Fractured Vertebrae after Car Accident

The vertebrae are the bones in the spinal column that protect the spinal cord. A vertebra injury could result in damage to the spinal cord as well as other serious complications. Fractured vertebrae may put pressure on the spinal cord and in some cases fragments of bone might pierce the spinal cord.

What are some different types of fractured vertebrae and other injuries?

The University of Iowa Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation outlines five serious vertebra injuries:

  • compression fracture, in which the spinal column is forced forward and down -- the result of being hit by a vehicle behind you;
  • burst fracture, in which part of the vertebra is shattered and may penetrate the spinal cord with very serious repercussions;
  • subluxation, in which the joints in the back of the vertebrae become weak and can cause abnormal movement of the bones;
  • dislocation, in which the vertebrae become out of alignment; and
  • fraction dislocation, in which the vertebrae not only dislocates, but also fractures.

There are varying degrees of severity of a fractured spine or any spinal injury, but all should be taken seriously and require immediate medical attention.

How can a car accident lead to crushed vertebrae?

A vertebral compression fracture requires a great deal of trauma to the back for it to occur. This can happen in a serious car crash, such as a head-on collision or when a victim gets pinned inside the vehicle. Sometimes it's a result of the occupant in a passenger car getting struck by something much larger, such as a semi.

What are the symptoms of crushed vertebrae?

The most common symptom is pain in the injured area. But it can spread elsewhere if it affects the spinal cord, this may include:

  • other parts of the back;
  • the neck;
  • hips;
  • stomach; and
  • thighs (depending on the location of the injury).

Patients might experience tingling, weakness and numbness. In the most severe cases, an accident victim who suffers crushed vertebrae may also suffer damage the spinal cord, causing loss of feeling and paralysis.

What are the treatments for vertebrae and spinal cord injuries?

Any spinal injury requires medical care, which can be extensive in the most severe cases. Even relatively minor vertebrae fractures can incur significant medical costs. Patients require emergency care at the scene, hospital transport and may require hospital admission.

Treatment for a compression fracture of the spine usually starts with conservative measures such as:

  • rest;
  • a back brace;
  • ice/heat therapy; and/or
  • medication.

There are different types of medication that may help, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain. Sometimes muscle relaxants help as well.

When there are other serious injuries or the symptoms are significant, the individual may get admitted to the hospital. Surgery is often required if the crushed vertebrae are unstable or compressing the spinal cord.

Following surgery (and sometimes without surgery), the person may undergo some type of physical therapy. The goal is to strengthen the muscles and prevent further injury.

Most of the time crushed vertebrae heals without complications. Of course, recovery takes longer when it's a severe injury. And it's possible the individual suffers long-term complications.

What damages can I pursue in a car accident claim after a fractured vertebra?

Pursuing compensation for the extensive medical bills is one of the most important aspects of the car accident claim. This requires pursuing damages for current and short-term damages like hospitalization, emergency transport, and more; it should also account for damages related to long-term treatment and care.

But accident victims also should quantify their lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses. An attorney can help accident victims account for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, which can be difficult to quantify.

You may file an insurance claim against the other party’s liability insurance – and your own insurance, depending on your coverage – or may file a lawsuit if necessary. You’ll have to account for any comparative negligence that you had for the accident, which could reduce the damages you recover.

If you suffered a serious vertebra or spinal injury in a car accident that was not your fault, speak to an attorney. Severe injuries can have devastating and long-lasting effects. The injury can cause not only loss of mobility, but also loss of income and loss of your ability to enjoy life. You need to get proper compensation for yourself and your family. If you live in the Des Moines area, contact Walker, Billingsley & Bair. We can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Call today at 888-435-9886 to schedule an appointment.

Corey Walker
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With over 20 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.