A neck injury is – well, a pain in the neck. And depending on the severity, a neck injury can cause mild discomfort or long-term pain. It might require a few weeks of physical therapy or months of rehab. What’s worse, sometimes the full effects of a neck injury are not immediately known; it may take several days following an accident for the pain and soreness to really kick in. So you may initially feel pretty good after an accident, but by the end of the week you could find yourself in severe neck pain.
Neck injuries caused by accidents are common. Understanding the types of neck injuries and what you can do about them from both a medical and a legal perspective is important for physical, financial and emotional healing. It’s important to see a doctor immediately after a neck injury to determine the extent of the injury and receive proper treatment. If legal action needs to be taken, a personal injury attorney can review your case and try to help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Are The Most Common Types Of Neck Injuries?
Each year in the United States, more than 800,000 vehicle accidents that include neck injuries occur. Of those injuries, whiplash is quite common. According to the Cleveland Clinic, whiplash, also referred to as neck strain or neck sprain, happens when your head jerks back and forth in a sudden motion. For example, if you are in your car and are rear-ended by another vehicle, your head may jerk, leading to whiplash. This motion strains the muscles and can damage soft tissue in the neck.
Typical symptoms of whiplash are:
- Pain that may travel from the neck to the back or shoulders
- Stiff neck with difficulty turning
- Muscle spasms
- Memory issues
You may recall old TV sitcoms or dramas in which a person with whiplash enters a courtroom wearing a very confining cervical collar. That was usually for effect, to show the jury how severely debilitating the plaintiff’s injury was and to build a case against the defendant. Today’s remedy for whiplash is much different; doctors recommend ice or heat applied immediately after the injury, over-the-counter medication for pain relief; and careful stretches to loosen sore muscles. In the case of more severe whiplash, you may need physical therapy, steroid injections or a soft neck brace.
Another common neck injury due to an accident is a herniated disk. While this is often associated with back pain, a herniated disk can also cause pain and stiffness in the neck. If a disk in your spine is compressed or pinched, it can affect the nearby nerves, leading to pain and weakness.
You may have a herniated disk if your neck pain is accompanied by:
- A sharp pain running from your neck to the back of your arms
- Muscle weakness
- A tingling sensation in your neck, arms or legs
To determine if your neck injury includes a herniated disk, your doctor will likely perform a series of tests, including an X-ray, a CT scan and an MRI, along with nerve tests. If you are diagnosed with a herniated disk, treatment options include prescribed medications, physical therapy and, in the worst case scenarios, surgery.
One of the more severe neck injuries related to an accident is a neck fracture. If you have received this type of injury, you will experience extreme pain, swelling and numbness in your arms and legs. It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, as neck fractures can cause paralysis and sometimes death.
If you are in an accident and suspect you have a neck fracture, you should:
- Stay still and insist that no one try to move you
- Have a medical professional check you out before safely moving you onto a stretcher
- Alert the medical professional if you experience difficulty breathing (a breathing tube may be needed to help with this)
Once at the hospital, you will be carefully examined to determine the severity of the injury, including which of the 7 bones in your neck are broken. A minor break will require a neck brace to help with healing. For more severe neck fractures, you may need to be put into traction to restrict movement while you heal; in extreme cases, surgery is required to repair the broken bones.
Neck injuries are serious business that first and foremost require medical care. It’s also important to have a reliable and competent personal injury attorney who understands the significance of neck injuries and how to help you from a legal standpoint.
How Do Most Neck Injuries Occur?
The reason the neck is so often affected in auto accidents is because it is extremely vulnerable. In a car, a seat belt protects your body, but the neck and head are unrestrained. As was mentioned before, impact from an automobile accident that causes a person’s head to quick jerk back and forth is a leading cause of neck injuries. In addition, before an accident happens muscles can stiffen, which leads to greater strain in the neck.
If you are involved in an accident while riding a motorcycle, you may also experience a neck injury. In fact, about 22% of all motorcycle accidents result in whiplash or other form of injury to the neck. This is especially common when hit from behind while riding a motorcycle.
What Should You Do If You Have Injured Your Neck In An Accident?
It may seem obvious, but the first thing you should do if you are in any accident is call 911 and request the police and possibly an ambulance. Give the dispatcher as much information as possible, including where you are located, how the accident happened, how many vehicles were involved in the accident and any injuries.
If you feel that you have injured your neck, it’s important to stay still. You don’t want to aggravate the injured area or possibly do more harm to your body by trying to move. Even if you feel you are fine, it’s best to go to the hospital or visit your doctor right away. Remember that symptoms of whiplash can begin weeks after your accident. Therefore, even if you are given the all-clear by a medical professional right after your accident, you may need to receive a follow-up in case neck stress appears.
The next question you’ll have once you’ve addressed your health will likely be the legal steps you should take. If you are certain that your neck injury is related to someone else’s negligence, you’ll want to be prepared. Personal injury attorneys are well-versed in these circumstances, including your legal recourse and possible settlements related to your injury.
What Are Your Legal Options?
If you received a neck injury in an accident through someone else’s fault, it’s important to know your legal opportunities. Earlier, it was noted that there are about 800,000 reported vehicle crashes involving neck injuries each year. The cost of treatment for those injuries is estimated to be $5.2 billion. While health insurance may cover some of the treatment costs for injured parties, it will likely not cover everything. And if considerable treatment is needed due to a serious neck injury, costs can skyrocket. Seeking a settlement for damages and personal injury will help defray the cost and give you more peace of mind.
You should be in immediate contact with your insurance company as soon as you know the treatment you will likely need. The insurance company can tell you what will be covered and what will have to come out-of-pocket. You will also want to check with your doctor about any long-term treatment that will be needed, and what payment may be like through insurance. Then, it’s time to think about legal options.
Armed with information about the accident, your injury and your medical costs, a personal injury attorney can begin to build your defense. One of the first steps is to “value” your neck injury case. Valuing simply means estimating what a jury might award for this particular injury case, then determining what the defendant might be willing to pay and what the plaintiff would be willing to accept to settle out of court.
Several factors will go into valuing your neck injury due to an accident:
- The severity of the injury. A fractured bone will more likely lead to a larger settlement than, say, whiplash.
- The length of the injury. You might have to miss work a few days following whiplash, whereas you may miss weeks of work due to a neck fracture. And if the injury is severe enough, you may need long-term medical care and be unable to work as you had before. Or your ability to live independently may be impacted, forcing you to move to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. All of this will factor heavily in the value of your case.
- Type of medical treatment. Physical therapy is time-consuming and expensive, but not as much as surgeries and rehabilitation.
- Estimated damages. These can be due to medical bills, loss of income, ongoing care, etc.
- Quality of life damages. Pain and suffering due to a neck injury comes with its own unique price tag. It is a subjective number that can only be determined by the affected party with the help of a legal professional.
- Liability. Assuming there is ample proof that the defendant is responsible for the accident that led to your injuries, this should not be a problem.
It should be noted that because neck injuries are relatively common, so are lawsuits seeking damages for them. For that reason, some states put a limit on the amount of compensation for quality of life damages.
In Hawaii, limits are put on pain and suffering damages due to personal injury; however, there is no cap on other non-economic damages such as permanent disability. In Ohio, caps on non-economic damages were declared unconstitutional by the courts but then re-passed in a way that avoided the unconstitutional issues. Be sure to check with your state’s laws about compensation for quality of life damages.
Ready To Call A Personal Injury Attorney? First, Do This
Having as much information as possible about the circumstances surrounding your neck injury will help your personal injury attorney provide you the best services. Consider the answers to these questions as you compile the information:
- Who? Who was involved in the accident? Were you alone or with others? Who are the witnesses who can substantiate your account of the accident? Who came to provide assistance? Police officer? EMS worker?
- What? What happened to cause the accident? Be as detailed as you can. It’s a good idea to write down all of the information you can think of as soon after the accident as possible so you don’t forget important aspects of the incident.
- When? What was the date, the time of day, the time of year. These details will paint an accurate picture of the conditions that might have been apparent during the accident.
- Where? Was it on a desolate street or a busy highway? Which direction were you heading? Were there other cars around when the accident happened?
- Why? What is your perception of why this accident happened? Do you feel it could have been avoided by the defendant? Do you feel that you had any sort of ability to prevent the accident?
Personal injury attorneys have a lot of experience in this area; however, each accident is somewhat unique. The reasons for your accident and your neck injury are important, and they should factor into your ability to be awarded compensation.
Working With Personal Injury Attorneys
If you’ve thoroughly answered the questions above and you feel ready to move forward with your case, it’s time to work with a personal injury attorney who can offer you the most effective and personable services. You want to choose a personal injury attorney with substantial experience in this very specialized area of law. Tork Law has handled more than 10,000 personal injury cases and helped their clients receive more than $250 million in settlement rewards. We are very proud of the results we’ve received for our clients because they represent justice being served.
Along with experience, you want a personal injury attorney you feel you can trust, someone who is going to take your personal concerns into consideration and who will sincerely try to get you the best results. At TorkLaw, we like to say that we are 100% dedicated to our clients. But that’s not just a catchy phrase; it’s how we do business. We can’t guarantee a specific dollar amount that will be awarded to you, but we can promise to do everything in our power to get you the results you deserve.
You can get a sense of how comfortable you’ll feel with a personal injury attorney even before your first meeting. When you called the office, were you able to speak to a receptionist or someone else right away? Were your questions competently answered? Did the attorney show concern for your accident and injuries? Were you able to set up an appointment soon after the initial call? Was there an opportunity to first determine what services might be available to you without having to pay a fee? TorkLaw offers a free case evaluation that can be filled out online. In just a few simple steps, you’ll get a good idea of how we can help you.
If you are ready to discuss your neck injury due to an accident, TorkLaw is ready to assist. Give us a call toll-free at 888-845-9696 or visit our website: torklaw.com.