Your lower back is hurting and you’re looking for answers. Your primary question — how big will the settlement check be?
Holding the at-fault person accountable for their actions won’t make your pain go away. The only thing that will make you feel better is money via the civil justice system.
Attorney Chris Davis of the Seattle-based Davis Law Group, P.S., says lower back injuries are very common among the clients he represents, especially those who have been injured in car accidents.
“If you are having low back pain after a crash, you are not alone,” Davis says. “Our office represents hundreds of victims every year who have suffered lower back injuries. They often are unsure where to turn. Helping people get back to 100 percent and securing a fair and reasonable settlement is what we try to do for them.”
And that’s what you’re going to learn in this guide. It will cover:
- Understanding Lower Back Injuries
- How do Lower Back Injuries Occur?
- How Insurance Companies Value Injuries
- The Average Lower Back Injury Settlement
- Sample Lower Back Injury Settlements
- Specific Types of Lower Back Injuries
Let’s get started...
1. Understanding Lower Back Injuries
Lower back pain is common. About 75 percent of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life.
Most lower back pain is a result of damage to the soft tissue that supports the lower spine — the lumbar spine. This complex system includes interconnected bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments.
The low back or lumbar spine is a critical part of the human body. It supports the weight of the upper body, provides mobility for everyday activities and houses the nerves that supply the power for the leg muscles.
Any disruption to this system can be painful. Most acute lower back pain — pain that usually lasts about 3 to 6 weeks — is caused by an injury to the muscles, ligaments, discs or joints. Inflammation then occurs as a healing response, a process that can cause severe pain.
No two lower back injuries are the exact same. Pain can range from mild/annoying to severe/debilitating. Depending on the cause of the pain, symptoms may include:
- Dull or achy pain (contained to the lower back)
- Stinging or burning pain (may move into the backs of the thighs and down the legs)
- Muscle spasms and tightness (may move into the hips)
- Pain that gets worse with prolonged sitting or standing
- Trouble standing up/sitting down, walking, etc.
2. How do Lower Back Injuries Occur?
An overwhelming amount of lower back pain is someone else’s fault. For that reason, we won’t focus on those causes. At our personal injury law firm, some of our clients suffered lower back injuries in the following ways:
- Car accidents: The force that goes along with a car accident can be seriously damaging to the neck and back. One of the most common injuries after a wreck — no matter how serious — is to the lower back.
- Workplace accidents: Employees that work a demanding job may suffer lower back injuries.
- Falling injuries: Someone that slips and falls may suffer a lower back injury.
- Lifting injuries: Pulling a muscle in the lower back is a common injury.
- Repetitive motion injuries: Doing something again and again may trigger a lower back injury.
3. How Insurance Companies Value These Claims
There is no “settlement calculator” for lower back injury claims. But there are several criteria that lower back injury cases hinge on:
- Prior injuries to the lower back
- MRI/CT scan results
- The physical symptoms of the lower back injury and how the victim’s life changed because of the injury
Victims that suffer from a “soft tissue” lower back injury can expect to receive less settlement money than victims with serious and life-changing spinal cord injuries. A soft tissue injury occurs when trauma or overuse occurs to muscles, tendons, or ligaments.
Soft tissue lower back injuries are considered minor, and the value of the case will depend on:
- The credibility of the victim
- Severity of the lower back injury
- Whether there are prior lower back injuries
- How serious the accident was
- The insurance company involved
The insurance company will take all the above factors into account when weighing the case. A pre-existing lower back condition may be discovered and derail the case. The injury may heal faster than expected, reducing the potential settlement. Or the condition may worsen, making a minor accident much more serious.
The ultimate dollar amount on the injury case will include the following damages:
- Past and future medical bills: Depend on the severity of the injury.
- Lost income and wages: Depend on the victim and their earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering/emotional distress: Tough to put a value on, but generally a serious accident carries these types of damages.
- Loss of consortium: When the victim’s loved ones lose a normal loving relationship. Wrongful death cases are the most extreme example.
Victims with severe lower back pain often see the highest settlement figures on average. That’s because their life changes forever. But even lesser herniated disc injury cases — injuries that can be debilitating for years — can settle at very high values.
The factors involved in a lower back injury case are limitless. These settlements can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. To learn more about the value of a case and what factors apply, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
4. The Average Lower Back Injury Settlement
The average settlement figure for lower back injuries will vary depending upon the type of injury caused.
Less severe injuries are more common in car accidents, and carry lower settlement amounts. But severe spinal cord injuries and various other lower back ailments can produce huge settlements.
According to one study, 16 percent of the verdicts in spinal disc injury lawsuits exceed $1 million, and 7 percent exceed $2.5 million.
5. Sample Lower Back Injury Settlements
When legal action is taken against the person or party that caused the lower back injury, a settlement is generally reached between the two sides. In the personal injury field, less than 2 percent of cases go to trial.
The following is a selection of lower back injury settlements obtained by Davis Law Group:
- $600,000 settlement for a passenger than suffered a lower back injury caused by a reckless driver.
- $420,000 settlement in a case of a 7-year-old child that was hit while on a bicycle.
- $400,000 settlement for a man with lower back pain after he was T-boned on Rainier Avenue.
- $166,000 settlement for a man that was hit by a car backup. The man went through many lower back surgeries.
- $155,000 settlement for a victim with spinal pain. The man was hit by a driver that was trying to beat a red light.
- $150,000 settlement for a teenager that was struck as a pedestrian. The teen suffered spinal pain as a result.
- $150,000 settlement for a victim that suffered a spinal injury as a result of a rear end accident on Route 9.
6. Specific Types of Lower Back Injuries
Now let’s get more specific.
Lower back injuries may cause acute pain (3-6 weeks), subacute pain (6 weeks to 3 months), or chronic back pain (3-plus months). Generally, this pain can be categorized two ways:
- Mechanical pain: The most common type of lower back pain. Focused on the muscles, ligaments, joints and bones around the spine.
- Radicular pain: When a spinal nerve root becomes impinged or inflamed. A sharp, burning-type pain.
Most of our clients have experienced one or more of the following causes of lower back pain:
- Muscle sprain/strain: The most common condition after a car accident. While these do not cause long-lasting pain, the short-term pain is quite severe. Often these injuries cannot be diagnosed with imaging and instead rely on a doctor’s expertise.
- Strain: when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle
- Spain: When the overstretching of muscle affects ligaments, which connect the bones
- Lumbar herniated disc: A common injury that occurs when the cushion-like discs that separate the vertebrae protrude through the tougher outer encasing.
- Facet joint syndrome: This is pain at the joint between two vertebrae in the spine. Facet joints make your back flexible, but when the joints become swollen and painful, mobility is decreased.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction: This joint attaches the sacrum at the bottom of the spine to each side of the pelvis. It absorbs shock between the upper and lower body.
- Spinal stenosis: This condition causes pain though narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerve roots are located.
- Spondylolisthesis: When one vertebra slips over the adjacent one.
- Trauma: Fractures or dislocations of the spine can lead to pain. After a car accident, this should be medically evaluated.
Anyone that suffers a lower back injury while at work is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Those benefits pay for medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, costs of transportation to and from treatment, and approximately two-thirds of a victim’s lost wages.
After reporting the injury, the company will give the victim a list of approved physicians for treatment. The victim then chooses one as their primary care physician. After the victim has reached a level of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), the physician will give the victim a return to work form.
“I Also Have Whiplash…”
Many people that suffer a lower back injury also have what’s called whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the neck and head are forced backward and then forward, putting the cervical spine through extreme stress.
Whiplash is most common in car accidents, especially if it’s a rear-end accident. The resulting neck pain can be mild or severe.
Treating Lower Back Injuries
Lower back injuries have a range of different treatment options. The following are some of the most common:
- Muscle relaxers: Medication taken to relieve the pain from muscle tightness or spasms.
- Narcotic pain medications: Opioids/painkillers weaken pain signals sent to the brain. These are most often used for short-term, intense pain.
- Back braces: A device worn to reduce the pain. In combination with other methods may speed healing and recovery.
- Chiropractic adjustment: A manual manipulation by a chiropractor may reduce stiffness, discomfort or pain.
- Acupuncture: Stimulates points on the body through to correct the body’s “qi,” or life force. Thin needles are placed in the skin for about an hour.
- Massage therapy: When applied to the lower back, this can relieve muscle spasms and increase blood flow to the injured area, speeding up recovery.
Title: Personal Injury Back Pain
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