All About Back and Neck Injuries from Rear-End Collisions in Gainesville, Florida
Bill Allen | December 27, 2022 | Car Accidents
Studies show that rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident. These crashes account for approximately 29% of all accidents. Fortunately for accident victims, rear-end crashes rarely cause fatal injuries. According to the National Safety Council, rear-end collisions cause 17% of traffic deaths.
But these accidents can cause serious injuries to the occupants of both vehicles. Rear-end collisions cause nearly 38% of non-fatal injuries, according to the National Safety Council.
What Happens in a Rear-End Collision?
A rear-end crash happens when a trailing vehicle hits the back of a leading vehicle.
These accidents can happen for many reasons, including:
In the trailing vehicle, the occupants whip forward at the moment of impact. Their seat belts stop the forward motion of their bodies. But their heads continue forward, putting extra stress on their necks.
When the vehicle stops, the occupants rebound backward, and their heads and shoulders strike their seats.
The occupants of the leading vehicle experience the same forces but in the opposite sequence. When they get hit from behind, the seats slam into their backs and heads. The force of the impact then pushes them forward. Their bodies whip forward into their seat belts, and their heads do the same.
How a Rear-End Crash Affects Your Back and Neck
The spine includes 24 vertebrae. These small bones allow your body to twist and bend. A cushion, called a disc, sits between each pair of vertebrae. The discs absorb shocks to the spine and facilitate smooth movement of the vertebrae.
Ligaments hold the spine together. Tension in the ligaments pulls the vertebrae so they remain in place and hold the discs between them.
Muscles in your back give your body strength and motion. Tendons anchor the back muscles to your skull, spine, shoulder blades, ribs, and hips.
As your body whips back and forth during a rear-end crash, your neck and back hyperextend, which can injure the tissues in your back. The extreme motion can even fracture the vertebrae.
Specifically, your head acts as a weight that pulls your neck. Your head weighs between 11 and 14 pounds, or roughly the same as one-and-a-half gallons of milk. When your head pulls on your neck, it stretches the ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
The whipping motion of your head also pulls the vertebrae and discs apart. When you come to rest, they slam together.
Your back experiences similar forces. It arches forward and backward, causing the vertebrae and discs to spread apart. The hyperextension and compression of your back can injure the discs, tear soft tissues, and fracture the vertebrae.
Common Neck and Back Injuries from a Rear-End Crash
Rear-end collisions cause characteristic injuries to the neck and back, including:
The forces involved in a rear-end crash can cause whiplash. This term does not describe a single injury. Instead, it refers to a set of neck and back injuries that result from the whipping motion you experience during a crash.
Strained Neck and Back
When muscles or tendons hyperextend, they can stretch or tear. This injury, known as a strain, can range from mild damage to full-thickness tears.
Common symptoms of neck and back strain are:
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
You likely won’t need surgery for a strain. Even if you suffered a serious tear, your doctor will probably prescribe rest and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling. After your injury begins to heal, you may require physical therapy to strengthen the injury and the muscles around it.
Sprained Neck and Back
Sprains happen when ligaments hyperextend. The ligaments holding your vertebrae together can stretch or tear, allowing the discs and vertebrae to move more than they should.
Sprains cause symptoms such as:
- Limited range of motion in your back or neck
- Pain near your spine
- Spine instability
When they slip out of place, the discs and vertebrae can press on nerve roots near your spine. This compression causes the nerves to inflame and misfire.
Symptoms of nerve compression include:
- Burning sensations
- Numbness or tingling
- Leg or arm weakness
- Pain that radiates into your limbs
- Loss of dexterity in your fingers or toes
Doctors rarely operate on sprained ligaments in the spine. Instead, you will rest your back and attend physical therapy to build up your muscles so they can support your injury while it heals.
When the vertebrae and discs compress after hyperextending, the pressure can damage both structures.
The discs are made from collagen. They have a tough outer annulus and a softer nucleus. When the discs get damaged, they can deform. The deformation destabilizes the back and compresses nearby nerves.
Deformed discs include:
Herniated discs can occur when the fibers of the annulus separate and allow the nucleus to protrude from the disc.
Sometimes the annulus remains intact but weakens. The cylindrical disc sags to form a barrel-shaped, bulging disc.
The most serious back injury you can suffer is a broken back. A broken back refers to one or more fractured vertebrae.
The vertebrae include solid, cylinder-shaped bodies and thin, wing-shaped processes. When you fracture the body of a vertebra, bone fragments can float into the spinal canal. When you fracture a process of a vertebra, the entire vertebra can dislocate into the spinal canal.
In either case, the injured vertebra can sever the spinal cord causing partial or complete paralysis.
Liability for Rear-End Collision Injuries in Gainesville, FL
In a minor crash, Florida’s no-fault insurance laws limit your compensation to your PIP insurance benefits. But if you suffer a significant, permanent injury or your medical costs exceed your policy limits, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver.
The liability for rear-end crashes almost always falls on the trailing driver, who is required to maintain a safe following distance.
Occasionally, liability falls on the leading driver. This usually happens when the leading driver cuts off the trailing driver, leaving no space for them to brake safely.
A rear-end crash can cause long-term disabilities that affect your neck, back, and limbs. A Gainesville car accident lawyer can help you understand the compensation that may be available for your back and neck injuries from a rear-end collision.
Contact Our Gainesville Car Accident Law Firm in North Central Florida
If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville car accident lawyers at Allen Law Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.
We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida: