Can a Car Accident Make Scoliosis and Other Back Conditions Worse?
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If you’ve suffered a car wreck and found yourself experiencing pain in your spine as a result, you’re not alone.
Neck and back problems are among the most pervasive symptoms following an accident. In fact, the United States alone reports well beyond 800,000 auto-accident related neck injuries each year. Overall, U.S. consumers and insurance companies spend over $5 billion annually on treatment for these injuries.
But what if you already have an existing back problem, like scoliosis? Can a serious car accident make your situation worse? And if so, what kind of compensation could you receive from a personal injury lawsuit?
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how car accidents can cause or exacerbate back pain and scoliosis, and what your legal options may be.
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The Link Between Spinal Injuries and Car Accidents
So, can a car accident cause back conditions, or make existing cases worse? The short answer is yes, it can.
Your spinal column is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body during a car crash. When two vehicles collide, the sudden “whipping” impact of inertia often causes the load on the occupant’s neck to skyrocket. This is especially true for rear-end collisions, but it can occur in other types of vehicle accident as well.
Sometimes, the force is strong enough to result in herniated spinal discs, broken vertebrae, joint damage, muscle damage, or even a spinal cord injury. If left untreated, injuries such as the above can trigger the development of scoliosis or cause an existing case to worsen at an accelerated rate (or develop symptoms for the first time). This may result in increased pain and mobility problems and make it much more difficult to function from day to day.
What is Scoliosis and Where Does it Come From?
Let’s provide a quick explanation of scoliosis.
A healthy spinal column is straight and firm. From this position, it helps the body retain upright and proper posture.
Scoliosis, however, causes the spinal column to bend in various abnormal ways. Instead of rising straight through the back to the neck, it bends toward one side or another (often taking on the shape of an S or a C). Because of this improper shape, scoliosis patients may suffer from a range of problems, including:
- Mild chronic pain (causing daily irritation, but manageable)
- Poor posture
- Mobility limitations
- Severe chronic pain (impeding everyday tasks)
There are a number of possible causes for scoliosis — in fact, doctors are fairly certain they haven’t yet identified every factor in its development. But some of the most widely recognized are:
- Hereditary genetic conditions and/or genetic mutations (such as Marfan or Down syndrome)
- Physical trauma such as sports injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Birth defects
- Muscular dystrophy
For many patients, scoliosis is first diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. In some cases, physical trauma later in life can be an instigating factor.
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Those With a Pre-Existing Condition May Struggle to Get Fair Compensation
If a car accident caused your back condition or made it worse, you absolutely have a right to make a personal injury claim.
Legally, the insurance company is required to take an injured person “as they are.” If you have a pre-existing medical condition that is unaffected by the accident, then you won’t receive any compensation for it. But if your medical condition is aggravated by the accident, you are entitled to compensation—to the degree that it was made worse.
However, this does not mean that getting fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages resulting from your car accident injuries will be easy. Saying a car accident aggravated your scoliosis is one thing; proving it to the insurance company is another.
You will likely need strong evidence that establishes:
- Your condition, symptoms, and project long-term medical treatment needs as they were before the car crash
- Your condition, symptoms, and projected long-term medical treatment needs after the car crash
- A qualified medical opinion linking the aggravation in your symptoms to the crash
Always Get a Thorough Medical Evaluation After a Car Accident
Because the range of injuries possible in an auto accident is so vast, it’s not unheard of for a victim to walk away from the incident assuming that they’re physically unharmed, only to find themselves dealing with more pervasive problems days, weeks, months, or even years later.
Scoliosis is of vital concern to automobile accident victims — both for those who already suffer from the condition and those not diagnosed beforehand. Many accident victims find themselves wondering if they developed scoliosis because of the incident, while those with a pre-existing scoliosis diagnosis may develop a sneaking suspicion that the accident made it worse.
If you’ve been in an auto accident, regardless of how you feel immediately afterward, it’s critical that you seek medical attention immediately. Not only will this assure your well-being, but it will help you establish the best chance of filing an insurance claim for medical problems that may arise in the future.
Again, it’s very likely that the insurance company will try to argue that your scoliosis was pre-existing and not caused or made worse by the accident. The best way to defend yourself against that claim is to have detailed medical records, originating as close as possible to the date of the crash, outlining your diagnosis and the treatment steps you’re taking.
RELATED POST: Can I Be Compensated for Neck and Back Pain After a Car Accident?
How Can I Tell If I Have a Spinal Injury After a Car Accident?
It’s understandable if neck and back injuries aren’t your first thought after a car accident, especially if you’re not currently experiencing any symptoms. The excitement and trauma during and following an accident can cause an increased flow of adrenaline, which can cloud judgment and senses.
In other cases, as we mentioned, a spinal injury may take time to manifest because of prolonged deteriorations. Some patients may not notice until much later in life. Again, this is why you should seek medical attention immediately.
As far as scoliosis is concerned, there are some telltale signs that may indicate an aggravated or onsetting condition. These include:
- Back or neck pain
- Tingling or numb limbs
- Leg and back muscle strain
- One arm hanging lower than the others (uneven shoulders)
- Uneven ribcage
- Uneven hips (one higher than the other)
Fortunately, scoliosis is usually easy to diagnose. Doctors will often use an X-ray to look for structural damage to the spine. If it’s discovered, they may order additional imaging to determine the extent of the damage.
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Treatment and Legal Options
Recovery from scoliosis and other back and spinal injuries can be difficult and time-consuming. In treatment, the doctor will seek to limit pain, improve discomfort, and prevent further curvature of the spine.
A number of treatment options are available, depending on the severity of the condition. More invasive procedures may be required in extreme cases, especially if discs have been damaged or vertebrae have been fractured. These treatment options include.
- Surgery (with a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon)
- Wearing a back brace
- Chiropractor visits
- Physical therapy
Unfortunately, this process can often mean financial distress. Patients undergoing treatment for scoliosis often miss time at work. Treatment can be expensive, and insurance companies are known to drag their feet when paying out a claim. Others may attempt to use pre-existing scoliosis as an excuse to avoid payments—even if the scoliosis didn’t cause problems prior to the crash.
Once again, your first step should be to seek medical attention. But whether your condition is new or aggravated, the law is on your side. If you’re experiencing additional or worsening pain as a result of negligence, an experienced attorney can help you prepare the necessary documentation and prove your claim to the insurance company (or if necessary, at trial).
Harry Brown: The Chiropractor Lawyer
Harry Brown was a chiropractor before becoming a lawyer, giving him unique insight when it comes to cases involving back conditions such as scoliosis. His mission has always been to protect the injured, whether in a healthcare setting or within the legal framework.
He understands the physical and emotional toll attached to auto accident injuries, and will be with you every step of the way to guide you through this stressful period of your life. This expertise also renders him uniquely qualified to fight for the payout you deserve while you focus on recovery. Request a free consultation today!
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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