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Five Common Spinal Injuries in Car Accidents


The spine is one of the most vital and complex parts of the human body. The vertebrae that compose the spine allow the neck and trunk to maintain an upright posture, as well as to twist and bend. The vertebrae also house the spinal cord, which relays information between the head and the rest of the body. The extreme force of automobile accidents can cause significant damage to the spine, leading to disruptive and potentially life-altering consequences.

Understanding the common varieties of spinal injuries that occur in car accidents can help you know what rights you have when another party’s negligence causes you harm.


Whiplash is one of the most common spinal injuries a person can suffer in a car accident. It happens when a collision causes a person’s head to move rapidly forward and backward, causing damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck. Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Limited mobility of the neck
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or shoulders
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

These symptoms may remain hidden for days and weeks, so prompt medical attention is always necessary to treat whiplash as soon as possible.

Muscle Strains

The excessive force or direct trauma of a car accident can cause the muscles along the spine to strain. These injuries can cause severe and debilitating pain, requiring intensive medical treatments. Muscle strains along the spine can also prevent a person from working.

Herniated Disc

Soft intervertebral discs act as padding in the spaces between the vertebrae. When a car accident causes one of these discs to push out into the space along the spine, the disc can interfere with nearby nerves. Symptoms of a herniated (or slipped) disc may include:

  • Intense pain at the site of the herniated disc
  • Radiating pain into the limbs and digits
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness

Herniated discs require swift medical attention to optimize your chances of recovery.

Broken Vertebrae

In some accidents, an object can directly strike a vehicle occupant’s spine, thereby fracturing a vertebra. Vertebral breaks are intensely painful. Small cracks can develop into far more significant injuries over time, and larger breaks may affect the spinal cord or other nerve tissues. Seek immediate medical care if you have symptoms such as:

  • Severe pain in your spine
  • Swelling or bruising around your backbone
  • Tingling or numbness in your limbs or digits
  • Difficulty moving

Fractures of the vertebrae often require extended recovery periods and intensive physiotherapy. 

Spinal Cord Injury

An injury to the spinal cord within the vertebral column can happen when the force of a car accident leads to a lesion or severing of the cord. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may lead to partial or total paralysis. While various surgical and other medical interventions may be able to mitigate the consequences of a spinal cord injury, many injured individuals must make extensive and costly adaptations to their home and work lives to accommodate their disability.  

Contact a Riverside Personal Injury Attorney Today

Suffering a spinal injury in an accident is always shocking. Remember that you do not need to face the next steps alone. An experienced Riverside spinal cord injuries attorney from Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, can help you fight for the compensation you need to cover the losses you have suffered. Our compassionate legal team understands how life can feel after a spinal cord injury from a car accident, and we have the knowledge and skills to protect your rights.

Call us today at 951-686-4800 for a free case review to learn more about your legal options for getting the compensation you deserve.

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