About 20 to 50 million individuals are disabled by or injured in auto accidents annually. Of this number, many suffer back injuries that range from minor and self-limiting to catastrophic and disabling. Somewhere in the middle lies a vast number whose injuries cause nagging back problems long after the accident that with age may become even more troubling. It is important to have a working knowledge of the different types of back injuries and the possible complications they may cause.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, call Los Angeles back injury lawyer David at (800) 991-5292 anytime to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Use this time to ask David questions you may have and to receive an estimate of what your case may be worth.
Justice With an Auto Accident Back Injury Lawyer
David Azizi has one moto and that is to fight for the rights of his clients. This means that he will do everything he can to make sure that not only will you receive the compensation you deserve but that you will be treated fairly and with respect. In part, this is why his clients feel relieved when he is working on their case and why he is consistently named one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.
How an Auto Accident Affects Your Spine
Car accidents expose the body to rapid movements that ordinarily it would not face. For example, take a rear-end collision. Without warning, despite the low speed with which most hit from behind accidents are characterized, your neck and upper back experience rapid back and forth movement, much like a whip when snapped. This causes injury to the muscles, ligaments and tendons that surround the spine. It can result in immediate pain or take days for the injury to be noticed physically.
In many cases, the pain resolves within six months. However, in others, it persists for a year or more. This chronicity may initiate a cascade of other problems such as the inability to work for an extended period, the need for frequent doctor visits or interference with normal physical activity.
The Human Back
The back runs from the cervical (neck) area to the sacrum. It is divided into the cervical spine (c-spine), thoracic (t-spine), lumbar spine and the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone). The c-spine is composed of seven individual vertebrae that make up the cervical (neck) portion of the backbone. The thoracic spine is composed of 12 vertebrae, and this portion of the backbone runs from the base of the neck to the low back. The strongest vertebrae are seen in the lumbar or low back area and are located between the hips and chest. After the lumbar vertebrae end, there are five fused vertebrae that make up the sacrum and four fused vertebrae that make up the coccyx or tailbone.
Types of Back Injuries
Some of the most common injuries include to the back include:
- Sprain: This results when a ligament (the tissue that connects the bones in a joint) is torn or stretched.
- Strain: A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is injured by stretching them beyond their normal range.
- Vertebral fracture: This involves a break or fracture to the bone that makes up the vertebrae.
- Herniated disk: The backbone is composed of an individual vertebra. To keep them from rubbing on the nerves that pass through them or each other, a jelly-like substance, contained in a disk-like form, is located between every two vertebrae (see above). If the disk is injured in an accident, it may begin to leak and no longer cushions the vertebrae.
It is this leakage that is referred to as a herniated disk. The disk may protrude into the spinal space where nerves exiting the spinal cord travel to innervate different parts of the body. When this happens, the disk protrusion will put pressure on the nerve, causing disrupted nerve function, pain, loss of sensation, weakness and tingling or numbness.
- Radiculopathy: This is caused by compression of a nerve root as it exits the spinal column from a damaged vertebra. It results in weakness, pain or loss of sensation in the area supplied by the nerve. A common example is when the nerves exiting the lower portion of the spinal column are compressed, causing sciatica. This causes an abnormal sensation, numbness and pain in the extremity on the same side.
- Facet joint fracture: Fracture of the facet joints can occur on both sides of the spinal column or only on one side. This usually is seen in the area of the 4th or 5th lumbar vertebra and can be the result of trauma such as that which occurs in a car accident. This is the gateway for spondylolisthesis.
- Spondylolysis: This injury, caused by facet joint fracture, makes it possible for a vertebra to move either forward or backward or slide over the vertebra below.
- Spondylolisthesis: This occurs when there is slippage of a vertebra (spondylolysis). It usually happens at the lower portion of the spine and occurs after a fracture of the facet joint. It can cause pain and difficulty moving, causing the individual to be frozen in place. Medical intervention is necessary.
- Spinal cord injury: Injury to the spinal cord in a car crash often results in paralysis, either limited or severe. Limited paralysis can result in weakness in one or all extremities with partial loss of reflexes and sensation. There are different types of paralysis such as monoplegia where only one arm or leg is paralyzed, hemiplegia that includes paralysis to one leg and arm on the same side of the body, paraplegia where both legs or arms are paralyzed and quadriplegia where the person is unable to move all four extremities.
Spinal cord injury treatment is evolving, but for the most part, once injured the spinal cord remains damaged. Movement and sensation, depending on the injury, is destroyed since the cord no longer transmits messages from and to the brain and the area of the body the nerve supplies.
Diagnosing Back Injuries
To diagnose back injuries, doctors use a variety of tests. These are:
- X-rays are useful in diagnosing fractures, tumors or spondylolysis. They are relatively inexpensive, and check the structure and stability of the bone.
- CT scans: This diagnostic tool is useful for visualizing herniated disks and spinal narrowing, called spinal stenosis.
- MRI scans: This test offers the most sensitive evaluation of the spine. It details the ligaments, vertebrae, spinal cord, intervertebral disks and the area through which the spinal nerves travel.
Back Injury Treatment
The type of treatment depends on the injury and its severity. Some individuals respond to conservative measures such as the use of pain-relieving medications, rest and physical therapy. Others, such as those with a herniated disk, may require surgery where the vertebrae are fused after the damaged disk is removed. Still others, such as persons with spinal cord injury, require long-term care. The cost of all three modalities is on a sliding scale.
Spinal cord damage takes the greatest toll financially for several reasons. Hospital care involves the use of highly sophisticated and costly methods, and rehabilitation may take a long time to be beneficial. For some, at home care is necessary long after the accident, and an injury lawyer must factor this cost into the final settlement or demands in court.
Delay in Symptom Onset
Not all back injuries are immediately apparent, and it may take days or weeks until the symptoms are obvious. At the beginning, this may be due to the flood of adrenaline and endorphins that mask pain in the body. This is the case with whiplash where it is common for several days to pass before the individual becomes symptomatic. It is important to be medically evaluated after the accident to have a baseline from which symptoms can be measured.
Not being thoroughly evaluated initially can have a negative effect on any future claims. One thing to remember is that if an injured individual accepts a settlement before they have reached the point of maximum recovery (the point beyond which no further treatment will help) and treatment becomes necessary, it will not be covered. Once payment is accepted, no further claim against the defendant or his or her insurance company can be made. Your attorney will provide guidance on this.
Free Case Review With a Los Angeles Back Injury Law Firm
The David Azizi law firm has been dealing with back injuries due to auto accidents for 23 years with a 98-percent success rate. He understands the pain and profound loss a back injury can cause. He will evaluate your case and provide suitable options you can consider. The case evaluation is free, and you are welcome to accept David’s suggestions or not. If you do, David will protect your rights from day one and work to obtain the compensation you deserve.
You don’t owe David a thing until your case is settled or won. It’s been shown that plaintiffs who have an attorney are more likely to receive higher compensation than those who do not. Call (800) 991-5292 today, and get the ball rolling. David will investigate the accident, file claims, and if necessary, bring the case to civil court.