Can you sue someone for your spinal disc herniation caused by the accident?

by | Jun 22, 2021 | Personal Injury | 0 comments

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Overview:

Do you have severe back pain even months after the accident? For prolonged back pain, spinal disc herniation might be a reason. Early discovery of a herniated disc would help you get treatment in the early stage and get cured quickly without much expense. Proving that your disc herniation is caused by the accident is more complicated than other injuries. Know more about spinal disc herniation and the possibility of claims.

What is disc herniation?

Spinal disc herniation is the protrusion of the disc nucleus pushed out of the annulus through a rupture or tear and forming a bulge. This slipped disc or herniated disc can compress the spinal nerves nearby and cause radicular pain in your shoulders, arms, or legs.

To understand it more clearly we should know about our spine. Our spine is made up of bones stacked up one on top of the other. Some soft cushioned discs located in between these bones act as shock absorbers and help us flexibly move our bodies. The solid outside of these discs called annulus is filled with a soft jelly-like substance called the nucleus pulpous.

When these spinal discs are weakened, they may be ruptured. Through the tear, the jelly-like nucleus pulpous protrudes outside and forms a bulge. These bulges are called spinal disc herniations. Such bulges can compress the nerves and cause nerve impingement.

Causes of spinal disc herniation:

Disc herniation can occur due to various factors. They can be

  • Age-related: Aging plays an important role in spinal disc degeneration. The disc becomes dry without the liquid due to aging. This makes the disc weak as time goes by and it ruptures resulting in spinal disc herniation.
  • Work-related: If your work included lifting heavy objects often you are susceptible to disc herniation. Putting pressure on the back while lifting things will stress the spinal bones and disrupt or dislocate the discs. Especially, the lower back is affected by carrying heavy objects.
  • Impacts-related: Due to heavy impacts during auto accidents, your body undergoes violent movements. This can dislocate the spinal bones and disc herniation can result. Cervical and lumbar herniations can occur.
  • Lifestyle-related: A lifestyle without any exercises can be a reason.
  • Driving-related: If driving for long distances continuously is part of your life, disc herniation can occur in the long run. Sitting for a long time and violent movements or vibrations are the main reasons.
  • Obesity-related: A person’s body weight also has its part in slipped discs. The vertebrae could not balance the overweight of the body and dislocates one or more bones in the spine.

An already degenerating disc due to aging can be made worse by worst impacts like motorcycle accidents or auto accidents or slip and fall can make the asymptomatic disc herniation symptomatic.

Symptoms of spinal disc herniation:

All disc herniations may not show up symptoms. Only when the herniation starts compressing the nerves one will experience radicular symptoms and discomfort. When the herniation starts compressing the spinal cord, the situation becomes serious and more attention is needed. The symptoms will intensify while sneezing, coughing, or bending.

1. Cervical disc herniation symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Radicular pain in the arms
  • Weakness in the arms
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Numbness and tingling in the upper extremities

2. Lumbar disc herniation symptoms:

The affected sciatic nerves can cause the following

  • Lower back pain
  • Radiating pain through the entire legs
  • Numbness and tingling in the lower extremities
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Pain in the butt area

3. Thoracic disc herniation symptoms:

Thoracic disc herniation can generate pain that seems to come from the abdomen, heart or kidneys depending on the nerves compressed. When the disc herniation presses against the spinal cord, the following symptoms may be explicitly found:

  • Muscle weakness in one or both legs
  • Numbness and tingling in the legs
  • Disturbance in bowel or bladder functions
  • Paralysis of the lower extremity

Spinal disc herniation diagnosis:

Doctors will check the history of the patient, do physical examinations, and check the prior MRIs or X-rays. Usually, diagnostic tests and x-rays are done to find out the other possible causes of pain. Then they propose, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans and CT (Computerized Tomography) scans, which accurately diagnose the defective discs and the nerve root compression in the spine.

When other treatments fail to bring results, doctors will propose other diagnostic tests like electromyography, myelography, and discography to analyze the necessity for surgery.

How to treat spinal disc herniation?

Most of the herniations can be cured naturally without the need for surgery. Conservative treatments like physical therapy or chiropractic therapy could do wonders in curing most of the herniations. People with overweight are advised to follow weight loss therapy.

When the conservative treatments and over-the-counter medications could not reduce the pain, the doctors plan on pain management treatments like steroid injections or facet block injections.

If the steroids fail to cure the pain, the final suggestion is surgery. The patient could get either the discs fused or replaced with prosthetics.

  1. Disc herniation exercises:

After being diagnosed with a disc herniation you may think that you cannot exercise as it may hurt your back. But the reality is certain exercises can give you permanent relief from the pain. Abdominal and back strengthening exercises and nerve mobilization exercises help to relieve the pain.

Exercises to relieve cervical herniation pain include neck extension exercises, neck and shoulder retraction exercises, and lateral and Scalene stretches. If the stretching increases your pain, you should stop doing that.

Core exercises and abdominal strengthening exercises can alleviate thoracic herniation pain. They restore the flexibility and stability of the spine.

Lumbar disc herniation exercises help to strengthen the spine, abdominal and pelvic area. They also activate the gluteal and diaphragm muscles.

However, do the exercises for disc herniation as instructed by your physical therapist or the chiropractor.

  1. Pain medications and Injections to treat herniation:

Muscle relaxants, oral corticosteroids, or anti-inflammatory medications will be recommended by the doctors.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory injections with pain medications are used to reduce the inflammation of the nerves and soft tissues around the herniated disc.

The next step is to give epidural steroid injections, which include an anesthetic and steroid injections. The steroid was injected into the epidural space around the affected disc. Another type is to give facet joint injections into the facet joint itself or the medial nerve branches to not only relieve the pain but also to diagnose the real problem causing the pain. Both these injections have some side effects like headaches, infection, and bleeding, and nerve damage. These injections may give relief from few weeks to a year depending on the severity of the issue.

  1. Herniated disc surgery:

Laminotomy: In laminotomy, an opening is made in the lamina (vertebral arch) to relieve the pressure in the nerves. In some cases, the lamina can be removed.

Discectomy: Discectomy is removing a part of the disc or the entire affected disc which compresses the nerve.

Prosthetic or disc replacement surgery: In this kind of surgery the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc made of plastic or metal. This surgery is done when a single disc is affected.

Spinal fusion: In this, two or more vertebrae are fused permanently with a bone graft. Plastic or metal screws are used to give additional support to the spine and aid to heal the vertebrae.

Vertebroplasty: Bone cement is injected into the fractured vertebrae to make it strong.

Can you sue someone for your spinal disc herniation?

Of course, you can claim for your disc herniation if someone is at fault for causing that. If workplace accidents caused that, you can claim worker’s compensation. If involved in auto accidents, you can go for a personal injury claim. However, proving that your disc herniation has resulted from the accident is somewhat complicated.

The plaintiff has to prove two things to get the claim- the injury is caused by the particular accident and the pain and suffering undergone by the plaintiff.

Let us see what you should do after the accident which will help in gaining your compensation.

  1. Immediate steps to be taken after the accident:
  • Report the accident to the concerned authority and get a copy of the report.
  • Photograph the accident site.
  • Photograph the injuries.
  • Collect the witness’s statements, if possible. Collect their personal details.
  • Collect the insurance information of the people or person involved
  • If you have back pain, get medical attention. At the ER, they may not be able to diagnose your herniation, as the x-rays may not reveal that. Therefore, get an MRI of the back after consulting your doctor to make sure of your problem. Keep the medical records safe.
  • Contact an attorney to know how to proceed with your claim.
  • In preexisting herniation cases, collect pre-accident MRIs, or other imaging studies.
  1. Getting treatment on time matters:

Sometimes, your spinal disc herniation will show symptoms only after few months of the accident. However, even if you have mild symptoms of disc herniation noted in the post-accident MRI, get treatment on time. An unattended disc herniation can cause serious threats to your life later.

If not taken care of, even your daily life activities can aggravate a mild herniation to a life-threatening one.

  1. Damages included in the herniated disc personal injury claims:
  • Loss of income: Treatment of disc herniation stresses complete rest. During recuperation, a long absence from work cannot be avoided. You can claim the lost wages for those days. You can even claim for your loss of earning capacity in the future.
  • Medical expenses: Present medical expenses can be claimed as reimbursement. Future medical expenses for disc herniation treatment can be estimated and be claimed.
  • Emotional distress: Serious injuries need prolonged treatment. The mental agony about the injuries, PTSD, anxiety and other worries also can be claimed.
  • Pain and suffering: The pain and suffering undergone due to the herniated discs and the discomfort felt by the plaintiff are considered.
  • Loss of consortium: The impact of the injuries in the relationship with the spouse is added. Some states, even consider the loss of consortium between the child and the parent.
  • Loss of enjoyment: The plaintiff can claim for his lost hobbies or the disability to do exercises.
  • Punitive damages: Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for being deplorable in causing damages to the plaintiff. 
  1. Types of claims:
  • Worker’s compensation: when the accident occurs in the workplace you are eligible for worker’s compensation. If your employer denies his liability for causing the herniation you can sue him.
  • Premises liability: When the accidents happen due to the unsafe nature of the premises, or non-maintenance of the premises, you can sue the premises owner or the contractor for your herniation. Accidents in hotels, restaurants, parks, elevators or escalators, etc. come under this.
  • Personal injury: All the cases where the plaintiff is injured come under personal injury claims. In auto accident cases, you can file a personal injury claim for the herniation against the at-fault driver.

Herniated disc settlement:

In herniated disc injury cases nationally, the average compensation provided is around $360,000 and the median is $65,000. One cannot decide that all herniated disc cases will get a fixed amount. The settlement value varies based on the severity of the injuries of the plaintiff, the time taken for the recovery, jurisdiction, and the insurance company.

In preexisting herniation cases, you can claim for the aggravated herniation that is causing pain. Spinal disc herniation may not cause discomfort or pain unless it starts compressing the nerves. You have to prove that the accident aggravated your condition and has made the asymptomatic herniation symptomatic. Thus you can claim for the aggravated herniation.

An experienced attorney can find all the possible ways to assert your claim in contentious litigation.

Final Thoughts:

Spinal disc herniation can be made worse due to negligence and may end up changing your future into a question mark. Get appropriate treatment and convalesce peacefully leaving the worries to a talented personal injury lawyer to take care of.

Even the doctors or MRIs or other imaging studies cannot understand or reveal the severity of the pain undergone by the patient as it includes other factors too. Each case is different and should be approached keeping that in mind. Your attorney will tackle the complexities of your litigation and endeavor to recover the compensation. Medical chart review companies abet your attorney in reviewing your medical records to procure you a remunerative sum.

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