Visitor Question

Son’s back injury derails his plans to become a firefighter…

Submitted By: Anonymous (Nebraska)

My 17 year old son was a passenger in a car accident where he injured his L-2. The doctor told us he had a 30% compressed lumbar fracture. He had a trip to the ER and went through multiple visits to an orthopedic surgeon and physical therapy. He also had to wear a back brace for 6 weeks. The driver that struck the vehicle he was in has accepted full responsibility.

He originally planned on becoming a fire fighter (this has been his dream since he was 4 years old) and had all his career plans decided for after he graduates high school. His medical bills are about $8000 and while the orthopedic surgeon released him from care, he still has soreness in his back.

He has complained that it’s not fair that he must do his PT exercises throughout the rest of his life when the accident was not his fault. He has now lost interest in becoming a firefighter because he feels this injury will hold him back. He has also been struggling in school since this accident and now may not graduate. He is not sure of what he wants to do for a profession now.

While I may not know if he will need more medical care for his back in the future, what would be a reasonable offer for his emotional stress due to the accident? Does the fact that the accident is preventing him from becoming a firefighter factor into the settlement? What else should we know about a claim like this? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

Before discussing the various ways to approximate a settlement demand, it’s important to realize the severity of your son’s injury requires at least one or more consultations with a personal injury attorney.

Lumbar fractures are complex. Insurance companies know very well whatever settlement you negotiate will be one they control, and not you. While the insurance company will let you think you have negotiated a substantial settlement, in reality you will have a settlement set by the insurance company, and not by you.

Once the insurance adjuster tells you that is all they will offer, the adjuster knows you have no recourse. In reality, you will have to “take it or leave it.”

In minor injury cases the amount of medical and therapeutic treatment is generally limited. Minor, or “soft tissue,” injuries and their required treatment are generally straightforward. The amount of compensation is relative.

However, more serious “hard injuries” often require complex diagnostic tests including, but not not limited to MRIs, CT Scans, and X-Rays, several medical opinions, options for treatment, and much more.

Unlike injured persons who represent themselves, experienced personal injury attorneys do not have to accept any amount from the insurance company unless the attorney believes it is in the best interest of the client.

Attorneys have a plethora of legal tools at their disposal to persuade insurance companies to offer a fair settlement. The most important tool is the possibility of filing a lawsuit if the company makes an unfair settlement offer.

Insurance claims adjusters want to settle claims and not have them litigated. Once a lawsuit is filed, it may be months, or sometimes over a year before the case comes to trial. In the interim, the attorney can be engaging in pretrial discovery including taking depositions, requests for production of documents, pretrial motions, and more.

Personal injury attorneys work quite hard to settle their clients’ claims for as high an amount is possible. That’s because attorneys aren’t paid until, and unless they settle the client’s case, or win it at trial. If the attorney fails to do either, the attorney receives nothing for all the work he or she accomplished on behalf of the client.

Moreover, the higher the settlement, the higher the attorney’s fees. Personal injury attorneys generally charge a contingency fee of about 33.3%.

Your son’s interests would be best served by consulting with several personal injury attorneys. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation. Bring along your son’s medical bills and records.

After reviewing the documents the attorneys will be able to give you a fair idea of the viability of your son’s claim, the probability of success, and the general amount of a settlement, or court award.

Learn more here: Calculating Pain and Suffering Costs

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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