It pays to know what your back injury claim is really worth. See how to estimate back injury compensation after a motor vehicle accident.
Most back injury claims can be settled for the total of your economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, and an additional amount for your non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.
Insurance adjusters have dozens of car accident claims sitting on their desks on any given day, and know just how to pick them apart.
We’ll take a look at the average settlement you can expect in different scenarios, and the evidence you need to boost your compensation.
How to Calculate Fair Back Injury Compensation
Whether or not you decide to handle your own injury claim, take the time to estimate how much your car accident claim might be worth.
Mild to Moderate Back Injuries
After you’ve fully recovered from mild to moderate injuries, gather the following proof of your losses:
- Medical Expenses: Collect all your medical bills and records. Use the full amount charged by each provider in your calculations, before any offsets for deductibles, co-pays, or health insurance coverage.
- Other Costs: Gather receipts for related expenses, such as medications, medical supplies, and replacement services like snow shoveling or lawn care. You’re also entitled to claim carfare or mileage to and from medical appointments.
- Lost Income: Get a statement of lost income from your employer, even if you use sick days after the crash. Self-employed workers can use a profit and loss statement and other documentation of lost income.
Add up all your economic damages, meaning your bills, receipts, and lost income. Then add one or two times that amount to account for your non-economic damages, commonly known as pain and suffering.
The total of your economic and non-economic damages is a reasonable estimate of the amount you can expect to settle your back injury claim.
Most adjusters are willing to pay for appropriate medical treatment, a few days off work, and a reasonable amount for your pain and suffering.
Example: Insurance Settlement for Mild Back Injury
Monica was on a two-lane road headed to work. She came to a full stop in her SUV when a school bus in the oncoming lane put on its flashers and stopped to pick up some waiting children. Monica stopped for the school bus and suddenly felt the impact of a rear-end collision.
Shannon had been texting her boyfriend as she drove her small car to school and didn’t realize the vehicle in front of her had stopped.
Shannon admitted to police that she was texting when she ran into the back of Monica’s car. Shannon was cited for texting while driving, failing to yield keep a proper lookout, and failing to maintain a proper distance.
Monica called into work to let them know she’d been in an accident. A coworker came and took Monica to the nearby Urgent Care Center. Monica was treated for a whiplash injury to her cervical spine and upper back. Within three weeks she fully recovered from her sore ligaments, sprains, and soft-tissue injuries.
Monica missed four days of work at $672, and incurred $500 in medical bills, so her economic damages were $672+ $500 = $1,172.
She added two times that amount to account for her pain and suffering: $1,172 x 2 = $2,344
Combining her economic and non-economic damages ($1,172+ $2,344), Carol’s claim value estimate came to $3,516.
Monica sent her compensation demand for $3,600 to Shannon’s insurance company.
Because Monica’s demand was reasonable and well supported, it only took a few rounds of claim negotiations to reach a compromised settlement.
Monica settled her injury claim for $3,100.
Settling a Severe or Complicated Injury Claim
Serious back injuries from a car accident, like ruptured disks and spinal cord injuries, can be expensive and disabling. Severe back injuries are high-dollar claims that should include compensation for future suffering and long-term medical expenses.
Depending on the level of injury, lifetime medical costs for spinal cord injuries easily run into millions of dollars. That’s just for medical treatment and care, and doesn’t include the injured victim’s loss of earning capacity or future pain and suffering.
Serious back injury cases must be handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer. There’s too much at stake to risk handling a case like this yourself.
Case Example: $71 Million Awarded to Car Accident Spinal Injury Victim
Morgan Wang was in the passenger seat, headed back to school at Cornell University, when driver Neil Sexton fell asleep at the wheel. Sexton’s vehicle collided head-on with a minivan, killing a passenger in the other vehicle and inflicting Wang with lumbar spinal cord injuries that left her with no feeling in her lower legs and other complications.
Wang was unable to finish college, and while she has learned to walk with leg braces, her doctors warn she will eventually be permanently wheelchair-bound.
After a three-week trial, the Manhattan jury awarded the injured young woman $5 million for past pain and suffering, $6 million for future pain and suffering, and $60 million for future medical expenses.
Tactics Adjusters Use to Limit Compensation
Insurance companies are notorious for offering lower settlements to car accident victims who aren’t represented by an attorney. They know you probably won’t have the legal savvy or the energy to fight after they give their “final” offer.
Common insurance adjuster tactics include:
- Blaming the victim for contributing to their injuries
- Asserting spine injuries are degenerative or from a prior injury
- Saying the collision was low-impact or too minor to cause injuries
- Disputing the medical necessity for treatment or time off work
Adjusters are trained to find reasons to deny or reduce injury claim payouts. They are skilled at getting you to say things that can be used against you. Be very careful about giving a recorded statement over the phone or in person. Never give a statement if you are medicated, angry, or uncomfortable answering questions.
Be just as careful about signing a release for your medical records. The insurance company needs records and bills to justify paying your claim. However, they don’t need records unrelated to your current injuries. You have the right to insist on a release limited to the back injury care you’ve received after the accident date.
Case Example: Florida Jury Awards $1.3 Million for Spine and Wrist Injuries
Cheryl Walters was sitting in her stopped car when the front end was hit by a garbage truck. The big sanitation truck, driven by Oreste Cancia, was backing up when it collided with Walter’s vehicle.
Walters was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for an open fracture of her left wrist and aggravation of a pre-existing neck injury. Over the next two years, Walters endured two surgeries on her wrist, fusion surgery of her spine’s C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 levels, and 12 months of physical therapy. She was left with chronic pain and limitations.
Through her attorney, Walters filed an injury lawsuit against Cancia and his employer, Waste Pro.
Lawyers for Cancia and Waste Pro argued that the accident was only a minor collision that could not have aggravated her prior neck injury. They also claimed that Walter’s injuries were worsened because she smoked cigarettes.
After testimony from several expert witnesses, the jury found in favor of Walters, awarding a total of $1,352,257.
You’ll need an experienced car accident attorney to get anywhere near the compensation you deserve for a complicated back injury case. An attorney knows how to look out for your best interests with the insurance company – even when the insurance company is your own.
Case Example: Jury Awards $202,000 for Car Accident Back Injury
John Logan suffered injuries to his head, neck, lower back, and arms when he was sideswiped by a negligent and uninsured driver.
Logan filed an uninsured motorist claim with his own insurance company, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. Under his Liberty Mutual auto policy, Logan had $250,000 uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Because Logan had prior injuries from other accidents and a workers’ comp claim, Liberty Mutual disputed his current injury claim, arguing that he could not prove his herniated disc and lower back injuries were solely from the car accident.
Logan’s attorney filed suit against Liberty Mutual. After listening to medical experts from both sides at trial, the jury found in favor of Logan, awarding him $52,000 in economic damages and $150,000 in non-economic damages.
Tips to Maximize Your Back Injury Settlement
There are actions you can take after a car crash that will help increase the payout you can get for your back injuries.
1. Thoroughly Document Medical Treatment and Expenses
Always seek prompt medical attention after a motor vehicle accident. Never refuse medical care at the scene or delay seeing a doctor until days later. The insurance adjuster will jump at the chance to say your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.
Use traditional medical doctors. Adjusters are reluctant to pay for chiropractors and alternative care providers, even if the treatments make your back pain better.
Avoid “accident doctors” who jack up your overall medical costs with repeated MRIs and weeks or months of questionable treatment. Insurance companies only have to pay for medically necessary treatment provided in accordance with accepted standards of medical practice. You may be on the hook for bills the insurance adjuster rejects.
2. Gather as Much Evidence as Possible
Be prepared to back up your auto accident claim with strong evidence. You’ll have to prove the other driver was negligent, and their negligence caused your back injuries.
You or your attorney will also have to prove the scope and severity of your injuries, and that your injuries were the direct result of the accident.
Evidence from the car accident scene:
- Police Report: The responding officer will investigate the accident and file an official police accident report. The report will have diagrams of the accident scene, witness names, tickets issued, and the officer’s opinion of who caused the crash. Insurance adjusters give a lot of weight to the police report.
- Witness Statements: Try to speak with anyone who has information that can help your claim. Witnesses may have evidence of the other driver’s negligence. Maybe they saw the driver make an illegal maneuver or heard an admission against interest. Statements like, “It was my fault,” or, “I was on my cell phone” are compelling.
- Photos and Video: Take as many pictures and videos of the accident scene as you can, from different angles. Photographs don’t lie. The more you have, the better. Photos of the point of impact, skid marks, the driver, traffic signals, and more are strong evidence.
Continue gathering evidence until your claim settles:
- Medical Records: Your medical bills and records connect your back injuries directly to the car accident. If you had a prior back injury, make sure the medical record explains that your injuries from this accident are separate and distinct from the prior injury.
- Notes and Correspondence: Start right after the accident by writing detailed notes about the accident and how it happened. Continue keeping detailed notes about your day-to-day pain and limitations.
3. Watch Out for the Statute of Limitations
Each state has a deadline called the statute of limitations which states how long you have to settle your insurance claim or file a lawsuit. Some states have deadlines as short as one or two years.
If you haven’t reached a back injury settlement or filed suit before the statute runs out, you lose your right to seek compensation, no matter how badly you’re hurt. Don’t wait until the last minute to talk to a car accident lawyer about your injury case. Protect your rights.
Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation to accident victims. It costs nothing to find out what an attorney can do for you.
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Back Injury Compensation Questions
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