What Types of Spinal Cord Injuries Are Common in Car Accidents?

a driver suffers a spinal cord injury after an accident | the Law Offices of Mickey Fine

Unfortunately, many types of spinal cord injuries are common in car accidents. In fact, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States, leaving the injured victim and their family with lifelong complications and physical and financial hardships. Spinal cord injuries come in several forms and cause a range of disabilities. 

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine has helped injured clients in Bakersfield for decades. Our successful lawyer and legal team know how to pursue a car accident claim aggressively. Cases involving certain types of spinal cord injuries in car accidents can have higher settlements and require an experienced lawyer. If your life will never be the same because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve justice.

Herniated Discs (Bulging Discs or Ruptured Discs)

The spine has disk-shaped cushions between the vertebrae or bones, and a herniated disk occurs when one of these cushions bulges through an abnormal opening and may lead to a ruptured disc. These discs are strong connective tissue with a spongy texture, and they maintain the spine’s alignment and curvature, allowing for fluid, painless movement. 

A herniated disc can cause a pinched nerve, disc tear, or rupture. This spinal cord injury can cause immense pain and may lead to weakness or numbness in the arms, shoulders, or neck. A large herniated disc in the neck region may compress or push in on the spinal cord, causing leg weakness, stiffness, numbness, and bladder or bowel control concerns. 

Physical therapy, weight control, medication, and surgery may be needed to improve pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated disc after a car accident.

Fractured Vertebrae

The backbone or vertebrae is vulnerable in a car crash. A fracture or dislocation can impact any part of the spine, causing a range of injuries from mild ligament and muscle strain to fractures and spinal cord damage. After a car accident, someone with a severe vertebrae fracture may need surgery to realign the bones. 

While spinal fractures may happen due to diseases, such as a tumor or osteoporosis, car accidents tend to cause chance fractures when a violent forward movement flexes and pulls apart the vertebrae. Symptoms include neck or back pain, numbness, tingling, limb weakness or paralysis, uncontrolled muscle spasms, and fecal or urinary incontinence. 

Medications may manage some symptoms of fractured vertebrae, but physical therapy, long-term rehabilitation, and surgery are often necessary. 


Spondylolisthesis happens when the spinal bones slip out of alignment onto the vertebra or bone underneath it. The condition typically causes lower back or leg pain and makes the spine unstable. Traumatic spondylolisthesis is the type of spinal cord injury that happens in a car accident or another traumatic event, causing the spine to overextend forcefully. 

The condition is broken into two categories: low-grade and high-grade. High-grade spondylolisthesis may cause significant pain and require surgery. Symptoms include back stiffness, muscle spasms in the back of the thigh (hamstring), foot numbness or weakness, and difficulty standing for long periods, walking, or bending over. Medication, steroid injections, physical therapy, a spinal brace, and surgery are available treatment options. 

Discogenic Pain

Damage to the vertebrae discs can lead to discogenic pain, a debilitating condition that causes chronic low back pain. The spinal discs can deteriorate due to disease or sudden trauma in a car accident. Discogenic pain can lower quality of life and may peak when sitting, bending forward, coughing, or sneezing. The condition may also cause neck pain and muscle spasms in the arms or neck.  

Treatment for severe low back pain caused by discogenic pain may include pain medication and physical therapy or exercise. When these outlets fail, surgery may restore function and reduce pain. 

Degenerative Spinal Disorders

Car accidents may exacerbate or accelerate degenerative spinal disorders, such as osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis (spinal canal narrowing). Herniated discs and slipped discs may also lead to spine degeneration by putting pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord. Symptoms of these disorders involve a limited range of motion, spine deformities, and pain that could be chronic, sharp, and happen with or without movement. A degenerating spine may also cause sexual dysfunction, bladder and bowel issues, weakness, and loss of sensations. 

Treatment for degenerative spinal disorders depends on the severity and condition. Non-surgical outlets, such as physical therapy, medication, and a brace, may improve pain and other symptoms. Surgery may improve quality of life in cases of herniated discs or spinal stenosis causing spinal degeneration.

Full or Partial Paralysis

Severe spinal cord injury can cause complete (full) or incomplete (partial) paralysis, altering the injured victim’s life forever. Partial paralysis preserves some sensory and motor function below the damaged area of the spinal cord. Full paralysis causes total loss of motor function and sensations below the place of the injury on the spinal cord. The sudden and traumatic nature of car accidents makes it possible for the force to permanently damage the vertebrae, disks, ligaments, and spinal cord within the spinal canal. 

Many types of spinal cord injuries in car accidents are not immediately apparent, and paralysis may occur gradually after the car crash. It’s critical to seek medical treatment immediately after a car crash involving any part of the spinal cord. Unfortunately, no treatments can reverse the spinal cord damage causing full or partial paralysis, and only early medical care may mitigate some of the damage and symptoms. Immobilizing the neck and spine to prevent further injury is imperative at the car accident scene.

Talk to a Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyer for FREE

If you or a loved one have experienced a spinal cord injury in a car accident, the Law Offices of Mickey Fine can build your case and pursue your claim to ensure you receive maximum compensation for the permanent effects the damage will have on your life. 

Call (661) 333-3333 to speak with a Bakersfield car accident lawyer today for FREE.

Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on