How Much is a Back Injury Worth in a Car Accident Settlement?
There's a lot to deal with in the aftermath of a car accident — especially one that has left you with a devastating back injury.
Between filing a claim with your insurance company, assessing the damage to your car, getting the medical care you need, and having to miss work, it's nearly impossible not to stress about the financial aspects of your unfortunate situation.
All you want to know now is how much money your case is worth so you can plan accordingly.
Any car accident attorney that has personally helped settle car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, 18-wheeler accidents, and more can tell you that there is no perfect formula for calculating your case's exact value.
After all, every situation is unique, and yours is no exception.
However, that doesn't mean you can't get a realistic idea of what to expect (both legally and financially) as your back injury claim moves forward.
In this article, you’ll learn about the various factors used by insurance companies and claims adjusters to determine your unique claim's value.
The Average Settlement for Car Accident Back and Neck Injuries
As I mentioned, every claim is unique, so using the average settlement value for a back and injury may not do you much good.
But to give you an idea of the range of financial possibility, consider the following statistics:
- Minor injuries from car crashes can result in a settlement value of $100 to $3,000.
- Moderate neck and back injuries from motor vehicle accidents can range between $10,000 to $100,000.
- The most severe and debilitating injuries can often result in settlement values well over a million dollars.
Because personal injury settlements vary so widely, it's difficult to confidently proclaim a concrete, realistic average you should expect from your own car accident. That being said, we can at least shed some light on what personal injury victims have received in recent years.
Recently, a legal research group by the name of Martindale-Nolo Research surveyed personal injury victims to discover how much they received on average from their injury settlements.
These were their findings:
- 16% received less than $3,000
- 37% received between $3,000 and $10,000
- 21% received between $10,001 and $25,000
- 10% received between $25,001 and $75,000
- 16% received more than $75,000
While these numbers aren't specific to victims who suffered back injuries from auto accidents, this data should be insightful nevertheless. Especially if you couple it with the fact that Martindale-Nolo Research also discovered an average settlement of $23,600 for workers' compensation claims involving back injuries.
A back and neck injury from a car accident will result in a settlement value ranging in the hundreds of dollars, the thousands, or the multi-million dollar range.
Now that you know the potential average settlement values, let's discuss how those values are determined in the first place and set some realistic expectations for your situation.
Setting Realistic Expectations for Your Settlement
As you can see, personal injury settlements — back and neck injury-related or otherwise — vary widely.
How much you can collect depends on many factors and how effectively you and your attorney can present the facts of your case.
Now I know what you're thinking: if a case can be worth upwards of a million dollars, that's what you want yours to be worth!
I understand your thinking, but that's just not how it works.
Take, for example, a man who was brutally attacked by a coworker and wound up with severe injuries to his neck and spinal cord, coupled with undeniable emotional trauma. Compare his story to, say, someone who was softly rear-ended by a distracted driver and ended up with a minor case of whiplash.
Yes — both victims deserve compensation since their injuries were caused by someone else at-fault, but the man in our first scenario has more cause to hope for a big-time settlement.
You must be realistic and reasonable in your expectations. And these six factors will help you do just that.
6 Factors That Influence Your Back Injury Settlement Amount
As you and your attorney begin to determine the settlement value of your case, you'll need to consider the same factors that courts use when awarding settlement amounts in car accident cases.
Among those factors are:
1. Type of Back Injury
Back injuries that involve the neck and spinal cord tend to be the most severe car accident injuries. That's because accident victims may suffer from permanent damage or loss of function or mobility after a bad wreck.
Here are some common examples of neck and back injuries sustained from a car accident:
- Spinal cord injuries — Spinal injuries tend to be the most severe and difficult to recover from fully. Structural damage, broken, or slipped vertebrae can impair the structural function of the spine itself. These skeletal injuries can also pinch or damage the nerves themselves, resulting in neuromuscular impairments such as paralysis or loss of mobility.
- Herniated discs — Herniated, "slipped," or bulging discs often require surgery, physical therapy, and chronic pain management to recover function. Herniated discs are also common culprits in lower back pain.
- Sprains — The force of a car collision can cause tears, strain, and soft tissue swelling. Strains and sprains are soft tissue injuries that often resolve themselves without medical treatment, but can still cause significant back pain.
- Whiplash — Whiplash is a type of strain that affects the neck. In a rear-end accident, for example, your head and neck jostle back and forth abruptly, restricted by your seatbelt, causing damage to the surrounding tissues.
Insurance companies and (when involved) civil courts should award higher settlements if your accident resulted in (or is likely to result in) a permanent injury such as disfigurement, physical limitations, or disabilities.
2. Circumstances of the wreck
In Louisiana, the amount of money you can claim directly correlates to how "at fault" you are versus the other driver.
If, for instance, you're found to be only 10% responsible for the wreck while the other driver is 90% responsible, you can only claim up to 90% of what your claim is worth in total.
This is why you want to use all the evidence at your disposal to prove that the other driver was at fault.
3. Inability to work
Lost income and wage-earning capacity from the accident are crucial factors in your injury claim.
Depending on the nature of the wreck and the severity of your injuries, you may be able to factor future earning capacity into your settlement calculation.
Plainly, if your injuries prevent you from earning income, that needs to be calculated into your settlement offer.
4. Your Immediate & ongoing medical expenses
A serious car accident is likely to rack up expensive medical bills.
These expenses may include:
- Surgery (such as fusion surgery, discectomy, or laminectomy for spine injury)
- Physical therapy
- Diagnostic imaging (such as MRI, CT scan, EMG)
- Medications and injections
- Walkers, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids
- Braces for the neck or back
Accident victims may be retroactively paid for those initial hospital bills and anticipated ongoing medical costs, like surgeries, physical therapy, and in-home care.
If you've been in an accident and are currently receiving medical treatment, make sure to keep all records carefully organized. This information may be used as evidence when your claim is being investigated.
5. Non-economic damages
Non-economic damages related to your accident may also be essential in determining the final jury verdict for a fair settlement.
Non-economic damages typically include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium, or the loss of a victim's ability to have a personal relationship with their spouse or family members.
These are considered non-monetary losses, and while they are subjective in nature (hard to assign a dollar value), they should be calculated into your settlement value if possible.
6. Louisiana Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations according to Louisiana Civil Code section 3492 states: "Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. This prescription commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained."
In other words, in the state of Louisiana, you only have one year to file a personal injury lawsuit from the date the accident happened. That means if you wait to file a complaint against the at-fault driver or insurance company, your right to compensation may likely be rejected.
Time is not on your side. If you're suffering from injuries that result from a car accident, you must begin the claims process as soon as possible. The sooner you start, the better your chances of receiving fair compensation promptly.
As you can see, figuring out the settlement potential of your car accident case is a complicated matter. We've covered the six main factors that are considered when determining settlement value, but we've only scratched the surface.
Car accident victims are often tempted to turn to the insurance company for quick resolutions and settlement decisions for their pain and suffering.
In my experience, it is in your interest to speak with an attorney before you do anything else. A car accident — no matter how minor or serious — can leave you with serious injuries, property damage, and emotional distress.
In these difficult conditions, you need someone to help guide you through the process.
To get the compensation you deserve, you need an attorney who knows the complexities and will do everything to act in your best interests.
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