If you or someone you love suffered neck or back injuries in a car crash, you know how even a seemingly “minor” injury can change your life. Neck and back injuries often have a profound impact and involve difficult recoveries. When you’re struggling with the uncertainty of a crash-related back or neck injury, you may be tempted to take any settlement offer you receive from the insurance company.
In this article, our injury lawyers will explain factors that may impact your claim’s value and how you should react to an insurance company settlement offer.
What’s the Average Insurance Settlement for Neck and Back Injuries?
If you calculated the average settlement value for someone with neck or back injuries, it would be surprisingly low. (Many Texas law firms report that the average car accident settlement in 2013 was $15,400, but we cannot find data to verify this number). However, don’t let this figure mislead you. The value of the “average” case has nothing to do with your case, because your case is unique.
Back and neck injuries cover a broad spectrum of conditions, from minor sprains and strains to paralyzing spinal cord injuries. Your case also involves unique circumstances, legal issues, and insurance policies. For this reason, you should never decide whether a settlement offer is fair based on an arbitrary “average” settlement number. Instead, it’s best to consult an experienced car accident lawyer and get advice based on the unique facts of your case.
How Do Insurance Adjusters Calculate Settlement Values?
While an insurance adjuster will review your medical records, crash reports, and other evidence, they will look at your case very differently than a personal injury attorney. Claims adjusters work for the insurer, and their job is to save their employer as much money as possible.
Your attorney sees you as a person with a serious back injury who needs medical treatment. The adjuster sees you as a case number associated with medical costs, property damage, and other expenses.
If there are any issues in your case, or you’re unrepresented, the adjuster may try to take advantage of these weaknesses to reduce or eliminate your payout. That’s why you should never accept the insurance company’s first settlement offer — it’s probably undervalued and doesn’t fully consider the severity of the injuries you suffered.
How Do Injury Lawyers Calculate Settlement Values After a Car Accident?
Most car accident cases involve negligence. In order to recover damages from the insurance company, you’ll need to prove that:
- The at-fault driver or party owed you a duty of care, like those set out in Texas’ rules of the road;
- The at-fault driver violated this duty, causing your injuries; and
- The at-fault driver’s actions resulted in damages, such as lost income, pain and suffering, and medical bills
If you cannot prove any of these elements, the insurance company and courts may reject your claim. Because of the need to prove negligence, most car crash investigations begin with a careful investigation that helps your lawyer understand the other party’s negligent actions, your damages, and other important facts.
However, proving negligence is just the starting point of your legal claims. Many factors can impact the strength and value of your neck or back injury claim. When you work with an injury lawyer, they will carefully evaluate these issues, looking for ways to increase your jury award or settlement.
6 Factors That May Impact Your Claim’s Settlement Value
Each victim’s injuries and recovery process are different, and you can’t simply say that a spinal cord injury or a soft tissue injury is worth a guaranteed amount of money. However, generally speaking, people with catastrophic injuries will receive higher settlements.
When you work with an attorney from the Crosley Law team, we will consider the severity of your injury, your likelihood of recovery, and other factors when calculating your neck and back injury claim’s settlement value.
“When you work with an attorney from the Crosley Law team, we will consider the severity of your injury, your likelihood of recovery, and other factors when calculating your neck and back injury claim’s settlement value.”
While we can’t give you an idea of your case’s value without learning the unique facts, we can discuss some factors that may affect the overall amount of compensation you can receive.
1. Your Type of Neck or Back Injury
Your back and neck are made up of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tissues. During a car or truck accident, your body experiences forces like acceleration and deceleration. These forces can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage.
Common neck and back injuries from car crashes include:
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body. Damage to your spinal cord can disrupt this connection and lead to paralysis. If your spinal cord is severed during an accident, the injury is permanent.
- Broken vertebrae: Your spinal column is made up of sturdy bones that protect your spinal cord and help you stand upright. Forces from a car accident can fracture these bones. These injuries may require bracing, surgeries, and medication.
- Herniated discs: Your discs are shock absorbers that let your back move smoothly and comfortably. When a disc tears or deforms, its jelly-like insides can press on the nerves in your back and neck, causing severe pain. While some herniated discs resolve on their own, many require surgery, injections, physical therapy, and chronic pain management.
- Slipped vertebrae (spondylolisthesis): During a collision, your vertebral bodies, which are the bones that make up your spinal column, can get pushed out of place. While you may not even notice a minor slippage, a severe slipped vertebra can press on nerves and tissues, and you may need surgery as a result.
- Sprains and strains: Crashes can cause tiny tears and swelling in the muscles and ligaments in your neck and back. These tears can cause significant pain, but they typically resolve with time, rest, and medication. However, doctors sometimes misdiagnose herniated discs and other injuries as sprains and strains.
- Whiplash: A type of sprain or strain, whiplash occurs when your neck jerks back and forth during an auto accident, damaging the tissues.
- Pinched nerves: Herniated discs, swelling, slipped vertebrae, and other injuries can pinch the nerves that branch off your spinal cord. A pinched nerve can cause numbness, shooting pain, and weakness. Sometimes, pinched nerves require injection therapy, nerve blocks, or surgery.
- Degenerative changes: Trauma can speed up degenerative changes or arthritis in your back, which can cause pain and limit your movement.
2. Your Need for Ongoing Medical Care
After a car crash, you may need to see specialists, surgeons, and physical therapists. You may even need help with basic needs, like using the bathroom and getting dressed. You may need:
- Diagnostic studies, like MRIs, CT scans, and EMGs
- Surgeries, such as fusions, discectomies, and laminectomies
- Physical therapy
- Injections to reduce swelling and pain
- Back and neck braces
- Medication and pain management services
- Wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices
All of your medical care, including future treatment, should be included in your settlement calculations.
It’s also important to remember that accident victims sometimes need multiple surgeries, and complications can occur. Your lawyer should take all these factors into account and consult with your doctors before they start settlement negotiations.
3. Whether You Can Return to Work
For most people, their job is an important part of their identity and daily routine. Lost income and wage-earning capacity are also an essential part of your injury claim. If you can quickly return to work, your case may be worth less than someone who is permanently disabled.
However, many people with neck and back injuries struggle at work. For example, a herniated disc in your low back may make standing or sitting for long periods of time impossible. You may also find it hard to lift, reach, bend, or twist. Sometimes, your medications will create significant side effects, like fatigue or lightheadedness.
Your lawyer will have to determine how your neck and back injuries will impact your income over your lifetime. They may even consult with vocational specialists and other experts to figure out all the long-term consequences of your injuries.
4. The Amount of Insurance That Covers Your Crash
After a car crash in Texas, you’ll need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the driver was working at the time of the crash, your claim might be against their employer rather than their personal insurance policy. Your lawyer will help you navigate these issues and identify all the policies that may cover your neck and back injuries.
Unfortunately, many drivers don’t have enough insurance to fully cover your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. In these cases, your lawyer will also consider other insurance options, like your personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured/underinsured motorist policies.
5. The Strength of Your Legal Claims (and of Insurance Company Defenses)
Not every injury claim is clear-cut. Sometimes, at-fault drivers try to blame victims for crashes. Insurance companies will use defenses like comparative fault to reduce or eliminate your compensation.
To fight back, you’ll need to understand the relative strength of your legal claims and defenses. Your lawyer can help you address these issues and build a comprehensive litigation strategy.
6. Texas’ Statute of Limitations
You typically only have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. So, if you wait more than two years from the date of your crash to file a complaint against the at-fault driver or the insurance company, you may lose out on your right to compensation.
Even if two years sounds like a long time, you should never wait to get in touch with a lawyer. It takes time to fully investigate a car crash, negotiate a settlement, and prepare a case for trial. The longer you wait, the more difficult this process will become.
Do I Really Need an Injury Lawyer After a Neck or Back Injury?
Sometimes, the insurance company will quickly offer you a settlement after a car wreck. The adjuster may even discourage you from contacting a lawyer, saying it’s not worth the time and money. However, lawyers play an essential role in car accident claims and lawsuits. Here are three reasons why.
Your Attorney Will Look Out for Your Interests
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they want to settle your claim for as little as possible. Meanwhile, an attorney’s job is to represent your interests and to get you the best outcome they possibly can. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you calculate the real value of your claim and negotiate a fair deal.
For example, our team worked with a brother and sister who were hit by a drunk driver. In addition to other injuries, both victims also experienced significant neck and back pain. Before trial, the insurance company offered them a total of $25,000. Based on our investigation, we knew this offer was absurd and wouldn’t come close to covering the true costs of the injuries.
We prepared the case for trial and selected a jury. After the opening days of the trial, the insurance company had a change of heart and agreed to pay the full policy limits. The final settlement amount was more than five times the insurance company’s initial offer.
While every case is different, it’s always worthwhile to get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney before settling your claim. Once you settle your claim, you can’t go back and demand additional compensation, even if your condition worsens or you need another surgery.
Your Attorney Only Gets Paid if You Get Compensation for Your Injuries
You don’t need money in the bank to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. Crosley Law, we have a no-fee policy, and initial consultations are always free. If you decide to work with our team and we recover a settlement or jury award for you, we’ll charge you a percentage of your compensation. Otherwise, you won’t have to pay anything. We also advance our clients’ case costs and fees, so we won’t charge you for the cost of collecting your evidence (like medical records) or filing fees unless we win your case at court or reach a settlement.
So, there’s no risk or commitment involved when you contact our office and get advice about your case, and any fees you eventually pay will come out of the results we get. The insurance company’s argument that you can’t afford a lawyer doesn’t hold up.
Back and Neck Claims Are Very Complex
Most crash victims don’t have the experience and knowledge needed to navigate their claims. When you review your medical records, you’ll find terminology and abbreviations that are hard to understand. Your doctors and the insurance company’s experts may disagree about your need for more medical care and whether the crash caused your injuries. And it’s easy to miss deadlines and legal procedures when you’re trying to heal and manage a never-ending parade of doctors’ appointments.
When you work with an injury lawyer, you don’t have to worry about medical terminology, expert witnesses, or legal technicalities. Instead, your team will manage all of these issues, giving you time and space to focus on your physical and mental health.
Crosley Law: Fighting for Crash Victims With Back and Neck Injuries
At Crosley Law, our team works with crash victims across Texas, helping them understand their legal options and the true value of their claims. We take an aggressive approach to settlement negotiations and aren’t afraid to take cases to trial when the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.