Side impact crashes are the second most dangerous kind of
impact for causing severe damage to the cervical spine and discs that separate
the vertebrae of the c-spine (neck).
Head-on collisions are the most deadly overall and the most likely to damage
the c-spine, but orthopedic doctors also monitor side-impact victims with the same
vigilance as head-on crash victims.
In May 2001, I was in an accident similar to the one you
described. I was approaching an
intersection and was in the Left Turning Lane and I had the traffic light was
giving me the Left Turn Arrow, so I started into my turn going 35-40mph. I never even saw anything coming, but an
older man in a Ford 4x4 work truck had ran the Red Light coming from the
opposite direction and t-boned my 1994 Acura Legend at more than 50mph! He had been drinking, had Valium and narcotic
pain killers in his urine and blood test and never attempted to apply the brakes.
My Acura, the size of a new Accord sedan, was hit with such
force that the passenger side door panel was pressed against my left thigh on
my side of the car! The roof buckled upward
blowing out front and rear windshields.
The buckled roof caused my glass moonroof to shatter and shower me in
tiny glass shards AND the rearview mirror detached and hit my head at such an
angle that half of the jagged, glass mirror embedded itself into my skull requiring
32 staples to close the wound.
I also had two cracked ribs, a broken right ankle; a total
of seven breaks just in my right hand, thumb and forefinger, cuts and bruises
from my shoulder to my toes on my right side and my right shoulder was also
dislocated and had a torn rotator cuff!
I spent one evening and night in ICU and five more days in
and out surgeries to repair my hand, shoulder and ankle. They took X-rays of my c-spine in the E/R but
it looked perfectly normal to the E/R doc and later to my ortho
Even though the x-ray didn’t show anything abnormal, there
was damage to at least one disc and a less-than-hairline crack in the C4 vertebrae
sitting above that disc. No one knows
for sure if anything would have shown on a CT scan or MRI if one had been done
at that time.
That was in May 2001 and took about nine months to really
start feeling like all the damage was healed and the chronic pain subsided. By 2003, I felt better than ever thanks to physical
therapy and losing about 40lbs. 2004 was
much the same until June, when my shoulder started hurting and kept getting worse
until I had to check into the hospital so they could knock me out with drugs
until they figured out the source of my pain.
They ran numerous tests and did exploratory surgery near the repaired
rotator cuff and went into the previously dislocated shoulder joint with no
Only after multiple X-rays and CT scans, the second MRI they
performed caught a clear view of my cervical spine and the cause of my pain
leapt off the screen in bright red! My C4-5
disc had ruptured and the C5-6 disc was bulging and near rupturing. Both were pressing firmly against my spinal
I discharged myself that afternoon because the doctor on
duty couldn’t be located and I wanted to consult a surgeon! I went the next day to the see the orthopedic
surgeon my sister had worked with (office mgr) for 12 years and I trusted
totally. He referred me to another
surgeon in their practice because he doesn’t operate on the cervical
spine. I saw the referral doctor the
next morning and when he saw how much pain I was in and did an MRI on-site just
to triple check, he told me he wanted to perform a c-spine discectomy and
fusion as soon as it could be scheduled.
He made it happen nine days later and found some additional deterioration
of the vertebrae and bone fragments floating in my spinal fluid. A 2.5hr surgery took over 6hrs but he didn’t
quit until the job was done!
I recovered from the surgery in barely two weeks and
returned to work. It has now been over
seven years since that surgery and, other than losing a slight bit of
side-to-side range of motion, it feels and works like brand new!
Moral of story- you should visit your MD and also see an
orthopedic surgeon for an MRI and full exam!
By documenting the type of impact you experienced and the doctor’s
potential concerns based on the details of the accident, if the damage doesn’t make
itself known for a few years, you will still have the documentation to pursue
the at-fault driver for additional damages OR even to claim them under your own
I hope that everything is fine! But please err on the side of caution and make