There are few things that can put a damper on your day like a car accident. One minute, you’re driving your usual route on the way to work, home, or running errands. The next minute — in the blink of an eye — you feel the collision. If the accident was catastrophic, a lot of the damage is visible and people are quicker to seek medical care. If there aren’t any obvious injuries, you may be tempted to just exchange information with the other driver, and go on about your day. But, what happens if a few days later you wake up with lower back pain? Was it a result of the accident? Does it matter that you waited to file a claim?
Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident
When you get into a car accident — whether minor or serious — your neck and back receive the bulk of the force. The sudden forward and backward movement can cause a lot of damage to your spine, discs, and surrounding soft tissues — such as muscles and ligaments. And, even if the adrenaline is rushing at the time of the accident and you don’t feel hurt, it’s common to experience back pain the next day. It can even take a few days after the collision.
Specifically, the spine is divided into three sections: cervical (composed of the vertebrae at the back of your neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (lower back). In between each vertebra, you have spinal discs. They are made of cartilage and allow for mobility of the spine, as well as act as shock absorbers in case of a blow.
The lumbar vertebrae are the largest and are surrounded by the strongest back muscles, since they are the ones that provide stability to the spine. If anything around the lumbar area gets injured after a car accident, you’ll experience pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and a limited range of motion. They can range from mild to significantly limiting your activities of daily living, as well as sleep. And, if there’s nerve damage, the pain may radiate down your legs and cause weakness, tingling, and numbness. Therefore, something that initially seemed minor may result in debilitating pain that has a significant impact on your life.
4 Common Lower Back Injuries From Car Accidents
1. Spinal Fractures
The jolt that occurs when a seatbelt restrains your body during an accident can sometimes cause cracks or fissures in your spine. In many cases, these injuries require surgery and other medical intervention. If you have a spinal fracture, you may experience:
- Pain bending or straightening your body
- Difficulty twisting your torso
- Pain or difficulty breathing
- Digestive problems
- Numbness or weakness in back muscles
2. Herniated Discs
Discs in your back are spongy cushions that sit in between the vertebrae and absorb shock and keep the spine safe and stable during movement. When a disc becomes herniated (usually by an injury or an unsafe spinal movement), that means that the soft inner layer has pushed out through the disc’s tough exterior layer. In some cases a herniated disc may show no symptoms, but often it’s accompanied by a pinched nerve along the spine, which can lead to arm or leg pain, numbness and tingling, and muscle weakness. Treatment for herniated discs ranges from medication, to physical therapy, to surgery, depending on the severity of the injury.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips out of place and onto a lower vertebra. Traumatic injuries like car accidents can cause this condition to develop. It’s commonly marked by lower back pain or stiffness, muscle spasms, pain bending over, and pain/tingling extending down the buttocks and thighs. Like other spinal injuries, treatment can involve medication, rest, therapy, and in some cases, surgery.
4. Spinal Cord Injuries
If a car accident damages the spinal cord in any substantial way, it can lead to permanent impairment in strength and body function below where the injury occurred. If the spinal cord is severed or damaged irreparably, it can even lead to complete loss of movement in that portion of the body (paralysis).
How To Know If You Have a Back Injury After a Car Accident
While pain is usually the telltale sign that lets people know they’re injured, sometimes it may take time for symptoms to manifest. This is why it’s crucial to get X-rays or an MRI for a proper diagnosis. If the injury is minor, you’ll likely only need medications, possibly steroid injections, and/or physical therapy. On the other hand, if the injury is more serious, you may eventually require surgery. And, whether you need conservative treatment or surgical intervention, costs can add up quickly. Between medical bills and lost wages, you may be left staring at a mountain of debt.
This is why it’s critical to seek medical care and speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Waiting may significantly diminish your chances of recovering for your damages in case of a lawsuit. For example, Florida law requires that you file a claim with your insurance company within 14 days from the date of the accident to qualify for Personal Injury Protection (PIP). These benefits include 80% of your medical bills and 60% of lost wages up to $10,000, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
In addition, waiting could make it more difficult to gather evidence — such as witnesses, and video surveillance footage. It also gives the opposing party ammunition to use against you — such as suggesting that your lower back injuries are due to something else, such as manual labor, playing sports, or carrying your children.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve suffered a lower back injury from a car accident, it can be a daunting process to recover the compensation you deserve — especially when you’re also trying to recover from the injury itself. An attorney can help at each stage of the process, including:
- Gathering evidence, such as surveillance footage, contacting witnesses, deposing doctors, etc.
- Determining responsibility for the accident
- Calculating fair compensation for injuries, lost wages, punitive damages, etc.
- Handling negotiations with insurance and adjusters
- And more
Call Us at Clark Law for a Consultation
There are many factors that affect the outcome of a case. If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. We’ll consider all circumstances to determine your best next step. We can also ensure that you receive proper compensation for any present as well as future medical expenses relating to your neck injuries.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.