There is no doubt that cars are safer than they have ever been. With crash avoidance technology and occupant protection features, most of us are safer in our cars today than we were 20 years ago. However, cars are also faster, bigger, and more numerous than ever before, resulting in nearly 3 million people being injured in motor vehicle collisions each year. Close to 40,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2016. One of the most serious injuries a car accident victim can suffer is damage to the spinal cord. We take a look at this devastating injury and why those who suffer a spinal cord injury in a car crash should consider hiring an attorney to represent them when they seek damages from the at-fault driver.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur in Crashes
According to the Mayo Clinic, car and motorcycle crashes are the most common cause of spinal cord injury, accounting for 35 percent of new injuries each year. An impact force from any direction in a car crash will affect the back and spinal cord, jerking it violently back and forth or from side to side, causing a variety of injuries to the soft tissue and bones surrounding the spinal cord. These injuries can be life-threatening and often result in permanent damage, including paralysis and chronic pain.
Spinal Cord Injuries Commonly Sustained in Car Crashes
No matter what kind of crash you are involved in, your back is at risk for injury. While shoulder harnesses do a good job of keeping you secured in your seat, there is enough give in the seat belt's tension that the back is vulnerable to injury. Motor vehicle collisions can cause the following back and spinal cord injuries:
- Herniated discs. Between each vertebra in the back sits a soft cushion known as a vertebral disc. When the back suffers trauma, the disc can bulge out or even break open, causing extreme chronic pain. A rear-end or head-on collision could easily cause a herniated disc.
- Soft tissue damage. A collision can also violently stretch or tear the ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the vertebra. This type of back injury affects thousands of nerve endings, resulting in mild to excruciating pain.
- Fractures. When extreme force is applied to the back, bones can be fractured. Depending on the direction of the force, the vertebrae can be compressed until they fracture or the violent motion can exert enough pressure on the bones to cause them to break. When a fragment of bone lodges in the spinal cord itself, paralysis from that point down can result.
- Whiplash. While often thought of as a less serious neck injury, whiplash can be very painful and require long-term physical therapy to recover from. Whiplash can occur in even minor fender-bender crashes.
Because the spinal cord is an essential part of the central nervous system, when it is damaged the consequences can be severe and recovery can be a long and difficult process, if it is even possible.
Treatments for Back Injuries
Some back injuries cannot be cured and sufferers require ongoing physical therapy and pain management techniques. Catastrophic spinal cord damage cannot be reversed and victims will suffer permanent paralysis. Forms of treatment for other types of back injuries include the following:
- Medication. Chronic pain caused by a bulging disc may be managed with over-the-counter pain medication or narcotic pain relievers.
- Physical therapy and chiropractic care. Less serious soft-tissue injuries may be treated with physical therapy, massage, or chiropractic techniques. With therapy and rest, many people recover from these injuries in a few months.
- Surgery. There are surgical options for spinal cord injuries, from minor procedures to risky and invasive surgeries. When successful, these procedures can eliminate pain and return full functioning, but they can be costly.
How a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help
A serious spinal cord injury can require years of expensive medical treatments and, in cases of paralysis, life-long personal care. When you or a loved one is suffering following a car accident, you need an attorney who knows what kind of settlement you will need to ensure the best possible outcome. When another driver caused the accident that left you injured, he should pay. Contact Keller & Keller in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, or Granger to discuss the crash that caused your spinal cord injury.