Nerves carry control signals to your muscles and other nerves. They also carry sensory signals from your sense organs. When you suffer nerve damage, you can experience a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, and loss of dexterity.
Unfortunately, doctors can do little to treat nerve damage. Nerve graft surgery can sometimes replace a patient’s damaged nerves. But in many cases, the patient suffers permanent nerve damage.
Below, you will learn about traumatic nerve damage and how you can seek compensation for nerve damage suffered in an accident.
Table of Contents
What Is the Structure of the Nervous System?
The nervous system includes the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system contains your brain and spinal cord. Your brain creates the nerve signals that control your body. Your spinal cord connects your brain to your body below your neck.
When doctors refer to “nerve damage,” they usually mean an injury to your peripheral nervous system.
The nerves of your peripheral nervous system include:
Cranial nerves connect your brain to your face and head. Your brain uses cranial nerves to receive sensory information from your eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. The cranial nerves also carry motor signals to your facial muscles to make facial expressions. They even control your jaw and throat to help you chew and swallow food.
Your spinal cord runs through a passageway in your spine called the spinal canal. At each vertebra, the spinal cord branches into nerve roots. These nerve roots carry all the nerve signals to and from a body region. For example, all the motor signals and sensory signals for your right foot pass through a nerve root in your lower back.
The nerve roots branch out into peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves run to specific muscles and organs. Damage to peripheral nerves is also called peripheral neuropathy.
What Causes Nerve Damage?
Nerves are made up of cells called neurons. Neurons use chemical and electrical signals to communicate with each other.
For example, neurotransmitters in the brain cause neurons to trigger a signal. The signals pass from neuron to neuron along the nerve.
A neuron moves charged particles called ions to its surface. These ions change the electrical charge of the neuron. When the next neuron detects the change in charge, it also changes its charge by moving ions to its surface. This process repeats along the entire neuron to pass the signal from the brain to a nerve ending.
Many types of injuries can prevent nerves from transmitting signals, including:
Just as a wire cannot carry an electrical signal when it gets cut, lacerated nerves cannot carry nerve signals. Lacerations can happen when the nerve gets cut by a sharp object. For example, a glass shard can slice through a nerve when you slide across broken glass during a motorcycle accident.
Nerves can also get lacerated by broken bones. When a bone fractures, the broken ends of the bone can move out of alignment. These displaced bone fragments can tear nerves.
Traction occurs when a nerve gets stretched. A stretched nerve might not carry nerve signals because of damage to the neurons. It might also drop signals because the signal cannot cross the distance between neurons.
Traction can happen when the body gets hyperextended. Medical malpractice can cause a birth injury called Erb’s palsy, which can happen when a doctor pulls a baby’s arm too hard during delivery. This stretches a nerve bundle called the brachial plexus, leading to weakness or even paralysis in the arm and shoulder.
Compression happens when something presses on a nerve or nerve root. The pressure irritates and inflames the nerves. As a result, they misfire and produce errant nerve signals. Thus, compression on a nerve root in your back from a herniated disc can cause pain in your leg and hip even though you have no leg or hip injury.
Compression can happen when an injury swells. Carpal tunnel happens when a swollen tendon compresses the medial nerve in your wrist.
Compression can also happen when something dislocates. As mentioned above, a herniated disc after a slip and fall accident can cause pain and weakness in your limbs.
What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Your nerves carry three types of signals. Your symptoms will depend on the type of signal disrupted by your nerve damage.
Your brain uses autonomic nerve signals to control involuntary systems. These systems operate without any conscious thought.
An injury to an autonomic nerve can cause:
- Heart arrhythmia
- Rapid or slow breathing
- High or low blood pressure
- Inability to sweat or excessive sweating
- Sexual dysfunction
Autonomic signals combine with motor signals to provide bowel and bladder control. A disruption to either the autonomic signals or motor signals could cause incontinence.
Sensory signals travel from your sense organs to your brain.
An injury to sensory nerves can result in the following:
- Loss of vision, hearing, smell, or taste
- Inability to sense hot and cold
Your brain uses sensory signals to control your body. Damage to a sensory signal can result in a loss of balance, coordination, and other physical symptoms, even though you have no musculoskeletal injuries.
The brain uses motor signals to control your muscles.
When you injure your motor nerves, you can experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness
- Decreased dexterity
Motor signal impairment is the most noticeable form of nerve damage. From disfigurement due to facial paralysis to a limp from leg paralysis, you will likely suffer both disability and diminished quality of life from motor nerve damage.
How Can You Get Compensation for Nerve Damage?
If your nerve damage happened at work, you can seek workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits get paid regardless of fault.
You can also seek personal injury compensation for nerve damage that happened in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that the other party failed to exercise reasonable care, which caused your injury. Nerve damage can produce disabilities that limit your ability to work or perform your daily activities. To discuss the compensation you can seek for these and other effects of nerve damage, contact our personal injury firm Hawk Law Group at (706) 722-3500 for a free consultation.