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By Spencers Solicitors

  Steven Barke    
  April 28, 2020

How to know if your back injury is serious and what to do next?

Slightly older readers of this blog may well remember the character of Stan Ogden in the TV programme Coronation Street. Stan was married to the long-suffering Hilda and was a bit of a shirker. He flitted from job to job. Stan had a ‘bad back’ that he could turn on at the drop of a hat, often when he was suffering from a hangover and didn’t want to go to work, or when poor Hilda needed a job doing around the house.

Unfortunately, back injury claims are often regarded as having the air of something slightly 'dubious' about them . The type of claim that the Stan Ogdens of this world might pursue. This sceptical mindset says that back injuries caused as a result of an accident, are at best, merely inconveniences to be 'got on with'.

This cynical view of back injuries is a dangerous one. It can lead to people disregarding what may be the symptoms of a serious back injury, with the result being that they suffer the consequences of not getting proper medical treatment at the earliest opportunity. Those consequences can be very serious indeed.

What types of accident can cause back injuries?

Back injury claims are made by those who have injured their backs in one of a variety of accident circumstances, such as:

  • Car, van or lorry accidents - collisions between vehicles can cause wrenching and trauma back injuries to the occupants of the vehicles.
  • Motorcycle accidents , bicycle accidents and pedestrian accidents - all three of these are types of accident where at least one of the parties to the accident will be a vulnerable road user. Back injuries are one of the potentially serious injuries that vulnerable road users suffer when they are involved in road traffic accidents.
  • Slips, trips and fall accidents are invariably the most common causes of non-fatal injury at work according to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual report.
  • Back injuries result from falling from height accidents quite often too.
  • Lifting accidents - heavy and repeated lifting, poor technique in lifting and being asked or expected to lift too heavy a weight, can cause serious back injury.
  • Slips, trips and falls in public places - tripping on faulty or cracked pavements, slipping on liquid spilled in shops and supermarkets. Whether the victim falls forwards or backwards, back injuries often result from these types of accident.

Back injuries are an extremely common outcome for people who are involved in accidents of any type. The common factor is that if the accident that caused the back injury was the fault of another person or organisation, then the victim of the accident can make a claim for back-injury compensation.

What are the symptoms of back injury?

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected region of your back
  • Stiffness or difficulty when trying to move
  • Pain that gets worse if you cough or sneeze
  • Muscle spasms in the back
  • Pain in either or both legs

In the case of serious back injury, the following symptoms may be present, in addition:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in the arms and/or legs – pins and needles

What types of back injury can I claim for?

Soft tissue injuries

These are injuries to the ligaments, muscles, tendons and nerves in the back and neck region. One of the most common types of soft tissue damage manifests itself as whiplash injury.

Torn or ruptured disc

The tear can cause the disc to herniate and press against a nerve or nerves.

Fracture or dislocation of the spine

The most serious back injuries usually involve fracturing vertebrae or dislocation of vertebrae, which in turn pinch or damage spinal nerves. The severity of spinal cord injuries varies. it can lead to permanent paralysis.

Injury causing compression of the nerves in the lower back – cauda equina syndrome

How do I know if my back injury is serious or not?

The more minor types of back injury symptoms following an accident will have settled down within 4-6 weeks of the injury being caused.

Most of us have hurt our back at some stage of our lives simply through some everyday activity. Perhaps because we are all familiar with this minor form of injury, when we suffer back injury through our involvement in an accident, it’s tempting to similarly pass it off, as something that will get better fairly quickly.

Suspected back injury victims who are attended to at the scene of an accident by the emergency services, will be taken to hospital by ambulance. This will only happen once the injured persons head, neck and spine have been secured in a brace, to prevent movement in the event that the spine has been damaged in the accident.

On most occasions, these procedures are taken as a precaution. It's similar to when footballers or rugby players are involved in heavy collisions and the physios carry out the same precautionary measures, before carrying them off the field on a stretcher.

In most cases like the ones illustrated, few ultimately involve serious injuries. However, the important thing to note, is that they are taking into account form the moment that the injury happens, that the injury may be serious. They are doing this by acting on the assumption that it is serious.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a back injury in an accident how do you know in the days following the accident how serious your injuries are?

Unless you have undergone a thorough medical examination, you don't.

What to do next- into action!

If you are unlucky enough to suffer back injury in an accident, then our advice would be to:

  1. Treat the injury from the outset with respect, even if it seems to be a minor whiplash or lower back sprain. Don’t assume anything!
  2. Visit your GP, a hospital walk-in centre or the A&E department at the hospital, to get thoroughly checked over. Do this as soon after the accident as you can.
  3. If physio is recommended, then see a physiotherapist. If you are making a claim for back injury because you were injured in an accident that was another person’s fault, then consider a private consultation so that you can get treatment more quickly. You may be able to recover the costs of physio from the insurers of the person that caused the accident. Better still, the insurers may pay up front for this. That way you are getting seen more quickly than would be the case under the NHS and you are also helping the NHS by freeing up their time.
  4. If you find at any stage throughout your recovery that your injury is getting worse, go back to see your GP. Your doctor can arrange for you to be referred to a consultant for scans, x-rays or an MRI to investigate the injury further.
  5. Watch out for the symptoms of more serious back injury appearing, particularly numbness or pins and needles in the arms and legs. If you do feel that you are getting symptoms that you haven’t had before, get them checked out by a medical professional.
  6. If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and have suffered back injury, then after visiting your doctor, calling a specialist solicitor to make a personal injury compensation claim, is the next best move you can make.

Spencer Solicitors are experienced, personal injury solicitors and spinal injury specialists, with years of experience in serious injury claims. We are members of the Spinal Injuries Association and we’ll guide you through the whole process of making a back-injury claim and we’ll help you to monitor the progress of your back injury too, in conjunction with the medical experts. Call us on 08000 93 00 94 for initial entirely free legal advice. In most cases we can offer to fund back injury claim by using a No Win No Fee Agreement.

Steve Barke

About the author

Steve is a solicitor who qualified in 1998 and has over 30 years experience in representing clients throughout the UK who have suffered catastrophic, complex serious injuries including amputations; whole body burns and long term disabling psychological conditions as a result of serious work place and road traffic accidents, in particular catastrophic injuries in the steel works and factories of South Wales; Kent and the Midlands.

In addition he has been an advocate at inquests representing families of loved ones who have died as a result of accidents.

Steve goes that extra mile for clients exhibiting excellent client care.

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