Car accidents can result in pain and injuries. However, neck pain and injuries are some of the most common injuries after a car accident.
A wide range of neck injuries, varying in severity from minor strains and sprains to severe fractures and spinal cord damage, can arise from motor vehicle accidents. Some injuries may present immediate symptoms, while others might take time to develop. If you experience any pain, discomfort, or unusual sensations in your neck following a car accident, seeking immediate medical evaluation is crucial to promptly identify and treat potential injuries.
After a car accident, especially if you experience neck pain or doctors diagnosed you with a neck injury, contact an experienced car accident attorney. Just like a doctor helps ensure your physical health and well-being, an attorney can protect your legal rights.
Whiplash: The Most Common Neck Injury
Whiplash is the most prevalent type of neck injury sustained in car accidents. It occurs due to the sudden back-and-forth motion of the head and neck, akin to the cracking of a whip. This motion is typically the result of a rear-end collision, but it can also happen in other types of car accidents.
Rear-End Collisions Can Cause Whiplash
Rear-end collisions are particularly notorious for causing whiplash injuries. When a vehicle gets hit from behind, the force propels the occupant’s body forward while the head remains momentarily behind. As a result, the neck experiences an unnatural hyperextension, followed by a rapid flexion. This violent movement puts immense strain on the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments, often leading to a whiplash diagnosis.
The Mechanics of Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash injuries can range from mild to severe, and the symptoms might not appear immediately after the car crash. The abrupt motion damages the soft tissues in the neck, causing symptoms like neck pain, stiffness, headaches, dizziness, and difficulty in neck movement. Sometimes, whiplash can lead to more long-term or chronic issues if not treated promptly and properly.
High-Speed Collisions and Neck Injuries
In high-speed car accidents, the impact forces are considerably more significant. The occupants’ bodies experience an even more forceful jolt, exacerbating the strain on the neck. High-speed collisions can lead to more severe neck injuries, such as herniated discs, spinal fractures, or nerve damage, which might require extensive medical attention and rehabilitation.
Side-Impact Collisions and the Neck
Side-impact collisions, known as T-bone accidents, can cause significant neck injuries. The side impact can result in a sudden lateral motion of the head and neck, stretching and tearing neck muscles and ligaments. Additionally, if the crash forces pushed the vehicle sideways, the headrest might not provide adequate support, increasing the risk of injury.
Rollover Accidents and Neck Trauma
Rollover accidents are especially dangerous as they involve multiple impacts from different angles. During a rollover, the occupants’ bodies can experience violent movements, and the neck can twist, leading to complex or even several different neck injuries.
Airbag Deployment and Neck Injuries
Airbags protect occupants during a collision. Unfortunately, airbag deployment can also contribute to neck injuries. The force of an airbag deploying can cause the head to jerk backward, resulting in whiplash or exacerbating existing neck injuries.
Seat Belt Usage and Neck Trauma
While seat belts protect passengers during an accident, they can also increase the risk of a neck injury. In a collision, the seat belt keeps the body secured while the head still freely moves. This disparity can lead to a strain on the neck muscles and ligaments, contributing to neck injuries.
Pre-existing Conditions and Neck Injury Risk
Car accidents can also worsen pre-existing neck conditions. Individuals with conditions like cervical disc degeneration or spinal stenosis may experience heightened pain and complications if their neck sustains additional trauma during an accident.
Even if you already have a neck or other injury, the at-fault party still needs to compensate you under the eggshell skull rule. Under this doctrine, the at-fault party “takes the victim as they are” and can’t use a previous injury as an excuse not to compensate them for their injuries.
Delayed Onset of Symptoms
The symptoms of neck injuries may not always appear immediately after a car accident. In some cases, symptoms might develop hours or even days later. This delayed onset can make linking the symptoms to the car accident challenging, potentially delaying necessary medical attention.
Types of Neck Injuries After a Car Accident
In addition to whiplash, car accident victims may suffer from:
- Cervical strain – A cervical strain resembles whiplash and refers to the stretching or tearing of neck muscles and tendons due to the forceful motion of the head during the impact.
- Cervical sprain – A cervical sprain involves the stretching or tearing of neck ligaments, which provide stability to the cervical spine. This injury can occur when the head forcefully moves beyond its normal range of motion during an accident.
- Herniated disc – A car accident can cause the gel-like discs between the vertebrae in the neck to rupture or bulge. This condition, known as a herniated disc or slipped disc, can compress nearby nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.
- Fractured vertebrae – High-impact car accidents can cause fractures in the cervical vertebrae (neck bones). Depending on the severity, these fractures may require surgical intervention, leading to significant pain and potential neurological issues.
- Nerve compression – Injuries from car accidents can lead to nerve compression or impingement in the neck, causing radiating pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and hands.
- Spinal cord injuries – Severe car accidents can result in spinal cord injuries in the neck region (cervical spine). These injuries can cause partial or complete paralysis, depending on the extent of damage to the spinal cord.
- Dislocation – The force of a car accident can cause the bones in the neck to shift out of their normal alignment, resulting in a dislocated neck. This severe injury requires immediate medical attention and sometimes even surgery.
- Muscle and tendon tears – Car accidents can cause sudden and forceful movements that lead to tears or ruptures in neck muscles and tendons, causing pain and limited mobility.
Damages From Neck Pain and Injuries
Car accidents are a major cause of neck pain, and the damage from such pain can be devastating. The damages from neck pain can be significant, both physically and financially.
You may experience difficulty sleeping, headaches, and trouble concentrating, which can all impact your quality of life. Additionally, suppose your neck pain is severe enough. In that case, you may need to take time off work to recover, resulting in lost income and additional financial strain.
To recover from neck pain caused by a car accident, work closely with your medical providers to develop a treatment plan. In more severe cases, this may include physical therapy, medication, or surgery. Document all your medical expenses and lost income, as you may recover compensation from the responsible party.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Neck Pain After a Car Accident
If you are experiencing neck pain or have a neck injury after a car accident, you must seek help from a qualified car accident attorney for several reasons.
Insurance companies tend to downplay neck injuries to decrease the amount of compensation they owe car accident victims. They may say you only have a soft tissue injury with little to no damage and refuse to provide you with full and fair compensation, especially if you didn’t break any bones or require surgery.
In general, soft tissue injuries like whiplash are more difficult to obtain compensation for because less testing and treatment will prove such an injury. However, this doesn’t lessen your pain or disability.
In addition, if you have a previous neck, back, or other injury, they will likely blame your old injury for your current pain and symptoms. You may not receive any financial recovery for your injuries if they succeed.
When you hire a car accident attorney, they will fight for your rights. They will use your medical records and other evidence to prove the severity of your injury and how much compensation you should receive for your damages. Your attorney can use the eggshell skull doctrine to protect your rights if you have previous injuries.
Always Seek Medical Evaluation After a Car Accident
Seek immediate medical evaluation after a car accident, even if you believe your injuries are minor or you feel okay at the time of the collision. Many car accident injuries may not manifest symptoms immediately, and delaying medical attention can have serious consequences.
Here are several compelling reasons to always seek a medical evaluation after a car accident:
- Hidden injuries – Some injuries, including whiplash, soft tissue, and internal injuries, may not present immediate symptoms. Adrenaline and shock from the accident can mask pain and discomfort, making it challenging to recognize underlying injuries without professional medical evaluation.
- Early detection and treatment – Seeking medical attention promptly allows healthcare professionals to assess your condition and detect any injuries early. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent injuries from worsening and lead to better recovery outcomes.
- Documenting injuries for insurance claims – If you plan to file an insurance claim for injuries sustained in the car accident, having a medical evaluation and records of your injuries will provide essential documentation to support your claim.
- Legal purposes – In a legal dispute or personal injury lawsuit, medical records from a professional evaluation can strengthen your case and establish a clear connection between the accident and your injuries. If you decide to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault party, having a documented medical evaluation can significantly strengthen your case and help you recover fair compensation for your injuries and damages.
- Preventing complications – Undiagnosed or untreated injuries can lead to complications and chronic conditions if left unaddressed. Seeking medical attention promptly can help prevent potential long-term health issues.
- Emotional and psychological support – Seeking medical evaluation can provide emotional and psychological support after traumatic car accidents. Healthcare professionals can help you cope with any mental and emotional distress resulting from the accident.
- Peace of mind – Getting an evaluation by a medical professional offers peace of mind, knowing that you are in good health or receiving the necessary treatment and care for your injuries.
No matter the severity of a car accident, seeking medical evaluation is essential for your well-being and future. Delaying medical attention after a car accident can lead to serious health issues and complicate insurance claims and legal matters.
Not all injuries are immediately evident, and seeking professional evaluation ensures prompt diagnosis and treatment of your injuries.
If you or anyone else involved in a car accident experiences neck or other pain, discomfort, or any other concerning symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention immediately. Always make your health and safety the top priority after a car accident.
Experiencing Neck Pain After a Car Accident? Get Medical Attention and Seek Legal Counsel
Car accidents can have far-reaching consequences, and neck injuries are among the most common and concerning outcomes. Even if symptoms don’t immediately appear, seeking prompt medical attention after an accident can effectively identify and treat neck injuries. Additionally, seeking prompt legal representation from an experienced personal injury lawyer will secure your rights and maximize the compensation you deserve.