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Herniated Disc From Car Accident

A car accident will throw a wrench into anyone’s day. In minor collisions, everyone involved may walk away relatively unharmed.

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Herniated Disc From Car Accident

A car accident will throw a wrench into anyone’s day. In minor collisions, everyone involved may walk away relatively unharmed. However, in some cases, people may leave the scene with a dramatically altered life experience. 

Neck and spinal injuries are something that we frequently hear about as a result of a car accident, particularly a herniated disc. If you have been injured in a negligent accident and damaged your spine, consulting with a Colorado Springs car accident lawyer with Heuser and Heuser L.L.P. may benefit you. A motor vehicle collision can cause a herniated disc that causes ongoing problems in daily life.

How Can a Car Accident Cause a Herniated Disc

A car accident can result in significant physical trauma. The impact of a motor vehicle slamming into another jostles the body with extreme force. This can cause your head, neck, and spine to jerk back and forth from the impact site quickly. 

Back and spinal injuries can lead to severe internal damage. In many cases, when we think of a neck injury from a car accident, it is whiplash, which affects the cervical spine. Another common injury is a herniated disc or slipped disc. 

What is a Herniated Disc?

The University of Colorado Hospital helps explain a herniated disc, stating that the vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by a gel-filled pad known as a disc. This disc sits between each vertebra. 

When you suffer a forceful and quick movement on the spine, this gel-like substance can push through the thin casing, resulting in a hernia. A hernia puts pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord, leading to devastating pain and limited mobility. In the event of a motor vehicle crash, violent forward and back motions often cause a rupture of the disc casing. 

Diagnoses and Symptoms of a Herniated Disc 

A herniated disc from a car accident can cause varying symptoms in different people. The manifestation of the injury depends on where the ruptured disc is on the spine and what nerves it is pushing on. 

The most common symptoms of a herniated disc involve the following:  

  • Unilateral numbness or tingling in the extremities or up the spine
  • Back pain after sitting or standing for too long
  • Back pain or pain in the lower extremities when walking
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Sciatic nerve pain, or pain down a leg and into the calf or foot
  • Pain in the back, sides, or extremities that increases in severity  with a specific movement

While this is not an exhaustive list, it does highlight the most frequently associated symptoms of the injury. 

If you think you have a herniated disc after a car accident, it is critical to your health and claim that you are evaluated by a physician. Medical evaluation should always be a priority after an accident, especially when there is a concern about a neck or spine injury. Diagnosing a herniated disc from a car accident can be done through a physical exam or imaging. 

The University of Colorado Hospital reports that some of the tests used to diagnose this condition are:

  • Gait monitoring: The physician may check to see if your walking is particularly slow or abnormal
  • Leg raise test: If you are experiencing pain, your physician may have you lie on your back and raise your leg until you feel pain
  • Lumbar spine exam: Inflammation in the lumbar spine may be present in a visual exam done by your physician. 
  • Neurological check: Your physician may check your reflexes or assess for foot drop or other areas of numbness or weakness in your feet or legs. 
  • Range of motion: These tests may involve your physician having you lean forward, back, and side to side to evaluate your range of motion or pain. 
  • Imaging: Your physician may determine that imaging is appropriate to assess your injuries further. This imaging may be in the form of a Computed Tomography (CT) scan or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to gain a better idea of what is happening. 

What Is the Difference Between a Bulged Disc and a Herniated Disc?

A bulging disc from a car accident and a herniated disc are not the same thing. The Mayo Clinic explains that the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc lies in the condition of the outer layer of the disc. In a bulging disk, the center cushioning material may be bulged outward but has not broken that external barrier to press on nerves. In some cases, people may have multiple bulging discs from a car accident. 

Complications of a herniated disc

According to the University of Colorado Hospital, spinal trauma is one cause of sciatica. If you were asking yourself if a car accident can cause sciatica, the answer is yes. The location of the slipped or herniated disc can make all the difference in the symptoms and presentation of this injury. If the slipped disc hits the sciatic nerve, the symptoms that present may qualify for a diagnosis of sciatica. Pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating.  

Treating a Herniated Disk

Treatment of a car accident-caused herniated disk is possible, though the results may vary depending on the person and the location of the injury. The University of Colorado Hospital reports that about 10% of herniated disc injuries require surgery. In more minor cases, you may be able to rest, avoid movement that agitates the disc, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. Diligent practice of these remedies may result in symptoms subsiding within days or weeks. 

In addition to the above, your physician may refer you for physical therapy, which can provide additional support. If these less invasive options aren’t working, your doctor may suggest steroid injections through an epidural. This allows the steroid to be injected straight into the injured area and may provide more substantial relief. 

If the epidural is not adequate, the next option for treatment may be surgical. A good candidate for spinal surgery to treat a herniated disk would meet the following criteria, according to the University of Colorado Hospital

  • Physical therapy and medication are not effective
  • Progressive deficits
  • You have a loss of normal bowel or bladder function
  • Pain is limiting your normal activity or diminishes your quality of life
  • You have difficulty standing or walking 
  • You are in, otherwise, reasonably good health

While many do find pain relief from surgical intervention, it is not guaranteed. You should discuss all treatment options, including surgical options, and their risks and benefits with your doctor.

How Do I Claim Damages For My Herniated Disc?

Typically, one of the first steps to claiming damages related to medical costs or pain and suffering is to ensure a physician has appropriately evaluated you. One of the most important components of your claim that you must establish is negligence. While we know the answer is yes, you must support that with your medical documentation. An attorney may connect you with specialists whose main focus is treating injuries like yours who may be able to say ‘Yes, an auto accident can cause a herniated disc.” 

The primary goal of seeking medical attention for your injuries is to ensure that your herniated disc is treated appropriately. Medical intervention may also support your case by providing the necessary documentation to show that the accident can and did cause the herniated disc. 

Important Steps to Take Following a Car Accident 

There are many things you can do immediately following a car accident that can be helpful in any potential case you may choose to bring. Perhaps three of the most important things you can do are:

  • Seek medical evaluation: Many times, the adrenaline rush your body provides when an accident occurs can mask the extent of your injuries. Seeking an immediate evaluation can help ensure that your medical needs are appropriately met, as well as create documentation of your injuries.
  • Take pictures of any damage or injury at the scene: This will, again, serve to document the events and a baseline of any property damage or injuries that may have occurred. 
  • Call a Colorado car accident lawyer as soon as you can: The sooner an attorney can begin acting on your behalf, the more opportunities they have to mitigate any threats to your case and guide you in ways to support it, whether that be through documentation, action, or inaction like not posting on social media. 

How Long Do I Have to File My Slipped Disc Claim?

You may have all of your papers in order and a strong case to make in order to get your maximum compensation for the herniated disc you sustained in a car accident, but that won’t mean anything if you need to file a lawsuit and it has gone beyond the statute of limitations. Per Colorado code 13-8-101, you have three years from the date of the accident to bring a civil case against the defendant in court. 

While this timeframe may seem like a while, you should consider how long all of the steps of your case will take. Simply gathering the documentation can take weeks or months. Getting in to see the appropriate specialists can take several more weeks or months, and beyond that, you need time to try treatments and ensure that they work before you can create an accurate assessment of your damages. Once you have gathered the necessary assessments, treatments, and documentation, you may enter the stages of negotiation with the at-fault insurance company. This can take another few weeks or months. This process can quickly get you close to the three-year mark, at which point you would need to decide to file the suit in court. 

The statute of limitations is something to consider when you are uncertain of whether or not you want legal representation in your case. The sooner you can retain representation, the sooner they can help you through the process and defend your right to compensation. 

Types of Damages Related to a herniated Disc

When discussing a personal injury settlement or lawsuit, there are two categories of damages that may be claimed. Both economic and non-economic damages may have a place in her herniated disc injury. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to those that can be directly tied to money. The Cornell Law School explains that these may be costs such as:

  • Medical expenses 
  • Lost wages
  • Costs of future medical expenses
  • Supplementary services 
  • Travel for treatment

These tend to be relatively easy to total based on invoices and receipts. 

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages tend to be a little bit more nuanced. These refer to those things that are hard to quantify, such as:

Suppose you have a slipped disk that leads to sciatica. If you have significant pain, this may affect the time you are able to spend with your family or the quality of time you have with your partner. If you need narcotics to manage some of the pain, this could affect your ability to do your job or work in your field. All of these are things that may be taken into consideration when calculating your non-economic damages. 

Some things that may be used to support your argument for pain and suffering damages or emotional distress could be statements from friends and family, your employer, or even statements from a mental health therapist or psychiatrist who can speak to your mental and emotional well-being following the accident and injury. 

Life After a Herniated Disk 

A herniated disc can be a debilitating and life-altering injury. It may mean multiple doctor or hospital visits, taking the risk of using narcotics to manage the pain, or having spinal surgery. The physical pain and stress of appointments are significant and can cause additional emotional challenges and strain in your daily life and relationships. 

If someone else’s negligent decisions or actions have caused a car accident resulting in your herniated disc, you deserve to have someone fighting for your right to compensation. Speak to a car accident attorney with Heuser & Heuser at your free consultation today.