Back pain is a common occurrence following a Michigan car accident. The impact from a rear-end collision, head-on collision or T-bone crash creates significant forces on the spine. This can result in muscle strains, muscle sprains and other forms of injury to the low back region. The pain can completely change a person’s life. When this happens, can you sue for back pain after a car accident? A person can sue for low back pain and obtain compensation for their injuries from the at-fault driver and vehicle owner.
Many low back injuries result from an injury to the discs that protect the vertebrate throughout the back. When a disc starts to protrude, or herniate, and the nucleus inside the disc pushes out through a tear, it can irritate a nearby nerve. This can produce excruciating pain. The pain can cause numbness and tingling that moves down the low back and into the legs and feet. This is called lumbar radiculopathy and is one of the most common car accident injuries.
Lumbar radiculopathy and low back pain are injuries you can sue for in Michigan. However, just because you are suffering low back pain and other injuries in a car accident does not mean you are entitled to money compensation. Under the law, there are a few requirements a person must prove to get receive compensation.
First, the person injured in a Michigan car accident and seeking compensation must show the person who caused the collision was at least 50% at-fault, or negligent in causing the crash. If the person injured was more than 50% at-fault for causing the accident, then that person is not allowed to obtain non-economic damages – such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Proving negligence can happen in a few different ways.
First, the testimony of the individuals involved in the wreck are important. They can give first-hand accounts of what occurred, how it occurred and why a person was at-fault. Second, the police officer who responded to the accident scene will prepare a police report following the investigation. In Michigan, this police report is knowns as a UD-10 report, or Traffic Crash Report. This report provides a wealth of information about the crash and is relied upon by insurance companies when evaluating negligence following a Michigan auto accident.
The police report will highlight where the accident occurred, the individuals involved (including passengers), the motor vehicles involved, along with a narrative report as to how the accident occurred.
The police report includes a box called “Hazard Action”. This box will have a number in it. The number translates to the fault the police officer assigns to each driver. If the hazard action is a “0”, then according to the police officer that driver is not at-fault for causing the wreck. The numbers correspond to how the person contributed to the crash. For example, 3 = failure to yield; 4 = disregard traffic control; 9 = improper lane use; 12 = unable to stop in assured clear distance; 15 = reckless driving; and 16 = careless driving.
Because it is hearsay, the police report itself is not admissible evidence under Michigan law. Traffic tickets and citations are also hearsay and not admissible evidence. However, the police officer can give an opinion as to how he or she believes the car crash occurred by relying upon the police report. The officer’s testimony is a great way to prove the other person was at-fault for causing the crash.
Another way to show negligence is through independent witnesses. An independent witness can testify as to whether a person ran a red light, rear-ended another driver, failed to yield or did something else in causing the crash. Because they are independent, independent witnesses tend to carry incredible weight for both judges and juries.
Showing a Threshold Injury
Under Michigan law, just because you are involved in a car accident does not mean you can get compensation. Instead, an injured person must be injured enough under the law to be eligible for compensation. Demonstrating this means showing he or she has sustained a “threshold” injury per MCL 500.3135(5).
There are three threshold injuries: (1) death, (2) permanent, serious disfigurement, and (3) serious impairment of body function. Cases involving back injuries, disc herniation, and lumbar radiculopathy involve this last threshold.
To show you have sustained a “serious impairment of body function”, an injured person must show the car accident has affected their general ability to lead a normal life.
This is a case specific situation, and a Michigan car accident injury lawyer can explain the “ins and outs” of what it means to show a car accident has changed a person’s life. Typically, the injured person must show the low back pain and other injuries have impacted their ability to do certain recreational activities and hobbies they used to do before the crash occurred. Activities such as working at a job, doing household chores and other activities of daily living are all important in showing the impact.
In addition, an injured must also show the low back injury was objectively manifested. This means the impairment “is observative or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.” This is best accomplished through an imaging study, such as an MRI or CT scan, of the low back which finds a disc herniation, protrusion, disc bulge or some other positive finding that impacts the individual enough to create an impairment or disability.
The best way to show the car accident affected an injured person’s ability to lead a normal life is through medical treatment for those injuries. The low back is very fragile. When it is disturbed and injury results, medical treatment can help solve these disturbances or injuries. Typical treatment regimens include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
- Epidural steroid injections
- Injection therapy
The medical notes from a family physician or specialist that explain the type of pain and back injury a victim is experiencing, the diagnosis, and the prognosis for recovery are instrumental pieces of evidence in helping a person obtain compensation. With this documentation, a car accident victim has powerful tools in court to prove to the judge, jury and insurance company that the person should be made whole from the injuries they sustained in the car crash.
The types of doctors a car accident victim sees after a Michigan car crash is also important. Neurologists, pain management doctors, and neurosurgeons have spent their entire professional careers understanding and alleviating pain for their patients. Many specialize in the treatment of low back and neck injuries. Their medical records and opinions are extremely valuable.
If you were involved in a Michigan car accident and are experiencing low back pain or neck pain, call the Michigan auto accident lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). Our dedicated team of Michigan car accident lawyers can answer your legal questions about the accident and how it relates to your back pain. We can help you obtain compensation and other damages for your injuries. The phone call is free and we never charge a penny until we win your case.