Spinal injuries conjure up a lot of stark images of paralysis and patients in wheelchairs. While conditions like paraplegia and quadriplegia are every car accident victim’s worst nightmare they are fortunately rare. Lawyers are often asked can a car accident cause a spinal injury in Maryland? The answer is yes, but there is a wide spectrum of injuries.
Spinal injuries are among the most common consequences of a car wreck in Baltimore, Anne Arundel or Montgomery counties. The spine is more than just the spinal column. It’s a complicated system that makes walking and standing possible. The spine supports your head, shoulders, and upper body. It allows you to bend down. It comprises many bones, muscles and ligaments, discs, and nerves. As anyone who has put their back out can testify, pain and discomfort in the spine are often extreme. It only takes a small injury to cause acute pain. A serious injury from a car accident can be excruciating for the victim.
It’s important to seek specialized medical care for spinal injuries. A failure to treat a post-car crash spinal injury can leave you with lifelong problems. You should also consult a Baltimore car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Serious car crash spinal injuries incur high medical bills. It’s important to hold the driver who caused your injuries to account.
Anatomy of the Spine
The spine is made up of three segments, according to OrthoInfo. They are the curves of the neck (cervical spine), lower back (lumbar spine) and the “reverse c-shaped” curve of the chest (thoracic spine) which is also called the kyphosis. These curves control balance.
The spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae. They are stacked on top of each other, giving flexibility and movement. The bones surround a ‘canal’ that protects the spinal cord.
There are seven small vertebrae in the cervical spine. They start at the base of the skull and end at the upper chest. The thoracic spine comprises a further 12 vertebrae running from the upper chest to the middle of the back. They connect the spine to the rib cage. The lumbar vertebra is made up of five larger vertebrae. They carry the body’s weight so need to be more sturdy.
The vertebrae surround the spinal cord that plays a vital role in the human body. The spinal cord runs from your skull to your lower back through the stacked vertebrae. The nerves that branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the bones carry messages from the brain to the muscles that control movement. A severing of the cord cuts off these messages causing paralysis to limbs.
Strong ligaments connect the body’s vertebrae and help keep the spinal column in its rightful place.
Intervertebral discs are another important part of the spinal system. They are round, flat discs that separate the vertebrae. The discs are made of a jelly-like substance that gives them flexibility. They have a harder outer casing.
The nucleus of the disc expands when you are standing or moving around. The weight is applied to the nucleus. The discs are often compared to the shock absorbers of the spine.
Your spine also contains facet joints. They are located at the rear of the vertebrae and they help your spine move. These facet joints have a cartilage surface like a hip or knee joint. Facet joints allow for the rotation of the spine but are susceptible to arthritis after an injury and become a source for neck or low back pain from an accident.
How Often Does a Car Accident Cause a Spinal Injury in Maryland?
Every year, about 17,730 people suffer a spinal cord injury, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Center. However, far more people suffer from less serious spinal-related injuries and complications in Maryland and elsewhere. About 2 million people sustain whiplash injuries every year.
Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. Wrecks account for 39.3 percent of spinal injuries. Falls and gunshots are the second leading causes of spinal injuries.
How Much Does a Maryland Spinal Injury Cost?
Serious spinal injuries often ruin the lives of sufferers and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in medical expenses. Tetraplegia costs about $769,000 a year in medical expenses in the first year and can mean as much as $1 million in lost earning potential, states Spinalcord.com.
Less serious spinal conditions will not mean losses on this scale but could still be considerable. Your Baltimore personal injury lawyer will calculate your losses as part of your lawsuit.
Common Types of Spinal Injuries after a Car Accident
Spinal fractures can be extremely serious. These can include compression fractures where the vertebrae break or crack from the downward forces of the car crash impact, flexion fractures in which the vertebrae crack from being whipped forward, and transverse process fractures – breaks that are caused by twisting of the bones.
Facet Joint Injuries
The facet joints support your body and help to control movement along with the discs. Facet joints contain bundles of nerves meaning any injury is often extremely painful. The accident victim often experiences spasms.
The forces associated with a car crash may rupture one of the spinal discs or cause it to “slip.” Disc herniation occurs when the disc ruptures, causing part of the inner cartilage to stick out. It may hit nerves, causing shooting pains. Slipped discs are caused when the impact of the crash pushes or squeezes a disc out of its usual position between the vertebrae. Herniated discs cause tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain to the arm, leg, or back.
Whiplash is a very common neck and back injury caused by car accidents. Typically, people suffer whiplash when a vehicle hits their car from behind. Whiplash is the nonscientific word given to hyperextension and hyperflexion injuries. Hyperextension is when your neck whips backward; hyperflexion is when it goes forward. The symptoms of whiplash are usually short-lived, but this injury can linger. Whiplash can cause extreme headaches, pain in the shoulders, neck and upper back, numbness in the arms, fatigue and dizziness.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries that damage or sever the spinal cord are extremely serious. Every year, extreme car crashes cause paralysis in victims. Doctors separate spinal cord injuries into two categories; complete and incomplete injuries.
A complete spinal cord injury causes permanent damage to the portion of the spinal cord that is affected. It causes paraplegia, the loss of movement and feeling in the arms, or tetraplegia (quadriplegia), paralysis in all four limbs. Some people who suffer tetraplegia require a ventilator to stay alive and cannot control functions like bladder and bowel control.
An incomplete spinal cord injury is the result of partial damage to the spinal cord. The accident victim may still move depending on the extent of the damage. Factors like the victim’s age and health are often relevant.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when vertebra slip, usually in the base of the spin. The trauma associated with a car wreck may cause the condition. Spondylolisthesis is usually treated by physical therapy to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. A surgical, fusion operation can be carried out as a last resort.
Cervical radiculopathy describes the inflammation or damage to a nerve root in the cervical spine This condition can cause numbness, weakness, or poor reflexes. It may radiate anywhere from the neck into the shoulder, arm, fingers or hand. You can feel a ‘pins and needles’ sensation or a shock like burning.
Baltimore Car Accident Spine Injury Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
People who end up hurt in a Maryland car crash can suffer a range of back and spinal problems. You can suffer some very serious consequences even if you do not end paralyzed. See your doctor as soon as possible if you have back pain, whether acute or dull. Make sure you are referred to a specialist. Talk to a Baltimore car crash injury lawyer as soon as possible about getting the compensation you deserve to deal with injuries that are often complex and long-lasting. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 431-0911.