Fort Smith Back Injury Car Accident Lawyer
More than 280,000 people in the United States live with the pain and physical limitations of a spinal cord injury. Car accidents are one of the biggest causes of spinal cord injuries and other back injuries. Fort Smith is the third-largest city in Arkansas and has more traffic than many other nearby cities, making accidents common. Even a crash that occurs at low speed or causes minor damage to the vehicles involved has the potential to create debilitating pain and disability. Car accident-related back injuries vary in their symptoms and severity, but all of them are potentially life-changing.
If you have been in a car accident that hurt your back, an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve to cover your expenses and other losses. The Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. is proud to represent accident victims of Northwest Arkansas in Fort Smith and beyond. We have decades of experience helping connect accident victims who suffered spinal cord damage and other back injuries with meaningful compensation, allowing them to start the process of moving on with their lives.
Common Back Injuries From Car Accidents
The spine is one of the most important structures in the human body. Aside from providing support to the body, one of the spine’s primary purposes is to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord has a group of nerves that transmit messages from the brain throughout the body.
The spine is comprised of three distinct areas:
- The cervical vertebrae of the neck;
- Thoracic vertebrae at the upper back; and
- Lumbar vertebrae in the lower back.
In addition to the spinal cord and vertebrae, the back is composed of discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, which can all be injured by the force of a car accident.
Some of the most car accident-related back injuries include:
One of the most common car accident injuries of all is whiplash. The force of a collision causes the neck to make a snapping motion, like a cracking whip, which can strain, tear or bruise soft tissue like muscles and ligaments in the cervical spine. While many cases of whiplash are minor, that is not always the case. Severe cases of whiplash can result in serious spinal injuries that can be permanently disabling.
Discs are spongy cushions between each vertebra. They can slip out of place, break, rupture, or bulge. A herniated disc causes excruciating pain that will not go away on its own. In the best-case scenario, those suffering from a herniated disc will require physical therapy and over-the-counter medication, and in the worst-case scenario, surgery may be the only option.
The bones of the back, called vertebrae, can fracture and break. Types of bone fractures in the back include flexion, extension, rotation, and compression fractures. Treatment options for spinal bone fractures vary, depending on the severity of the break and whether a bone is pressing against the spinal cord. However, many who experience a vertebral fracture will require surgery.
Sprains and Strains
Painful strains and sprains are common after an accident. The soft tissue in the back, like muscles, tendons, and ligaments, can stretch to the point of damage. A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, while a sprain is the stretching or tearing of a ligament.
Spinal Cord Damage
Injuries to the spinal cord are the most serious because they can cause complete or partial paralysis. Each year, there are more than 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the United States, and car accidents are responsible for about 30 percent of all spine injuries. These injuries also may result in loss of function, loss of feeling, and devastating health problems in other body systems.
While back injuries are often very serious and can cause victims to experience a lifetime of pain and physical limitations, but they don’t always appear serious right after an accident. For this reason, it is imperative that accident victims seek immediate medical treatment to ensure that they don’t suffer potentially serious injuries they were unaware of.
Treatment for Back Injuries
After a car accident, it is crucial to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Delayed pain and other symptoms are common with back injuries, so the true extent of the damage might not be known immediately. Early diagnosis is essential for reducing harm, managing pain, and healing a back injury.
Not seeking care soon after an accident can hurt your chances of being awarded money for damages, as it appears that the injury was unrelated to the accident or not severe. Even if you feel your injuries are not serious, it is best to err on the side of caution.
Treatment for back injuries varies depending on severity, location, and type. Some can heal with a short-term treatment plan, while others necessitate lifelong care. Potential treatments for back injuries include:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Prescription medications
Many people with a back injury need to keep up with treatments like chiropractic care for the rest of their lives. Your attorney can include expenses like these in the compensation award, so you are covered in the future.
Damages for Car Accident-Related Back Injuries
Arkansas follows a fault system that allows accident victims to be compensated for damages from the negligent party responsible for the accident. Proving fault in an accident claim involves showing that the other party owed a duty of care and violated it by acting carelessly. Accident victims who successfully prove that another driver was responsible for their back injuries can recover financial compensation from the other driver.
In Arkansas, personal injury damages fall into two main categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are those with an obvious dollar amount attached. Examples include:
- Past and future medical expenses,
- Lost income from time off work,
- An inability to earn income in the future or a reduced earning capacity,
- Vehicle repairs and other property damage, and
- Rehabilitation costs.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate victims for the emotional and psychological toll the accident took on their lives. Understandably, non-economic damages are harder to calculate because they are subjective and vary significantly based on how the accident affected a victim’s life. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of consortium, and
- Permanent disability.
Accident victims deserve fair compensation for what they’ve been through, so it is important to identify the full extent of all economic and non-economic damages.
What to Do After a Fort Smith Car Accident
If you’ve been in a motor vehicle collision, you understand that the moments after the accident can only be described as a blur. However, this is also an incredibly important time, both for your health and your ability to hold the negligent driver who caused the accident financially responsible. Below are a few things to keep in mind after an accident.
1. Seek Immediate Medical Care
Without question, the first thing to do after an accident is to go to the emergency room. Back injuries can be tricky and may not exhibit concerning symptoms right away. However, you might wake up in excruciating pain days or weeks later. Rather than wait until that day comes, head into the ER as soon as possible to get checked out by a doctor. If you suspect a back injury, try not to move until emergency responders arrive.
2. Report the Accident
If you called 911 to have an ambulance pick you up, you probably told the operator about the accident. However, if you didn’t receive treatment right away or believe no one has reported the collision, be sure to call the police or sheriff’s department as soon as possible to report it. Reporting an accident is important because it creates an official record of the accident and your injuries, making it harder for an insurance company to claim that your injuries were caused by something else.
3. Conduct a Mini Investigation Before Leaving the Scene
If your condition allows it, before leaving the scene of an accident, be sure to get all witnesses’ names and contact information. This can help your Fort Smith car accident lawyer conduct a thorough investigation. You may also consider taking out your smartphone and snapping a few pictures of the scene, focusing on the position of the vehicles, any road signs or traffic lights in the area, and the damage to the cars involved in the accident.
4. Contact a Fort Smith Car Accident Lawyer
Once you are on the road to recovery, consider reaching out to a Fort Smith personal injury lawyer to learn more about bringing a lawsuit against the driver responsible for the accident. Personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, so there is no risk to calling. Additionally, most law firms take car accident cases on a contingency basis, meaning they will only bill you for their services if they can recover compensation on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Long Do You Have to File an Arkansas Car Accident Lawsuit?
Arkansas law requires accident victims to file a personal injury case within three years from the date of the collision. This is called a statute of limitations. If you file a case after the statute of limitations has expired, the court will not hear your case, and you’ll be prevented from recovering anything for your injuries. While you have up to three years to file a case, it’s best to speak with a back injury lawyer as soon as possible because this increases the likelihood of locating the evidence needed to prove your claim.
Who Pays for a Car Accident Back Injury Settlement?
Most of the time, the at-fault party’s insurance company pays a settlement for damages. They tend to pay as little as possible and sometimes offer a low settlement. A car accident attorney can help determine the total worth and negotiate with insurance companies or represent you at trial to get as much money as possible.
Can You Still Recover for Back Injuries if You Were Partially At Fault for an Accident?
Yes, under Arkansas’ modified comparative negligence rule, victims who are partially at fault for an accident can still recover monetary damages from a negligent driver, provided the victim’s proportion of fault was less than the other drivers. Another way of thinking about this is that you can bring a car accident lawsuit in Arkansas if you are up to 49 percent at fault. Additionally, when a victim shares blame for causing an accident, the court will also reduce their damages award by their percentage of fault. However, if you are 50 percent responsible for causing an accident, you will not be able to recover anything. An experienced Fort Smith car accident lawyer can help prevent other drivers and their insurance companies from unfairly shifting blame onto accident victims.
Contact the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A., for a Free Case Review
If you or a loved one has suffered serious back injuries in an Arkansas car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for damages. An experienced personal injury attorney at the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. can help you collect the damages you are legally entitled to. We have decades of experience handling all types of car accident cases, including those resulting in spinal cord damage, herniated discs, severe whiplash, and other back injuries. Our Arkansas car accident lawyers offer free consultations to all accident victims, during which we will answer all your questions, provide you with an overview of the recovery process, and explain what we can do to help you obtain the damages you need to start moving on with your life. The Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. serves all of Northwest Arkansas, including Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, and Rogers. For a free case review, call (479) 361-3575. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.