Updated on April 18th, 2023

What is the average settlement for a back injury in a car accident?

The average settlement for a back injury in a car accident ranges from $11,000 to over $1 million depending on four factors: 1) Was the injury soft tissue? If yes, the average settlement is $12,000; 2) Was there a spine injury? If yes, the average settlement is $70,000; 3) Was or is surgery required? If yes, the average settlement is $275,000, 4) Is there a permanent disability? If yes, the average settlement can exceed $1 million.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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The average settlement amount for a back injury in a car accident lawsuit ranges from $11,000 to over $1 million. There are certain cases that result in settlements worth millions because surgery was required and permanent disability.A soft tissue injury will get a much lower settlement than a spinal cord injury. For this reason, the average back injury settlement is not a very useful number – it all depends on the kind of back injury a victim suffers from.

The justice system may offer an individual money to help with pain, expenses, and lifestyle changes that come with a serious back injury. The median award for a neck or back injury is about $210,000. That said, a back injury settlement depends on the kind of injury.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are the most severe type of injury. This means that the spine has suffered fractured or dislocated vertebrae. With adequate insurance, the average settlement for a car accident spinal injury lawsuit is generally in the millions.

Intervertebral Disc Injuries

Disc injuries are the second-most serious. In general, herniated disc cases usually get higher settlement amounts than ruptured or bulging discs. Some herniated disc cases get settlements in the millions. Others, which cause the victim little if any long-term trouble, do not have as high settlements. The compensation payouts depend on the following:

  • Whether there is any prior damage to that part of the back
  • What the MRI/CT scan shows
  • The symptoms of the back injury and how the victim’s life is affected
  • How the injury is treated

Herniated disc injuries that require back surgery often result in the highest settlements. This is a serious surgery with risks, such as infection, spinal fluid leak, thrombophlebitis, and even death. That said, surgery can provide more relief than more conservative treatment. The settlement amount for an injury requiring back surgery will usually be higher than for a case without surgery.

Lumbar disc injuries from accidents typically improve in 90% of patients without surgery, rather using steroids or other conservative treatments.

Epidural Steroid Injections Without Surgery

For victims who end up using epidural steroid injections, the compensation can be very high. Jurors tend to understand how the need for injections indicates a severe and painful back injury. That said, insurance companies do not consider non-surgery cases to be serious, even when injections are needed. This is the reason that non-surgery lower back injury lawsuits tend to go to trial.

Soft Tissue and Whiplash Injuries

The lowest settlement amounts are reserved for soft tissue back injuries that cannot be proven by diagnostic testing. This kind of injury includes whiplash. Settlement payouts for these cases will depend on the following factors:

  • The credibility of the plaintiff and the severity of the injury
  • Whether there are pre-existing back injuries
  • How serious the impact was
  • Which insurance company is involved
  • The jurisdiction of the case

In a personal injury case, the individual’s credibility is essential. This is especially the case when it comes to back injuries. Because back injuries are a common complaint, juries view these complaints with skepticism. Also, with back problems, the injuries and symptoms often don’t correlate with the radiological evidence.

Pre existing injury aggravated in car accident

The most difficult back injury cases involve pre-existing conditions, such as spinal stenosis and spondylosis. Herniated disc injuries can also be problematic because many people have pre-existing disc injuries without even knowing it. Insurance companies can use MRIs to argue that a victim’s back was already experiencing problems before the accident occurred.

That said, even with previous injuries, an individual can still get a favorable settlement or jury verdict. The bottom line is that if an individual did not have pain before an accident and they now have pain after the accident, then the crash was likely the cause of the pain.

To win such a case, it is important that an individual have a San Diego car accident attorney and a doctor who can explain the difference between the problems before the accident and the individual’s current condition.

However, if the accident made little difference to one’s condition, then the chances of getting a fair settlement are not good.

What Affects the Value of Back Injury Car Accident Cases?

The main factor that determines a settlement amount for a back injury car accident case is the severity of the victim’s back injury. Car accident back injuries can be minor in nature, such as back sprains, or they can be serious enough to cause permanent disability (fractured vertebrae).

The more serious an injury is, and the more treatment it requires, the higher the settlement will be. Another factor that affects the amount of a back injury settlement is the age of the victim. Younger victims tend to get better settlements because they are less likely to have pre-existing back problems.

How to Prove that a Car Accident Caused a Back Injury?

A victim who does not have a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer on their side will find back injuries difficult to prove in court or to an insurance company. Soft tissue back injuries, such as back sprains, often do not show up on x-rays or other diagnostic imaging tests. Therefore, the diagnosis of these injuries generally relies on a physical examination, which may be seen as subjective. That said, some back injuries can be objectively diagnosed using MRIs or x-rays. These cases are easier to prove.

To collect compensation from an insurer, an individual must prove that the car accident caused the back injury. He or she should, with the help of their lawyer, go through the following process:

  • Medical opinion from a doctor – An individual’s personal doctor plays an important role in the claim process. He or she is an expert regarding the back injury, so their diagnosis is critical for the case. The doctor may show that the crash caused the injury, and it was not due to an underlying or previous condition.
  • Get the victim’s version of the story – An individual will need to describe when the pain started, where the pain is, as well as their medical history.
  • Collect past medical records – If there is no evidence of a past back injury in an individual’s medical files, then their claim will be stronger.
  • Review x-rays and MRIs – Imaging is an important component of proving a back injury. They will reveal if there is a disc injury, fracture, or arthritis.
  • Get all relevant medical records – Medical records should be ordered chronologically so that the back injury may be traced to the car accident and nothing else.

If there is no damage to an individual’s vehicle, then the claim is less believable. Therefore, it is important to show how the impact of the crash is capable of causing a back injury.

Can an Individual Get Compensation for a Back Injury If They Have a Pre-Existing Condition?

An individual who has been in a car accident can still get compensation for their injury even if they had a pre-existing condition prior to the accident. If the victim has a history of back problems or a pre-existing injury, it may reduce the possible settlement amount of their claim if the jury or insurance company believes that the pain is a result of a prior or chronic injury. However, this will not stop an individual from getting a compensation payout if their back was injured in a car accident.

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