A broken neck is one of the most serious injuries you can suffer. When you break your neck, you could suffer catastrophic side effects like permanent paralysis. Even if you receive emergency attention to prevent a spinal cord injury, you can still suffer permanent neck injuries that disable you and diminish your quality of life.
As a result of a broken neck, you may need to take several weeks or months to recover. You may require physical therapy. Depending on the structural damage to your neck, you might need to change jobs or quit working altogether.
If you suffered a broken neck, it is critical to learn more about this injury and what you can do if it was caused by another party’s negligence.
What Is the Function of Your Cervical Spine?
The spine has three sections. The cervical spine supports your head and neck, while the thoracic spine attaches to your ribs and supports your chest. The lumbar spine sits in your lower back and transfers your body weight to your hips and legs.
The cervical spine includes seven vertebrae. The vertebrae of the cervical spine bear the numbers C1 through C7. C1 sits directly below the skull. C7 sits just above the shoulders.
These bones have a cylindrical body and several protrusions called processes. They stack on top of each other to form a strong column. But they also flex and bend to allow you to turn and bow your head.
Your spinal cord runs through the spinal canal and carries all nerve signals that travel between the brain and the body. These signals tell your brain about your environment and control your body’s responses.
The spinal cord branches out into pairs of nerve roots at each vertebra. You have eight pairs of cervical nerve roots. The top cervical nerve root pair branches above the C1 vertebra, while the lowest cervical nerve root pair branches below the C7 vertebra.
Fibrous discs sit between the vertebrae. The discs have a tough outer annulus fibrosus and a soft inner nucleus pulposus. These discs cushion the cervical spine so that the vertebrae do not crash into each other as you sit, stand, or walk. They also provide a smooth surface so you can turn your head without your vertebrae grinding.
How Can a Broken Neck Happen?
A broken neck happens when you fracture one or more cervical vertebrae. This can happen in a few ways:
Almost everyone is familiar with a neck fracture caused by hyperextension. This fracture can happen in construction accidents where the victim’s head and neck get tangled in a rope or cord during a fall.
Compression happens when your head gets forced into your neck. With enough force, the vertebrae can fracture. These types of fractures can happen when something falls on your head. They can also happen when you fall from an elevated height onto your head.
Your cervical spine can fracture when an object strikes your neck. The impact can fracture your spine’s processes. For example, you could fracture your neck in a slip and fall accident if you fall backward and strike your neck on the ground.
A rapid acceleration or deceleration of your body can cause your head to whip forward and backward. A head generally weighs up to 11 pounds, so the whipping forces can cause powerful compression and hyperextension forces on the cervical spine.
A common source of these types of neck fractures comes from the whipping motion you experience in a car accident.
What Are the Effects of a Neck Fracture?
A neck fracture can destabilize your neck. The bodies of the vertebrae support the weight of your head. When they fracture, they can no longer support your head without fragmenting.
The spinous process provides anchor points for the ligaments that hold your vertebrae together. When an accident fractures a process, you lose the support that holds a vertebra in place. It can dislocate as a result.
You will almost always know when you have broken your neck.
Common symptoms of a neck fracture include:
- Inability to move your head
- Loss of feeling in your body
- Paralysis your arms or legs
If you experience these symptoms, you need immediate emergency attention. Paramedics will try to stabilize your neck with a neck brace and backboard. By immobilizing your neck, paramedics can reduce the risk of a spinal cord injury.
What Complications Can Result from a Neck Fracture?
The forces that produce neck fractures can also cause:
Compression of your discs can cause them to herniate. When you fracture a cervical vertebra, you can also damage the disc next to it. Even after your vertebra heals, the damaged disc can press on the nearest nerve root, causing pain and other symptoms.
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury happens when bone fragments or a dislocated vertebra severs the spinal cord. A severed spinal cord at the C1 or C2 vertebrae will almost always cause death because these nerve roots control the chest muscles necessary for breathing.
A severed spinal cord at the C3 through C7 vertebrae can cause partial or total paralysis in all four limbs, depending on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord.
What Compensation Can You Seek for a Broken Neck?
If you suffered a broken neck due to someone else’s actions, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim. The compensation you recover can cover your economic and non-economic losses.
Economic damages include medical bills, lost income, and other financial costs. Non-economic damages cover the ways your injuries diminish your quality of life.
A broken neck can produce severe, permanent disabilities, including quadriplegia. The compassionate team at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid can help. With 75 years of combined experience, we have recovered over $150 million in compensation for Illinois injury victims. Contact the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid for a free consultation to discuss your broken neck and the compensation you can seek for it today.