In the state of Florida alone, there were 251,919 injuries from crashes in 2022, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLSMV). Every year in the U.S., there are roughly 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries, and roughly 38% of these injuries are caused by car crashes, according to the National Library of Medicine. Spinal injuries after a car accident are more common than anyone wants to think about, but being prepared can make the situation easier.
Keep reading to learn more about spinal injuries after a car accident and what legal services are available to you to get the car accident settlement you deserve.
Common spinal injuries from car accidents
According to the Mayo Clinic, car wrecks are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries for people under 65. Spinal cord injuries occur when there is a strong blow to your spine that causes a spinal fracture, spinal compression of one or more vertebrae, or if your spine is crushed. Common types of spinal injuries include:
According to the Mayo Clinic, whiplash occurs when the neck is forced forward and backward rapidly. Often, this is caused by a rear-end collision and heals on its own. However, some people may end up with severe pain in their necks, a limited range of motion, and/or pain that extends into the arms.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the spine has “discs” between each vertebra that act as “shock absorbers” to protect the spinal bones from damage. A herniated disc is when one or more of these discs is damaged, causing the center of a disc(s) (the nucleus) to be forced out of the outer layer (the annulus). The protruding disc(s) puts pressure on the spinal nerves, which causes pain that, in some cases, can be severe.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, spinal fractures are essentially the medical way of saying you have a broken back. A spinal fracture or “broken back” is when one or more of the 33 bones that make up your spine (vertebrae) is broken.
Spinal cord injuries
Spinal cord injuries after a car accident can cause permanent changes in a person’s abilities and affect nearly every aspect of how they function. According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries are often referred to as:
Complete: When sensory (sensations) and motor function (ability to move) are all lost below the spot of the spinal injury
Incomplete: When some, but not all, of your sensory and motor function has been lost below the spot of the injury
Tetraplegia or quadriplegia: When all four limbs, your core, and your pelvic organs are affected by the injury
Paraplegia: When paralysis occurs in all or some of the core, legs, and pelvic organs but not your arms
Physical indications of a spinal cord injury
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH), spinal cord injuries have a wide range of symptoms that will vary greatly depending on the area that is damaged. Some of these symptoms can include:
- Numbness, tingling, and/or a loss of sensation in the hands and feet
- Struggling to walk
- Paralysis in multiple parts of the body
- Loss of strength in multiple parts of the body
- Loss of the ability to move parts of the body
- Obvious spinal deformities
- Trouble breathing
- Bilateral neurological symptoms that affect both sides of the body
- Significant pain or pressure in the head, neck, or back
- Trouble with or loss of bowel and bladder control
- Issues with or a loss of sexual function
According to the Cleveland Clinic, immediately following an accident that is traumatic enough to cause a spinal cord injury, there is a risk of neurogenic shock (roughly 19-31% of people with spinal cord injuries will go into neurogenic shock). Neurogenic shock symptoms include:
- Loss or altered consciousness
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Bradyarrhythmia (a slowed heartbeat)
- Warm and flushed skin that becomes cool and sweaty
- A faint blue tint to fingernails and lips
Spinal injuries can lead to internal injuries
Important: The Mayo Clinic notes that spinal injuries might not always be immediately obvious and can get worse over time, which is why it is so vital you receive medical attention immediately after an accident that could have injured your neck or back.
According to the NIH, two kinds of damage can happen from a spinal cord injury:
Primary damage: The damage that occurs immediately following the accident
Secondary damage: The damage that is caused by the injury over time. This happens from the inflammation and swelling that occurs gradually after the accident. The swelling and inflammation strain the vertebrae and spinal cord, which can cause more symptoms and/or worsening of symptoms.
How much can I expect from a spinal cord injury settlement resulting from a car accident?
The amount of compensation you can expect to receive in a car accident settlement will depend on many factors, including:
- The severity of injuries
- Insurance coverage
- Pre-existing injuries/medical issues
- Cost of medical treatment
- Length of recovery
- Proving liability (who was at fault)
Who was at fault?
Florida has a no-fault insurance law requiring that car accident insurance includes personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. However, if it is determined that the accident was your fault (or partially your fault), you could be entitled to less compensation under Florida’s negligence law.
If the accident was determined to not be your fault, under Florida’s financial responsibility law, the at-fault driver is responsible for:
- PIP of $10,000 per person
- $10,000 property damage insurance
- Bodily injury liability of $10,000 per person, $20,000 total for crash.
How an experienced car accident attorney can help
The skilled car accident lawyers at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, are experts at dealing with the ins and outs of car accident settlements and can get you the compensation you are entitled to. When it comes to a car accident settlement, it is best to have a car accident lawyer in your corner to help you with the following:
Gathering and preserving evidence: You can help with this stage by making sure a lot of pictures are taken after an accident and saving all your insurance, medical, and any other official documents pertaining to the accident
Proving the extent of your injuries: This is another reason it is vital to seek medical attention and see a doctor specializing in neck and back injuries as soon as possible. This way, there is physical evidence (scans, doctor notes, etc.) of your injuries for your car accident lawyer to include in your settlement.
Calculating damages for your settlement: A car accident lawyer knows all of the ways to get you the highest settlement you are entitled to
Communicating and negotiating with insurance companies: Having expertise in dealing with insurance companies, your car accident lawyer will be skilled at navigating the common insurance company tactics they employ to try to pay less than you deserve. Hiring a car accident lawyer gives you peace of mind to heal while your lawyer handles the insurance companies.
Quick settlement offers: Let’s be honest. When you’ve been in an accident and need financial compensation, you can’t afford to wait around. Hiring a car accident lawyer will get you the settlement you’re entitled to as soon as possible.
Help you not to say something that isn’t in your best interest: A car accident lawyer will also be skilled at training you to handle all legal proceedings in such a way that you don’t imply guilt where there isn’t any
What damages can I collect for a spinal cord injury?
Medical bills: Spinal injuries require expensive tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and/or a CT scan to diagnose the damage. Then, there is the possibility of surgery, hospital stays, physical therapy, pain management, etc. Receiving compensation for your medical expenses is going to be a must.
Lost wages: The majority of spinal injuries will leave the patient unable to work, at least during recovery. This loss of income can be devastating. If this happens to you, you could be eligible to receive compensation for any lost wages that occurred due to your accident.
Property damages: This compensates you for damage to your car and/or reimburses you if your car is beyond repair
Wrongful death: If there was someone else in the car with you who lost their life, this helps cover medical costs and burial costs for this person
Pain and suffering: Spinal injuries almost always change a person’s life. Whether you’re struggling with minor paralysis or are completely paralyzed, there will be emotional distress that should be considered when paying out compensation.
How long do I have to file a claim for a spinal injury after a car accident?
According to the Florida Senate, under Florida’s statute of limitations, the following deadlines apply:
- Four years to file a claim based on negligence
- Two years for medical malpractice claims
- Two years for wrongful death claims
- Two years for claims based on lost wages
Spinal injuries from car crashes are physically and emotionally devastating. But by hiring one of the car accident lawyers at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, it doesn’t have to be so financially devastating. Hiring an expert car accident attorney can help you get the damages you deserve.
Bennett, J. (2022). Spinal Cord Injuries.
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FLA. STAT. (§) 324.012 (1). (2023).
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FLA. STAT. (§) 768.81 (6). (2023).
FLA. STAT. (§) 95.11 (3) (4). (2023).
Fractured Spine (Vertebrae). (2022).
Herniated Disc. (n.d.).
Neurogenic Shock. (2021).
Spinal cord injury. (2021).
Spinal Cord Injury. (n.d.).