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Signs an Auto Accident Injured Your Spine

Steven Matz
February 28, 2023 | Car Accident

woman grabbing her back in pain

Since 2005, over 42% of all spinal injuries suffered across the United States are the result of auto accidents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Even worse, those who suffer a spinal cord injury are as much as five times more likely to die early compared to those who do not suffer a spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury is critical and not to be taken lightly. If you suffer a back injury after an auto accident in Michigan, you should immediately seek medical attention. Then call for help from the spinal cord injury lawyers at Matz Injury Law to hold the at-fault driver accountable.

How Are Spine Injuries Defined in Michigan?

Michigan law defines a spinal cord injury as any personal injury to the spinal cord resulting in a loss of mobility or function. Spinal injuries can also refer to any back injury, such as harm to the thoracic, lumbar, or cervical spine. These terms roughly refer to the upper, middle, and lower back. Such injuries can result in life-altering injuries that may never heal and require expensive and lifelong medical care.

Many spinal injuries are the result of automobile accidents. If you have suffered a serious injury to your spinal column due to a reckless or careless driver, contact a spinal cord injury attorney at Matz Injury Law. Call our law firm at 1-866-22Not33 or see our disclaimer and use our online contact form to ask about a free consultation.

What Are the Different Types of Spinal Injuries From Car Accidents?

In a car crash, accident victims may experience many different types of injuries to the spine or back. These include nerve damage, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and soft tissue injuries.

In general, spinal cord injuries are divided into complete, which causes total loss of function below the injury, and incomplete, where the injury victims retain some function on one or both sides. A few of the most common types of spinal injuries from motor vehicle accidents include the following.

Spinal Cord Injury

Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that runs down the center of your back, protected by your vertebrae (backbones). It runs through a hollow space in your back called the spinal canal. This bundle of nerves is responsible for every signal that travels between your brain and body, from wiggling your fingers and toes to breathing to keeping your heart beating.

Thus, an injury to your spinal cord can damage almost every aspect of your body’s functioning. In the worst cases, a broken spinal cord can even be deadly.

Herniated Disc

Between your vertebrae, you have spongy, rubbery discs that cushion your back from impacts and daily motion friction. When you suffer an injury to your spine, you may suffer displacement or herniation of a disc. It may also break open, leaking fluid and putting pressure on your nerves or spinal cord.


Whiplash is a form of soft tissue injury that usually occurs when your head whips forward and suddenly stops, such as with a head-on collision or rear-end accident. This injury can damage the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your neck, restricting your range of motion and causing severe pain.

Spinal Fracture

A spinal fracture is a vertebrae injury that can lead to intense back pain. Worse, fractured or broken vertebrae can develop sharp edges that can puncture or cut your tendons or discs, causing even more serious injury.


Spondylolisthesis is a form of vertebrae injury where one of your backbones slips out of place and puts pressure on the bones below. It often occurs in the lumbar or lower back region.

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Injury?

A spinal injury can carry many symptoms, from severe back pain to complete paralysis from the neck down and even death. Sometimes, it can clear up with a few weeks of rest. Other times, it may require years of physical therapy and medical treatment and may never completely heal. Some more common symptoms of spinal injury can include the following.

Loss of Mobility or Paralysis

Loss of mobility or paralysis is defined as paraplegia (partial paralysis) or quadriplegia (total paralysis). For the most part, an injured person with paraplegia is paralyzed from the waist down, though parts of the trunk can also be affected in some cases. An injury victim with quadriplegia has paralysis from the neck down. Quadriplegia is also sometimes called tetraplegia.

Uncontrollable Bowel Movements

Victims of spinal injuries often experience bowel or bladder control loss. This loss is often associated with damage to the spinal cord and subsequent interruption of the signals from the brain that enable control, leading to urinary or bowel incontinence.

Muscle Spasms and Exaggerated Reflexes

Spinal cord injuries can cause muscle control and sensation loss. This loss can lead to exaggerated physical reactions or uncontrolled muscle spasms because the injury disrupts the flow of signals between your brain and your body. Signals do not reach the brain, or signals from the brain arrive scrambled to the muscles. The result is twitching, jerking, or muscle stiffening.

Nerve Pain

Unexplained nerve pain is a common result of a spinal injury. Just as with muscle spasms, it occurs because something obstructs the signals from your brain to your body, resulting in scrambled messages that your body interprets as pain. If you feel unexplained sharp pains or even dull, throbbing aches in areas of your body that are not injured, it could be due to an injury to your spinal column.

Numbness, Tingling, or Loss of Sensation in Extremities

For the same reasons you might experience pain, you could also experience a loss of sensation, complete numbness, or even a “pins and needles” feeling in your feet, toes, hands, fingers, and other extremities. Numbness could be a sign that some nerve paths have been destroyed. Even with years of care from a medical professional, many injury victims do not recover full sensation in their extremities.

What if I Have a Preexisting Spinal Condition?

During the settlement process for an injury claim, it is common for the insurance company to argue that the victim’s injury was a preexisting condition. The insurance company will claim that because the injury existed before the accident, the victim should not receive compensation or, at the very least, should recover less compensation than requested. Their goal is to minimize the way the courts see the injury. They can then also reduce the legal liability the at-fault driver holds.

The good news is that these arguments are untrue and not a legal defense. Michigan law states that aggravation of a preexisting condition can be a cause for a personal injury lawsuit. Several landmark cases in the state have upheld this precedent, including Wilkinson v. Lee, 617 N.W.2d 305 (2000).

This precedent is crucial with spinal injuries because most healthy adults suffer some degree of spinal degradation as they grow older. This degradation occurs from simply using your spine every day, all day. It naturally wears down as it supports your weight, and the discs become less effective at what they do. If preexisting injuries were a cause to negate lawsuits, no adult could sue because the defense could always claim that you have spinal degradation.

Naturally, this is not the way things work. Just because you already had an injury when the car accident happened does not excuse the at-fault driver from their responsibility. You can get compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages based on the aggravation of a preexisting injury.

Securing this compensation, however, can require the services of an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers like those at Matz Injury Law. We have served the Southfield and Rochester area for many years and have logged thousands of miles all over the great state of Michigan. We are ready to listen to your case and offer the legal advice and representation you need.

Life After a Spine Injury

nurse looking at a handicapped man's leg

A spinal injury can result in lifelong symptoms, medical care, expensive medical bills, and the inability to work to earn money. These injury cases can turn a victim’s life upside down for many years. In the worst cases, spinal injuries may even cost you the life of a loved one. A spinal injury can result in not just physical impairment, including paralysis, loss of strength, and reduced range of motion, but also emotional and psychological stress that never goes away.

Behavioral and emotional problems from a spinal cord injury can involve adjusting to a new way of living. This adjustment can lead to feelings of anger, sadness, and anxiety. Many victims develop clinical depression requiring psychological treatment and even antidepressant medications. Some victims become suicidal as a result of facing their new disability. Others turn to chemical abuse to self-medicate due to physical and psychological pain.

Those who suffer a back injury of this nature must make lifelong adjustments, learning how to find meaning as a person with a disability. They need to learn new skills and adapt to different levels of independence, learn new ways to work and be productive, and even find new passions and interests. They must also deal with the heavy costs of medical care while not being able to work as they once could.

How Our Michigan Attorneys Can Help You After an Accident

The compensation one gets from a spinal cord personal injury lawsuit can help in many ways. It cannot give you back the physical capabilities you have lost, but it can provide the financial means to pay bills and recover some control over your life. It may not bring back the loss of a loved one from wrongful death, but it can help cover some of the funeral costs and compensate you for the emotional and economic losses you have suffered.

Insurance companies will go to great lengths to avoid paying the full and fair compensation you deserve. They will claim that you are not as badly hurt as you say. They might even argue that you were responsible for the accident. Michigan’s modified comparative negligence law states that your compensation can be reduced by the percentage of fault you hold. You can be barred from compensation entirely if you are more than 50% responsible.

The car accident attorneys at Matz Injury Law can fight back against insurance companies and fight to get you the total compensation you deserve. Studies show that those with legal representation from a personal injury attorney receive over four times as much compensation as those who represent themselves.

Let Us Be Your Advocate While You Heal

Our accident attorneys have logged thousands of hours representing clients from all over Michigan, from Grand Rapids to Port Huron and beyond. We have won millions in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Let us help you with your back injury case. Call us at 1-866-22Not33 or use our online contact form to request a case review with a member of our team today.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

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.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.