If you recently suffered a back injury in a car accident, you may wonder how much compensation you could recover. You might feel especially anxious to know the potential value of your claim if you’re dealing with costly medical bills and income losses. Here’s what you should know about the factors that could affect the value of your back injury claim after a wreck. To navigate this complex process, it's crucial to consult with a car accident lawyer.
What Are the Common Causes of Back Injuries in Car Accidents?
The human back, which includes the spine and surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons, is a complex structure that plays a pivotal role in movement and support. Due to its complexity and large surface area, the back is also particularly vulnerable to injury, especially during traumatic events like car accidents.
The mechanics of the accident, including the speed and angle of impact, will influence the type and severity of back injuries.
Common factors that contribute to back injuries in motor vehicle accidents include:
- Sudden Impacts and Whiplash: When vehicles collide, especially in rear-end accidents, the rapid forward and backward motion of the head and torso can strain the muscles and ligaments of the neck and upper back. This sudden movement, along with the force of the collision, can stretch and tear these soft tissues, leading to back pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.
- Direct Trauma: Car accidents can cause objects or parts of the vehicle to intrude into the passenger space and collide with occupants. This direct trauma can lead to fractures, bruising, or more severe spinal cord injuries, depending on the force and point of impact.
- Compression Forces: Certain types of collisions, such as rollovers or severe head-on crashes, can subject the spine to severe compression. This can contribute to herniated or ruptured discs, which can press on the spinal nerves, causing pain and potentially long-term nerve damage.
- Spinal Cord Trauma: The most severe back injuries involve the spinal cord itself. A violent collision can fracture or dislocate vertebrae, which can then damage the spinal cord. Such injuries often lead to paralysis and require long-term medical care.
What Is the Average Payout for a Back Injury Case?
Because every back injury case differs, there is no such thing as an average payout.
The amount you can claim for your back injury will vary depending on the extent of the compensable losses you incur, which could include:
- The past and future costs of treating your back injury
- Incidental costs, such as medical travel expenses
- Income losses due to time away from work during your recovery
- Losses in your future earning capacity due to long-term impairments
- Pain, suffering, and reductions in quality or enjoyment of life
How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering for a Back Injury?
If you suffer a back injury in a car accident, you could claim more than just compensation for your medical bills and lost income. And if you endure physical pain and psychological suffering due to the back injury, you could seek compensation for this, too.
Putting a dollar figure on such subjective losses is challenging, though, so insurance companies often rely on cold formulas called the multiplier method and the per diem method to do so.
The multiplier method calculates pain and suffering compensation by multiplying measurable financial losses, such as medical expenses, by a certain number (the multiplier). The more severe your pain and suffering, the higher the multiplier.
The per diem method takes its name from a Latin phrase meaning “for each day.” This method applies a daily cost to the pain and suffering (usually a day’s income) and multiplies it by the number of days that the pain and suffering will last.
Clearly, each method has its strengths and weaknesses. One strength they share – and one that makes them appealing to the insurance company – is that they are simple and low-effort. They merely require some basic math, which an adjuster can apply to any situation, regardless of its relevance.
That’s why you should work with an experienced attorney when you seek compensation for a back injury. They will get to know you, understand the effects your pain and suffering have had on your life, and value them accordingly during settlement negotiations.
Can I Claim Compensation for a Minor Back Injury?
Yes. You can still pursue compensation even if you sustain a relatively minor back injury in a car accident. Minor injuries, like strains or sprains, might seem insignificant immediately after the accident, but they can lead to chronic pain or complications over time.
While the compensation amount for a minor back injury might be lower than for a severe one, you still have a right to recover costs you incur as a result. This includes the costs of medical treatments, therapies, and income losses due to the back injury. An experienced attorney can calculate a reasonable amount for your back injury claim that reflects the true effects of the injury on your life.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Back Injury Claim?
The time it takes to settle a back injury claim after a car accident varies based on several factors. The typical process begins with you, the injured party, and their attorney filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. After this, the insurance company will investigate the claim, which might involve reviewing medical records, accident reports, and any other relevant evidence.
Once the investigation concludes, negotiations between your attorney and the insurance adjuster can begin. If both sides reach an agreement on compensation, you can settle the claim and collect your payout. However, if negotiations stall or the insurance company denies liability, your lawyer might need to file a lawsuit.
Taking a case to trial substantially lengthens the process. Pre-trial procedures, including discovery, depositions, and potential mediation, can span months or even years. After this, the trial itself and any subsequent appeals only add more time.
A quick settlement might seem tempting, especially when your medical bills are piling up, and you’re eager to move on. But rushing could result in a lower settlement than you deserve. Waiting gives you the chance to evaluate the long-term consequences of your back injury and claim an amount that truly reflects your needs and losses.
This is why you need a lawyer any time you have a back injury claim after a car accident. They can help you strike the right balance between expediency and thoroughness and demand the meaningful results you deserve.
What Evidence Do You Need to Prove a Back Injury Case?
To succeed in a back injury claim after a car accident, your lawyer must convincingly demonstrate that another party’s wrongful behavior led to your injury. To do so, they’ll need strong evidence.
Below are the types of evidence your attorney can gather and present to establish the legitimacy of your back injury:
- Medical Records: Medical documents from your healthcare providers indicating your diagnosis, treatment plans, prescriptions, and any future care your doctor believes you will need
- Photographs: Photos of the accident scene, damage to your vehicle, any visible injuries, and factors that might have contributed to the accident, such as obscured traffic signs or poor road conditions
- Witness Testimony: Statements from individuals who witnessed the accident, which can corroborate your version of events and provide additional perspectives
- Expert Testimony: Testimony from medical professionals or accident reconstruction experts who can provide insights into how the accident occurred and how it caused your back injury
- Income Loss Documentation: Pay stubs or employment records to prove any income losses resulting from your injury
- Journal or Diary: Journal or diary entries outlining your pain levels, mobility challenges, emotional state, and any limitations in daily activities you experience due to the injury
- Video Surveillance: Video footage from traffic cameras, cell phones, dash cams, or nearby security systems that captured the accident
Will a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Back Injury Case?
Having a pre-existing condition can seriously complicate your back injury claim after a car accident. Insurance companies often seize on these conditions to avoid paying their share in accident claims. They might argue that they owe you nothing for your losses because your injury existed before the accident and doesn’t qualify for coverage.
However, a car accident can exacerbate or worsen a pre-existing condition, and insurance companies know this. For instance, let’s say you had mild chronic back pain prior to the accident, and the collision intensified that pain or made your condition more severe. In that case, you have a valid claim for the aggravated injury, and an attorney can help you pursue it.
An experienced lawyer can challenge any attempts by the insurance company to downplay your claim because of a pre-existing condition. By presenting medical evidence and enlisting expert help, they can illustrate how the accident worsened your condition. Moreover, they can negotiate assertively for fair compensation that reflects the full extent of the accident’s effects on your health.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Pursue a Back Injury Case After a Wreck?
Yes. If you sustain a back injury in a car wreck, retaining the services of a personal injury lawyer can significantly improve your chances of obtaining fair compensation.
Insurance companies typically have teams of lawyers and adjusters working to minimize their payouts. Recognizing and challenging insurance company tactics requires experience and dedication, which a back injury attorney can provide. An attorney has the knowledge and skills to handle every step of the claims process and stand up to big insurance companies on your behalf.
Here are some of the ways a lawyer can support you and bolster your back injury case after a car accident:
- Compiling medical evidence illustrating the severity of your back injury
- Advising you on the potential value of your claim
- Calculating future medical expenses relating to your back injury
- Assessing and claiming lost income and earning capacity
- Filing your injury claim within the necessary deadlines
- Securing witness statements to support your injury claim
- Seeking expert testimony from doctors or accident reconstructionists
- Challenging any attempts to devalue your claim or pin the blame on you
- Analyzing accident reports to identify liable parties
- Presenting tangible evidence of your pain and suffering
- Working with medical experts to understand the full scope of your injury
- Gathering video or photographic evidence to support your claim
- Handling communication with opposing legal teams or insurance adjusters
- Drafting demand letters outlining your injury and compensation request
- Negotiating with insurance companies to maximize your settlement
- Identifying and countering lowball initial settlement offers
- Advising you on settlement offers and their implications
- Representing you in court if your claim proceeds to trial