If you have been involved in an Illinois car accident and suffered an injury such as a herniated disc in your back or neck and are thinking about suing the driver at-fault, your first question will probably be “How much can I get?” In another section of our Illinois Car Accident Settlement Center, (What Is My Car Accident Case Worth?), we outlined a framework for you to use to estimate how much your case could approximately be worth.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents victims of an automobile accident with injuries and other types of professional negligence. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted cases for our clients who suffer disc herniation injuries caused by the negligent actions of others. Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if your injuries were a result of a reckless or careless driver. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
How Does in Automobile Crash Cause a Spinal Cord Injury Like a Herniated Disc?
The spine is constructed with vertebrae and discs that act as a round cushion to minimize the impact on the bones in the spinal column. These tiny shock absorbers cushion the spinal column when we bend, twist, stretch, or lift heavy objects. Any injury to the disc can cause severe trauma and might negatively affect the nerve root. The weakened area can herniate the disc and produce substantial pressure on the spinal cord nerve, producing pain that radiates throughout the body. Exactly where the pain is felt will be determined by the location of the injured disc.
Doctors in the emergency room rarely diagnose a herniated disc accurately if the victim has undergone an automobile crash. Typically, a series of x-rays are unable to identify a nearly invisible disc injury. Because of that, the doctor will typically recommend the patient undergo an MRI (magnetic resonance imagery) scan or CT (computerized tomography) scan that more accurately identifies a disc problem. The doctor might also recommend other diagnostic tests including myelography, discography, or electromyography.
Medical science has long known that a diagnostic test cannot identify the level of pain the injured victim is experiencing. Experts cannot accurately tell how a herniated disc correlates specifically with the victim's pain or other symptoms because other factors might be involved.
During the collision, the victim's back might have been compressed causing two vertebrae to smash into each other and cause significant damage to the disc. If the impact of the crash has sufficient force, the spinal disc can easily rupture and spill the jellylike fluid held inside, leading to a herniated disc. As the gel spills, it irritates the nerve root and creates tissue swelling surrounding the vertebrae. The spine's reaction typically results in localized pain that may eventually radiate into the extremities and cause excruciating pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness.
Pre-Existing Disc Injury
Many car crash victims attempting to handle their compensation case without legal representation face the unexpected reaction of an insurance company denying their claim outright. The claims adjuster may first attempt to divert responsibility from the driver at fault for the accident over to the victim. The insurance company may claim the victim had a pre-existing disc injury that prevents them from seeking compensation for the harm that was caused before the accident occurred. This effective tactic can be successful at dissuading the victim from continuing their lawsuit.
The victim's medical records may show other degenerative issues including osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis that developed years before the accident. However, even an individual with a pre-existing herniated disc or other degenerative spinal conditions might have been unaware they had a health problem with their back before the incident occurred because there were no symptoms.
If you have a pre-existing herniated disc or another degenerative back issue, an attorney working on your behalf can clearly articulate that your new injury is significantly different than your past back problems. Your lawyer might be able to show that there is a noticeable, worsening change in your pain level that developed after the auto crash that you would likely not be experiencing had you not been involved in the accident caused by the other driver.
How do I Know if I Have a Herniated Disc?
Injured victims experience many of the common symptoms associated with a herniated disc in distinct locations based on where the injury on the spine occurred. In some rare cases, the victim will not have any noticeable symptoms associated with the ruptured disc, or the outward signs will not reveal themselves for months or years after the accident. That said, the most common symptoms associated with a herniated disc involve:
- Muscle cramps,
- Muscle tightening,
- Intense pain associated with a sharp, dull, achy feeling in the back,
- Unexplained weakness in the extremities or affected area in the back,
- A tingling or dull sensation that radiates down the legs, arms and into the hands and feet,
- Excruciating headaches that developed when lying down or sitting in specific positions,
- Neck and back pain,
- Intense lower back pain that worsens when sneezing, coughing, or sitting,
- Foot drop that is caused by a neurological issue with the herniated disc that makes it difficult to lift the foot when standing or walking.
How do Doctors Treat Herniated Discs?
After doctors diagnosed your herniated disc, they may recommend medication and bed rest. This recommendation is often given because many herniated discs can heal without surgical intervention. However, if your injuries are severe, require ongoing physical therapy, and dangerous pain medications, you may require surgery. These procedures typically involve:
- Removing the herniated disc in its entirety;
- Removing the part of the disc the protrudes from the spinal column;
- Implanting a prosthetic (artificial) spinal cord disc;
- Fusing together the damaged vertebrae with healthier vertebrae above and below to stabilize the spinal column; or
- Implant metal components to stabilize the spinal column.
Typically, the recovery time to allow the herniated disc to heal completely can be extensive. Usually, the victim was unable to go to work even if their job requires sitting in one position all day. If the doctor recommends a nonsurgical treatment option, it could take you a few weeks to recuperate, whereas, a surgical procedure that repairs your herniated disc might require several months of recovery.
Determining the Value of Your Case
The accident injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have posted our What Is My Car Accident Case Worth? five-step webpage. The valuation to considers such things as property damage, medical costs, intangible reductions in life, punitive damages, and loss of income. However, there are also some specific things you should think about if you suffer a herniated disk. Here is a brief list:
- Surgeries to repair a herniated disk can cost upwards of $35,000 on average for uninsured patients.
- There are non-surgical methods of healing some herniated disks, but these can take months of bed rest and require long absences from work.
- Treatment to repair herniated disks often leave visible and permanent scarring along the entry points of the operation.
- Following surgery to repair a herniated disk, you might experience stiffness and a limited range of motion in the affected area on a long-term basis.
- The exact recovery time for a herniated disk surgery depends on your particular health and the circumstances of the operation. However, it is not uncommon to last several weeks or even months.
Obviously, from these few facts alone it is not hard to see that a herniated disc can easily and initially cost you a lot of money. Medical bills will quickly begin to pile up, and you will be forced to miss work to recuperate. Also, there could be some long-term reduction in your quality of life from the pain that might persist and the scarring that might display.
Thus, while not as much as some other injuries, herniated discs do offer the opportunity to collect some non-economic compensation as well. Therefore, when using our 5-step analysis to determine what your car accident case is worth, it is important to keep these local factors in mind for herniated disc injuries. Remember that the evidence and facts of your case are unique, which could make it difficult to determine the actual value of your compensation claim.
The Value of Previous Cases
An uncomplicated way to calculate the value of your case is to review the worth of cases that have already been settled out of court or won at trial even though some factors might not be the same as in your case. It is important to remember that no monetary amount can take away the pain you are experiencing from a severe injury.
Statistically, juries award victims of automobile accidents who suffer herniated discs about $350,000 at the end of the trial. Remember that this is merely an average, meaning that some plaintiffs receive less and others more based on the uniqueness of their case. The cases listed below reveal jury trial verdict or negotiated settlements in lawsuits that have been filed through the United States.
- In January 2016, a Florida jury awarded the plaintiff more than $580,000 after the defendant made a left-hand turn and crashed into the plaintiff. The victim suffered cervical disc injury and requires ongoing chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and surgical procedures. The victim was awarded more than $230,000 for non-tangible damages including pain-and-suffering and the remainder to cover lost wages and medical expenses.
- In January 2016, an Illinois jury awarded the 50-year-old plaintiff more than $420,000 after he slipped and fell at a Ford dealership while walking on a wet floor. The injuries caused a tear in his meniscus and herniated a disc. The plaintiff received 95% of the jury award after jurors found that the victim was five percent at fault for causing a portion of the accident.
- In February 2015, a Missouri jury awarded a plaintiff more than $140,000 after she was struck by an uninsured motorist in an accident that led to her herniated disc. The victim was awarded $100,000 to cover her compensation claim in another $33,000 to cover lawyer's fees and an additional $10,000 in compensation because the insurance company had denied her payment for compensation, resulting in her filing a lawsuit.
- In June 2014, the plaintiff and defendants negotiated an $800,000 out of court settlement after the victim suffered an injury to a slip and fall incident occurring in a mall food court. The plaintiffs suffered lower back injury and required a disc herniation repair involving fusing a portion of the lumbar spine area.
- In April 2014, the plaintiff and defendants agreed on a $1.5 million settlement. The 51-year-old plaintiff was injured when crossing the street after being struck by a car making a left turn. The injured victim waited two days before visiting her doctor who diagnosed her with cervical and lumbar disc herniations, cervical avulsion fractures, lumbar disc bulges, and ligament tears in the right shoulder and left knee. As a result, the woman required ongoing physical therapy.
Taking Legal Steps for Financial Compensation
The automobile accident injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand that the accident that caused your herniated disc was not your fault. We have successfully obtained millions on behalf of the victims and their family members to ensure they were adequately compensated to cover their medical expenses, household bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional damage and we can help your family too.
Our legal team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim. We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and automobile accident injury claims through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully completed your case through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm gets results quickly because we understand you need money now. We proudly offer every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.