Neck and back injuries are common during a car accident and result in some of the most pervasive problems following one. Over 800,000 neck injuries costing more than five billion dollars from car accidents are reported each year in the United States.
Neck and spinal injuries often result in serious and degenerative conditions, many of which are life-long and require on-going medical and therapeutic care, such as scoliosis, a painful curvature of the spine.
What Is Scoliosis?
The spinal column is made up of vertebrae, disks, and cartilage that protect sensitive spinal cords and support the body’s upright position and posture. A healthy spine should be straight and firm. Scoliosis causes abnormal bending of the spinal column, typically to the side. Initially, the spinal distortion can be minor, becoming more prominent over time and affecting the function of the heart and lungs.
Most commonly caused by a hereditary genetic disorder usually diagnosed in early childhood, scoliosis can cause degenerative conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, and can cause spinal disk degeneration and prevent bones from developing properly.
In addition to being a genetic condition, scoliosis can also be caused by physical trauma, such as a car accident, sports injury, or serious fall. Owing to the bending effects of the spine, scoliosis is painful, ranging from mild to chronically severe, causes poor posture, and imposes limitations of movement. Signs of trauma-induced scoliosis include an uneven ribcage, shoulders, or hips; leg, neck, or back pain; and back muscle strain, numbness, and tingling in the arms or legs.
Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment for scoliosis is often lengthy and difficult, typically focusing on managing pain and discomfort and preventing further spinal curvature. In extreme cases, surgery, physical therapy, and back braces may be necessary treatments, and some patients benefit from regular chiropractic appointments.
Can Car Accidents Cause Scoliosis?
Car collisions can cause serious injuries to most any part of the body; however, the spine is the most vulnerable during an accident. The whiplash effect resulting from the force of impact forces the head violently to the front, back, or sides, depending on where the car is struck. The force causes a shockwave effect along the length of the spine from the base of the neck to the tailbone. The most severe spinal injuries occur during rear-end collisions.
Such strong forces experienced during a collision can result in broken vertebrae, herniated disks, spinal cord injury, and joint and muscle damage, all of which can lead to scoliosis if left untreated. An accident can worsen and accelerate symptoms for those with a preexisting condition, increasing the patient’s pain and mobility, and affect daily functions.
How Can I Tell if My Spine Is Injured in a Car Accident?
You can sustain neck and spinal injuries during a car accident that may not be immediately symptomatic, especially immediately after the crash when the increased flow of adrenaline can dull the senses and cloud judgement. In scoliosis, the injury and symptoms may not present for an extended period as the condition sometimes manifests from prolonged deterioration.
In some cases, scoliosis symptoms are not felt for years, which is why having a medical evaluation within the first few days of your accident is important. Fortunately, the condition is easily diagnosed with X-rays to determine if the spine suffered structural damage during the collision. If scoliosis is found on the X-ray, additional testing and imaging to evaluate the extent of the damage may be necessary.
Those with preexisting scoliosis should seek medical evaluation immediately following the accident. Scoliosis patients typically experience spinal stress and pain, and contortions that can be made much worse with further spinal injury and damage from the collision.
Will Preexisting Scoliosis Affect My Ability to Recover Compensation?
Recovering damages for your injuries from a car accident can be more complex if you have preexisting scoliosis but does not make you immediately ineligible. For instance, underlying scoliosis with little to no symptoms preceding the collision may become symptomatic for the first time because of the impact of the collision.
Though the condition technically preexisted, it does not negate the fact that the accident triggered symptoms and accelerated the condition. In these circumstances, this is known as increased susceptibility or aggravation of a preexisting condition for legal purposes of your personal injury claim.
If you have preexisting scoliosis, you and your lawyer may have to fight a bit more to prove the accident initiated or aggravated your symptoms, as insurance companies are frequently skeptical and require further proof, such as:
- What your condition, symptoms, and long-term treatment was before the accident
- What your condition, symptoms, and long-term treatment are following the accident
- A qualified medial professional’s evaluation and opinion linking your post-accident symptoms to the collision
You should always seek medical evaluation following a car accident, regardless of the apparent severity of your injuries. A doctor’s report is a crucial element for any personal injury claim, and without one, insurance companies will most likely dismiss your claim. If you have preexisting scoliosis, a doctor’s report is an absolute necessity if the condition was made worse by the accident.
In addition, many states have a statute of limitations on how long after a car accident you can file a personal injury claim, and injuries that do not present for many months or years may be difficult to link to the accident.
Diagnosis and treatment for scoliosis following a car accident can be lengthy and costly. Those undergoing treatment frequently miss periods of work and face mounting medical bills, especially those that require surgery, hospitalization, and rehabilitation facilities. Hiring a personal injury lawyer with experience negotiating and litigating with insurance companies is vitally important to receiving compensation for injuries, lost wages, and medical costs for which you may be entitled. Hiring an attorney to represent you also allows you to focus on your treatment and recovery.
What Are the Car Accident Laws in Washington DC?
Car accident laws in Washington DC differ from those of many states, starting with no-fault insurance. If you have car insurance in the District of Columbia, your personal injury claim will go through your own policy first. No-fault laws do not place fault on either driver during an accident, preventing you from suing the other driver’s insurance company. However, there are exceptions if you incurred the following:
- The cost of your medical bills and loss of wages exceeds your personal injury protection policy within your overall car insurance policy.
- Your injuries resulted in impairment, disfigurement, significant scarring, or total disability or impairment lasting more than 180 days.
Additionally, Washington DC also uses the rule of contributory negligence in determining fault if the above conditions are present. According to the doctrine of contributory negligence, if the plaintiff is found to have had any fault in the crash, they are ineligible to receive compensation from the other party involved. On the other hand, the comparative negligence rule considers your percentage of involvement in the accident and reduces the overall award based on that percentage. In other words, if you are found to be 20 percent at-fault in the accident, the maximum compensation will be reduced by 20 percent, and you will receive the remaining 80 percent. The contributory negligence rule can be difficult to navigate, so having a skilled personal injury attorney may be your best chance to receive compensation.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Clients Injured in Car Collisions
Whether accident-induced or an aggravated preexisting condition, scoliosis is a painful and degenerative spinal condition requiring continual medical treatment and care. Those with the condition often require time off work for treatment, lowering income as well. If you have suffered a spinal injury, the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King can help. Our experienced and compassionate legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and fight to help you secure full and fair compensation. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.