If you’ve suffered a serious neck, back or spine injury, you may have experienced a life-changing event. Your ability to function may be severely restricted; you may be paralyzed, unable to work and financially support yourself or your family. Those with catastrophic injuries may require costly, constant supervision and medical attention for the rest of their lives. Depending on the circumstances of the accident causing the injury, compensation may be available.
The neck is the upper part of the spine, called the cervical spine. The middle section of the back is the thoracic spine, and the lower part is called the lumbar spine. The spinal cord serves as the main pathway for connecting the brain and peripheral nervous system. The cord is covered and protected by a column of bones called vertebrae.
Discs between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers. They are made of a gel-like material with an outer shell. If the shell is damaged, inflammation can cause the disc to put pressure on nearby nerve roots or on the spinal cord. This pressure can cause pain, weakness, tingling, numbness, spasms, exaggerated reflexes, difficult breathing and loss of sensation.
Injuries to the neck, back and spine can result in spinal cord injuries due to damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the neck, spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal cord injury could occur due to a sudden, traumatic blow to your neck, back or spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. This trauma could result from a vehicle accident or slip and fall.
Whiplash is a type of neck injury, also called neck sprain or strain. It presents itself with a number of symptoms occurring after damage to the neck. Intervertebral joints (located between vertebrae), discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles and nerve roots may become damaged by an abrupt backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head, often as a result of a vehicle accident.
Symptoms may be delayed for a day or more after the accident. Those with whiplash may get one or more of the following symptoms, usually within the first few days after the injury:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
- Lower back pain
- Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue.
A traumatic injury can affect the nerve fibers passing through the injured area and may disrupt some or all of the corresponding muscles and nerves below the injury site.
- A chest (thoracic) or lower back (lumbar) injury can impact your torso, legs, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function.
- A neck (cervical) injury can impair or end movements of your arms and your ability to breathe.
The most common causes of neck, back and spinal cord injuries are:
- Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries overall. They cause more than 35% of new spinal cord injuries each year.
- Spinal cord injuries to those older than 65 are most often caused by a fall. Overall, falls are to blame for more than a quarter of spinal cord injuries.
- Acts of violence cause about 15% of spinal cord injuries, often involving gunshot and knife wounds.
- Athletic activities, including impact sports and diving into shallow water, cause about 9% of spinal cord injuries.
Certain characteristics and activities may put you at a higher risk of sustaining a neck, back or spinal injury:
- Men suffer a disproportionate number of spinal cord injuries. Females account for only about 20% of traumatic spinal cord injuries.
- Those between the ages of 16 and 30 are most likely to suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury, while those older than 65 are also at higher risk of injuries due to falls.
- Risky behavior such as diving into shallow water, playing sports without the proper safety gear, riding a motorcycle or bicycle can lead to spinal cord injuries.
- Simply riding in a motor vehicle puts you at risk, because accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for those younger than 65.
There are many short- and long-term effects of a serious neck, back or spine injury. Medical treatment and rehabilitation may improve these complications over time, or limitations and disabilities may be permanent.
If your or a loved one has suffered serious neck, back or spinal injuries due to a car accident or a slip and fall in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at 1-855-432-2489 or by using our online quick connect form. Statutes of limitations apply, so contact us as soon as possible so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your interests.