According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, there were 804 major injuries that resulted from car accidents between 2004 and 2008 in Des Moines. A car crash can lead to slipped discs and other back injuries, and sometimes these injuries require back fusion surgery. Back fusion surgery is a procedure that can result in major medical bills, but drivers have legal options to recoup damages if they weren't at fault for the accident that necessitated the surgery.
Common Car Accident Injuries Requiring Back Surgery
Bulging and herniated discs are common back injuries after car accidents. The spine consists of vertebra and discs that help increase flexibility. These discs are made of a harder outer shell (capsule) and softer inner cushion (nucleus). With bulging discs, the inner nucleus pushes against the capsule and causes a bulge. Herniated discs occur when the softer nucleus spills out of a tear in the capsule.
The results of these injuries are similar. Patients experience pain because the discs push against the nerves in the spinal cord. The pain is usually treated with rest, physical therapy and medication, but if these treatments don't work, doctors might recommend back surgery.
Spinal compression fractures are another back injury car accident victims might suffer. In some cases, a compression fracture might result in loss of spine height. Back pain and pain in the rest of the body can result from the actual injury and from the vertebrae pushing against the spinal cord. Surgery is common after spinal compression fractures.
This is a limited list of back injuries that might require surgery. Accident victims always should receive medical evaluation after an accident and discuss treatment options with their doctor.
Back Fusion Surgery Overview
The spine is made up of vertebra and discs between the vertebras. During a car accident, these discs can slip from position, begin to bulge, and even rupture. This puts pressure on the nerves in the spinal column, which can result in pain in the back, legs and other areas of the body.
Doctors may perform a discectomy to remove the disc (or part of it) and may perform back fusion surgery as well. During the surgery, doctors remove the damaged discs and fuse the adjacent vertebrae using a bone graft from the patient or a donor. Often the surgeon uses screws or plates to hold the fusion in place until the bones completely join.
It can take several months to recover from this procedure. Immediately after the surgery, the patient may have to avoid any strenuous activity. The patient must learn how to properly sit, stand, walk, etc. to avoid forcing the vertebra out of alignment. Patients may have to wear a brace as well. Patients may also need to attend physical therapy sessions after the surgery to learn proper ways to lift objects and perform other activities.
Proving a Car Accident Necessitated Back Fusion Surgery
To win a car accident case, plaintiffs need to prove the other driver was negligent, caused the accident, and that the negligence caused their injuries. Negligence generally means failing to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others, so violating a traffic law, driving while distracted, or other reckless or careless behavior may be negligent and the cause of an accident.
Degenerative wear and tear often yield:
- slipped discs;
- ruptured discs; and
- back conditions.
Plaintiffs may need to prove that their back injury was not the result of a pre-existing condition before their accident.
Doctors use the following to reveal disc degeneration and back problems:
- CT scans; and
- MRI scans.
If the plaintiffs had these tests before the accident and the results were fine, that can show the back condition was the result of the accident. Other evidence may include expert testimony.
Establishing Damages and Recovering Costs
Accident victims can face a host of damages following a car accident. Among them are damages related to a spinal fusion. The costs can be significant and patients may require hospitalization after a serious back injury.
Further, recovery from the surgery may necessitate time away from work. Medical records and bills, as well as evidence of lost wages, can help establish the extent of damages so accident victims can recover their costs and losses. Note that your health insurance may provide coverage while waiting for your settlement, and it may place a lien on any settlement or judgment to recoup its costs.
Accident victims in Des Moines can consult Walker, Billingsley & Bair about their rights to recoup damages related to spinal fusion or other medical costs necessitated by a car accident. Call (888) 435-9886 or visit our online contact page to set up a consultation.