Low-Impact Car Accident Back Injuries

Your back pain may be a displaced or slipped disc after a low impact car accident.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Can a small car accident cause back pain?

Low impact car accidents can cause severe back injuries. One of the most common kinds of car accidents are low-impact fender benders. However, just because they occur at low speed does not mean these kinds of accidents do not cause severe back injuries. Sometimes, injuries to the neck and back may not appear until days or weeks following the seemingly minor accident. After an low impact accident, you should contact our San Bernardino car accident lawyer to protect your rights.

You should see a doctor for a back injury after a low impact car accident. Low impact car accidents can lead to serious and lingering back problems. Picture a car hitting another at an intersection, or a driver hitting another car when pulling out of a parking spot, or even a car bumping into another at a stoplight. While these may seem like typical, minor accidents that cause minimal vehicle damage, they can still cause injury to the occupants of the vehicles. Even in low-speed accidents, victims may suffer serious back injuries.

Sometimes, the injuries received in low impact accidents may be bad enough to warrant back surgery. In other cases, whiplash may heal itself with rest and time. Of course, anyone who has received a back injury in a car accident knows how disabling this kind of injury can be. However, when minimal impact is involved in a car accident, insurance companies can be skeptical. They will question the seriousness of injuries sustained in such accidents, meaning that victims will have to fight to get the compensation they need to recover properly.

How do low-speed accidents cause injuries?

While a low-impact accident may not cause much damage to a vehicle, the occupant inside may not be so lucky. Still, insurance companies will use lack of physical vehicle damage to argue that a victim’s injuries could not be that serious. That said, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are familiar with treating patients who have endured terrible injuries from low-impact accidents. Medical studies have shown that low-impact collisions can cause serious cervical (neck) and back injuries. A back injury is painful even for low-impact car accidents.

The reason behind these disproportionate injuries comes down to the nature of whiplash. Whiplash happens as a result of quick acceleration and deceleration. During a crash at low speed, a victim’s head can move faster than the car. Studies have found that in low-impact accidents, a victim’s head may move at least 2.5 times faster than the vehicle itself. Thus, even when a car receives very little damage in a crash, its occupant may still injure their neck or back.

What type of spinal injuries can occur after a car accident?

Many car accident injuries are the result of whiplash. Such injuries affect the soft tissue, or muscles, and may result in severe problems with the spine. Some of these problems include sprains, strains, fractures, and herniated discs. If an individual suffers from a pre-existing condition like spinal stenosis, even a minor low-impact accident can worsen or accelerate the condition.

Symptoms of back injuries can vary greatly following a car accident, and a person may have to contend with multiple injuries at once. It can be hard to identify the exact source of discomfort without doing diagnostic tests because different injuries can present similar symptoms. A back injury from low impact accident will disrupt your life as you find time to get physical therapy and see a doctor.

  1. Whiplash: One of the most frequent types of car accident injuries is whiplash, which happens when the head is pulled forward and then back very quickly. This causes the neck to move in a sharp, whip-like fashion. Even when a car crashes at low speed, this kind of injury can easily occur. Whiplash generally causes damage to the ligaments, facet joints, discs, tendons, and muscles in the neck. It is associated with the following symptoms:
    • Neck pain with movement
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness and fatigue
    • Limited range of motion in the neck
    • Neck pain/stiffness

Long-term consequences include the following:

    • Long-term neck pain
    • Radiating pain the shoulders and arms
    • Serious headaches
  1. Thoracic or Lumbar Vertebrae Injuries: The spine is broken when vertebrae crack, break, or are injured in some way. The human body has thirty-three vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and make up the backbone. When one of these bones suffers damage, the individual may be said to have a broken back. A doctor might refer to a fractured back using the following terminology:
    • Burst fracture: This happens when the bones are broken apart and the fragments have scattered
    • Flexion fracture: This is when a vertebra breaks; this kind of fracture usually occurs in the posterior or middle spinal column
    • Fracture-dislocation: This is a combination of a fracture and a dislocation of the vertebrae
    • Compression fracture: When excessive pressure is applied, there can be fractures or cracks in the vertebrae
  1. Back Strains and Sprains: When an individual has a strain in their back, their soft tissue has been overstretched, leading to an injury. A strain involves the tendons in the back, which tie muscles to bones. A sprain, by contrast, causes damage to the ligaments that connect joints to bones. Both strains and sprains can cause chronic pain. Imaging does not identify this kind of injury, so it is important to speak about the likelihood with one’s doctor.
  1. Herniated Discs: A car collision, even one at low speed, may cause the discs of the spine to move around and compress, which causes what is called a herniated disc. This injury occurs when the inside portion of the disc is forced out of place. A doctor may use the words bulging, ruptured, or slipped to refer to a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a serious condition because the part of the disc that sticks out may rub against nerves. This may cause burning, weakness, or numbness that causes issues with other parts of the body.
  1. Spondylolisthesis: This condition happens when a stress fracture dislocates a vertebra. When the bones move, the motion can squeeze the nerves or spinal cord. The degree of movement and its location determine both discomfort and the appropriate treatment. Typically, sufferers experience pain, numbness, and weakness. They may also have difficulty walking.
  1. Injuries to facet joints: Facet joints are positioned between the spinal bones. Nerve roots go through the joints into other parts of the body, including the arms and legs. Facet joints permit an individual to twist or bend without damaging the spine. When a facet joint is injured, there can be pain. Facet joint problems may arise from untreated past trauma or thinning cartilage. The result may be muscle spasms that cause the back to feel tender.
  1. Discogenic pain: Discogenic pain happens when there is damage to the spinal discs. This pain includes shooting sensations or sharp pains. It could also cause sciatica, which involves pain radiating through the buttocks and into the groin, legs, or feet. Some people may feel better lying down, while others may prefer standing up. In general, any activity that lasts for a long time may make the pain worse.
  1. Degenerative spinal disorders: When an individual suffers a severe back injury, they are at greater risk of developing a degenerative spinal disorder sometime in the future. As the body ages, past injury combined with present degeneration may cause:
    • Degenerative scoliosis
    • Bone spurs
    • Bulging discs
    • Herniated discs
    • Spinal osteoarthritis
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Sciatica
    • Foraminal stenosis
    • Spondylolisthesis
    • Pinched nerves
  1. Spinal stenosis: When the gaps between the vertebrae narrow, pressure is applied to the spine, which can cause weakness, pain, and numbness.
  1. Spinal cord damage: Bruising, nicking, tearing, or stretching of the spinal cord can cause impaired sensation and motion. Some people may suffer permanent paralysis in the body below the injury site.

Suffering from back pain resulting from a minor car accident can be frustrating.

How do you know when something is wrong with your spine?

It is normal to feel sore following a low-impact car accident, which makes it difficult to know which pain is related specifically to the back. It can be helpful to know what symptoms to anticipate following an accident so that one knows what to do next. Regardless of the accident’s low impact, back injuries require physical therapy. Even in low-impact accidents, a car accident lawyer can help you get compensation to cover medical bills.

Because the spine extends from the neck to the pelvis, pain can radiate to many different parts of the body. After a crash, back pain may stem from inflammation, compressed nerves, or fractures. The symptoms may be uncomfortable but manageable, or they may leave a person bedbound.

After a collision, an individual may experience any of the following medical problems:

  • Burning pain: A severe pain may move down a person’s back and buttocks through the back of both legs. This could be a mild pain that goes away, or it could be a long-lasting burning sensation.
  • Muscle spasms: This is when a muscle twitches, feels tender, or feels like a hard knot. Muscle spasms may be mild or debilitating.
  • Stiffness: After a car accident, an individual may not feel as flexible due to their muscles tensing up. Stretching can help this kind of stiffness.
  • Tingling or numbness: Tense muscles can pinch nerves in the spine, which can cause numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs.
  • Sharp pain: It may be difficult to change positions, such as standing up or sitting down.
  • Pain when walking or standing: Physical activity may be painful, causing a mild pain or throbbing sensation when doing daily tasks.

After a car collision, if an individual experiences headaches, disorientation, or dizziness, he or she is likely to have suffered damage to their cervical vertebrae, most likely because of whiplash. It is important that an individual document their symptoms, noting what activities worsen the pain and how often the discomfort occurs. You deserve maximum compensation for a back injury sustained in a low-impact car accident.

What is the best thing to do after whiplash?

You should document how the low impact car accident injury affects your daily life so that you may make a settlement claim. People who endure severe and long-lasting injuries to their back after a low-impact accident may face a difficult road to getting fair compensation. Without a lawyer to represent their interests, it will be very hard to get damages for their lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to negotiate fair settlements for victims of low-impact car accidents. They have access to reconstruction and biomechanical experts, in addition to medical specialists, all of whom can prove how the low-impact accident caused the back injuries in question. Our car accident attorney understands the challenges of dealing with insurance companies for back injuries from low-impact car accidents.

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