body. 

What to do for herniated disc after a car accident

If you suffered herniated disc after a car accident, follow these steps:   

  1. Get examined immediately: Time may be of the essence. When it comes to properly treating a herniated disc, the sooner a person gets the proper diagnostic tests and medical treatment, the better the chances they have of making a good functional recovery and ruling out a potentially more serious and permanent injury. As an injury lawyer,, I always advise people that the sooner they can get the necessary and appropriate medical care, the sooner they can get back on the road to good health and a full recovery.  With this injury, it is also important for your doctors to rule out a potentially more serious injury as soon as possible. For example, the disc can become extruded, causing permanent spinal cord damage.  
  2. Get medical treatment and get a referral for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to detect and diagnose if you have suffered a herniated disc. A doctor can’t treat you until he or she knows what is causing these symptoms, and the appropriate diagnostic testing will enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make the appropriate referrals for you.  An x-ray taken at an emergency room or doctor’s office will NOT show a herniated disc.
  3. Early documentation of a herniated disc after a car accident always makes it easier to avoid future problems with your own insurance company. Early medical documentation, such as in an 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 crash was the cause of your injury. If it does turn out to be a more serious injury, you’ve documented the early symptoms and again will be able to avoid many of the problems that arise when an insurance company is denying a causal relationship and refusing to pay for medical treatment. Early treatment and medical documentation create a clear temporal relationship that makes it more likely for your insurance company to pay for your medical care. 
  4. Showing a clear temporal relationship between the collision and the documentation of treatment for a condition or injury also makes it easier for your lawyer to obtain a full and fair legal settlement for your injury.  Delays in treatment and long gaps in medical documentation will hurt your ability to get better faster and to make a good recovery for your injury, but it also often makes it harder for your attorney to get a reluctant insurance company adjuster to pay for your treatment and finally it makes it harder to get a full and fair legal settlement after your crash for your pain and suffering.
  5. Don’t try to “tough it out”: This is a very serious injury.  It can cause permanent pain and disability if you don’t seek medical treatment right away. As an injury lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain,” but within days or weeks what they thought would be a minor injury or something that would go away becomes much more serious.  This injury is analogous to a ticking time bomb in your spine – it has the potential to become much worse as more disc material juts out of the annulus or as disc fragments can extrude and press into your spinal cord.    
  6. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people injured in car accidents. Most experienced lawyers have helped people suffering from herniated disc after a car accident. 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 medical help and wage loss you are entitled to. An attorney can also 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. 
  7. Tell your auto insurance company about your herniated disc after a car accident. If you live in Michigan, make sure to include this 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 accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  8. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your crash: 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.

How to claim for herniated disc after a car accident

In Michigan, you start your claim for herniated disc after a car accident by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company, according to the No-Fault law’s “priority” rules. The No-Fault insurer will pay for your medical bills and your lost wages if you cannot return to work.

Can you sue for a herniated disc after a car accident?

Yes. If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to a herniated disc after a car accident you have suffered and may be continuing to suffer, 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 sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your collision-related injuries, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash and that your mental trauma constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under our auto law.

Additionally, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for other economic damages, such as excess and future medical bills and lost wages.

Symptoms of herniated disc after a car accident

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms after a crash, then you should seek medical attention to determine whether you are suffering from this type of injury:

  • Persistent aching or stiffness along the spine
  • Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back or lower back
  • Chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods
  • Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes
  • Inability to stand straight without having severe muscle spasms in the lower back

Testing and diagnosis

When you have symptoms consistent with a herniated disc after a car accident, your doctor will conduct a physical examination and likely use one of the following forms of diagnostic imaging tests to make his or her diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment:

  • X-rays
  • CT Scans (Computerized Tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • EMG (Electromyography)
  • SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography)
  • Myelography


Because of the pain involved with a herniated disc after a car accident along with the risk that it poses to a person’s spinal cord, surgery is one of the most frequently recommended courses of treatment. It is also one of the most effective.

The different types of surgery used to deal with herniated discs include:

  • Fusion surgery – This involves fusing or joining two vertebrae to stop painful movement.
  • Discectomy surgery – This involves removal of the herniated or damaged portion of a disc. 
  • Laminectomy/Decompression – This involves removal of bone overlying spinal canal to relieve nerve pressure. 
  • Vertebroplasty – This involves the injection of bone cement into compressed or fractured vertebrae.
  • Artificial disc implant – This involves implanting artificial discs in between the injured discs to provide stability and eliminate pain.


Recovery from a herniated disc after a car accident will depend on what type of surgery a victim has undergone:

  • Fusion surgery –  This is typically an effective, long-term treatment, but it does not eliminate all back pain and may increase the chances of arthritis in adjoining vertebrae.
  • Discectomy surgery – This is expected to reduce the symptoms in 80 to 90 percent of people who undergo the surgery.
  • Laminectomy surgery – This is expected to reduce symptoms in 60 to 90 percent of people who undergo the procedure.

Need help finding the right lawyer? Call Michigan Auto Law first

If you have suffered a herniated disc after a car accident and would like to speak to an experienced injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 968-1001 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.

Herniated Disc