A back injury claim can stem from almost any kind of accident -- from a car crash to a slip and fall on a wet floor. When another person or company is legally responsible for the accident or incident that led to your back injury, you may have a legitimate legal claim which could lead to a successful personal injury lawsuit or settlement. This article discusses common types of back injuries and the basics of making a legal claim for compensation after a back injury.
Common Types of Back Injuries
While the potential causes of back injury are almost limitless, back injuries usually fall into one of five categories. These are:
Herniated Discs. Herniated discs typically result from falls or car accidents, where significant impact or pressure is placed on your spinal cord, resulting in one or more of the discs in your spinal cord being moved out of place. When a disc moves or ruptures, it can press on the adjacent nerves, resulting in intense pain. Herniated discs can sometimes put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing a condition called sciatica, which leads to numbness, pain, or a tingling sensation in the legs. Correction of a herniated disc may require surgery and long-term treatment, such as physical therapy or regular visits to the chiropractor.
Back Sprains. Your back is made up of many muscles, bones, joints and ligaments that all fit together perfectly to help you move. If you fall, twist the wrong way, or are hit, the ligaments that fit between your bones at the joints can become stretched or torn. In some cases, when the ligaments stretch or tear, a back sprain can result, and you may actually hear or feel a popping. While you recover from a back sprain, you can expect to experience bruising, swelling, discomfort and a limited range of motion. Typically, you will need to rest and may need to wear a compression device to correct a back sprain, although additional treatments may be required -- including physical therapy or surgery.
Back Strains. Unlike sprains, which affect the ligaments, back strains occur when the muscles or tendons stretch too far or tear altogether. Back strains can happen anytime an accident causes your back to move into an unnatural position. Typically, a back strain will result in limited range of motion, pain, swelling, and sometimes back spasms in or near the affected muscle. Rest is the first line of treatment, but serious back strains may require physical therapy, or even surgery.
Spinal Cord Injuries. Spinal cord injuries are the most serious type of back injury. Spinal cord injuries can result from a blow to the spinal cord, and are usually classified as complete or incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries occur when vertebrae are severed or nerves are damaged so severely that the patient is partially or completely paralyzed below the point of injury. Incomplete spinal cord injuries -- such as those caused by swelling or bruising or more minor damage -- mean you retain some feeling or function below where the injury occurred.
Whiplash. Though often considered more of a neck injury, whiplash is a common result of car accidents, especially crashes where you are suddenly and powerfully jerked forward or backward. That sudden movement pushes the ligaments and muscles in your neck and upper back beyond their typical range of motion, causing your neck and shoulder muscles to become tight, tender, stiff or sore. Whiplash can be difficult to diagnose and prove, but in rare cases it may also cause lasting injury.
Back Injuries: Basic Requirements for a Legal Claim
Back injury claims are grounded in tort or personal injury laws, which vary from state to state. However, there are some general legal rules that exist that apply to most bank injury claims.
In order to make a successful back injury claim, you need to be able to show (usually through your attorney) that another person, business, or entity is legally responsible for causing your injuries. Keep in mind that not every single incident involving a back injury will lead to a back injury claim.
To make a successful back injury claim and recover compensation via a personal injury lawsuit or settlement, below is an introduction to the basic elements you’ll need to prove.
Another person or company owed a legal duty to you. This can range from another driver’s duty to drive safely, to a manufacturer’s obligation to design a product that is reasonably safe.
That legal duty was breached. Sticking with the car accident example, this breach of duty would occur if the other driver violated a safety-related traffic law, by running a red light, for example.
The breach led directly to the back injury. Here you need to show a direct cause-and-effect link between what the other party did (or failed to do) and your back injury.
The back injury caused you specific damages. You need to show some quantifiable loss associated with your back injury, such as medical bills and lost wages due to time missed at work. The most serious back injury cases may involve permanent disability, so damages in these cases might include compensation for long-term medical care and loss of earning capacity.
For more in-depth information on what you’ll need to prove in order to make a successful back injury claim, and to protect your rights when it comes to a back injury claim, talk to a personal injury lawyer.