What Is Causing Neck & Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident?

Car accidents can cause a host of injuries and medical issues, and accidents that occur at high speeds have the greatest chance of causing catastrophic injuries. When a person experiences a car accident, he or she may walk away seemingly unscathed and then be unable to get out of bed the next day from aches and pains. The extreme, acute stress of a car accident causes a surge of adrenaline that can dull pain sensations for several hours. It is not uncommon for car accident victims to believe they are fine the day of an accident and then feel terrible and experience intense pain the following day.

Common Neck and Back Injuries in Car Accidents

Some of the most commonly claimed damages in car accident claims are neck pain and lower back pain, and it is sometimes difficult to determine the exact cause of these symptoms. A car accident can lead to several injuries to the neck and back.

  • Whiplash, or the violent snapping of the neck from a sudden change in momentum. For example, if a driver hits another car from behind, the driver’s neck will snap forward with the momentum of the vehicle then back upon the force of impact. This causes soft tissue damage to the muscles and ligaments of the neck.
  • Bone fractures. Severe impact and parts of a damaged vehicle can collide with a driver and cause bone fractures throughout the body. Fractures in the neck and spine are often fatal, but sometimes victims survive these injuries and develop long-term medical issues as a result, including chronic neck and lower back pain.
  • Soft tissue injuries. Even if a driver does not suffer bone fractures or a traumatic brain injury, he or she may sustain damage to soft tissues like muscles, ligaments, and tendons. A torn tendon or ligament can cause intense pain, require surgical correction, and result in permanently limited mobility.
  • Spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord is the thick bundle of nerves extending from the brain down through the spinal column. The spinal cord allows the brain to control all the body’s conscious and unconscious processes, and any damage to the spinal cord can potentially have lifelong effects.
  • Injuries requiring back surgery. A driver may sustain injuries that require surgical correction. Any type of back surgery can lead to long-term pain, secondary surgeries, and ongoing therapies like physical therapy or occupational therapy to help restore lost function and range of motion.

Any of these injuries can potentially cause neck and lower back pain, and any and all damages related to the negligence of another party qualify for compensation in a personal injury claim. It is possible for a driver who suffers from lower back or neck pain after a car accident to secure compensation for future medical treatment costs.

Proving New Injuries vs. Preexisting Injury Exacerbation

The defendant in any car accident claim generally has the goal of reducing his or her liability for the claimed damages. If a car accident victim suffers a back injury, his or her attorney will need to prove the full extent of the injury and any related secondary conditions to secure compensation for the client. However, the plaintiff’s attorney must also prove that those damages resulted solely from the defendant’s actions and not some other cause.

A defendant’s attorney may submit an interrogatory to the plaintiff asking if he or she has visited a doctor for back or neck pain-related issues in the past several years. This is an attempt to prove that the plaintiff’s neck or back pain was a preexisting condition that did not occur due to the accident in question. The plaintiff can secure compensation for a preexisting injury worsened by the defendant’s negligence, but the amount is generally lower than the amount that would be available for an injury directly caused by the defendant’s negligence.