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Types of Spinal Injury After a Car Accident

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Posted By Legal Team | April 26 2024 | Car Accidents, Spinal Injury

The spinal column consists of 33 protective vertebrae separated by cushioning discs. The spinal cord runs through the center of the discs and carries messages back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. Damage to the spine causes significant pain and immobility. Our team of Atlanta spinal cord injury lawyers know how serious spinal injuries cause disability, including paralysis, if the injury damages the spinal cord.

Despite the protective vertebrae, the human spinal column is vulnerable to injury in a car accident. In a collision, the crash force puts tremendous stress on the spine as it forces the body forward against the seatbelt and then snaps it back against the seat.

What Types of Spinal Injuries are Common After Car Accidents?

The human spinal column runs the length of the neck and torso from the skull’s base to just below the tailbone. In a car accident at 55 miles per hour, an average 125-pound person becomes a 6,875-pound force according to the crash force calculator developed by the Montana Department of Transportation. Common spinal cord injuries from car accidents include the following:

  • Whiplash: this is a common car accident injury occurring when the neck hyperextends during a crash, particularly from rear-end collisions. Whiplash occurs when an accident “whips” the head, neck, and upper back rapidly back and forth against the seat cushion.
  • Herniated discs: This occurs when the crash force trauma of an accident causes a rupture in the cushioning discs separating the vertebrae. Each disc has a soft, gel-like center surrounded by a tough outer layer. If the outer layer cracks or ruptures, the gel expands outside the disc and bulges against the nerves, causing pain or sometimes numbness and tingling. Degenerative disc disease may cause weakening or thinning of the outer layer of the discs. Then, the force of an accident causes a worsening of the condition or a rupture.
  • Spinal fracture: Partial or complete breaks of one or more of the 33 vertebrae in the spinal column. Sufficient force may cause a disc to shatter, resulting in sharp shards of bone surrounding, piercing, or severing the spinal cord.
  • Spondylolisthesis: When the force of the accident causes the vertebrae to move out of alignment it puts pressure on the bone beneath, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Spinal stenosis: When the crash force causes inflammation in the spinal canal it puts pressure on the structures of the spine, causing pain, or sometimes numbness and tingling. Spinal stenosis may occur due to aging and natural causes and then become greatly exacerbated by a car accident.
  • Spinal cord injury: When sharp shards of fractured bone or severe inflammation of surrounding tissues causes damage to the nerves in the spinal cord it results in a disruption or loss of ability of the brain to send and receive messages. This results in paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the injury.

What If An Insurance Company Denies My Claim Due to a Preexisting Spinal Condition?

Sometimes insurance companies deny back injury claims after a car accident based on a preexisting condition like degenerative disc disease. An experienced personal injury attorney in Atlanta can protect clients against these common tactics. Even if a car accident victim has an existing back condition, evidence shows that car accidents significantly worsen many back problems. The fact that a preexisting condition was present does not absolve at-fault parties from liability for medical expenses and other damages caused by a worsened condition due to an accident.

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