When you damage your intervertebral discs, you could suffer temporary disabilities. The pain from a bulging or herniated disc can radiate into your limbs, making it difficult for you to stand, walk, or sleep without pain.
Worse yet, doctors have very few options for treating herniated discs. As a result, your injured discs could cause lifelong disabilities that prevent you from working or even caring for yourself.
Read on to learn about herniated discs and the compensation you can seek for herniated discs suffered in a preventable accident.
What Is the Structure of Your Spine?
Your spine supports your head and chest. At the same time, your spine allows you to bend and turn your body. The keys to this strength and flexibility are the vertebrae that make up your spine.
Because your spine is composed of individual segments, it has the flexibility to bend and twist. But when these segments align, they form a strong column that can support the weight of your body and give it structure.
Each vertebra has a solid body and thin protrusions called processes. The body provides strength and support while the processes provide an anchor point for ligaments and tendons.
Intervertebral discs sit between the bodies of adjacent vertebrae. These discs cushion the vertebrae so that they do not crash into each other when you walk, run, or jump. They also provide a slick, tough surface so the vertebrae can move without grinding against each other.
Each disc has a tough, fibrous outer shell called an annulus. The annulus surrounds a gel called the nucleus. The disc matches the shape of the vertebral bodies with a vaguely cylindrical shape.
The spine protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal, which is formed by the opening between the bodies and processes.
At each vertebra, the spinal cord branches into nerve roots. These nerve roots carry all the nerve signals for a region of your body that roughly corresponds to the location of the vertebra.
For example, the nerve roots that run to your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers branch from the spinal cord in your neck. The nerve roots that run to your hips, legs, feet, and toes branch from the spinal cord in your lower back.
How Do Bulging, Ruptured, and Herniated Discs Happen?
Discs get damaged from overuse and trauma. The most common cause of disc injuries is compression of the disc. Compression squeezes the disc and causes it to break down.
You can compress your discs in a car accident. As your body whips around inside your car during a collision, your spine can hyperextend. Small gaps form between the vertebrae and discs.
When you come to a stop, the ligaments that hold your spine together pull the vertebrae back together. The vertebrae crush the discs, potentially damaging them.
What Types of Disc Damage Can Occur?
The damage suffered when you injure a disc can take a few different forms, including:
Doctors and patients sometimes use the term herniated disc as a catch-all phrase to cover all types of disc injuries. But a herniated disc is a very specific type of disc injury.
A herniated disc happens when the annulus weakens and the fibers of the annulus separate. The nucleus protrudes through the separated fibers. The separated fibers allow an opening to appear on the side of the disc. The nucleus protrudes through the opening and forms a small bump on the disc.
This herniation can weaken the disc since the disc loses some of its strength and cushioning ability. It can also damage nearby nerve roots by pressing on them.
A bulging disc occurs when the annulus weakens but does not separate. As a result, the nucleus stays inside the discs rather than protruding.
But since the annulus has weakened, it can sag around its perimeter. This causes the disc to bulge from a cylinder to a barrel shape. The bulging sides can cause nerve damage by pressing on nearby nerve roots.
A ruptured disc happens when the annulus weakens on the flat surfaces instead of its perimeter. The effects of a ruptured disc are the same as a herniated disc. But instead of herniating through the side wall, the disc herniates from the top or bottom walls.
How Does Nerve Damage Result from a Herniated Disc?
Nerves carry motor signals from the brain to the organs and muscles. These signals tell the muscles and organs how to operate.
Nerves also carry sensory signals from the body to the brain. These sensory signals include pain signals and signals that carry your sense of touch.
When a disc presses on a nerve, the nerve becomes irritated and inflamed. It can misfire, sending pain signals that appear to originate from an otherwise uninjured body part. For example, a disc might cause a burning sensation in your hands even though the accident did not damage them.
An inflamed nerve can also drop signals. Your leg might feel numb or tingly when a herniated disc presses on a nerve root in your lower back.
How Can You Get Compensation for a Herniated Disc?
If you’ve suffered a disc injury in an on-the-job accident, you can probably seek workers’ compensation benefits. Most employers in Florida must carry workers’ comp insurance to help employees after work-related injuries.
When car accident victims suffer disc injuries, they can seek compensation from their PIP auto insurer under Florida’s no-fault insurance system. If their no-fault insurance benefits run out or they suffer a permanent disc injury, these accident victims can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver.
Similarly, if you suffer a herniated disc in a non-vehicle accident, such as a slip and fall accident, you can pursue a negligence claim against the at-fault party. You can win compensation if you prove that the party failed to exercise reasonable care and that their failure led to your injury.
If you prove negligence, you can seek compensation for your economic damages, such as your medical costs and lost wages. You can also seek compensation for your non-economic damages. These damages capture the diminishment in your quality of life due to your injuries.
Contact a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer for Help-Seeking Compensation for a Herniated Disc
A herniated disc can cause lifelong symptoms, including pain, numbness, and weakness. Contact Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you can seek for a herniated disc. Call us today at (305) 937-0191 to schedule a free consultation.