Tampa Spine Injury Lawyer
Let Couture Law fight for your rights – and the compensation you deserve
Spine injuries can be especially problematic. Each part of the spine has nerves that run to different parts of the body. Some injuries immediately produce symptoms while others can remain undetectable for days or possibly weeks. Therefore, anyone who is involved in an accident should immediately receive a medical exam to rule out serious injury. Some injuries can cause worsening damage if they are left undetected and untreated.
Since 2015, vehicular accidents and falls have been the leading causes of spine injuries. Types of accidents that most commonly cause injury to the spine include:
- car accidents
- truck accidents
- motorcycle accidents
- slip and fall accidents
- pedestrian accidents
- bicycle accidents
- motorcycle accidents
Individuals who are injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence may be entitled to compensation. These cases are broadly known as personal injury claims. Each state creates its own personal injury laws. Some of Florida’s personal injury laws are drastically different than the corresponding laws in most other states. Therefore, every Tampa accident victim should immediately consult a Tampa personal injury attorney after an accident has taken place.
Types of spine injuries
The healthy spine has three s-shaped curves that absorb shock and protect the spine from injury. Five sections comprise the spine:
- cervical spine
- thoracic spine
- lumbar spine
In addition to the five regions, the spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae that stack to form the spinal canal along with facet joints, intervertebral discs, the spinal cord, which travels through the spinal column, and various muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
The cervical spine is the neck region and includes vertebrae C1 to C7. The thoracic spine runs through the middle back and contains vertebrae T1 to T12. The lumbar spine is in the lower back and includes L1 to L5. The sacrum connects the back to the hips. There are five sacral vertebrae, which are S1 to S5. Four fused vertebrae make up the coccyx, also known as the tailbone.
Medical professionals refer to spinal injuries according to the region in which they are located. Spine injuries will often affect a corresponding peripheral body part depending on the spinal region in which the injury occurs.
Cervical spine injury
The cervical spine is located closest to the brain and affects a large portion of the body. Therefore, injuries to this part of the spine tend to be the most severe. Not only does the cervical spine support the weight of the head and allow neck movement, but the cervical nerves control much of the upper body. Nerve C2 provides sensation to the head and the side of the face. Nerves C4 and C5 allow upper shoulder movement, help control the diaphragm, and provide sensation to parts of the neck, shoulders, and upper arms. Cervical Nerves 5, 6, and 7 control the biceps, wrist, forearm, hand, and fingers. Several other soft tissues like nerves, discs, tendons, ligaments, and muscles surround the cervical spine. Injury to the soft tissue may not be as severe; however, soft tissue damage may cause lingering pain, numbness, and tingling. Symptoms of cervical spine injury may include:
- inability to breathe without assistance
- impaired speech or inability to speak
- numbness, tingling or loss of feeling below the site of the injury
- paralysis in the extremities
- inability to control bladder or bowel function
- inability to complete dressing or grooming tasks
Thoracic spine injury
Spine injuries are least likely to occur in the thoracic spine region. The thoracic spine is especially rigid and stable. It consists of 12 vertebrae starting at the base of the neck and ending at the base of the ribs. Along with protecting the spinal cord, the thoracic spine also provides attachments for the ribs, supports the chest and abdomen, and allows bodily movement. Nerves T1 and T2 run from the thoracic spine to the top of the chest and into the arms and hands. The nerves that originate between T3 and T5 go into the chest wall and control the rib cage, lungs, diaphragm, and the muscles that help you breathe. The T6 to T12 nerves affect the back and abdominal muscles, support balance and posture, and help with coughing. Nerves in the thoracic spine also have the important role of transmitting signals between the brain and the heart, lungs, liver, and small intestine. The thoracic spine and the rib cage come together to physically shield and protect the lungs and heart.
Signs of a thoracic spine injury depend on the nature of the related nerve damage and the location of the injury. Nevertheless, symptoms that often suggest a thoracic spine injury include:
- decreased sensation in the arms
- complete loss of sensation in the arms
- difficulty breathing
- loss of feeling in the genital or rectal areas
- loss of bladder or bowel control
Lumbar spine injury
Similar to the thoracic spine, the lumbar spine is also sturdy and resilient. Nevertheless, high degrees of stress may cause injury. The lumbar spine stabilizes the upper body, allows the torso to move, protects the spinal cord and the nerves that extend from the spinal cord, and controls leg movements.
Vertebrae L1 and L2 contain the bottom portion of the spinal cord. Injuries to these vertebrae and nerves can affect hip flexion or cause paraplegia, loss of bladder control, loss of bowel control, and/or numbness in the legs. Vertebrae L3 is the first vertebra that does not encase the spinal cord. Therefore, injuries from L3 to L5 tend to be less severe. Symptoms may include:
- weakness in the legs, hips, or groin
- numbness in the legs, hips or groin
- loss of flexibility in the legs, hips, or groin
- inability to bend the feet in a certain direction
Discs are the rubbery cushions that separate the vertebrae and allow the spine to remain stacked. The anatomy of a disc consists of a jellylike center encased by a tougher, rubbery exterior. A herniated disc occurs when the jellylike center pushes through a tear in the exterior. A slipped disc or ruptured disc are other terms that refer to disc herniation. Herniation may occur in a disc in any section of the spine. Nevertheless, it most frequently occurs in the lumbar spine. Symptoms of a herniated disc may include pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg. In some cases, a herniated disc may not cause symptoms. In these cases, the disc may heal on its own.
In some rare cases, a disc herniation may cause severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention to avoid paralysis. If you or someone you know experiences any of the following symptoms after an accident, visit a medical professional immediately:
- worsening pain, weakness, or numbness
- bladder or bowel dysfunction
- loss of sensation in the inner thighs, backs of the legs, buttocks, or the area surrounding the rectum
Diagnosing a spine injury
Medical professionals have several tools they may use to diagnose a spine injury. First, the medical professional will ask for more details about the accident to determine the nature of the potential injury. If you are feeling pain, he or she will ask when the pain began. Next, he or she will perform a physical exam to check your range of motion and muscle strength. The medical professional will also search for potential swelling, tenderness, or pain. Finally, you may undergo an x-ray, an MRI, and/or a CAT scan to further identify potential swelling, bleeding, fractures, herniated discs, or other internal damage.
You should seek medical treatment after an accident even if you don’t feel any pain. While it may seem logical to contact or visit your primary care physician, it is usually better to go to the emergency room right away and eventually see a specialist who specializes in diagnosing and treating accident injuries in the spine.
If you are unsure of the type of doctor you should see, contact a Tampa personal injury attorney. An accident attorney will ensure you receive all of the right medical diagnostics and treatment you will need to establish your claim for physical and, if applicable, emotional damages.
Treatment for a spine injury
The treatment you will receive for a spine injury depends on the nature and the location of the injury. Spine injuries often require multiple treatment modalities, and they may have an extended treatment timeline.
Some soft tissue injuries like strains, sprains, and minor nerve compression caused by disc herniation may improve after a few days of bed rest. For mild to moderate pain, doctors may begin treatment by directing the injured party to take NSAIDs. If the pain is more severe, they may prescribe muscle relaxers or narcotics. The doctor can recommend physical therapy, which usually consists of any combination of stretches, exercises, massage, hot and cold treatment, traction, ultrasound, and electrical muscle stimulation therapy.
Disc herniation may require surgery. If a slipped disc presses on a nerve, it usually causes either constant or episodic pain. Depending on the nature of the disc herniation, doctors may recommend one of the following surgeries:
- Replacement or removal of the injured disc
- Laminectomy to remove part or all of the boney arc of the vertebra
- Laminotomy to drill an opening into part of the vertebra to relieve pressure on a nerve
- Spinal fusion to stabilize the spine
What to do if you’ve injured your spine
If you were involved in an accident and you still have back or neck pain two weeks later, visit a back pain specialist. Sometimes, it may take additional time for a spinal injury to begin causing pain or other apparent symptoms. In addition to visiting a doctor, you should also contact a Tampa spine injury lawyer.
In most accidents, the injured party will file a claim with the other party’s insurance company. In car accident cases, Florida law requires the injured party to first file a claim with his or her own PIP insurance carrier. Prior to reaching out to the other party’s insurance company, the victim should retain his or her own lawyer. The insurance company will usually offer a settlement. However, insurance companies often do not take the full extent of the victim’s needs into consideration. Some drivers may not have insurance to cover the other party’s bodily damage in the event of an accident. For these reasons, accident victims need their own legal advocate when visiting doctors, communicating with insurance companies, and considering other legal options.
Filing an accident claim for a spine injury
When the injured party retains an attorney, the lawyer will work hard to obtain a fair monetary settlement amount in pre-trial negotiations. If both sides are unable to agree to a settlement amount, the victim may file a civil court claim for a larger amount of compensation. Under Florida’s personal injury laws, accident victims may be able to receive compensation for current and future medical expenses, time away from work, and in some cases, emotional damages.
Contacting a Tampa spine injury attorney
In Florida, a four-year statute of limitations applies in most personal injury cases. Therefore, accident victims who wish to file a legal claim must do so within four years of the date the accident took place. Investigating an accident and documenting the victim’s damages is typically much easier soon after the accident has taken place. Therefore, it is generally advantageous to contact an attorney as early as possible.
Our Tampa spine accident lawyer is available to provide free case evaluations to accident victims. We will keep your information confidential and advise you regarding your potential legal options. We empower accident victims by providing the legal counsel they need to make informed decisions.
Let us fight for your rights to get the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us today to learn more.