A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when the soft tissue inside a spinal disc protrudes through a crack in the outer layer. This condition can cause severe pain and limit movement, making it a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention. If you suffered a herniated disc in a car accident, it is essential to seek medical attention as well as the legal assistance of a Colorado car accident injury attorney to ensure that you receive the proper care and compensation for your injuries.
What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the force of a car accident causes one or more of your vertebrae (bones of the spine) to push into your spinal canal where it may compress, put pressure on, or otherwise irritate your spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves that carries messages from your brain to different parts of your body.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
If you were injured in a car accident, you should monitor your health to identify any of the following symptoms associated with herniated discs:
- Persistent aching or stiffness along your spine
- Sharp, localized pain in your neck, upper back or lower back
- Chronic ache in your back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods
- Back pain that radiates from your low back to your buttock, back of the thigh, and into your calf and toes
- Inability to stand straight without having severe muscle spasms in your lower back
Can a Car Accident Cause a Herniated Disc?
Car accidents can cause herniated discs due to the force the body experiences during the impact. When the spinal column experiences extreme pressure or trauma, the discs can slip out of place, causing a herniated disc. As highlighted by the Mayo Clinic, a slipped disc typically occurs in the lower back but can potentially present anywhere on the spine. While slipped discs do not always cause symptoms, they can be excruciatingly painful and potentially cause numbness and weakness in arms and legs.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car accidents are one of the leading causes of herniated discs, with up to 45% of all herniated disc injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents.
Chronic Pain & Suffering
A herniated disc is a severe injury that can cause chronic pain and suffering. In addition to the physical symptoms, a herniated disc can result in significant economic and non-economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and reduced quality of life. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, can be challenging to quantify, but they are an essential aspect of any personal injury claim. It’s vital to have an experienced personal injury attorney to help you seek the compensation you deserve for all the damages resulting from a herniated disc.
What Can I Do If I Suffered a Herniated Disc in a Car Accident?
Without proper diagnosis and treatment, a herniated disc can result in permanent chronic pain, disability, and even paralysis if the spinal cord is damaged. If you suffered a herniated disc in a car accident, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible, as time may be of the essence.
To properly treat a herniated disc, your doctor must first perform a physical examination and conduct diagnostic testing, including the following:
- CT Scans (Computerized Tomography)
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
- EMG (Electromyography)
- SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography)
Early Diagnosis is Key
Early diagnostic testing will help your chances of making a good functional recovery. The physician will evaluate your condition and develop a treatment plan specific to your injury. This may include a referral for additional diagnostic testing, which may enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make appropriate referrals.
Early documentation of a herniated disc will make it easier for you to avoid future issues with a personal injury insurance claim. Early medical documentation, such as an emergency room or a primary family doctor, will help demonstrate to your health insurance and all auto insurers that the car accident was the cause of your injuries. If it turns out you suffered a very serious injury, documentation of the early symptoms will help prevent a third-party insurance carrier from denying a causal relationship between the accident and the herniation.
Injury & Insurance Claims
Most people involved in car accidents do not immediately consider how insurance companies evaluate claims but it is very important to show a clear temporal relationship between the car accident and the herniation. Delays in treatment and long gaps in medical documentation will only hurt your ability to get a reluctant insurance carrier to pay full and fair value for your personal injury claim.
Never Try to Just “Live With the Pain”
It is also important to point out that you should never try to simply “live with the pain.” Herniations are very serious and can lead to permanent pain and disability without proper medical treatment. It happens too often where an injured party presents to a medical doctor and decides not to complain but within days or weeks, what they considered a minor injury develops into something much more serious. This is analogous to a ticking time bomb in your spine – it has the potential to become much worse as more disc material juts out of the annulus or as disc fragments extrude and press onto your spinal cord.
Possible Permanent Damage
In some cases, a herniated disc can result in permanent damage, such as disability or traumatic brain injury. This permanency can impact the amount of damages you may be able to recover in a personal injury claim. Therefore, it’s essential to work with a medical provider and legal team who have experience dealing with permanent injuries and maximizing damages.
Speak With a Auto Injury Lawyer
Additionally, you may want to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process and work to maximize the damages you can recover. These damages can include economic damages like medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
What Treatment Options Are Available for a Herniated Disc?
Treatment for a herniated disc varies depending on the severity of the injury. Common treatments include:
- Pain Management: Prescription medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic care can help manage pain.
- Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Microdiscectomy: This surgery involves removing the herniated portion of the disc to relieve pressure on the nerves.
- Discectomy: This is a more invasive procedure where the entire disc is removed and replaced with an artificial disc.
- Fusion: This surgery is typically used as a last resort and involves fusing the affected vertebrae to provide stability to the spine.
Recovery time from a herniated disc surgery varies depending on the procedure and the individual. In general, recovery can take several weeks to several months. It’s essential to follow the post-surgery recovery plan recommended by the medical team to ensure the best possible outcome. This plan may include physical therapy, exercise, and other lifestyle changes to promote healing and strengthen the affected area.
How Does a Herniated Disc Impact a Personal Injury Claim?
The amount of compensation for a herniated disc injury in Colorado varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the degree of permanency, the impact on the victim’s life, and the fault of the parties involved. However, in general, herniated disc cases can result in significant settlements or awards. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the potential damages you may be able to recover and work to maximize your compensation.
Contact a Colorado Car Accident Law Firm That Understands Herniated Discs
A herniated disc is a severe injury that can result in significant physical, emotional, and financial damages. If you’ve suffered a herniated disc in a car accident or other traumatic event, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately and work with an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your legal rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. By taking these steps, you can focus on your recovery and move forward with the confidence that you have a strong legal advocate on your side.
Contact the car accident injury lawyers of Bowman Law for a free consultation. Our law firm is located in Denver and serves the surrounding areas including Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.