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What To Do if You Have Back Pain After a Car Accident

Published on Nov 3, 2023 by Thomas Law Offices.


Even a seemingly minor car accident has the potential to cause severe, catastrophic, and life-altering injuries. Knowing what steps to take in the immediate aftermath of a collision can be difficult, though, especially if you’re in pain and feeling scared.

At Thomas Law Offices, it is our goal to arm our clients with the knowledge they need to make the best decisions possible. With that in mind, let’s review what to do if you have back pain after a car accident.

Key Highlights:

  • Back pain can be a sign of a serious or catastrophic injury.
  • Never attempt to move anyone who is experiencing severe back pain after a car accident.
  • The lifetime cost of a back injury can be steep, but is usually compensable in a personal injury claim.

What if I Have Back Pain After a Car Crash?

Anyone who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident should seek appropriate medical attention at an emergency room, urgent care facility, or with their regular doctor. While waiting a few days for an appointment can be appropriate if you have no noticeable symptoms of injury or are experiencing little to no pain, there are times when waiting simply isn’t a good idea.

If you have back pain after a car accident, you should seek immediate medical care. While back pain can be benign or a symptom of only minor injuries and bruising, it can also be a sign of serious, traumatic, or catastrophic injury.

If the pain is intense enough to prevent you from moving normally, call 911 and allow emergency responders to transport you to the emergency room via ambulance. Otherwise, drive yourself or have a friend or family member drive you to the ER.

Failing to seek timely medical care can have a variety of negative effects. For example, delaying care and treatment can result in the preventable progression of a treatable injury. The at-fault party’s auto insurer might also scrutinize your decision to forego immediate medical treatment, using it as an excuse to limit your compensation or deny your claim altogether.

What if Someone at the Accident Scene Is Experiencing Back Pain?

Regardless of who caused the accident, if you are physically able to move, you should always check on the condition of everyone who was involved in the accident. This includes drivers and passengers in other vehicles. If, during this process, anyone reports feeling intense back pain or expresses that it feels difficult to move, call 911 right away and ask that an ambulance be sent to the scene.

Never attempt to move someone experiencing back or neck pain after a car accident. This type of pain can be a sign of significant physical trauma, and moving someone could ultimately cause additional harm or injury.

What Back Pain After a Car Accident Can Mean

Back pain after a car accident can be a sign of severe injury or trauma to any region of the back, including the spinal column, spinal cord, and muscles. Depending on the type of injury, its severity, and its location, pain may be felt as a throbbing, stabbing, tingling, searing, dull, or shooting pain. Numbness and cramping are also signs of a possible injury.

Types of back injuries caused by car accidents include:

  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Thoracic spine injuries
  • Lumbar spine injuries
  • Facet joint injuries
  • Spinal fractures
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipped discs)

The pain and trauma associated with these types of car accident injuries can be intense and long-lasting. In many cases, serious back injuries may cause secondary medical problems, including:

  • Paralysis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Bladder and kidney dysfunction
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Hypotension
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sleep apnea

Not all injuries are physical. Anyone who has suffered a serious back injury following a car accident is also at a heightened risk for certain mental illnesses, like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Substance abuse disorders also tend to occur at greater rates among those who have suffered spinal cord injuries compared to those who haven’t.

The Cost of Treating a Back Injury

The cost of treating a back injury can rapidly mount into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The actual cost of treatment for an individual is highly contingent upon their age at the onset of injury, the location and type of injury, and its severity.

The unique factors of your own accident and injury will determine the cost of your treatment. However, we can get an idea of the cost of living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) by reviewing data provided by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Below are the first-year costs associated with four different severities of SCIs.

  • Incomplete motor function (any level) – $347,484
  • Paraplegia – $518,904
  • Low tetraplegia (C5-C8) – $769,351
  • High tetraplegia (C1-C4) ASIS ABC – $1,064,716

The lifetime cost of treating a high tetraplegia injury averages $2,596,329 when the age of onset is 50. For victims who are 25 at the age of onset, lifetime costs almost double to $4,724,181.

Who Pays for My Accident-Related Back Injury?

Illinois is considered to be an “at-fault” state for car accident injuries and damages. This means that in the event of a car accident, the person who caused the crash is responsible for the victim’s related damages.

But what if you also played a minor role in the collision? Under state modified comparative negligence rules (735 ILCS 5/2-1116), you can still secure financial recovery for your accident-related damages so long as you are less than 50% at fault.

Keep in mind that compensation will be proportionately reduced by your percentage of fault. In the event that your claim was valued at $10,000 for an accident in which you were 20% at fault, it would be reduced by $2,000 for a total final settlement of $8,000.

Insurance companies are intimately familiar with how comparative negligence works. If you’ve been involved in an accident in which you played even a minor role, be aware that comparative negligence is often weaponized by insurance companies to unfairly limit injury settlements. If the at-fault party’s insurer can falsely inflate your percentage of fault, they can drastically lower your overall settlement—or deny your right to compensation altogether.

Thomas Law Offices Is a Powerful Legal Advocate for Back Injury Victims

For many car accident victims, life after a serious back injury will never be the same as before. While we can’t undo the harm you’ve already suffered, we can help set you on the best possible path toward recovery.

Thomas Law Offices is an uncompromising personal injury law firm serving clients in Chicago and nationwide. We are fierce legal advocates who aren’t afraid to stand up to the big insurance companies and fight for what is right.

Whether you’re still wondering what to do if you have back pain after a car accident or simply want to learn more about your legal options, please contact our law office as soon as possible. We’ll schedule you for a completely free informational meeting with a Chicago car accident lawyer today.

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Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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