Herniated or bulging discs and other back injuries are common outcomes of slip and fall accidents when victims either fall directly onto their back or hit it on the way down. A herniated or slipped disc is sometimes interchangeably referred to as a bulging disc, even though the two are somewhat different.
Both bulging and herniated discs cause damage to the spinal column. Sudden, jerking movements and deep muscle strain can lead to displacement of vertebrae, requiring extensive medical treatment to repair the injury, manage pain, and restore mobility. Treatment can be costly and include radiological intervention, medication, and rehabilitation.
If you’ve suffered a herniated or bulging disc back injury due to someone else’s negligence, let Omaha’s premier personal injury attorneys help you receive the compensation you deserve. Call Berry Law today to speak with our team.
What Is the Difference Between a Herniated and Bulging Disc?
Both herniated and bulging discs involve the spinal column, which is made up of a series of individual vertebrae with a spinal disc between each one. Each disc has a soft inner portion and a tougher exterior layer. These discs serve to cushion and absorb the shock that comes from day-to-day activities, like walking, running, jumping or even sitting. They protect the vertebrae and hold them in proper alignment.
As we age, our discs naturally experience wear and tear. They can begin to bulge for many reasons. This can occur over a long period of time or following a traumatic injury to the body, such as a motor vehicle accident or serious fall. When a vertebra is violently forced out of place, the disc can swell or bulge between the vertebrae, resulting in a bulging disc.
Herniated discs are caused by a tear in the tough outer layer of the disc. The tear allows the gelatinous inner material to push through the cracks of the vertebrae. Sometimes called a slipped disc because it involves the outer ring weakening or rupturing in a way that causes the inner part of the disc to slip out of its protective layer, a herniated disc places pressure on the spinal nerves, causing severe pain and discomfort.
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What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
Some people with a herniated or bulging disc may not experience any symptoms, while others report severe pain, numbness, or tingling sensations. Sudden signs of weakness or a change to sensation or reflexes can be signs of a back injury. Although bulging discs tend to not be quite as painful as herniated discs, they can still make sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time very uncomfortable.
Bulging discs can also lead to spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This puts pressure on nerves and can cause the following symptoms:
- Pain and tingling in the hands, fingers, arms, shoulders, and neck
- Upper back pain that extends to the chest or stomach
- Lower back pain
- Muscle spasms
The symptoms of a herniated disc share some similarities to those of a bulging disc. Only diagnostic testing can determine for sure what you’re experiencing. A doctor may order imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans or an MRI to confirm a herniated or bulging disc diagnosis. Signs of a herniated disc may include:
- Pain and numbness on one side of the body
- Shooting pain through the arms and legs
- Sudden and unexpected muscle weakness
- Tingling, aching, or pain that originates from the accident point of impact
- Pain when walking, even for short distances
- Pain that worsens when standing or sitting for long periods
- Difficulties with certain movements
- Pain that intensifies in the evening or overnight hours
What Should I Do if I Suspect I’ve Injured My Back in a Slip and Fall Accident?
If you experience a fall, seek medical treatment immediately, even if you don’t feel pain right away following the accident. It’s important to consult a doctor. Directly following a traumatic event like a fall, a surge in adrenaline may mask pain sensations temporarily. When adrenaline levels return to normal, the pain associated with the injuries often reveals itself. A medical examination can uncover injuries that may otherwise not present themselves for days or weeks.
Seeking treatment right away also illustrates that the injuries were a direct result of the accident and creates a medical record of those injuries and any treatment you required. This serves as valuable evidence in the event that a personal injury suit becomes necessary. If you wait too long to seek care, an insurance company may question whether a bulging or herniated disc happened at the time of the accident or at some later point in time.
What Is the Treatment for a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
When determining treatment for a suspected herniated or bulging disc injury, a doctor or other healthcare professional will examine your back and evaluate your pain level. Back injuries are often complicated to diagnose and require treatment by a trained professional. Treatment could include days or weeks of rest, pain medication, and anti-inflammatory drugs, depending on your level and severity of pain.
In some cases, a patient suffering from a bulging or herniated disc may require physical therapy or surgery to reduce pain and return to their previous level of mobility. While most people recover from a herniated or bulging disc injury, some individuals may experience long-term or permanent injury, especially those with underlying medical conditions, a previous history of back injury, or pain that is particularly severe.
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What Are the Long-Term Complications Associated with a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
Even those patients who make a full recovery from a spinal injury have a three to five percent chance for a second rupture later in life, putting them at risk for future disc injuries. Other serious long-term complications that can arise from these types of back injuries include:
- Chronic debilitating pain
- Permanent or long-term numbness or loss of movement in the legs or feet
- Loss of bladder and/or bowel function
What Damages Can I Seek for a Herniated or Bulging Disc Injury I Received Due to a Slip and Fall Accident?
You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, including exams, radiology imaging, medication, physical therapy or surgery that you required as a result of a herniated or bulging disc injury. If you are required to be out of work for an extended period while you recover, you may be eligible for lost wages as well.
In the event that you previously worked in a position or field that required standing, prolonged sitting, or heavy lifting, and are now forced to change careers due to your injuries, you may also sue for a loss of future earnings and could be entitled to the difference in salary between your old and new position, if one exists.
Disc injuries can result in severe pain and make physical activities you once enjoyed difficult or impossible. A jury may award you pain and suffering for the pain that you endured and for the loss of ability to live life as you once did.
How Can I Recover Monetary Losses after Hurting My Back in a Slip and Fall Accident?
When it comes to a slip and fall accident that occurred at a property owned by someone else, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the fall was caused by the owner’s negligence in order to seek damages. Property owners have an obligation under the law to ensure the safety of customers and guests who visit their businesses and homes. A failure to remove hazards that lead to someone’s injuries makes a property owner negligent and liable for damages.
This is known as premises liability, and all commercial and private property owners in Nebraska should carry liability insurance on their property for this reason. Claims for slip and fall injuries should go through the homeowner’s insurance or business liability insurance claims process.
Insurance companies will often try to minimize claims in an attempt to pay out as little as possible. For example, they may assert that the property owner took sufficient precautions to keep an invited guest to the property safe and may even attempt to blame the slip and fall on the victim’s own clumsiness or carelessness. In such cases, it’s best to hire an attorney who can work to negotiate directly with the insurance company to fight for the full compensation owed to you.
Most premises liability cases settle out of court, but some end up in front of a jury who then determines the damages awarded to a victim.
How Much Is My Herniated or Bulging Disc Injury Worth?
Several factors will determine the amount of damages that a plaintiff can expect to receive for a bulging or herniated disc injury that resulted from a slip and fall:
- The severity of an injury, including whether or not the victim made a full recover, or if the injury is expected to become a chronic condition that will require management over a lifetime.
- Whether or not the plaintiff had pre-existing back problems prior to the accident.
- Whether he or she will require surgical intervention for injuries now or in the future.
- The amount of pain experienced as a result of the accident.
- How the injury impacted the plaintiff’s ability to make a living in their chosen profession.
A back injury from a slip and fall accident can lead to a lifetime of pain and disability from long-term or permanent health conditions that require costly medical treatment and can change the trajectory of your career. Before you settle for less compensation than you deserve, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer who can represent your best interests.