Neck and back injuries resulting from car accidents can be extremely painful and expensive to treat, even though victims mainly suffer soft tissue injuries. These injuries are also much more common in car accidents than other incidents.
According to Mayo Clinic statistics, auto accidents are responsible for about 40% of all back injuries in a year. This makes back pain one of the most common types of car accident injuries.
Moreover, both neck and back injuries may require a number of treatments to correct. According to a healthline Journal, neck and back injuries could require a number of treatments before you recover fully from them.
With the huge amounts of treatments involved, the total cost of treating back and neck pain could even rise up to $100 billion. Besides, these injuries could also lead to a lifetime of inconvenience, pain and suffering.
Here we will look at:
Common Back and Neck Injuries from Car Accidents
Neck and Back injuries from car accidents lead to complex and painful damages. Even though most of these damages are soft tissue injuries, the resulting impact can cause a serious strain on the muscles and ligaments in your neck and back, which could lead to various types of injuries. Here we look at the common types of injuries in this category.
Lower Back Injuries
One of the most common injuries auto accident victims can suffer is an injury to their lower back. You can suffer severe lower back pain by damaging your lower spine also known as your lumbar spine.
The reason this area is particularly sensitive to pain is because it’s where a lot of your muscles, tendons, and nerves connect. A small damage to this area and it has a massive effect on your overall health and mobility.
Spondylolisthesis refers to a condition where a stress fracture causes a vertebra to shift out of its natural position. The condition leads to a bone displacement that eventually presses on the nerves leading to pain, weakness or numbness in the legs. In some cases, the injury may not cause any symptoms immediately after the accident, but after some years. Consequently, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible even though there are no symptoms of an injury.
- Weakness in the legs
When it comes to car accidents, compression fractures are more common in the lower or middle back, which is around the lumbar and thoracic spine. During the accident, the upper part of your body is thrown forward while the lower part is held back on the seat. The resulting impact pulls the vertebrae apart leading to a spinal cord injury or a spinal fracture.
- Moderate to severe back pain
- Auto accident victims experiences tingling, weakness or tingling in the back (in case of spinal cord injury)
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (in case of severe spinal cord injury)
In case you suspect that you or an accident victim that has spinal cord injuries, you should avoid moving them to avoid further complications.
Flexion Distraction Fractures
Flexion distraction fractures injuries are common in head-on-collisions and the occupants are wearing seat belts. In such cases, the occupant’s upper body is violently thrown forward while the belt holds the lower body back causing the vertebrae to fracture.
- Severe pain
- Difficulty moving
Herniated and Bulging Discs
The impact from car accidents can cause trauma to the discs in your vertebrae, which can make one or a number of discs bulge or herniation.
- Severe pain
Soft Tissue Damage
Soft tissue damage results when the ligaments and tendons in the muscles around your vertebrae are damaged during a car accident. The resulting impact causes the soft tissue tendons and ligaments to tear or stretch, which can damage and affect the nerve endings in your back.
- Mild or severe pain
Common Neck Injuries
Here are the common injuries in car accidents:
Herniated or slipped disc
This injury results mainly from a high-impact collision, which causes the intervertebral discs to slip from their position. The injury may cause compression of spinal cord nerves, leading to pain, numbness, weakness and tingling in the neck, hands, shoulders, fingers and arms.
An injury on the cervical ligament that results from the sudden motion of the neck, especially in rear-end collision. The forward and backward jerk of the neck causes straining, damage and tearing muscles, nerves, ligaments and connective tissues. Fortunately, many Whiplash cases heal within a few weeks when there is early treatment. In some cases though, these injuries may cause long-term headaches, chronic pain and memory issues for even years after the auto accident.
Soft tissue damage
This is a type of injury that affects the ligaments, tendons and muscles on the neck. Car crashes can cause sprain, tear and strain of the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Usually, soft tissue damage causes stiffness, pain and tenderness in the shoulders and the neck.
How Much Is Your Neck and Back Injury Settlement?
According to WHO statistics, over 6 million people in the US alone are confronted with the pain and struggles of the aftermath of car accidents. Back and neck injuries are among the most common injuries in auto accidents. As mentioned above, these injuries can be extremely painful and expensive to treat, which explains why you need to know the average settlements to ensure that you do not cover the expenses alone.
If you suffer these injuries as a result of the negligence of another driver, you might be wondering what should be the average settlement for your injury claims. However, the amount that the insurance awards you in your claim is dependent on a number of factors. In the US, the average settlements on minor back and neck injury claims is about $2,500 to $10,000 while settlements value for severe injuries could even be over $100,000.
Common Types of Neck and Back Injury Damages
There are different types of injury damages in this category that result from car accident cases. Here are some of the common types of damages for auto accident victims that suffer neck and back injuries:
- Covering all out-of-pocket expenses and medical bills resulting from the injuries
- Payment of lost wages or income as a result of being away from work due to the injuries
- Compensation for permanent or temporary loss of the inability to work or earn because of the injury
- Compensation for a permanent disability or neck/back injury caused by the auto accident.
- Compensation for loss or spousal support or companionship due to the injury
How to Prove Neck and Back Injury Damages in Your Settlement
In some cases, proving the injury damages resulting from car accidents can be a daunting task, especially a whiplash injury or any other soft tissue injury. Such injuries are usually difficult to prove since they do not show up easily even with diagnostic tests or imaging studies like X-rays and MRIs.
Consequently, insurance companies tend to take advantage of this and argue that your condition is due to other causes. Some of the common claims that these companies make include:
- You are exaggerating the severity of the symptoms by acting as if you are in so much pain
- You are suffering from back or neck degenerative changes due to age
- Claims of preexisting pain due to various factors, including old age
However, this is not to say that proving your injury damages in your claim is impossible. When proving your eligibility for neck or back injury damages resulting from a car accident, you should show the following:
- The driver at fault is more likely to have violated his or her duty of care, by breaking any of the traffic rules, thereby causing the auto accident
- Prove that you sustained physical injuries (including back/neck injuries) due to the car accident
- Prove that the negligence and carelessness of the driver at fault was the proximate cause of the accident that led to your injuries
Determining the Severity of Your Neck and Back Injury
Involving a reliable car accident attorney can greatly help you in proving the severity of your back and neck injury after an auto accident. An experienced lawyer is able to achieve this by obtaining water-tight evidence and submitting it during the case. The following are some of the common types of evidence in such injury cases:
The lawyer obtains copies of all the medical bills and your medical records from the healthcare providers treating you. Medical documentation can be used to prove the exact diagnosis and confirm that you were treated for the injuries after the car accident. Besides, the records can also serve as a proof that you may need another treatment in future and the anticipated cost.
Medical expert testimony
Having a knowledgeable medical expert on your side while proving your injury damages can play a very key role in convincing the jury that you are entitled to the damages. A medical expert can easily demonstrate that your injuries are connected to the car accident.
Medical treatment and injuries journal
Keeping a journal of all your medical treatment after a car accident is also a great idea as it makes it easier for you to prove the severity of the injuries. You should note your symptoms, neck/back pain levels and how they made you feel. If you are claiming pain and suffering, a medical treatment journal can play a very critical role in proving the validity of your injuries.
Factors that Affect Your Neck and Back Injury Settlements
As mentioned earlier, the value of your settlement in injuries related to car accidents depends on a number of factors. It is also good to mention that it is impossible to determine the exact amount that you will receive in your settlement since each case is unique. The following are the common factors that affect your settlements in car accident cases:
- Severity or nature of your injury
Car accident injuries range from minor cases to life-threatening cases. The severity or nature of the injury is one of the critical factors when it comes to determining the settlement value. Usually, the payout is higher for permanent and severe injuries that require special treatment and months or years of recovery time.
The nature and severity of the injury directly influence the economic damages that you will experience in the form of lost wages and medical expenses. Severe injuries can lead to debilitating physical pain, which can be chronic or lifelong in worst cases.
- Auto Accident Victim’s liability in the auto accident
In some cases, insurance companies will try to shoot down your personal injury claim by trying to prove you were partially at fault. Most states apply a comparative negligence system in auto accident lawsuits. The comparative negligence system simply means that the liability of a particular case can be shared by more than one party.
- Insurance policy limits
The insured policy limits play a crucial role in determining the amount that an insurance company would be willing to give out for your injuries. For instance, if you were involved in a serious rear-end car collision that led to a whiplash injury, whose total damages are about $100,000. Assuming that an at-fault driver’s insurance policy limit is set at $30,000, you are only likely to receive up to the maximum limit.
- Proof of the liability of the other driver
For your personal injury claim to be successful, you have to prove negligence and finally establish liability. Fortunately, establishing liability in some cases can be quite simple. These cases are known as “No doubt liability,” and they arise in different instances, including:
- Rear-end collisions
- Drunk driving car accidents
- Left-turn collisions
- Your lawyer’s ability to negotiate
Hiring a reliable and experienced attorney can greatly affect the amount that you will receive in your settlement, even in cases where you believe you have a solid claim. Lawyers who have great ability to negotiate are aware of the benefits of the right timing, presentation, preparation, and strategy.
Average Neck and Back Injury Settlement
When it comes to these injuries, each case is different. Therefore, the outcome of each case is unique as they vary depending on the type of accident and the severity of the injuries. This makes it hard to determine the average cost of settlements.
However, you can estimate what your claim is worth using the specific factors in your case. These include:
- Medical costs.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury, the average cost of a lifetime spine injury is more than $5 million for a 25-year-old victim with high tetraplegia. These estimates do not include indirect costs such as fringe benefits or loss in wages. When it comes to other back injuries, the average cost starts above $1 million.
- Pain and suffering
You also need to consider the personal suffering and pain that you experienced due to the injury. These include loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, physical pain, limited motion, grief, emotional suffering, and discomfort.
- Lost wages
This refers to the amount of money you lost as wages because of unpaid leave, failing to report to work to attend doctor’s appointments. It also includes the amount of money you lose by taking lower paying jobs less demanding while recovering from injuries.
- Property damages
The average settlement will also consider the amount you spent on repairing or replacing any damaged property during the accidents. In case of a car accident, this may be a wrecked vehicle.
Examples of Neck and Back Settlements
William was driving home from work when an over-speeding driver rear-ended him. He sustained a bulging disk that required surgery to correct. After seeking medical attention, William hired a car accident lawyer that helped him file a claim. The attorney proved that the other driver was at fault as he failed to maintain a safe distance between his vehicle and William’s car. As a result, William received $100, 000 as a settlement for his claim.
Cynthia was involved in a head-on collision accident with a pickup truck that was a lorry carrying fencing poles. After the injury, she sustained severe neck injuries that required cervical fusion surgery to treat. Her husband contacted an experienced car accident attorney who helped her file a claim after visiting a medical provider to seek medical attention. The lawyer was able to win the case by proving that the other driver was at fault and Cynthia’s injuries resulted from the car accident. She was awarded $537,000 as a settlement for a claim.
How Insurance Adjusters Evaluate Your Personal Injury Settlements
Insurance adjusters are responsible for reviewing your claim and proposing a settlement based on the company’s strategies. Therefore, even though they take time to review the crash reports, medical records, and other evidence, insurance adjusters look at your case differently than a personal injury attorney. In addition, adjusters work for the insurance company, which means that their focus is on saving their employer money.
Your personal injury lawyer will look at the severity of your injuries and see that you need medical treatment. On the other hand, the adjuster considers your case as one that is associated with property damage, medical costs, and other expenses.
Consequently, the adjuster will try to spot any issues in your case or take advantage of your naivety if you do not have a lawyer in order to eliminate or reduce your payment. With this in mind, you should never accept the first value given by the adjuster or insurance company as the first settlement offer as it is not usually based on the severity of your injuries.
Do I need a Personal Injury Attorney after Back or Neck Injury?
In some cases, the adjuster may discourage you from involving a lawyer while filing a claim after a back or neck injury claiming that it is not worth the money and the time. The insurance company may also rush into giving you the first offer for your settlement after a car accident. However, it is always important to include a reliable personal injury lawyer, since the company and the adjuster are after saving their money and not ensuring that you get a fair settlement.
A personal injury lawyer will also look out for your interests and ensure you get the best results from your claim. In addition, a personal injury attorney will only get paid when you receive compensation for your neck and back injuries. They will also help you navigate neck and back claims as they are usually very complex, especially for a person with no experience.