Can a L5-S1 Disc Herniation Be Caused by a Car Accident?

As a car accident lawyer in Atlanta Georgia, we see hundreds of low back injuries a year and a good number of clients are eventually ordered to have MRIs by their treating orthopedic doctors. One of the most common questions I get from clients is “my doctor diagnosed me with a disc herniation at L5-S1. Was this caused by the crash?” The honest answer is that it is hard to tell in most cases unless the MRI was taken immediately after the crash and there was edema (swelling) on the film.


I am writing on this topic because just today, I got my MRI results back showing a herniated disc at L5-S1 and I am facing many of the same decisions my clients face. So without further ado, I present to you, my low back on a T2 lumbar MRI.
l5 S1 Disc herniation Georgia car accident.jpg
You can pretty clearly see the discs at the levels above glowing white indicating they are not dried out and contrast that with L5-S1 (where the bend in the tailbone starts) shows no white. More importantly, if you look to the point where the disc touches the spinal cord, you will see a black bulge pushing in. That is the culprit.

By the way I have had numerous clients tell me that the MRI machine itself makes them claustrophobic and they cant take it.

1) The MRI machine is loud as hell. The clunking and the vibration is completely unnerving.
2) Do not open your eyes to see the machine inches from your nose. I just viewed it as a nap and imagined my self on a desert island…with no back pain.

For me, I have had no car accident and have not had any trauma. According to the orthopedic surgeon at Peachtree Orthopedics the disc is worn out and herniated from running or daily use etc….

For many of our clients though they face a tougher fact pattern. With a significant car accident and a client with no pre-existing symptoms, a previously degenerated disc can be pushed the last inch and become symptomatic. Does that mean that the disc was in perfect shape before the car accident? No. But if there were no symptoms before and there are immediately afterward the crash, then most good surgeons would concede that the crash caused the symptoms and if surgery is recommended then the accident caused the surgery.

Car accident cases involving degenerative disc disease findings usually go into litigation but if the orthopedist is candid they will concede the obvious in a case with no pre-existing symptoms. If you have further questions, do contact our Atlanta car accident lawyers.