Back injuries due to a car accident can be both extremely painful and expensive. They are also much more common than you would expect.
According to statistics from the Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common types of automobile accident injuries. In fact, auto accidents are responsible for roughly 40% of all spinal injuries in any given year.
Treatment for back pain due to an auto accident can be extremely expensive. According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the total cost of lower back pain is close to $100 billion. In addition, back pain is often a recurring condition so you may be suffering for years or the rest of your life.
Due to the high cost and longevity of back pain, you should be well versed in the various types of back pain as well as exactly how much money your pain and suffering could be worth.
In this article we will look at:
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The spine is both complex and delicate. The impact from a car accident strains the ligaments and muscles in the back, which can result in several different types of injuries. These can include disc herniation, compression fractures and even spondylolisthesis.
Compression fractures are quite common in the thoracic and lumbar spine, which is the middle and lower back, during a car accident. When an accident occurs the upper body is often thrown forward while the lower body is held in place by the vehicle seat belt, this can often pull the vertebrae apart, resulting in a spinal fracture or spinal cord injury.
Symptoms of this type of injury are moderate to severe back pain that gets worse when you move. If the spinal cord is injured you may experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the back as well as loss of bowel or bladder control. If a spinal cord injury or fracture is suspected, do not move the victim.
This condition occurs when a vertebra is shifted out of place due to a stress fracture. The bone displacement presses on the nerves, which causes numbness, pain or weakness in the legs. In some people it will not cause any symptoms until years after the accident, which is why it is important to be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
Auto accidents can cause trauma to one of the 23 discs that are located in the vertebrate. This trauma can cause the disc to bulge or herniate. Severe pain is one of the more common symptoms of a bulging or herniated disc
Auto accidents can also cause damage to soft tissue ligaments and tendons in the muscles that surround the vertebrae. During an accident they can stretch or tear which can affect and damaged nerve endings. Common symptoms of soft tissue damage are mild to severe pain in the back.
This type of fracture is common in head-on collisions. Occupants who are wearing seatbelts are thrown violently forward. The seat belt holds firmly to the lower back and pelvis but the upper body moves so quickly and violently that it's possible for vertebrae to fracture. Difficulty moving and severe pain are common symptoms of this type of injury.
As you can see, back and spinal injuries can be quite common as a result of an auto accident. Many of them have symptoms in common so it is critically important that you be examined by a physician shortly after any type of car accident regardless of the speeds involved.
Now that you are aware of the most common types of back injuries that can occur in an auto accident, it's time to look at the types of evidence you need to collect as well as how much your injury may be worth.
When it comes to back injuries, the insurance company will require proof before they pay out a claim. Here are just a few types of evidence you can use during the claims process:
Police Report: A police report lends legitimacy to the accident as well as containing diagrams of the accident scene, a record of tickets issued, the opinion of the police officer, and the contact information for witnesses.
Witnesses: If possible, gather contact information from as many witnesses as possible at the accident scene. You can turn this information over to your insurance agents or lawyer.
Photos: If possible, take as many photographs of the accident scene as you can. Take pictures of your vehicle, skid marks, the other person's vehicle, traffic signals as well as the general area where the accident happened
Medical Records: These are obviously a big one. Your medical records will detail your back injuries as well as all the medical treatments that have been performed. Be sure to include all medical records including those from specialists and physical therapists.
Due to the fact that back injuries can range from something simple like a muscle strain or spasm to severe spinal cord injuries, it is very difficult to put an exact number on your injury. There are a few guidelines that can apply when assessing the injury as well as a possible settlement amount.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
When it comes to compensation for a back injury, there are two basic categories, economic compensatory and non-economic compensatory damages. Here is a brief rundown of each:
Economic Compensatory Damages: This simply refers to the actual financial losses that you have suffered due to your back injury. This includes items such as past and future medical bills as well as lost income.
As an example, a herniated disc surgery can cost between $20,000 and $50,000 depending on the severity of the injury as well as the complexity of the surgery. In addition to surgery there will be additional expenses such as follow up visits and physical therapy.
If the surgery does not completely repair the damage there could be numerous future doctor visits as well as other potential surgeries. If a spinal injury is extremely severe and results in paralysis or other mobility issues, your future medical costs could range in the millions of dollars.
When calculating your economic compensatory damages, you must also include lost income and wages. If your back injury has kept you away from work and/or will affect your ability to perform your job in the future, all of these lost wages must be calculated into your settlement amount.
Personal injury lawyers and insurance companies use complex formulas to assess the impact your injury has on your future earnings.
This category covers non-monetary losses that are a direct result of your back injury. Items that are usually included in this category are:
Pain and Suffering: It can be difficult to put a dollar amount on pain and suffering. In most cases insurance companies use a multiplier of your actual damages to come up with the pain and suffering figure.
Emotional Distress: These are damages to your sense of well being resulting from your accident and the injury you suffered. In some states emotional distress may fall under the pain and suffering umbrella.
Loss of Consortium: In most cases this would only apply in extremely serious accidents where partial or total paralysis is the outcome. Loss of consortium compensates victims loved ones if they are deprived of a normal relationship and companionship due to the accident.
In Florida, a 24-year-old student is rear-ended which results in a herniated disc at L4-5 and bulging discs at C3-4 through C6-7. The victim receives physical therapy, injections for pain as well as a discogram and discectomy.
GEICO denies the claim and the case goes to court. The jury awarded her $60,000 in medical bills as well as $30,000 in future medical costs due to the nature of her injury. They also awarded $50,000 in pain and suffering, as well as an additional $260,000 for future pain and suffering.
It is important to remember the settlement amounts can vary dramatically depending on the specifics of the case and the accident. This is just an example should not be used to judge your own case.
If you have suffered a back injury in a car accident, keep these basics in mind:
 Mayo Clinic
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