What To Do After An Auto Accident Neck Injury

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in , .

Whiplash, a type of neck injury, is one of the most common injuries caused by a car accident. The impact of a sudden collision can jolt the neck forward, causing various other injuries as well. While sometimes these injuries can be minor, other times they can create the need for surgery or long-term physical therapy. If you sustained a neck injury during a car accident, do not hesitate to call the compassionate lawyers at Matz Injury Law. We can guide you through the process of documenting your injury, dealing with insurance, and more to get you full compensation for your injuries.

Man holding his neck exiting a car

What Causes a Neck Injury After a Car Accident?

While in a vehicle, your body is restrained by a seat belt, leaving your head and neck unprotected. A collision can force them into rapid movement and, in turn, cause a neck injury. Also, if you become aware that an accident is about to occur, your muscles will tense, which is a natural response by the body. With this, however, you increase the risk of sustaining injuries. Neck injuries are common in rear-end collisions and when flying debris strikes this area of the body during an accident.

5 Neck Injury Symptoms You Should Know

The neck is highly vulnerable to injury. Here are five symptoms of a neck injury you should know.

Stiffness

Your neck may feel stiff after a crash, but this is not always a sign that you are experiencing a serious injury. For relief, try some gentle stretching.

Limited Range of Motion

An injury to the neck can lead to a limited range of motion. You will notice this when trying to tilt or turn your head in one direction, and it can be a sign of a mild sprain or strain.

Pain

You may feel a slight pain in the back of the neck. If this neck pain worsens as you move your head, you may have a neck strain or sprain. Pain often increases a day or two after an accident, and this can indicate injury.

Fatigue

Chronic fatigue can result from cervical trauma, which affects blood flow of the nerves surrounding the neck. These affected nerves can cause muscles in the neck to weaken.

Numbness and Tingling

Following a neck injury, a numbing and tingling sensation can occur in the arms or legs. It can be a sign of cervical trauma, leading to a herniated disk, or stenosis.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

A whiplash injury occurs when the neck is rapidly forced back and forth, such as often occurs in a car crash. Some common symptoms include:

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Upper back pain
  • Tenderness in the upper back, shoulder, or arm
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Dizziness

What to Do If You Think You Have a Neck Injury

Following a car accident and in the immediate days ahead, if you think you might have an injury to your neck, take the following steps.

1. See a Doctor Immediately

It is imperative that you see a doctor immediately to determine if there is a neck injury. A diagnosis will lead to medical treatment as soon as possible after your accident so you can avoid further long-term complications.

2. Document Your Symptoms

Be sure to document all your symptoms as early as you can. Tell them to a medical professional so they will be in your medical records. These records will be an essential part of your neck injury claim.

3. Hire a Car Accident Injury Attorney

Seek the legal advice of an experienced Michigan car accident lawyer to determine what to do next. Your lawyer can evaluate your case, compile relevant evidence, calculate damages, and negotiate a maximum settlement with the insurance companies.

What Will Happen If I Put Off Treatment for My Neck Injury?

Delaying treatment for whiplash or other serious car accident neck injuries can cause future complications. The neck pain accompanying a whiplash injury can worsen, leading to a lower quality of life and additional health issues. You may be unable to return to work and encounter financial hardship for your family as a result. In addition, putting off medical care can lead to chronic neck pain and decreased mobility.

10 Common Neck Injuries After a Car Accident

The force of impact in vehicle collisions can damage the complex structure of the neck in a variety of ways. Here are ten common neck injuries after an auto accident.

1. Whiplash

Whiplash occurs as the head and neck are forced out of their normal range of motion, snapping back and forth quickly. Accident victims can suffer damage to the muscles, soft tissues, nerves, and even the facet joints.

2. Slipped or Herniated Disc

Intervertebral discs located in the cervical spine can slip, herniate, bulge, or rupture during a car crash. These discs are meant to serve as shock absorbers protecting the vertebrae. If slippage occurs, you risk compression of the spinal cord nerves. With a ruptured, herniated, or bulging disc, the jelly-like substance inside the disc protrudes, which then compresses nerves and crowds the vertebrae.

3. Neck Sprain or Strains

Two common types of neck injuries are strains and sprains, which occur with the tearing or stretching of the soft tissue in the neck. More specifically, a neck strain can involve damage to the connecting tissues, tendons, and facet joints, or cause a muscle injury. Neck sprains involve the tearing of ligaments. These ligaments are what connect the bones to other bones.

4. Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve often results when an intervertebral disc, damaged tissue, or tendons shift and compress a nerve ending or root. It can also occur due to inflammation pressing on sensitive nerves in the cervical area.

5. Cuts and Bruises

Various parts of the body can sustain cuts and bruises in an accident, including the neck. Cuts are usually mild, but deeper wounds or lacerations can be more problematic. Bruises result from blunt trauma, either from slamming into a part of the interior of the vehicle or from the tightening of the seat belt.

6. Cervical Spondylolisthesis

Cervical spondylolisthesis is when one or more of the vertebrae dislocate or in some way slip out of regular alignment, often compressing the spinal cord or nerves. Chronic pain in the neck or shoulder can result if left untreated.

7. Neck Fracture or Compression

A neck fracture, or cervical spine fracture, happens when a bone breaks or cracks. This type of injury has the potential to damage spinal cord nerves and lead to paralysis or death. A compression fracture is when the vertebra shatters, potentially lodging small pieces of the bone in other areas and may cause injury to the spinal cord.

8. Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue damage usually means injury to the muscles or ligaments in the neck. To determine if you need treatment, a doctor’s examination and diagnostic tests may be necessary.

9. Spinal Cord Injuries

Damage to the spinal cord or nerves can occur, affecting your ability to move your arms and legs. This type of injury requires extensive medical attention and can result in temporary or permanent paralysis.

10. Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joints provide stabilization in the head and neck and allow you to move them easily. Injury to these joints in a car accident leads to inflammation and irritation, which often results in severe pain.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Neck Injury?

Following an accident, your doctor will take the steps necessary to diagnose a neck injury. To begin, a check for any numbness, tenderness, or weakness in the area will provide clues. Next, a diagnosis might require running imaging and diagnostic tests early in the examination. These tests might include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • EMG, or Electromyography

Other diagnostic tools may be used as well, depending on your particular symptoms.

How Do You Heal a Neck Injury from a Car Accident?

Your treatment will vary depending on the severity of your injury. Common remedies may include:

Home Remedies

For a stiff neck, gentle stretching is often a remedy. To alleviate stiffness or pain, the use of an ice pack or moist heat may work.

Pain Killers or Other Drugs

You can take over-the-counter pain relievers for your injury. If these do not help, talk with your doctor. You may need a prescription for a stronger pain medication or even a muscle relaxer.

Wear a Neck Brace

To help support your neck as it heals, your doctor may recommend that you wear a neck brace. These braces are for short-term use only, as they can weaken neck muscles.

Physical Therapy

During physical therapy, you will undergo neck stretching and strengthening exercises and also find a way to ease any pain with ice, heat, or other possibilities. The focus will be on maintaining proper posture and alignment of the spine.

Your insurance may cover physical therapy sessions. To be sure, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Chiropractic Care

With chiropractic care, you receive manipulations to restore movement and also relieve discomfort. You may also learn what exercises can help.

Neck Surgery

Neck surgery may be recommended for more severe neck injuries such as cervical fractures, compressions of the spinal cord, and pinched nerves. Types of neck surgeries differ and may include cervical spinal fusion, artificial disc replacement, or other procedures.

Other Treatments

Depending on your injury, your medical team may recommend other kinds of therapy, such as steroid shots for relieving pain, massage therapy, or rehabilitation therapy.

Pay Nothing Out of Pocket for Your Neck Injury

What might have seemed like a minor injury at the time of your accident could end up costing you a fortune if you need surgery or intensive physical therapy. Prevent insurance from underestimating your neck injury with the help of our personal injury lawyer. Our law firm knows how much your injuries are worth and can help you maximize your compensation to cover medical bills and more. Call Matz Injury Law today at 1-866-226-6833 or use the online contact form and schedule your free consultation.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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