Neck Injuries after Car Accidents: What You Should Know

Each year, 800,000 people experience a neck injury as the result of a car crash. In fact, car crashes are the number one cause of neck injuries in the US. Besides this, neck injuries cost an estimated $5.2 billion annually in medical costs. Given the prevalence of this type of injury, we wanted to make sure to discuss it with our readers and clients in a blog post.

Our post will provide an overview of neck injuries resulting from car crashes. We’ll look at:

  • Why neck injuries vary greatly from person to person
  • Three common types of neck injuries
  • Common treatment options for neck injuries
  • How a neck injury could impact your car accident settlement
  • When to call a personal injury attorney

As a disclosure, we’re personal injury attorneys, not doctors. Obviously, you’ll want to see your doctor for targeted medical advice. And our post is intended for general legal information only. Got specific legal questions related to an accident you were in? Call us. We’ll never charge you to answer some initial questions.

Neck Injuries from a Car Accident Can Vary

It’s worth stating up front that neck injuries can vary. A lot. Consider that after a car accident, one victim might feel a nagging strain in her neck. Another victim’s neck injury could leave him paralyzed.

So, what are some of the factors that can influence the severity of your injury?

  • Speed of impact. The greater the speed, the greater the chance for serious injury. Forceful speeds can trigger rollover collisions or eject drivers from their vehicles. Obviously, these types of scenarios increase the risk of catastrophic neck and head injuries. However, as we’ll discuss in the section on whiplash, even low speeds can create lingering injuries.
  • Age. An older driver may be more susceptible to neck fractures, particularly if suffering from osteoporosis.
  • Position. The body’s position at the time of impact can play a role in the type and severity of injury.
  • Prior health conditions or injuries. The general health of a victim prior to the time of an accident matters, too. For instance, someone with a prior neck injury may have a worse outcome that someone with no prior injury.
  • Safety restraints. Safety features in the car such as seatbelts, headrests, and airbags may lessen the severity of injury.

Of course, there are other factors too. When receiving treatment, it’s important that your doctor consider the full scope of what happened and your prior health history.

Three Common Types of Neck Injuries

There are many different types of neck injuries that can occur from a car accident. In our post, we will focus on three of the most common ones we see when helping our clients.

  1. Whiplash. Whiplash is a neck sprain that happens when the head is thrown forward and then back suddenly. This jolting motion is often triggered by rear-end collisions. It may come as a surprise that whiplash can occur in crashes even when low speeds are involved. Often, onset of whiplash can be days after the accident. Symptoms can include pain, loss of range of motion, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and tingling radiating down the arms.
  2. Neck fractures. A neck fracture can be a very serious, and even deadly, injury. If a victim has a suspected neck injury, they should refrain from movement until trained medical personnel can assist. A broken neck has the potential to damage the spinal cord which can cause paralysis. Fractures can happen when the head strikes the insure of the car with force, such as a rollover accident.
  3. Cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI). The cervical portion of the spine is located at the top of the spine, in the neck area. This area includes seven vertebrae known as C1 through C7. When the spinal cord is damaged here, the result can be catastrophic. The closer the damage to the brain, the more severe the injury tends to be. Paralysis is a primary concern. Additionally, a victim’s breathing may be impacted. Injuries to the C1 through C4 vertebrae are considered the most severe of all spinal cord injuries. Victims with injuries to this part of the cervical spinal cord may require 24-hour care for the rest of their lives.

Neck Injury Treatment Options

Clearly, the treatment type and duration will vary depending on the severity of the neck injury. Here are some possible options.

Non-surgical Treatment Methods

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage
  • Over the counter pain relief
  • Ice
  • Use of a neck brace or collar

Surgical Treatment Methods

  • Kyphoplasty. Sometimes referred to as balloon kyphoplasty, this procedure is used to restore the height of compressed vertebrae. It may help alleviate pain, too.
  • Microdiscectomy. This minimally invasive procedure is used to treat herniated discs.
  • Cervical spinal fusion. As the name implies, this surgery involves fusion two or more vertebrae together. The idea is to stabilize a damaged area of the spine to promote healing. Metal screws, rods, or plates may be used.
  • Laminectomy/Laminoplasty. These two types of surgeries relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

To be clear, all surgery carries added risks. Your physician should disclose the potential risks and benefits of any treatment option.

Neck Injuries and Car Accident Settlements

Just as individual neck injuries vary, so will the individual impact to your car accident settlement. We’ll consider the impact on both whiplash and serious neck injuries, such as a fracture.

Whiplash Settlements

In general, car insurance companies are weary of soft tissue injury claims such as whiplash because they can be difficult to prove. The best way to overcome this hurdle is to seek prompt medical care. Make sure to tell your doctor about your car accident and retain any records. It’s also important to make all your follow-up appointments. The insurance company may use any gap in care as a reason to dismiss your claim.

If you’re not sure about the best doctor to see for your neck pain? We recommend reaching out to a local, well-rated attorney. They will have had experience working with doctors to resolve car accident claims. In other words, they’ll know which doctors are more likely to benefit your claims process.

Catastrophic Neck Injury Settlements

The more serious the injury, the higher the potential settlement value. This is because your medical bills and the impact to your life are likely to be higher. Evidence to substantiate the seriousness of your injury will help your case. For instance, if you were hospitalized or required a surgery, this backs your claim.

Anytime you’ve suffered a serious injury that was due to someone else’s fault, call an injury attorney. Whatever you do, do not sign any documents or accept a settlement without first having an attorney review it. Often, the insurance company will try to settle quickly, before you understand the true value of your case. Once you’ve accepted an offer and cashed that check, you cannot go back for more money.

No matter the severity of your injury, a fair settlement should compensate you for:

  • Medical bills, including anticipated future bills
  • Lost wages, including lost future income
  • Necessary home modifications or medical devices
  • Pain and suffering

An experienced attorney will understand what a fair settlement should look like, given your circumstances and cases like yours. In the even negotiations stall, an attorney will be poised to file a lawsuit on your behalf. This is one of the key benefits of having an experienced attorney handling your neck injury case.

Involving a Personal Injury Attorney

You may not be sure if working with an injury attorney will help. Likely, you’ve never had to work with one before. Here’s what you should know: there is no cost or obligation when you call us and ask us about your case. We’ll listen to what happened to you, ask you a few questions, and then let you know if we think we can help. Either way, you walk away armed with valuable information about your next steps.

To get started, call us or fill out the short form on our website and one of our attorneys will get back to you quickly.

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