According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), of the over 230,000 people harmed in motor vehicle accidents on Texas roadways in 2012, 87,087 individuals suffered an injury severe enough to be classified as “serious.”

Sadly, these types of catastrophic accident injuries not only have the potential to instantly alter an individual’s life, but even with immediate medical attention an individual can face months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. For instance, severely broken bones can often require several surgeries and metal pins to repair, not to mention the time it takes to heal and recuperate. Additionally, blows to the head during car accidents can lead to head trauma, from which a victim may never actually fully recover.

To make matters worse, while the seriousness of many injuries are readily apparent immediately following a car accident – such as facial injuries and other lacerations – the full extent of other injuries may not be known until the victim actually seeks medical treatment – including various internal injuries as well as injuries to a person’s neck and back. Indeed, neck and back injuries are often some of the most severe injuries suffered by car accident victims.

The dangers of neck and back injuries

One thing that both neck and back injuries have in common is the fact that they can involve damage to a victim’s spinal cord. Traumatic injuries to the spinal cord are extremely dangerous since it is an important part of the body’s central nervous system, which is responsible for carrying signals from brain to control muscle movement.

Consequently, any significant injury to the spinal cord has the potential to cut off muscle control to various parts of the body – thus resulting in partial paralysis. For example, a critical injury to an individual’s back can impact control of his or her legs and torso, as well as bladder and bowel control. A serious neck injury can result in the loss of the use of a person’s arms, in addition to the potential paralysis of the lower extremities.

Sadly, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, over 40 percent of all new spinal cord injuries can be attributed to auto and motorcycle accidents each year. For this reason, it is always important to keep an eye out for the possible signs of a spinal cord injury following a car accident, which can include:

Numbness or tingling in the feet, toes, hands or fingers
Difficulty with walking and balance
Loss of bowel or bladder control
Weakness or paralysis in any part of the body
Difficulty breathing
Twisted neck or back
However, it is important to note that even if a neck or back injury does not result in severe spinal damage or paralysis, it can be serious nonetheless. For instance, rear-end collisions may cause both hyperextension – a backwards motion of the neck beyond normal limits – and hyperflexion – a forward motion of the neck beyond normal limits. When these two motions are combined, they typically result in a soft-tissue injury more commonly known as whiplash.

Additionally, back injuries can result in muscle aches, shooting pains and the inability to stand up straight. Back-related damage can also cause the slippage or bulging of the disks that cushion the spine’s vertebrae.

Given the severity of consequences following a neck or back injury, it is important to following various guidelines when dealing with suspected injuries, including:

Contact emergency medical personnel or call 911
Keep the injured person still as paralysis or other complications may result if moved
Provide basic first aid, such as stopping any bleeding, while making sure not to move the neck or head
Attempt to hold the neck and head in place until emergency personnel arrives, which can be accomplished by placing heavy towels on both sides of the neck
Trucking accidents may increase chances of catastrophic injury or death

Even though death and serious injury – such as those that affect the neck and back – can occur in almost any motor vehicle accident, the likelihood of severe consequences may increase as the size of the vehicles involved get larger. For example, a motorist in a compact car often has a greater chance of injury or death when involved in a collision with a multi-ton truck.

In fact, according to TxDOT, slightly more than 2 percent of all semi-trailer crashes on Texas roads resulted in at least one fatality in 2012. While 2 percent may not seem like a lot at first glance, it is actually five times greater than the percentage of Texas passenger car accidents that were fatal during the same period. Moreover, this percentage does not include the thousands of other Texas trucking accidents that lead to serious injuries.

Legal assistance is available

If you are injured in an auto or trucking accident, the first important thing to do is seek medical attention immediately, especially if you may have suffered injuries to the neck or back. However, following medical treatment, it is also advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can assist by guiding you through the complex legal process and help ensure you are not taken advantage of by the insurance companies. After all, insurance companies are typically concerned with their bottom line, and may attempt to settle your claim for an amount lower than you may be entitled.