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Relatively Low Impact Auto Accidents Shown to Cause Cervical Facet Joint Injuries

  • Published: March 5, 2014

So, here is a classic argument with an insurance adjuster:

Lawyer: Plaintiff has had constant neck pain for over a year since the accident. They had no problems prior. Nothing seems to help them.

Adjuster: The pictures of the vehicles show minimal property damage. Your client couldn’t have suffered more than a sprain or strain. I’ll offer them $500 as the full value of their claim.

And for a long time, the biomechanical evidence seemed to be on the adjuster’s side. Low impact accidents generally don’t break bones, and proving that the disc problems of anyone over the age of 25 were caused by an auto accident is difficult to impossible, given the plethora of orthopedic experts willing to testify regarding how common disc degeneration is. But I have learned, through a recent deposition of an orthopedic expert and avconversation with one of our biomechanical experts, the following things:

  1. This type of lasting pain can often be caused by injury to cervical facet joints
  2. Studies done on cadavers have confirmed that injury to the facet joint can occur in accidents with a change in velocity as little as 5mph
  3. Facet joint injuries DO NOT appear on either x-rays or MRIs.
  4. If neck pain lasts beyond the period of time usually expected for a “sprain/strain” injury, but then responds to a facet injection, this is looked on as diagnostic confirmation of the facet joint injury.
  5. Long term indicated treatment includes repeat injections and/or Rhizotomy (which may also be repeated and has shown good results)

There is much more information on this topic out there on the web. This post is a heads up to my colleagues in the plaintiff’s bar and to anyone suffering from long term neck pain to look into it further