Accidents and falls are the primary cause of neck injuries. Neck injuries can vary widely in effects and severity: some neck injuries result in temporary symptoms that resolve with time, while neck injuries that are more serious can lead to complete paralysis of the trunk and limbs. Whiplash injuries are one of the most common forms of neck injury, and are particularly common in vehicle accidents. Nerve damage, disc damage, ruptured ligaments, fractures of the vertebrae, and spinal cord injuries are other common neck injuries often caused by accidents and falls.
Neck injuries involving strains and sprains (such as whiplash) are the most frequently reported injuries on US insurance claims, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
If your neck injuries are the result of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, a defective product, or medical malpractice, please contact us to speak with the qualified neck injury attorneys at The Oshman Firm. We are available to answer your questions and determine the best legal course of action for you.
Special Consideration for helping a person with possible neck injuries:
If you are at the scene of an accident where you suspect a person has suffered neck injuries, it is imperative to leave the person exactly as they are unless it is absolutely necessary to move them (such as pulling them out of a burning car or body of water). Moving a person with a possible neck injury can seriously aggravate a person’s injury and can even cause death. It is vital to call for emergency help. If you must move a person, support the head and neck and move the body as a single unit.
Whiplash neck injury
Whiplash, also called neck strain or neck sprain, is one of the most common types of neck injuries. It is often called a car accident neck injury, because vehicle crashes are the most common cause of this injury. The sudden and violent jerking of the head back and forward (hypertension/flexion), such as in rear-end collisions, is what causes whiplash neck injuries. Whiplash and related neck injuries can range in severity from mild to severe and debilitating.
Symptoms of whiplash neck injury
Most symptoms of whiplash develop immediately or in the hours or days following the accident. The most common symptom of neck injury is pain, which can range from mild to extreme. Other symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness
- Burning, prickling or other abnormal sensations (called parathesias)
- Shoulder discomfort
- Blurry vision
- Trouble swallowing (rare)
If a person with neck injuries experiences extreme and/or unrelenting pain, severe headaches, weakness, tingling, numbness, or loss of functioning in part of the body, it is imperative for him/her to seek immediate medical attention, as their injury could be serious.
Factors influencing the severity of whiplash and related neck injuries
In vehicle accidents, the following factors and increase the severity of a patient’s car accident neck injury:
- Female gender: studies have found that women are approximately two times more likely to suffer an auto accident neck injury, such as whiplash. Additionally, at least one study has shown that females (55 percent) are more likely to sustain long-term symptoms of neck injury, compared to men (38 percent) with a neck injury.
- Height: Taller people appear to have a greater risk for whiplash in vehicle accidents. This is more of a factor when the driver or passenger has not adjusted their head restraint, which can help to prevent whiplash or diminish its severity.
- Vehicle passengers: Some evidence shows that drivers have a greater risk of neck injury in vehicle accidents than passengers, while other studies show no increased threat. Front-seat occupants appear to be at greater risk than rear-seat occupants for neck injuries.
- Lack of adequate head restraint: While many people refer to them as head rests, head restraints are actually a safety feature intended to mitigate the risk of neck injuries in accidents. Head restraints are regulated to ensure safety standards are met. An inadequate head restraint can greatly increase the risk of neck injuries. If you feel your neck injuries were the result of inadequate head restraints, please contact us to learn more about your right to pursue a legal claim.
- Age: Older individuals are at a greater risk for neck injuries
- Pre-existing health conditions: Some medical conditions or a history of neck injuries can increase the risk of more serious damage.
Diagnosing Whiplash neck injuries
A doctor will diagnose whiplash by taking in a detailed account of the accident, conducting a thorough physical exam, and inquiring about one’s medical history. While most whiplash injuries involve damage to the soft tissues in the neck area, a medical professional will typically take an x-ray of the spine to ensure that you have not suffered any spinal injuries or delayed symptoms that indicate a more serious condition.
Luckily, whiplash is often a treatable and temporary neck injury. A soft cervical collar, which stabilizes the neck, is often used to treat whiplash in the first two to three weeks. Other treatments for uncomplicated whiplash neck injuries include:
- Physical therapy and/or special rehabilitative exercises
- Muscle relaxants
- Pain medications
- Heat treatments
If symptoms subsist or get worse after a month or two, additional tests may be necessary to determine the extent of the injury. In more serious cases, where whiplash has resulted in cervical disc damage, surgery may be required to repair the disc. See also herniated disc. Surgery is rarely necessary following whiplash neck injuries.
If surgery is required, discectomy can be performed to remove part of a damaged disc; microdiscectomy is the removal of a disc with the help of a microscope; percutaneous procedures, while not common for cervical neck injuries, can remove the disc through a small incision and aspiration; spinal instrumentation and fusion works to stabilize the spine.
Cervical fracture is the breaking of one or more of the cervical bones, or vertebrae, in the neck area. This neck injury can be very serious when the spinal cord sustains damage, which can lead to paralysis. The most common cervical fracture causes are falls and traumatic accidents, such as a motorcycle accident or car accident. Other common causes of cervical fracture are dives into shallow water, sports injuries, violence, and other sudden and severe blows or twists of the neck.
If a person has sustained a neck injury where cervical fracture is suspected, it is important to seek medical treatment, as the condition could be serious. Cervical fracture symptoms include pain (which may or may not be severe), bruising, swelling, tenderness, muscle weakness or paralysis, or loss of feeling in the limbs. If the latter symptoms are present, it is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention, due to the possibility of spinal cord injury.
To diagnose cervical fracture neck injuries, a physician may conduct x-ray tests, an MRI scan, and/or a CT scan.
Treatment of cervical fracture will typically depend on the patient’s individual condition. The following factors will affect cervical fracture treatment: the presence of muscle weakness or paralysis, what cervical bones are affected, how severe the fracture is, and whether dislocation occurred. Cervical fracture treatments can include:
- Brace or cervical collar: for mild cervical fractures, a brace or collar is worn to immobilize the neck for eight to twelve weeks. Over-the-counter pain medications may also be recommended.
- Exercises: after an initial period of time, your doctor will recommend a rehabilitative exercise plan to increase your range of motion and muscle strength. It is important not to resume exercise until your doctor has determined you are ready.
- Surgery: In more serious cases, surgery may be required to realign and stabilize the bones of the neck and spine.
Depending on the severity of one’s neck injury, neck immobilization and rehabilitative efforts may be necessary for months or even years following the original injury. If spinal cord injury occurs as a result of a cervical fracture, the paralysis is often permanent.
Please see our section on fractures for more information.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury is the most serious and severe neck injury a person can suffer. The spinal cord is responsible for sending messages from the brain to the rest of the body and back. It is protected by the spinal column, or vertebrae, as well as the other tissues in the neck and back. The most common cause of spinal cord injury is motor vehicle accidents.
In many cases, spinal cord injury results in paralysis. A person with paralysis will experience partial or complete loss of feeling and functioning in the limbs and/or trunk. Cervical spinal cord injuries are often the most severe because they happen further up on the spinal cord, diminishing or severing the function of everything below that point. With a cervical spinal cord injury, a patient typically loses feeling and function in the legs, arms, and trunk. Complications such as breathing problems, loss of bowel and bladder control, speech difficulties, and more can also occur with a cervical spinal cord injury.
Please see our section on spinal cord injury for more information.
Other types of neck injury
Neck injury and neck pain can occur for reasons other than traumatic accidents and falls. Degenerative diseases, over-use of the neck or back at work, arthritis, herniated disc, and other conditions may cause or contribute to a neck injury.
Neck injury compensation
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to an accident or other incident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your medical bills, loss of income due to time off work, money for your pain and suffering, and more. Please contact the qualified neck injury attorneys at The Oshman Firm to learn more about your legal rights and options.
Contact us today at 1-800-400-8182, or contact us online for a free case evaluation. Our firm utilizes the contingency fee system, where we not only provide free consultations, but never charge a fee unless we are successful in obtaining a settlement or jury verdict on your behalf.