What Are the Risks From a Broken Neck?

Few injuries are as serious as a broken neck. A broken neck may occur after a very serious accident and lead to catastrophic injuries. These injuries and their complications can be painful, expensive, or even fatal. You have likely dealt with long-term hospitalization, corrective surgeries, and rehabilitation. You or your loved one may even suffer from paralysis from your injuries.

Here, we discuss the risks of a broken neck and the suffering you might face. We also discuss how to protect your health and your legal rights after a serious neck injury.

What Is a Broken Neck?

A broken neck occurs when one of the several vertebrae or bones in the neck are fractured. This is also commonly referred to as a cervical fracture or neck fracture. This is a serious injury that can have wide-ranging and debilitating symptoms.

The neck bones protect, support, and align the spinal cord and other critical parts of a person’s body. Damage to the neck bones can harm the spinal cord, which may also lead to severe symptoms and complications.

Common Causes of a Neck Fracture

A broken neck is usually caused by a significant blow or trauma to the body and neck. These commonly occur in accidents such as:

Many other causes may also lead to a broken neck. However it may occur, this is a serious injury with harmful symptoms and complications.

Physical Risks of a Broken Neck

A broken neck can affect your life in very serious ways. Some of these symptoms manifest immediately and affect your day-to-day life. Others may lead to long-term complications that can affect your life for years to come.

Symptoms of a Broken Neck

A broken neck can lead to serious symptoms such as:

  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty turning your head
  • Numbness or tingling in the neck or other areas of the body
  • Bruising and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Paralysis below the neck 

These are far from the only symptoms you may face from a neck injury, but they do represent the most common harms many face. Whatever symptoms you are dealing with, you should seek medical intervention and protect your legal rights following an accident.

Long-Term Complications of a Broken Neck

Many symptoms are immediate and can ultimately be treated. Others may appear later or follow you through a long portion of your life. One of the biggest long-term risks is paralysis. While this may happen immediately or heal over time, it may instead be a permanent injury. Paralysis is one of the most serious harms a person can face, whether that paralysis is partial or total.

Other long-term complications may include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Shifting numbness or pain in the neck
  • Sporadic health complications
  • Long-term rehabilitation requirements
  • Disabilities and necessary accommodations

Emotional Risks of a Broken Neck

It is not just the physical harm that can negatively impact your life. Emotional risks can also play a significant part in your suffering and trauma after the accident.

Emotional risks from a broken neck might include the following:

  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness and depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Emotional trauma
  • Fear of driving a motor vehicle (vehophobia)

Emotional risks are especially likely the more serious your neck injuries and symptoms are. The more painful and traumatizing the accident the higher the risk of long-term emotional harm. 

Financial Risks of a Broken Neck

The financial impact of a broken neck can also be very difficult to deal with. This injury can limit your ability to work and support your family and lead to significant costs. 

Lost Ability To Work

A broken neck often means you cannot work, at least for a period of time. Your inability to go to your job may last a few days, several months, or even many years. This means that, during that time, you cannot earn an income to support yourself or your family. It also means you are robbed of the means to pay for expensive costs, such as your medical bills.

Long-term complications and painful symptoms may also affect your ability to work in the future. It may mean that you cannot work at all, such as if you are fully paralyzed from the accident. Instead, you may have to change jobs because of new disabilities, which can negatively impact your earning potential. You may be entitled to compensation for this lost income or earning ability.

Medical Bills and Rehabilitation Costs

Medical costs from a broken neck are typically very expensive, ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars in many cases. These costs include:

  • Ambulance ride costs
  • Emergency treatment costs and room fees
  • Hospital bills and costs of surgical procedures
  • Costs of long-term rehabilitation services
  • Costs of neck braces, wheelchairs, or other devices for recovery or disability accommodation

Medical bills and costs are usually quite costly and may increase with each passing year.

Tips After a Broken Neck

After suffering a broken neck, following these few tips can help you protect both your health and your legal rights:

  • Call 911. Emergency medical treatment is critical after a neck injury. Even seemingly minor neck damage can have serious long-term complications but emergency treatment may save your health and your life.
  • Continue medical care. After receiving emergency care, follow up on all other medical care. Follow your doctor’s orders and go to all medical appointments. This creates proof of your costs and protects your health. 
  • Speak to a neck injury attorney. Speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case to help protect your legal rights. The person who caused your injuries may be financially liable to you for your costs and emotional harm.

Dealing With the Risks of a Broken Neck

The risks of a broken neck are serious and can have life-long implications. Whether you were injured or you lost a loved one in an accident, it is important to know how to protect yourself and your rights after an accident.


  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, OrthoInfo. Cervical Fracture (Broken Neck).
  2. MedStar Health. Neck Fracture (Break).

Morris & Dewett provides this information to the public for general education and interest. The firm does not represent clients in every topic discussed in answers to frequent questions. The information is curated and produced based on questions commonly asked or search terms commonly used. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. Do not make any decision solely based on the information provided, please seek relevant counsel for each topic area. Consult an attorney before making any legal decision, consult a doctor before making any medical decision, and consult a financial advisor before making any fiscal decision. Information provided is not legal advice. If you have any legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are pleased to assist you.

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