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Disc Herniations after a Car Accident

By Matt Lalande in Car Accidents, Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer on August 26, 2023

Disc Herniations after a Car Accident

There’s no doubt that serious car accident injuries can change lives. Car accident victims may grapple with lingering physical ailments, traumatic psychological scars, and debilitating emotional distress. Beyond the raw physical pain, there’s often a profound loss of enjoyment of life. Activities once taken for granted like walking in the park, exercising, or even the simple act of laughing without pain – may become challenging or impossible.

Also, the diminished quality of life can extend to the individual’s relationships, hobbies, and even daily routines, completely changing what was once a vibrant life. Additionally, the economic ramifications of serious car accident injuries can be devastating. Medical bills can quickly accumulate, and victims may find themselves unable to work either temporarily or permanently. The ripple effect of such financial suffering can lead to lost opportunities, strained relationships, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

If this sounds like you or someone you love, call us today. Our Hamilton Car Accident Lawyers have been representing car accident victims since 2003 and have recovered tens of millions in compensation for individuals and families all over Ontario. There are several ways to contact us today. First, you can you or a loved one can email us through our website. You can also call us from anywhere you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/Southern Ontario area at 905-333-8888 today.

What is Vertebral Disc?

An intervertebral disc is a fibrocartilaginous pad situated between each pair of adjacent vertebrae (we have 33) in the spinal column. Composed of an outer ring called the annulus fibrosus and a soft, gel-like center known as the nucleus pulposus, this disc functions as a shock absorber, cushioning the vertebrae during movements and bearing the weight of the body. Its unique structure and composition allow for both flexibility and strength, facilitating a wide range of spinal motions while also providing protection to the spinal cord and nerve roots.

How does a Disc Herniate?

In a car accident, the sudden and forceful impact can subject the spine to extreme stress, leading to injuries such as herniated discs. Once again, the spine consists of a series of bones called vertebrae, which are cushioned by these discs. These discs are like small pillows, filled with a jelly-like substance, and they serve to absorb shocks and maintain the spine’s flexibility. When the discs are subjected to sudden and intense trauma, the outer layer of a disc can rupture, causing the inner gel-like substance to leak out. This condition is termed as a herniated disc. The herniated portion of the disc can then press on nearby nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness. Given the abrupt jolt in a serious car accident, multiple discs can herniate simultaneously, compounding the pain and potential neurological symptoms for the car accident victim involved.

What are the Three Main Types of Herniated Discs?

  1. Protrusion (or Bulging Disc): The form where the disc’s shape is altered due to stress, but the nucleus pulposus doesn’t entirely break through the annulus fibrosus.
  2. Extrusion: In this type, the nucleus pulposus breaks through the annulus fibrosus but remains tethered to the disc.
  3. Sequestration: The most severe form, where the nucleus pulposus breaks through the annulus fibrosus and becomes a fragment outside the disc.

Pain and Associated Symptoms of a Herniated Disc after a Car Accident:

When a disc herniates, the protruding nucleus pulposus can press against spinal nerves, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected region. The type and location of pain can vary based on where the herniated disc is:

  1. Cervical (Neck Area): Herniation here can cause pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. It might also result in numbness or tingling in these regions.
  2. Thoracic (Mid-Back Area): This is the least common region for herniation, but when it occurs, it can result in pain in the upper back, possibly radiating around the front of the body.
  3. Lumbar (Lower Back Area): The most common site for herniation, lumbar herniated discs can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and even down to the feet, often referred to as sciatica when the sciatic nerve is affected.

To sum up herniated disc is a spinal condition where the soft center of an intervertebral disc protrudes through its tougher exterior, potentially compressing nearby nerves. The resulting pain and symptoms can vary in intensity depending on the type of herniated disc and location on the spine.

The Debilitating Nature of Multiple Herniated Discs

Having one herniated disc can be agonizing, but when there are multiple herniated discs, the pain and the functional impairment can be significantly magnified. Depending on the location of the discs, symptoms can radiate through different parts of the body. For instance, a herniated disc in the lumbar region can lead to sciatic pain, shooting down one’s leg.

When multiple discs in the spine are compromised, the combined nerve compression can severely limit mobility and impact one’s ability to perform daily activities. The discomfort can be so overwhelming that even simple tasks like sitting or walking can become strenuous challenges.

When Surgery may the Next Step after Disc Herniations

While many individuals with herniated discs can find relief through non-surgical treatments like physical therapy, medications, and injections, there are instances where surgery becomes a necessary consideration. Surgery is typically contemplated when:

  1. The pain is so severe that it impedes daily life and hasn’t responded to conservative treatments.
  2. There’s significant muscle weakness or numbness, indicating nerve damage.
  3. There’s difficulty standing or walking due to nerve compression.

What are the Surgeries which are Normally offered to Car Accident Victims with Herniated Discs?

Remember – if you have a herniated disc follow the advice of your medical doctor and surgeon. In our experience as car accident lawyers, several surgical procedures can address herniated discs:

  1. Discectomy/Microdiscectomy: This is the most common surgery for a herniated disc. The procedure involves removing the portion of the disc that’s pressing on a nerve. In microdiscectomy, this is done using a special microscope to view the disc and nerves, allowing for a smaller incision and minimal tissue damage.
  2. Laminectomy/Laminotomy: In this procedure, a part or all of the bony arch, or lamina, of a vertebra is removed to enlarge the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
  3. Artificial Disc Replacement: Instead of fusion after disc removal, an artificial disc can be placed between the vertebrae. This helps maintain spinal mobility.
  4. Spinal Fusion: This procedure is used to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine, eliminating motion between them. It can provide stability if multiple discs are problematic.

Compensation for Disc Herniations caused in a Car Accident

Did you know that Ontario has one of the worst compensation schemes in not only the Canada – but probably in all of North America? There are several reasons for this.

There is a hard cap on compensation for Pain and Suffering of approximately $450,000 (as of August 2023). This means that even if a car accident victims is alive but suffers from tetraplegia and is on a ventilator – that victim receives no more than $450,000 for pain and suffering in this Country.

Second, in order to even recover compensation for pain and suffering in Ontario, you are prohibited in recovering general damages unless you can prove to a Court that you suffer a “permanent, serious, impairment”. This statutory exception is otherwise known as the “threshold”.

In determining whether a car accident victim falls within one or more of the “statutory exceptions” to the prohibition against the recovery of pain and suffering compensation, a Court will apply a three-part analysis at the conclusion of a trial, which was first established by the Court of Appeal in a case called Lento v. Castaldo. The three-part analysis consists of asking sequentially these questions:

(a) Has the injured person sustained permanent impairment of a physical, mental or psychological function?

(b) If yes, is the function which is permanently impaired an important one?

(c) If yes, is the impairment of the important function serious?

The questions are answered based on the facts presented (or the evidence adduces) in your case. Normally your car accident lawyers will need to adduce evidence of one or more of your doctors who will explain the the nature of your impairment, the permanence of your impairment; the specific functions which are impaired; and the importance of the specific function. Your evidence, as well as the evidence of your supporting witnesses will be taken into consideration in determining wether you suffered an impairment which is permanent and serious.

We ALWAYS remind our clients that when a Court makes a determination of whether your impairment is “serious” – it’s important to understand that the word “serious” is not a word used in our typical grammatical sense. The word serious in terms of the threshold means that your impairment must:

  1. substantially interfere with your ability to continue your regular or usual employment, despite reasonable accomodation, or
  2. substantially interfere with your ability to continue training for a career in a field in which you were being trained before the incident despite reasonable accomodation, or
  3.  substantially interfere with most of the usual activities of daily living, considering the person’s age.

There’s no doubt that disc herniations, especially ones requiring surgery, are impairments which are permanent and lifelong – but the bigger question is wether or not the impairment causes an interruption in employment, an interruption in training for a career or substantially interferes with your usual activities of daily living considering your age.

In more cases, the answer will be yes. Disc herniations are often debilitating injuries which require lifelong treatment modalities such as physical rehabilitation, medicaiton, pain or nerve block injections and in the worst cases – surgery which in itself carries complications and sometime – adverse effects that can arise, leading to issues like chronic pain, loss of range of motion, and increased wear and tear on adjacent vertebrae, failed back surgery syndrome and nerve damages.

Have you or a Loved one Suffered Disc Herniations in a Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has suffered life altering disc herniations in a car accident we can help. Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers are Hamilton car accident lawyers who have been representing injured car accident victims since 2003 and have recovered tens of millions for individual and families not only in the Hamilton area – but all over Ontario.

Call us today, no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in Hamilton and throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can email us confidentially through our website or chat 24/7 with our live chat operator.

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