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Back Injuries

back injuriesBack pain is one of the most common health complaints in the United States. It is also one of the most common reasons why people go to the doctor or miss work in this country. Back pain symptoms may range from a muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and sometimes, even an inability to stand up straight. These types of injuries are often caused by traumatic incidents such as car accidents, workplace injuries such as those suffered at construction sites or slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents.

If you have suffered a back injury, you may be facing significant financial burdens in the form of medical expenses, lost wages and other costs. You may not be able to return to work for a significant period of time because of extensive treatments or rehabilitation. Those suffering from back injuries have legal rights. Injured victims would be well advised to contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer to obtain more information about their legal rights and options.

Facts and Numbers for Back Injuries

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time. Here are a few interesting facts and statistics that highlight the problem:

Lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. This is according to the Global Burden of Disease (2010 report).
Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
Back pain is one of the common reasons for missed work and the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections.
Americans spend about $50 billion each year on the treatment of back pain.
Experts estimate that 80 percent of us will experience a back pain issue at some time in our lives.

Common Causes of Back Injuries

Back injuries may be attributed to a number of factors. Here are examples of traumatic events that may lead to back injuries:

Auto accidents: Car, truck, bicycle or pedestrian accidents are among the reasons most often cited for back injuries. An auto accident tends to cause serious or even permanent back injuries. When a car accident occurs, the back and forth whipping movement can cause back problems such as herniated discs or slipped discs. Serious back injuries that can occur in auto accidents include broken bones or severed spines, which may lead to permanent injuries and disabilities. The nature and extent of these injuries usually depend on the severity of the crash. Even in a low-speed crash such as a low-speed rear-end collision, the movement of the body may cause the back muscles to be strained or sprained. Although this frequently happens when your vehicle is rear-ended, back injuries may be sustained in any type of car, truck, bus, pedestrian or bicycle accident.

Slip-and-fall accidents: Slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents may also cause permanent or debilitating back injuries. The nature and severity of the injury will depend on the manner of the fall and the location of the injury. When a person takes a fall due to tripping or slipping, the impact alone can cause serious injury to the back including sprains, strains, broken bones, etc. Falls down the stairs or on snow or ice, for example, may cause a permanent back injury.

Workplace injuries: Those who perform physical labor face an increased risk of back injuries. Those who work in the construction industry such as roofers, ironworkers, steelworkers, bricklayers, sheetrock workers, painters, carpenters, etc. are at risk of serious injury. Those who work from heights face a greater danger of falling and injuring their back. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than a million workers suffer back injuries each year. In fact, back injuries account for one out of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Moreover, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries. Workers who lift, carry, hold or lower materials are more susceptible to back injuries. The BLS survey shows that four out of five of injuries that occurred during manual materials handling were to the lower back and that three out of four occurred when the worker was lifting.

Repetitive stress: If you have a job that requires heavy lifting, you may injure your back due to repetitive stress. In such cases, employers and others must provide workers with equipment such as braces to protect their backs and help prevent these types of debilitating injuries.

Regardless of whether you have sustained a back injury in a car accident, at work or in a slip-and-fall accident, please contact an experienced New York back injury lawyer to obtain more information regarding pursuing your legal rights.

Types of Back Injuries

There are many different types of back injuries. Pain is the most routinely associated symptom of back injury. For example, acute pain is a warning sign of a serious injury such as a sprained ligament, bone fracture or disc herniation etc. Any type of traumatic event such as an auto accident or a fall may lead to back injuries. Here are some of the most common types of back injuries:

Inflammation: This occurs when the muscles and ligaments are stretched beyond their normal capacity or elasticity, causing pain and swelling. Lower back pain usually results from an injury to the muscles and ligaments of the lumbar spine. It may occur due to twisting or a traumatic injury. Often, the pain does not occur soon after the injury. While back pain can occur in any part of the back, it is the most common in the lower back. Anyone who experiences lower back pain for more than a month or develops other symptoms such as leg weakness, numbness or loss of bowel or bladder control should contact his or her doctor right away.

Whiplash: Whiplash is a common term for an injury that occurs to the cervical vertebrae and supporting soft tissues. This type of injury is caused by a sudden jerking, acceleration or forward acceleration of the head with respect to the vertebral column. They are often brought about by auto accidents that produce a sudden and forceful forward or backward whipping of the head. A person with whiplash experiences symptoms as a result of muscle and ligament sprains and strains to the cervical portion of the spine and supporting tissues.

Herniated disc: This refers to the rupture of the jelly-like substance that provides cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine. Herniation results in pressure on nearby nerves, which can lead to several symptoms such as pain, numbness of the neck, arm, shoulder, legs or feet. Any disc can rupture, but it is likely to occur in the lower back. Usually rest and rehabilitation will be recommended to treat a herniated disc, but sometimes, surgery may be necessary.

Compression fracture: A compression fracture is the structural collapse of the vertebrae. If the fracture is minor, it may cause a little discomfort. However, victims with a more extensive fracture can experience elevated levels of pain and discomfort.

Broken back injuries: Fractures occur when the spinal cord endures a force it cannot handle. When the vertebrae in the spine fracture, it may lead to a potentially dangerous condition resulting in permanent injury or paralysis. Other bones may fracture leading to pain throughout the back.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Before treating your back pain, a doctor may carry out a series of tests to diagnose precisely what is causing your pain. Unless you are completely unable to move due to your back injury, the physician will probably test your range of motion and nerve functions. Blood and urine tests may be done to ensure that the pain is not being caused by an infection. X-rays are useful in pinpointing broken bones or other skeletal issues. MRI scans are useful to detect soft tissue damage such as disk herniation. A CT scan can be done instead for those who cannot have an MRI. An electromyogram can be used to determine possible nerve or muscle damage.

There are different types of treatment for back pain from resting and icing the injured area to surgery. The specific recommendation for the treatment will depend on the nature and severity of your injury. Often those with back injuries go through extensive physical therapy or chiropractic treatments to aid rehabilitation. Exercises may be prescribed to strengthen the patient’s abdominal and back muscles.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

A number of parties may be held liable for back injuries. For example, if you have been injured in an auto accident, the at-fault driver who caused your injury can be held liable. In a truck accident case, for example, the trucking company or employer can also be held financially responsible. If you have been injured as a result of slipping and falling on ice or snow outside a business, the business owner and/or property owner may be held accountable. The same goes for any type of slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident on public or private property.

If you suffered back injuries on the job, you may be able to seek compensation through workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, you may be able to file a third-party claim against a party other than the employer who caused or contributed to the injuries. Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, manufacturers of defective products, etc.

Damages in Back Injury Cases

Most back injuries take time to heal completely. Victims of these injuries must undergo medical treatment. Some may have to be hospitalized and undergo surgery in order to get better. Many patients have to go through several weeks or months of rehabilitative treatment in order to heal completely. Even with extensive treatment and rehabilitation, some may not recover completely. They may have suffered permanent injuries and disabilities, which may not allow them to work or earn a livelihood.

The damages that can be sought in back injury cases depend on the extent of injuries suffered. Victims can seek damages for medical expenses, lost income and benefits, cost of hospitalization, rehabilitative treatment and care, permanent injuries, disabilities, lost future income, past and future pain and suffering, etc.

Taking the Right Steps

If you have suffered a back injury in any type of accident, it is important that you get medical attention immediately and follow the doctor’s orders. Not only does this give you your best shot at a quick and complete recovery, but it also creates valuable documentation should you wish to file an injury claim later. Contact an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible so your legal rights and best interests are protected.

Collect whatever evidence you can, including police or incident reports, contact information for eyewitnesses and other parties involved and photographs from the scene. Document your losses diligently. Keep track of all expenses related to your injury. Your attorney can guide you through this vital process. Do not talk to insurance companies or other legal representatives without first talking to your lawyer. Do not sign any agreements or paperwork without consulting your lawyer. Taking these critical steps can help preserve your legal rights and help you secure fair and full compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered a back injury due to someone else’s negligence or fault, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

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1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES

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