Car accidents can be violent, sudden events that cause injuries to many parts of the body, including the neck. The neck is a delicate and complex part of the body that consists of bones, muscles, nerves, and intervertebral discs. During a car accident, sudden forces can cause the neck to move in unnatural ways, leading to injuries such as:
- strains, and
- herniated or slipped discs.
There are different types of collisions that can lead to neck injury, such as rear-end, side-impact, and head-on crashes. Even low-speed collisions can result in neck injuries, as sudden impact or head rotation can put stress on the neck. In this blog, we will discuss the common neck injuries from car accidents, the symptoms of a neck injury, treatment options, and what to do if you sustain a neck injury from a car accident.
Symptoms of a Neck Injury
Neck pain from a car accident can last for a few days to a week unless the injury is more severe. You may also not experience any symptoms or pain until weeks after the accident.
Common symptoms of a neck injury, that you should be mindful of following an accident, include:
- Shooting or throbbing pain
- An inability to turn your neck side-to-side or look up and down
- Tenderness in the neck or at the base of the skull
- Muscle spasms in the affected area
- Chills or fever
- Numbness or tingling in the affected area and/or your extremities
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Common Neck Injuries from Car Accidents
Whiplash is one of the more commonly known neck injuries sustained in car accidents. Whiplash occurs when the neck is jerked back and forth suddenly, like the cracking of a whip. Car accidents are one of the most common causes of whiplash, often resulting from a rear-end collision.
Symptoms of whiplash can include neck pain, stiffness, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. In severe cases, victims may experience memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and even depression.
Other common neck injuries sustained in car accidents include:
- Slipped disc. These injuries occur when the inner portion of a spinal disc protrudes through the outer ring, causing pressure on nearby nerves or the spinal cord. Symptoms can include sharp or shooting pain in the arms or legs, pain in the buttocks, thighs, or calves, and neck pain. If left untreated, slipped discs can cause significant pain and discomfort, leading to potential complications such as nerve damage and paralysis.
- Neck sprain. If you suffer injury to the soft tissue or ligaments in your neck, you may have a neck sprain, which can affect your neck’s mobility and can cause pain when you move your head or upper neck.
- Cervical spondylolisthesis. Because of the force of the crash, you may suffer this injury, which occurs when your vertebrae slip out of alignment or become dislocated. Cervical spondylolisthesis can cause a person extreme pain in their back, head, shoulders, and neck.
- Pinched nerves. This injury is the result of tendons, discs, damaged tissue, or bones that compress the nerves surrounding them; symptoms of this injury include tingling, numbness, and pain. Many people who suffer from muscle sprains, strains, or damaged discs also sustain pinched nerves.
- Facet joint injury. These joints allow you to move and stabilize your head and neck. Because of the force of the crash and/or blows to your neck, your facet joints can become inflamed, which can lead to serious pain.
- Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are common after car accidents, and they can be caused by physical trauma, muscle fiber damage, and inflammation. These involuntary contractions in the muscles can result in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Symptoms often appear in the neck and back and can last for weeks or even months. It is recommended to seek professional medical help if the pain persists, as early treatment can help alleviate the symptoms. Treatment options may include chiropractic care, physical therapy, medications, and hot or cold therapy.
- Fracture or compression. Your neck has seven bones, and car accidents can also lead to a broken neck (or fractured cervical spine). This type of injury can lead to paralysis or even death.
Neck Pain/Injury Diagnosis & Treatment
When it comes to diagnosing neck injuries caused by car accidents, physicians rely on various techniques and tools to accurately determine the extent of the damage. Physicians may use diagnostic tools such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to get a better understanding of the injuries and the underlying causes.
While X-rays are typically used to visualize the structure of the neck and detect any fractures or dislocations, CT scans provide detailed images of the neck and surrounding tissues. MRIs are especially useful for detecting soft tissue injuries such as herniated discs or nerve damage.
Developing a treatment plan for neck injuries requires an accurate diagnosis, and early intervention is key to ensuring a successful recovery. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, treatment may include physical therapy, pain management, or even surgery. Effective treatments for neck pain caused by car accidents may include physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
While being treated on-site or as a part of your recommended further treatment, your treatment may include:
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
- Attending physical therapy
- Icing your neck
- Using a neck brace (temporarily)
- Completing gentle stretches or chiropractic exercises
Surgical Treatment Options
For more severe neck injuries, surgical treatment may be necessary. Such surgeries may include:
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF). ACDF is a minimally invasive procedure that removes a degenerated or herniated disc from the neck. The surgery helps relieve compression on the spinal cord or nerve roots that cause pain, numbness, or tingling sensations. The surgeon removes the affected disc and replaces it with a bone graft or spinal instrumentation to stabilize the cervical spine.
- Cervical Disc Replacement (CDR). Cervical Disc Replacement is an alternative to ACDF surgery that also treats degenerated or herniated discs in the neck. The surgeon removes the affected disc and replaces it with an artificial disc to maintain more natural motion and flexibility in the neck.
- Neck Arthroplasty. Neck Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure that replaces damaged or diseased vertebral joints in the neck with artificial joints. Neck Arthroplasty aims to relieve neck pain and restore normal neck motion in patients with severe neck arthritis.
Suing for a Neck Injury After a Car Accident
If you have sustained a neck injury in a car accident in New York, you have legal options available to you. You can file a personal injury suit to claim damages for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. Additionally, you can fight to be compensated for property damage resulting from the car accident.
To file a lawsuit for a neck injury sustained in a car accident in New York, you need to prove that the other driver was negligent and that their actions caused your injury. To substantiate your claim and establish liability, you can submit the following as evidence:
- The police report
- Witness statements
- Photographs and surveillance videos (of any physical damage, the accident, etc.)
- Statements made by the other party
- Repair receipts
- Medical records
- Testimony from expert witnesses
- Pay stubs and/or W-2s
It is advisable to consult a personal injury lawyer if you have sustained a neck injury in a car accident in New York. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the legal process and help you determine the level of compensation you are entitled to.
What to Do If You Suffer a Neck Injury in an Auto Accident
If you have been involved in a car accident that was not your fault, it is essential to take certain steps to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights. Here are some steps to take affect an accident to help you navigate the accident aftermath:
- Check yourself for injuries and assess the situation. The first thing you should do after a car accident is to remain calm and assess the situation. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries and call emergency medical assistance if necessary. If you are able to do so, move to a safe location away from traffic. Until help arrives, if you or any other your passengers have neck injuries, you should avoid moving your head or neck. It is also essential to stabilize the neck in a neutral position using your hands or rolled-up towels on either side of the neck.
- Call emergency services. Contact the police and file an accident report. Take note of the other driver's details, vehicle license plate number, and insurance information. The police will also gather evidence and create an official report of the accident, which can be helpful in your case.
- Avoid apologizing or claiming fault. Avoid admitting fault or discussing the cause of the accident with other parties involved. It is important to stay neutral and not assign blame until all the evidence has been gathered.
- Take photos of the accident and your injuries. If possible, document the scene and your injuries.
Get Help from Our Firm
At the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli, our attorney has decades of legal experience and is known for being an experienced and reliable attorney. If you or a loved one have suffered a neck injury in a car accident, we are here and equipped to help you.
Schedule an initial consultation today. Call (516) 628-6402!