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Please note that this article is written to help people involved in a car accident understand their options if they feel back pain after a car accident. The article is not written by a medical professional and should not be considered medical advice. Similarly, this article should not be considered legal advice. The facts of each case are different. Call us now to get a free consultation with a car accident lawyer.
Which Injuries May Cause Back Pain After Being Rear-Ended
Severe lower back pain after a car accident is one of the most common symptoms caused by injuries due to rear-end collisions. Another very common symptom is neck pain after a car accident. These two symptoms can be immediate, arise within minutes, or delayed after the accident. See, the section about delayed back pain below.
Rear-end accidents are known to cause various injuries to the lower back and neck. At times, the lower back pain after being rear-ended may be limited to muscular pain. In more serious cases the back pain may be caused by injuries related to the spine.
There are different types of spine injuries. To understand how an injury to a spine might cause pain, one must first understand some basic elements of a human spine.
Experts divide the human spine into 5 parts: the cervical spine, which is the area of the neck, thoracic spine, which is the area of the middle back, lumbar spine, which is the area of the lower back, Sacrum, which is the area right below the lumbar spine which in turn connects to the coccyx (tail bone area of the spine). In most cases after rear-end car accidents, injuries are more common to the cervical spine (neck area) and the lumbar spine (lower back).
To further understand the human spinal structure, it’s important to review individual components of the human spine. Each section of the bone structure of the spine is composed of small bones called vertebrae. One function of each vertebra is to protect the spinal cord which in turn is vital for transmitting signals to the brain related to sensation and muscular function. Given that humans need to have flexible spines, the vertebrae bones are not connected directly to each other. They are connected by so-called discs, ligaments and small muscles. The discs are composed of a foam-like material which is surrounded by a rubber-like material to ensure that the foam-like material does not escape from the area between the two vertebrae.
When you are rear-ended, your spine may flex very rapidly and beyond its normal flexibility limits. Once this occurs, the rubber-like material between the vertebrae may either bulge out of its normal position or may be torn, allowing the foam-like material to escape out of the area between the two vertebrae. The former is usually called a disc bulge or a bulged disc and the latter is usually called a disc herniation. A disc bulge and a disc herniation are the most common types of spine injuries resulting from rear-enders.
Here is how a disc bulge or a disc herniation may cause back pain and even pain radiating to other parts of the body after a car accident. As we discussed above, the center of the spine is where the spinal cord tracks. The spinal cord begins from the base of the brain down to the center of the spine where it branches out into nerves going to the various parts of the body. These nerves help us feel pain, heat, and cold sensations, in addition to carrying out physical muscle functions throughout the body. Since the spinal cord connects the nerves, it is easy to guess that the area near the spine, including the area around vertebrae and the discs is surrounded by dozens of nerves connecting the spinal cord to various areas of our body.
In less severe spine injury cases, the rubber-like material in a disc in case of a disc bulge or the foam-like material in a disc in case of a disc herniation may come out of the normal area occupied by the disc and touch or squeeze a nerve. When this happens, you will experience pain or even loss of function in the particular muscle group that the nerve bundle innervates.
In more severe car accident cases, the foam-like material from the disc may escape toward the spinal cord itself. When the foam-like material touches or squeezes the spinal cord, you may have to undergo spine surgery or epidural injections. Epidural injections will temporarily relieve pain or prevent permanent damage to the nerve bundles downstream including the muscle groups that the nerve innervates.
Delayed Back Pain After A Car Accident
Sometimes you will not feel any back pain in the immediate aftermath of the car accident. In other cases, you may feel some pain, but it will become more severe at a later time. It can be after a few hours or even the following day.
When you are involved in a car accident, increased adrenaline levels may mask the pain from the injury. This process is usually called the adrenaline rush, which is one of our bodies’ defense mechanisms in extremely stressful situations. The effects of the rapid release of adrenaline may last for about an hour after the accident.
After that, other chemical reactions in our bodies may take some more time for the pain to be felt. This is why it is important to never make any definitive statements related to your condition after the accident to others involved in the accident or their insurance carrier.
Thousands of movies have documented a part of a Miranda warning where the authorities inform the suspect that anything a suspect says can and will be used against the suspect. Similarly, in car accident cases, anything you tell the other side’s insurance company can and most definitely will be used against you in the future, whether it is during settlement negotiations or the trial in front of the judge and the jury. The insurance representative, however, will not warn you about this.
Consequently, a good way to communicate with the other side’s insurance carrier is to remember that anything you say on a recorded line with an insurance representative may be played back to you and the jury in the courtroom later. So, if you do not want the jury to second-guess your injury because you said you were not injured while you genuinely had no symptoms, it is best to avoid misdiagnosing your condition and contact a medical professional and a car accident lawyer before making a claim and making damaging statements.
Even though it is usually best that you contact an attorney and have your attorney prepare the claim for you, even in cases where you have already made the claim and then started to feel pain, it is always a great idea to speak to an attorney and hire one so we can do damage control and ensure that you undergo necessary treatment and are fairly compensated.
How Long Does Back Pain Last After a Rear-End Collision?
How long the back pain lasts after a rear-end collision depends on many factors. The main factor is the underlying injury. While most people focus on the pain, the pain is the symptom of an injury. Depending on what type of underlying injury you have, the pain can last from a few days to several months or even years.
If the back pain is caused by a trigger point in a muscle, then a few chiropractic visits may be enough to reduce or eliminate the pain. In some cases, trigger point injections may be required to reduce or eliminate the pain. These treatments can range from 3 to 4 weeks to 5 to 6 months.
In contrast, if the pain is caused due to a major disc bulge or a disc herniation, then it might take months or years of treatment, injections, and surgical interventions to eliminate the pain.
Back Pain After A Car Accident: Compensation
To receive compensation for back pain after a car accident your case needs to meet several requirements.
If Someone Else is at Fault
First, the party at fault should have liability insurance. In California, liability insurance is required. The minimum limits for bodily injury liability coverage are $15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident. Nevertheless, some drivers do not carry insurance. In these cases, it is very difficult to collect compensation from the actual party at fault, but you can still be compensated through the uninsured coverage of your own insurance policy if you have one;
Second, you need to make a bodily injury claim to the insurance company of the party at fault;
Third, you need to get treated for your injuries. Generally, you cannot get compensated based on your own statement that you are injured. There are two types of damages that you can get compensated for: special damages and general damages. Special damages are the actual economic damages you incurred for your treatment, such as payments to medical professionals. General damages are your pain and suffering. Your compensation for pain and suffering is usually limited to a multiple of your economic damages. Given this, if you have $0 in special damages, i.e. medical bills, then you will generally not be able to get compensation for your pain and suffering. Needless to say, you cannot get compensated for bodily injuries if you do not have any injuries.
Finally, you need to settle your claim with the insurance company.
If You Are at Fault
First, you need to have medical payments coverage (MedPay) in your insurance. This coverage will cover your medical bills only.
Second, You need to make a claim to your own insurance company to get covered.
Third, You need to get treated for your injuries. Given that medical payments coverage is strictly limited to the amount of your bills, you will receive no compensation if you have no medical bills.
Finally, while the medical payments coverage usually pays out without major issues, if you end up recovering any amounts from another party, you will be required to return all or part of the medical payments paid out by your insurance company. For instance, if you make a claim under your medical payments coverage and receive $5,000.00 to cover your bills, you will generally need to return this amount if you get compensated for $5,000.00 or more from another source.
In either case, our attorneys will evaluate your case for free. We will also open your claim with an insurance carrier, refer you to medical professionals who do not charge you out-of-pocket, pursue your claim on your behalf, and file a lawsuit against the party at fault if required.
Back injury From A Car Accident: Settlement
Although some personal injury claims result in jury verdicts and judgments, most personal injury claims are settled before a lawsuit is filed, or during litigation, but before the trial. The amount of settlement you may be able to secure for a back injury from a car accident depends on your injury. If you have only muscular pain and have undergone a few weeks of treatments, do not expect to recover more than $10,000.00.
Cases with a little more severe soft-tissue injuries may be settled for more than $10,000.00. In cases where you had to undergo epidural injections and treatment with multiple medical professionals the settlement may be as high as $50,000.00 or more. In surgical cases, the recovery can be in six figures. In more serious cases, the recovery can be in millions.
Treatment of Back Pain After a Car Accident
Back pain treatment will depend on the type of injury sustained after a car accident. Muscular pain can be treated through chiropractic care, trigger-point injections, muscle relaxants, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases a medical professional will refer you to get an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan of the area of the spine that hurts. These scans may show whether there were any injuries to the spine such as disc bulges or herniations discussed in more detail above. Minor disc bulges may be treated through chiropractic care or physical therapy. More substantial bulges and herniations may require chiropractic care, physical therapy, epidural injections or even surgical intervention to relieve the pain and prevent permanent disability.
Chiropractic care is performed by licensed chiropractors. The purpose of this type of treatment is mainly to relieve pain while trying to diagnose the patient that was involved in a car accident. Chiropractic care can take multiple treatments by a chiropractor using a combination of exercises, stretches, pain relief medicine, etc. Most chiropractors will agree to perform chiropractic treatment without charging you out-of-pocket if you are represented by a car accident attorney who is pursuing your bodily injury claims. In these cases, a chiropractor will place a lien on any proceeds received from the claim, whether it is through settlement proceeds, or judgment proceeds. Once the case is settled, your attorney will ensure that the chiropractor is paid from the settlement proceeds and that you do not have to pay anything for your treatment out-of-pocket.
When necessary, your chiropractor can prescribe you certain medication, home exercises, as well as refer you to get an x-ray or an MRI. Your chiropractor may also refer you to other medical professionals if he believes that you need other care, such as trigger point injections, epidural injections, or surgery.
A spine X-ray is not a treatment on its own, but it helps the medical professionals treating you make informed decisions related to your treatment based on the X-ray results. X-rays use radiation to produce your spine’s image. Spine X-rays can show fractures, arthritis, disc problems and other conditions that may cause back pain. Usually, two or more X-rays will be required to get an image of a particular section of the spine. Most X-Ray facilities will also agree to perform X-rays without charging the patient if the patient is represented by an attorney who is pursuing their bodily injury claims.
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is another type of imaging. Instead of radiation, MRI uses strong magnets and computer technology to produce much more detailed images of the spine that involve soft tissues such as the intravertebral disc, ligaments, and the spinal cord itself. While a single X-ray will usually produce a mostly two-dimensional image, a single MRI may produce a three-dimensional (3D) image of the spine which will be much more detailed and will be more helpful in diagnosing disc bulges and disc herniations. Again, most MRI facilities will agree to perform treatment on a lien basis if the patient is represented by an attorney.
Spine CT Scan
Spine CT Scan is yet another type of imaging technology. CT Scan uses multiple X-rays and then combines those with computer technology to produce an image similar to an image that an MRI will produce. CT Scan is most often used as an alternative to an MRI when the patient has had previous conditions that required installation of medical devices made of metal. Given that an MRI uses powerful magnets to get an image it is dangerous for a patient with any medical devices to undergo an MRI. A CT Scan thus is an alternative that uses X-rays and computer technology to obtain results similar to an MRI without the use of magnets.
Trigger Point Injections
In cases where the pain is caused by muscle spasms within larger muscle groups, trigger point injections of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory mixtures can help ease or relieve the muscular pain. Trigger point injections usually take a few minutes to perform. If a single injection does not ease or relieve the muscular pain, multiple injections may be performed. These injections are usually performed by pain management professionals, orthopedists, and anesthesiologists. Most anesthesiologists will perform these injections on a lien basis if you are represented by a car accident lawyer.
In cases where the pain is caused due to a substantial disc bulge or a disc herniation that touches or squeezes the spinal cord nerves, an epidural injection may be recommended by a medical professional. An epidural injection is usually not a permanent solution. It does, however, provide a temporary relief. An epidural injection is a steroid injection (a type of anti-inflammatory medication) into the epidural space surrounding the spinal nerves. The injection may provide an immediate, but temporary relief. Epidural injections can be performed by anesthesiologists on a lien basis.
Spine surgeries are usually performed when there is a disc herniation with severe symptoms. Some patients decide to undergo spine surgery only after all of the above treatments are unable to provide permanent relief. These surgeries are generally recommended and performed only by spine specialists. Some spine specialists will agree to perform spine surgery on a lien basis if you are represented by a car accident lawyer.
Other Types of Treatment
Other types of treatment for back pain after the accident may include physical therapy, acupuncture, pain medication, exercises, specialized massages, etc. Some of these services may be performed by professionals who will agree to not charge you out-of-pocket.
Note that each case is different. The settlement and the recovery depend on the apportionment of fault, the practices of the specific insurance carrier, the strength of impact, the severity of damage to the vehicles involved in the accident, the judge, the jury, the likableness of each of the parties involved in the accident, and many other foreseeable and unforeseeable factors.
Call us at (747) 777-2977 to get a case evaluation.