Low Back Pain after a Car Crash: What to Know

Back pain is a common, but usually invisible, injury after a car crash. To make matters more complicated, many sufferers don’t immediately realize they’re hurt. It’s only in the days that follow that the pain makes itself known. By this time, victims may have made statements or taken actions that could hurt an injury claim.

As injury lawyers, we wanted to address the issues that arise with low back pain after a car crash. Specifically, we’ll tackle:

  • Why the onset of lower back pain is often delayed
  • What to do (and not to do) at the scene of a car crash
  • How insurance companies view your low back pain
  • Injury settlements involving low back pain

As a reminder, we’re injury lawyers, not doctors. Please see your physician for your medical care. Also, this post is intended to provide you with some general information only. Got a specific legal question about your accident? Give us a call. (Don’t worry – there’s no cost for an initial conversation.)

Low Back Pain is Common and Prevalent

It should come as no surprise that millions of people suffer from low back pain. The low back is particularly susceptible to injury as it supports a good portion of the body. In researching this post, we uncovered some rather sobering statistics.

Consider these back pain facts from the NIH and CDC:

  • 20% of people who have acute back pain go on to have chronic back pain
  • In the US, back pain is the 5th most common reason for doctor visits
  • Back pain is responsible for 40% of all missed days from work
  • Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide

To be sure, there are many causes of low back pain including sports injuries, poor posture, cancer, and infections. However, our post today will focus exclusively on low back pain resulting from car accidents.

Why is Back Pain often Delayed after a Car Accident?

Unlike other injuries you may experience following a car crash, low back pain may not be immediately obvious. It’s not uncommon for the pain to rear its ugly head in the days and weeks afterwards. At the time of the crash, adrenaline and shock may mask the initial injury. Only as this begins to wear off (and then you spend all night sleeping on your back), do you make the painful discovery.

Delayed onset of pain is one reason you should use caution with what you say at the scene of the crash or those initial phone calls with insurance adjustors. Answering “are you OK?” with a quick “I’m fine,” could come back later to haunt you when you realize that no, you are not fine. (Incidentally, this is one reason why we caution you about posting about your accident on social media.)

So, how should you answer the “are you OK” question? Simply state that you plan on getting evaluated by your doctor. If the insurance adjustor wants details, tell them that you’ll have your doctor release medical information about your accident-related care.

Then, do make it a priority to get seen by a doctor. An insurance adjustor could see any delay in getting care as a reason to cast doubt on your pain and suffering claim. Or worse, they could argue that perhaps your pan was caused by something other than the accident in an attempt to deny your claim altogether.

What Risk Factors Make Low Back Pain More Likely After a Car Accident?

Some factors put you at greater risk for suffering from low back pain after a car accident.

These include:

  • Age. Older victims may have more fragile spines or suffer from osteoporosis.
  • Obesity. Carrying extra weight can exacerbate the strain of a back injury.
  • Prior back-related injuries or pain. If you’ve suffered a back injury before, an event like a collision can make things worse.
  • Job-related factors. People with jobs that involve heavy lifting or strenuous activity can have added risk.
  • Gender. Women are slightly more likely than men to have low back pain. Pregnancy can also pose an added risk.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine. Your risk increases with your smoking frequency.

Low Back Pain Statistics

Why Low Back Pain Car Settlements Tend to Be Low

Claims that involve low back pain and no other injury often tend to be low. Insurance companies rarely put a highly value on muscular strains and sprains. One of the primary reasons for this is that back pain is largely an invisible injury. They are taking your word on how bad you say it is.

Compare this to say, a wrist fracture. Most likely, a wrist fracture will involve a trip to the hospital and X-rays. You may have a cast or require surgery. If the fracture happens on your dominate hand, you may need time off of work or certain modifications. Images and objective doctor reports can substantiate your claims in this case.

On the other hand, back pain may present with vaguer symptoms. Besides this, many doctors may nix diagnostics. While you may be experiencing intense dull achiness or sharp stabbing pain, it may be difficult to prove this to an adjustor. Finally, because back pain is so prevalent and can have so many causes, it tends to get dismissed more than other injuries.

What we’re not saying is that your pain and impact to your life is not valid. Far from it! What we are saying is that you must be prepared for a fight when it comes to getting an insurance company to pay you for back pain.

Factors that Can Increase your Low Back Pain Car Settlement

The value of your claim is tied closely to the amount of medical expenses needed to treat your injury as well as the overall impact to your life. In other words, the value of your claim increases the more you were harmed.

We’ve already shared that low back pain tends to yield smaller settlement payouts. However, there are certain factors that can increase the dollar value of your settlement. Again, these factors could demonstrate you had significant medical bills or back up your claim of pain and suffering.

These include:

  • Taking an ambulance from the scene of the accident
  • Emergency room care or hospitalization
  • Diagnostic testing, such as a CT scan or MRI
  • Surgery, such as lower back fusion (spondylosis)
  • Facet joint injections or epidural steroid injections
  • Other significant medical care
  • Major damage to your vehicle
  • Inability to return to work

It’s also worth mentioning that just because you should receive a higher settlement doesn’t mean that you will. The insurance policy of the driver that hit you will greatly matter. Often, your own insurance policy may come into play as well, particularly if you carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. A good car accident attorney can help you navigate your options.

Steps to Take after a Car Crash

It’s important to seek prompt medical care following a car crash. This is important because it helps improve your chances of a speedy, thorough recovery. From a claims standpoint, prompt care can prove that your injury was due to the crash and not any other reason. As we mentioned earlier in this post, any delay or gap in care can be used against you by the insurance company.

When should you reach out to a car accident attorney? If the accident was not your fault and you suffered significant injuries as a result of the crash. The best way to know if an attorney can help is to call one! Here at Ladenburg Law, we never charge for an initial consultation. Plus, if we choose to work together, you’ll only pay us a fee after we’ve won you a settlement. Please feel free to give us a call or send us a message through the short form on our contact page.

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