How Much Settlement for Bulging Disc Injury

Bulging disc is one of the most common injuries in car accidents. Many people confuse this injury with a herniated disc. As the name suggests, a bulging disc is a form of disc injury where the disc material (outer layer) slides beyond the normal position.

The difference between these types of injuries is a source of confusion for patients, lawyers, and even doctors. However, bulging disc injuries attract relatively lower amounts in a settlement as compared to herniated disc injuries. Herniated disc injuries are less likely to result in nerve root impingements than bulging discs.  

What is the average payout for a herniated disc?

Herniated disc injuries are usually more severe than bulging disc injuries. Therefore, they attract a higher settlement than their counterpart due to their seriousness. Even with that in mind, coming up with an exact figure is not easy since most cases are confidential. However, the average payout for herniated disc injury is about $50,000, though most cases that require surgery settle above this amount. The settlement amount depends on the plaintiff’s medical treatment and the facts of the case. 

What causes a bulging disc?

A bulging, disc-rupture, and herniation may result from a number of reasons. Some of the common causes of a bulging disc include: 

  • Car accident
  • Poor posture and body mechanics that subject your spinal disc to stress
  • Existing annulus weakness
  • Sustaining back injury resulting from a severe slip and fall accident
  • Disc torsion due to repetitive work that involves a lot of lifting, twisting, and bending
  • Working, standing, sitting, or driving for an extended period
  • Poor techniques on heavy lifting. This includes bending forward to pull a load with your back, which may put sudden pressure on the disc. 
  • Repetitive forceful motion, especially in particular sports. 
  • Poor core stability and abdominal fat
  • Individuals with a lesser density of the material that makes up the disc (fibrocartilaginous fibers)
  • Less strength on your lower limb

Signs and Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Understanding the signs and symptoms associated with bulging disc injuries is important in differentiating this form of injury from other back injuries such as herniated disc injury or ruptured disc. If sitting, coughing, lifting, or bending forward aggravates your back pain, then your injury may have sustained a bulging disc injury.

In some cases, there may be a weakness in the back, neck, or shoulder muscles, sciatica, needles, and pins. Severe disc pathologies can also result in a change in bowel and bladder function. 

 The symptoms cause discomfort in various regions of your body depending on the type of bulging disc injury. These areas include: 

Thoracic spine: in this case, the pain resulting from the compressed nerve affects the internal organs, ribs, and the middle back. 

Cervical spine: the symptoms result in related discomfort in your shoulders, arms, neck, and upper back

Lumbar spine: the symptoms result from an impinged nerve in the buttock, hips, lower back, and lower extremities. 

What is the Difference between a Bulging Disc and a Herniated Disc?

Most people, including patients, lawyers, and even doctors, confuse the two forms of injuries. A bulging disc injury occurs when the disc material slides off beyond the normal margins. Therefore, a bulging injury only involves the outer layer of the tough cartilage. 

 On the other hand, a herniated disc injury is the displacement of the disc material. The material is displaced beyond the disc space, thus exceeding the normal limits. Bulging disc injuries usually cause less severe symptoms than herniated disc injuries. 

However, a bulging disc is more likely to impinge the spinal cord or nerve roots than herniated discs. The adjusters and the insurance company attorneys try to take advantage of the confusion that arises in the difference between a disc bulge and a herniated disc. 

Can you get a bulging disc from a car accident?

A bulging disc can result from a motor accident, 18 wheeler truck accident, motorcycle crash, and other accidents. Fortunately, if you get injured in these accidents and another party is at fault, you are likely to receive compensation for the damages. Unlike what people tend to think, bulging discs can occur in individuals in their 20’s and those who are older. 

Car accidents can also lead to other spinal injuries, such as disc-rupture and herniated discs. A bulging disk injury results from a sudden and forceful whipping or twisting of your spine, mainly due to a collision impact. The impact causes one of the discs in your neck or back to be injured and weakened, which causes it to extend or bulge into your spinal canal. 

How serious is a bulging disc?

A bulging disc is not a serious injury in most cases, which means that it might not cause concern. For many people, a bulging disc is part of a natural aging process. A bulging disc resulting from an accident may be more serious as its recovery time may be longer. However, the symptoms may clear off once the bulging disc injury recovers.  

A serious bulging disc may lead to further complications, such as causing a severe threat to the nerves around your spine. Many permanent conditions result from a bulging disc injury or even disc injury surgery. Therefore, if you have limited mobility or suffer from severe pain for a longer period, you should visit your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. 

What Happens If a Bulging Disc Goes Untreated?

If a bulging disc injury is ignored, it may potentially lead to some problems, but for most individuals, there won’t be any serious or long-term consequences. However, in most cases, if the injury is left untreated, it may result in possible chronic pain. In rare cases, failing to treat a severe bulging disc injury could potentially lead to permanent damage to your nerves. 

A bulging disc can also impinge and cut off the nerves that send impulses to the cauda equina nerves, which run to your legs and lower back. If the impulses are cut off, you could lose bladder or bowel control. 

If a bulging disc is left untreated, it may also lead to a condition known as saddle anesthesia. The condition causes you to lose sensation in the back of your legs, around your rectum, and inner thighs. Thus, if you suffer a bulging disc injury that makes it hard for you to perform normal activities, you should see the doctor immediately. 

What is the success rate of bulging disc surgery?

The success rate of a bulging disc injury is generally high as compared to other surgical procedures. One medical study shows that a bulging disc surgery has an overall success of about 84 percent. This means that 84 percent of the people that undergo the procedure are able to recover fully. 

 There are two types of bulging disc surgeries, open spine surgery, and laser spine surgery. Fortunately, most severe bulging disc injuries can be treated through laser spine surgery, which does not involve opening the spine. The procedure can be done in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia. 

 Most patients resume their duties within a week and recover fully in about six weeks. Like other surgical procedures, you should follow the doctor’s recommendations after surgery to minimize the recovery time. 

On the other hand, open spine surgery is effective, but it requires a lengthy recovery time as it is highly invasive. The procedure also comes with potential risks and complications though in rare cases. 

Does a bulged disc ever heal?

A bulged disc can heal permanently and, in most cases, even without treatment. The disc can heal, be reabsorbed, and resolve since it is a fluid-filled structure. Most victims recover from a bulged disc on their own within six weeks. However, there are various treatment options that help improve mobility and relieve the pain during the recovery period. 

How much does a herniated disc settlement payout for?

Like other injuries, the payout for herniated disc settlement depends on the length of the recovery and severity of the injuries. The average settlement range is around $360,000, but with a range of about $65,000.  

Usually, herniated discs are permanent and common injuries that result from car accidents, motorcycle accidents, or job accidents. The people who are responsible for these injuries could be legally liable for the resulting damage. This includes the at-fault driver and premises owners or employers.

Individuals who suffer work-related herniated disc injuries can claim workers’ compensation benefits through the employer’s insurance coverage. A herniated disc can lead to a severe aggravation that may require surgical invention or medical treatment. 

Can a bulging disc heal on its own?

The bulging or herniated disc symptoms can heal on their own over time. For a bulging disc, your body implements an immune response against the slipped material to reduce the bulge. The body sends cells to destroy the material sticking out as it recognizes it as “foreign.” This helps reduce inflammation and size. 

Besides, your body may initiate water absorption as a recovery process. Discs are fluid-filled structures, which means that the water can be reabsorbed into your body over time. Once the fluid is absorbed into the body, it helps the bulged disc retract into its natural position as it reduces in size. 

Many doctors also believe that particular exercises can help you achieve the strength to manage the injury or repair the bulging disc. Some of the exercises that help include: 

  • Cycling 
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Swimming

Does bulging disc qualify for disability?

Bulging discs do not qualify for disability since they are not permanent. The discs are fluid-filled structures that have the capacity to heal, be reabsorbed, and resolve over time. A bulging disc takes about six weeks to heal completely. However, in severe cases, a bulging disc can lead to other complications as it may impinge your nerves. 

How do you treat a bulging disc?

Usually, a bulging disc injury is relatively easy to treat as some people only rely on conservative treatment options to fix it. Some of the effective treatment options include taking painkillers regularly, relaxing the muscles, and avoiding painful movements. Using these practices can help treat a bulging disc within days or a few weeks in case of a severe injury. 

However, you may need more advanced treatment options in case of severe bulging disc cases. Doctors can use cortisone injections to help reduce the inflammation of the slipped disc. In this case, your doctor inserts a needle into the bulging disc by injecting a corticosteroid into the nerve region. 

In rare cases, doctors may also recommend you take opioids as a short-term dosage if necessary. Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe opioids as they are addictive. 

How much compensation do you get for a bulging disc?

Usually, a bulging disc offers a lower average settlement than a herniated disc injury claim. In a personal injury lawsuit, the average payout for a bulging disc is around $15,000 to $30,000. In contrast, the median award from the jury is about $31,000. 

 However, the average jury award for a severe protruding disc in the US is $141.311 ($31,000), while the average award for ruptured discs or herniated discs is about $413,917 ($60,000 median). In some cases, bulging disc claims are undervalued as all the parties believe that they are usually less severe and painful than a herniated disc. The personal injury lawyers also fail to line the right experts to argue the severity of a protruding disc.

Can you work with a bulging disc?

It is possible to work with a slipped disc, but this will depend on the severity of the injury and the activities involved in your work. Most doctors recommend that you restrict yourself from a physically strenuous job or returning to exercise until you fully heal. Some of the things to avoid: 

  • Poor posture or slouching 
  • Total bed rest (this prolongs your recovery)
  • Long sitting or standing periods
  • Heat (and heat rubs) within 48-72 hours after the injury
  • Sitting on soft chairs (this exerts pressure on your lower back)

Sample Verdicts and Settlements

Checking sample verdicts help you understand what to expect in your case, but you should know that each bulging disc case is unique. Therefore, you can’t assume cases that sound similar will attract the same value in settlements. The settlement value will vary significantly even if a bulging disc case has the same jurisdiction and exact facts.

 Most bulging disc cases from car accidents result from rear-end accidents. But, T-bone and sideswipe bulging disc injury cases usually have higher average compensation settlement. Here are some of the samples on bulging disc cases:

Marcus Levy, Maryland

Levy suffered a bulging disc injury in a T-bone collision. During the accident, he was left with L3-4 bulges, lumbosacral and cervical herniation. The injuries required 9 months of physical therapy and steroid injections to his knee and lower back. Apart from the medical expenses, there were nine months of lost wages. Besides, he could not withstand prolonged standing, seating, and running. The case settled for $50,000 before trial since Levy was able to prove that the other driver was at fault.

Cynthia Green, California

Cynthia suffered an L5-S1 bulging disc injury with radiculopathy after she was sideswiped by a truck on a highway. Her doctor recommended a steroid injection and future surgeries to help the injury heal completely. She alleged that her injuries resulted from the truck driver’s negligence. The defense denied any responsibility and claimed that the other driver was unable to avoid the accident. Finally, her case settled for $500,000.

Michael Bradley

Michael suffered an L4-5 bulge in a chain-reaction collision. He underwent steroid injections in his treatment. While filing his personal injury claim, he alleged that several drivers were responsible for his injuries. The jury assigned 20 percent liability to one driver and 80 percent liability to the other driver. Michael was awarded $130,000.


If you suffer a bulging disc injury from car accidents, you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you file your claim for a higher settlement. Remember, bulging disc cases are usually undervalued as they are considered less severe than other spinal injuries. Hiring a reliable and experienced attorney can help you get a fair settlement in your case.


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