Car accidents are inconvenient but also rather painful. This is especially true if you sustained a back injury. While you may suffer the annoyance of strains and sprains, it is also possible you face a spinal fracture and years of recovery.Here is what you need to know about back injury lawsuits and settlements.
Common Back Injuries
Neck and back injuries are common results of a car accident because of the jarring force that takes place at impact. Most people suffer some form of whiplash and many times, that leads to pain in the upper back and shoulders too.
Insurance companies are skeptical regarding back injuries because they can run the gamut from minor to very serious. Complaints about a back injury may include:
- Strains and sprains. Even if an impact is not strong enough to damage the vertebrae and spine, it still pulls muscles and causes soft tissue injuries. This lingering pain is often disruptive and requires chiropractic treatment or physical therapy. It also arises from other injuries as the body attempts to make up for shortcomings. Whiplash, for example, is also known to cause upper back pain and headaches due to neck tension.
- Bulging discs. If you have a history of back injuries, you may already suffer from bulging discs. In many cases, the car accident is the event that changes bulging discs from barely noticeable to rather painful.
- Disc herniation. When spinal discs absorb the force of impact, it may shift them out of place. This causes pain, numbness, and even tingling in the arms and legs. In severe cases, patients require surgery to treat disc herniation.
- Spondylolisthesis. This condition results from stress fractures in the vertebrae causing displaced bone. Like with herniated discs, this can press on nerves causing numbness, pain, weakness, and even difficulty walking. Treatment includes physical therapy and if that does not provide relief, surgery.
- Fractures. Your seat belt should keep your whole body in one place. However, if you were driving or riding in a classic car with only lap belts or your seat belts are wearing out, there is a chance you can sustain a spinal fracture due to your chest and shoulders going forward suddenly while your lower half remains immobile. Pain, numbness, incontinence, and muscle weakness all signal a possible spinal fracture. Minor fractures may be treated with rest and conservative treatment but some patients require surgery.
All these injuries are limiting with their impacts to your day-to-day life. Just as with other accident injuries, back injuries are assessed on their economic and non-economic damages.
It is possible for you to collect three types of damages in a settlement: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Most cases involve economic and non-economic damages only.
Economic damages are those that can be proved objectively. They include wage loss, medical expenses, the cost of any services you require as you recover (like house cleaning), and future expenses if the accident renders you disabled. These are normally the easiest to recover because they can be proved with the right documentation.
Non-economic damages are subjective. These include pain and suffering and emotional distress. Impacts to family life and work may also be considered, especially if the injury renders you mentally or emotionally unavailable to those you love.
Punitive damages rarely arise in car accident cases. They are awarded when there is reason to punish a defendant for their negligence against you. You will only see them after a jury trial when the jury decides a defendant’s conduct was so egregious or negligent that punitive damages are necessary.
When it comes to settlements, an insurance adjuster reviews your medical records, bills, wage information, and other documentation that shows loss of income or an increase in expenses. Noneconomic damages are discussed as life impacts and any pain diaries or counseling records could help you prove those effects.
If your injuries are limited to soft tissue injuries like strains and sprains, your settlement will not be as high as a client who suffers a fracture and requires surgery. Similarly, if your injuries are merely annoying and do not limit your activities or income, your claim to non-economic damages may be unconvincing to an insurance adjuster.
However, just because your injuries involved fractures and aggressive treatment, like back surgery, does not mean your case will settle easily. Even if you suffer a serious injury, the insurance company will still try to settle your case for less than it is worth.
Whether you face soft tissue injuries and headaches or a full spinal fracture, there is one way to be sure insurance companies take your claim seriously. A skilled personal injury attorney not only provides essential advocacy, but takes care of formalities and communication so you can focus on recovering.
DuBoff & Associates, Chtd. is an experienced personal injury law firm that represents many clients with back injuries. We know a back injury is disruptive to both your work and personal life. That is why we work so hard to assure you secure appropriate compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Rather than try to take on the insurance company alone, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.