Back Injury - Car Accident

The case was set for trial. Stephenson and Rife hired an animation company to prepare a video exhibit to help the jury understand the complexity of the surgery C.M. had to endure. Our attorneys shared the exhibit with State Farm at mediation shortly before trial. State Farm paid $850,000 to settle the case.

our client results

Indiana Back Injury Lawyers

Injuries to the back and spine run the gamut from a strained muscle to fractured vertebrae to a spinal cord injury. In the U.S., roughly a quarter-million people have a spinal cord injury, with about half of them paraplegic, the other half quadriplegic.

Each year, around 11,000 new injuries occur. Most spinal-cord-injured persons are male and young; the average age is 31.

Those Most at Risk

While spinal cord injury due to accidents can happen to anyone, certain things may increase your chances of suffering a traumatic spinal cord injury:

  • Being a guy. Most spinal cord injuries (80 percent) happen to males.
  • Being aged 16 to 30, or over 65. In the younger group, the danger comes from unsafe behavior and accidents. In the older group, falls are the problem.
  • Risky behavior at any age. Not taking precautions or failing to use appropriate safety gear can lead to injuries.

Architecture of the Spine

The main support of our bodies, the spine (otherwise known as the backbone), consists of 33 bone segments that have discs acting as shock absorbers placed between them. The spine protects the spinal cord, which runs from the brain the length of the spine, serving as a channel for messages to and from all parts of our body. Often the brain and spinal cord together are called the central nervous system. Ligaments and muscles support the spine.

The spine’s vertebrae, or bones, are grouped into three segments:

  • Cervical, from the base of your skull to about one-third down; essentially, your neck and upper back—the first seven vertebrae
  • Thoracic, the middle third; essentially, your middle back—the next 12 vertebrae
  • Lumbar, the lower third; your lower back—the final five vertebrae.

Many things can damage the back, from a simple wrong movement that strains a muscle or ligament, to an accident that breaks vertebrae or injures the spinal cord itself.

Just an Aching Back, or More Serious?

The location of an injury often changes the location and severity of the symptoms. For example, damage to the spinal cord will generally cause weakness and numbness at and below the location of the injury.

An injury to the lumbar vertebrae, while it does not cause spinal cord injury, can cause cauda equina syndrome. This syndrome is a medical emergency involving the nerve roots in the area and calls for immediate surgery.

Common symptoms of a back injury are:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Spasticity (abnormal muscle stiffness or involuntary contractions).

Additional, more localized symptoms can occur. Cervical, or neck injuries, can cause breathing difficulties, if the injury is high on the neck. Thoracic, or chest-level injuries, can result in abnormal sweating and blood pressure problems.

Lumbar, or lower back injuries, can affect the use of one or both legs.

Danger: Spinal Cord Injuries

Damage to the spinal cord can cause significant pain, partial or full paralysis, or even death. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are:

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. These account for more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Falls. Spinal cord injuries after the age of 65 are most often caused by falls, and falls cause more than 25 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Acts of violence. Assault, especially gunshot and knife wounds, account for 15 percent of spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Sports and recreational injuries, including diving and impact sports. These cause about 9 percent of spinal cord injuries.
Industrial accidents and disease also cause spinal cord injuries. Alcohol is a factor in about one-fourth of all spinal cord injuries.

The worst trauma is usually suffered by those with injuries to the upper spine and neck. On the other hand, those who suffer trauma in the thoracic regions may go on to live independent lives and work, even though they may be in a wheelchair.

Other Kinds of Spinal Injuries

Many spinal injuries don’t affect the spinal cord at all. Vertebrae can suffer a compression or burst fracture, or be dislocated, and not damage the cord. Spinal fractures can require surgery to repair the damage, in which case vertebrae are often fused together with screws or other hardware to form a bone graft.

If you have spinal surgery, post-surgical complications can include anesthesia problems, deep vein thrombosis, drug reactions, infections, problems with screws or back hardware, and persistent pain.

Diagnosing Back and Spinal Injuries

A doctor will take a complete history and perform a physical exam. But there are also tests which your doctor might order to aid in diagnosis:

  • X-rays can provide a look at the bones of the spine to check for fractures and tumors.
  • CT scans are used to identify certain conditions such as a herniated disc.
  • MRI scans provide data relevant to the discs and nerves, and are often used pre-surgery.

Trusted advisors. Proven advocates.

Located in Indianapolis, the McNeely Stephenson law firm has been successfully representing Indiana back and spinal injury cases since 1982. If you or your loved one has suffered a spinal injury — in a car or truck crash, a workplace accident, a sports competition or a diving accident — which was due to the negligence of another person, business or manufacturer, let the resources and experience of spinal injury lawyers McNeely Stephenson put you on the path to justice and financial security. Use the convenient on-line contact form or call 855-206-2555. Hand the worry over to us and let our resources back you up.

real-life cases

“B.K.” was driving on a two-lane road one Sunday afternoon with his mother in the front seat and his brother and sister-in-law in the back seat when his life was forever changed. B.K. was struck head on by D.C.

D.C. had spent the day drinking with a friend and had stopped at a restaurant less than five miles from the point of the accident where D.C. had been served several drinks. D.C.’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

As a result of the terrible wreck, B.K. received devastating injuries, which included multiple broken bones, facial fractures, and loss of vision. B.K.’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed in the accident.

As one would anticipate, D.C. had virtually no insurance. Stephenson, through his thorough and detailed investigation, was able to prepare claims against the restaurant and those that provided the alcohol.

Stephenson pursued dram shop claims against those responsible CASE SUMMARY

D.H. was a competitive bicyclist who was riding in preparation for a cross-country fundraising ride. In the spring of 2010, D.H. was riding across an old steel-grated deck bridge in Shelby County when he hit a hole in the bridge and flipped over the handlebars of his bike. The impact to the bridge decking caused severe injuries to his face, teeth, tongue, and elbow.

Through the investigation, they were able to learn as early as 1998, the bridge inspection reports showed the bridge in question needed to be replaced. The county never authorized additional inspections. The county obtained $844,000 in funding for the replacement of the bridge in 2000, but the Historical Society and adjacent property owners wanted the bridge repaired rather than replaced.

This crash could have been avoided if the inspectors and county had done their jobs. CASE SUMMARY

Our client (“D.W.”) was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a UDF truck making deliveries. D.W. received broken arms and legs, as well as internal injuries. Stephenson was retained by D.W.’s personal counsel to prepare and try the case. Discovery determined that the UDF driver had multiple driving violations. Stephenson retained numerous experts to show the jury the devastating effects of the injuries. Before trial, the defendant’s company stated that a jury in a small southern county in Indiana would never return a verdict for $1 million in this case.

The defendant was correct; the verdict was twice that amount. CASE SUMMARY

Indiana Spine Injury Attorneys


Located in Indianapolis, the McNeely Stephenson law firm has been successfully representing Indiana accident victims since 1982. See our Case Results page to read about “C.M.,” a client who suffered a low back injury in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver and had to have multi-level fusion surgery. We were prepared to take his case to the jury, but were able to obtain an $850,000 settlement shortly before trial was to begin.

If you or your loved one has suffered a spinal injury — in a car or truck crash, a workplace accident, a sports competition or a diving accident — which was due to the negligence of another person, business or manufacturer, let the resources and experience of McNeely Stephenson put you on the path to justice and financial security. Use the convenient online contact form or call 1-855-206-2555.

Personal Injury Lawyer
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Mike Stephenson is a Super Lawyer in Indiana along with many of his peers at McNeely Stephenson. This is one of the highest honors an attorney can achieve


The AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale Hubbell is the HIGHEST RATING and considered a significant accomplishment. It is a peer-reviewed process reflecting that other attorneys rank Mike Stephenson at the highest possible level of professional excellence.


Attorney Mike Stephenson is a proud member of The Litigation Counsel of America’s Honorary Society. A close-knit, peer-selected, and aggressively diverse honorary society of 3,500 of the “best trial lawyers” in the country. Less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers, vigorously vetted for skills, expertise, and service; an invitation-only collegial network.


The American Board of Trial Advocates is an invitation-only organization for attorneys of “high personal character and honorable reputation.” ABOTA works for the preservation of the civil jury trial, “Justice by the People,” and supports the right of a jury trial.


The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers. Membership is extended only to the select few of the most qualified attorneys. Indiana attorney Mike Stephenson is proud to be included in this national organization of top trial lawyers.


Our attorneys are proven advocates and trial attorneys. They have served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and have handled litigation in 18 states