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Car accidents and spinal injury claims: what you need to know

Published on 25 May 2022

Back and neck pain is recognised as one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Spinal injuries, particularly to the spinal cord, can be some of the most worrying injuries you can experience.

How badly a spinal injury may affect you differs from person to person, but spinal injuries can stop you from doing everyday things like work, household chores, and care for yourself and your family. The injury is often irreversible and permanent to some extent.

If you’ve suffered an injury to the spine, it’s understandably a distressing time, and while financial compensation won’t necessarily fix the problem it can reduce the pressure of reaching ends meet.

No matter how you sustained the back or spinal injury whether it’s at work, in public, in a car accident or due to the negligence of someone else, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

How back and spinal injuries can occur

Back injuries are a result of damage or trauma to the bones, muscles or other tissues in the back. They can be caused by:

  • Acute or traumatic injuries
  • Heavy lifting and manual handling
  • Sedentary desk jobs and poor posture
  • Car accidents
  • Slips, trips and falls

But it’s no surprise that the biggest cause of back or spinal-related injuries occurs in motor vehicle accidents.

Being involved in a road or transport accident, whether a driver, passenger, pedestrian, truck driver, cyclist or motorcyclist, can result in a range of back injuries from minor and lower upper back pains and sprains to more severe injuries of the spine like herniated discs or para and quadriplegia.

Types of spinal injuries can include spinal disc injuries, repetitive strain injuries, sciatica, soft tissue spine injuries, and whiplash spinal injuries.

In car accidents, injuries like this are often a result of sudden movements such as impact from a motor vehicle accident – one of the most common is whiplash.

But it’s important to note that back injuries can occur from collisions at any speed. Read more about the role of speed on car crashes and injuries here.

Is whiplash a spinal injury?

Whiplash is a relatively common injury resulting when your head moves backward and forward or side to side with sudden force. Such movements cause hyperextension and hyperflexion of the head and cervical spine (which is the top part of the spine where the neck forms).

While it’s generally thought of as a fairly mild condition, whiplash can vary in severity and in recovery time, causing long-term pain and discomfort.

Some whiplash injuries can heal in a matter of days or weeks, others can take months, and some also never truly heal. Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Pain and limited range of motion in the neck
  • Pain moving neck from side to side and back and forth
  • Stiffness and tenderness when moving the neck
  • Headaches and tight neck or shoulder muscles

The best way to diagnose back or neck pain, or a spine-related injury is with an X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan. As mentioned, the severity of back injuries can vary, and it is best to seek advice from your medical practitioner.

What compensation is available for a back, neck or spinal injury?

Whether you’re eligible to claim compensation, and what type of compensation you can claim, depends on how you sustained the back injury, the severity and how it’s impacted your life.

In the case of a spinal injury from a car accident, where fault can be proven for car accidents in Queensland, you can claim compensation through the Compulsory Third Party Insurance of the person at fault. In Victoria, however, the laws are slightly different in that it doesn’t matter who was at fault, you can still claim through the Transport Accident Commission.

Depending on the severity of your back, neck or spinal injury, you may be able to claim compensation for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Loss of income
  • Personal care and assistance
  • Pain and suffering

How much compensation you may receive for a spinal cord injury also depends on the case. Generally speaking, the more severe the injury, the more compensation you’d likely be entitled to.

Resources for spinal injuries in Queensland