Each year, there are more than 6 million car accidents in the United States. These accidents happen everywhere, including where you live and work.
Car accidents are a leading cause of trauma and often cause severe neck and back injuries.
Factors affecting neck and back injury settlements
It is extremely difficult to determine a precise number for a settlement because every case is different. Some estimates place the national average settlement amount for neck and back injuries at $834,686. The median amount is $285,000.
However, many victims have received significantly more. Several factors affect the value of a car accident neck and back injury settlement, including:
The severity of the injuries and likelihood of recovery
The extent and severity of your injuries are key factors in negotiating an injury settlement. As a general rule, the more severe the injuries, the larger the settlement.
Another important factor is whether the injuries are temporary or permanent. For example, injuries resulting in chronic pain or permanent disfigurement may result in a larger settlement.
How the injuries affect your income and employment
In most cases, injuries have some effect on your income. For example, you may have to take time off work so that you lose wages. Or your injuries can affect your ability to perform essential daily tasks so that you must hire help just to function.
In some cases, the injured person cannot return to their present job and is possibly unable to continue in their previous career. Any of these factors could contribute to a larger settlement offer.
After a car crash, expenses can pile up fast. Medical treatments can be very expensive. You may spend most of your time in the hospital, going to the doctor, or a rehabilitation therapist. There may also be medical expenses related to any emotional trauma resulting from the accident.
These expenses may continue well into the future or even for the rest of your life. Therefore, it is vital to keep track of all the medical expenses incurred to have evidence to support your claim.
If you can work or have other transportation needs, your car was probably damaged in the accident. Therefore, all expenses related to vehicle repairs and transportation are considerations in settlement negotiations.
Pain and suffering
Some losses, such as medical expenses or lost wages, are easily quantifiable. Pain and suffering are more subjective and more difficult to determine with a dollar amount. Pain and suffering can be both physical and mental. You may wish to keep a journal, which can serve as a detailed account of the pain and suffering you have experienced and its impact on your life.
Common neck and back injuries
There are many neck and back injuries, from minor sprains to catastrophic spinal cord injuries. These injuries are serious, partly because there is no obvious sign of harm in some cases. By the time symptoms appear, there may be complications.
Common neck and back injuries include:
- Sprains and strains: Trauma from an accident can result in swelling and small tears in the ligaments and muscles in your neck and back. These injuries are painful but usually resolve over time. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes identify herniated discs and other injuries as sprains and strains.
- Whiplash: People often suffer whiplash when their neck forcefully snaps back and forth during a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash affects over one million people in the U.S. each year. It can happen in many types of accidents, but it is commonly associated with rear-end collisions.
- Pinched nerves: A pinched nerve is a compressed nerve. In many cases, herniated discs and other injuries can pinch the nerves in your spinal cord, causing shooting pain or numbness.
- Fractured vertebrae: Both the lumbar vertebrae (in the lower section of the spine) and the thoracic vertebrae (in the middle section of the spine) are prone to various types of fractures.
- Herniated discs: Discs cushion the vertebrae. In a car crash, a disc may move out of place or break open, which puts pressure on the spinal cord.
- Spinal stenosis – Trauma from a car accident may result in a narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body. An injury to the spine may interrupt the flow of messages between your brain and body, possibly causing paralysis.
- Degenerative changes: A car accident injury can lead to developing arthritis in your spine.
Common symptoms of neck and back pain
Symptoms of neck pain may include sharp pain or a dull ache in the neck, headaches, shoulder pain, or arm numbness or tingling.
- Symptoms associated with back pain may include:
- Sharp, dull, or burning pain in your back.
- Leg weakness, numbness, or tingling above or below your knee
- Stiffness or achiness anywhere along your spine
- Sharp, shooting pain that emanates from your lower back to your buttocks, down the back of your thigh, and into your calf and toes
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Seeking a settlement or award
About 96 percent of all personal injury cases settle before they go to trial, or sometimes even after the trial has begun. When you are suffering the mental and physical effects of a crash, you may feel tempted by any settlement offer you receive from the insurance company. However, remember that the primary goal of the insurance company is to pay as little as possible on the claim, so you need someone who can negotiate a fair settlement.
Whether preparing for trial or negotiating a settlement with the opposing party, you need a lawyer who understands the basic car accident lawsuit process in your jurisdiction. Texas, for example, is a fault car insurance state. That means if you are in an accident, you may file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the driver who was at fault.
The amount of compensation received generally includes:
- Medical expenses.
- Lost wages and diminished earning capacity.
- Other financial losses
- Pain and suffering
- Costs associated with repairing or replacing damaged property
Punitive damages are often the most difficult damages to claim when pursuing compensation. They punish a responsible party for “malicious, outrageous, or grossly negligent conduct.”
Legal Time Limits
Injured persons have a limited time to file a lawsuit, depending on their state’s laws. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In Texas, for example, an injured person must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years from the date of the car accident.
If a car accident injured you, consult a skilled car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn your legal options and avoid missing the filing deadline.