I recently received a phone call from a past client who was injured in a low-speed rear-end collision in the mid-2000s. He retained our firm and was treated with a chiropractor for approximately three months when he was released as being “100% returned to his pre-accident condition.” The client was calling now to see if his case could be reopened as he has had fusion spinal surgery of his low-back spine and is now facing fusion surgery for his cervical (neck) spine. His current surgeon apparently told him that his current condition was initially caused by the “blunt force trauma” from the prior car crash years earlier. The client had been anxious to resolve his spine injury claim and had accepted a settlement that made no allowance for future medical needs and signed a release so no “reopening” was possible.
I share this cautionary tale because when a person receives an injury to the spine due to a rear-vector collision, the body undergoes sudden acceleration/deceleration forces that can hyperextend and tear ligaments, muscle tissue, nerves, and unfortunately, intravertebral discs. Even though there may not be much or any visible property damage to the involved vehicles, the law of physics assures that the forces continue forward in a linear direction, causing the occupants to suffer the damages mentioned above.
Future Pain Missed
After a number of weeks or months, and many visits to the medical providers, a person may recover to regain almost all of his or her pre-accident mobility, range of motion, strength, and lack of pain, while still retaining a small percentage of symptoms or restrictions that only surface upon more-than-average exertion. By this time, the injured victim feels considerably better and is “tired” of going to see the doctors and therapists, and is rather emphatic that he just wants his or her attorney to settle the case and “have it all be over.” Many times such accident victims even exaggerate their recovery to their providers in a quest to be released from care and “just be done with it.”
Unfortunately, I see this all too often when the client/patient has been referred to a pain management specialist and recommended for epidural injections, selective nerve root blocks, or facet blocks which are declined in a “rush” to end the case, or because he or she does not understand the purpose and nature of the care being proposed.
Sadly, ending the case does not equate to ending the injury, and the symptoms thereof, in most injury cases.
Connective tissue tears, disc injury, and scar tissue continue to degenerate and deteriorate over time, and are often accelerated ahead of the natural aging process due to the traumatic event. All too often, they can lead to instability and nerve irritation in the spine and the need for more serious medical and surgical intervention in the future, when symptoms that were never fully diagnosed, treated, or resolved reoccur in the future.
Seek Experienced Help
For these reasons, it is imperative for a client to seek an experienced trial attorney and counselor for guidance through the injuries of a motor vehicle crash. I have been representing people for over 30 years in the field of personal injury and have seen how these injuries unfold over time. I am very careful to have my clients (especially youth and younger persons) think through their present conditions and how they may feel in the ensuing years, due to permanent connective tissue injury. This often leads a client to decide to exhaust current treatment options to obtain the fullest recovery of their health and pre-crash function. In this way, we can forecast the need for future care that is reasonably certain to be required in the future and include such in the compensation of the victim.