Herniated discs. Bulging discs. Slipped discs. There are many names for this common, crash-related injury, but no matter what you call it, the effects can be life-altering. If you’ve suffered a severe spine injury and the insurance company offers you a settlement, you should consult a car accident attorney. Insurance adjusters frequently try to take advantage of unrepresented crash victims, offering them much less than they’re really owed.
In this article, our injury lawyers will explain factors that may impact your claim’s value and how you should respond to an insurance company settlement offer.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
Your spine is a remarkably complicated structure. It’s broken into four primary sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), lumbar (low back), and sacral (“tailbone”). Each of these sections is made up of multiple parts:
- Vertebrae: Bones that make up your spinal column
- Discs: Tough, jelly-filled shock absorbers that sit in between the vertebrae
- Spinal cord: A bundle of nerves that transmits messages to and from your brain
- Spinal nerves: Nerves that branch off the spinal cord and travel to other parts of your body
- Muscles and ligaments: Soft tissues that support and stabilize your spine and help you move
There’s not much space between all these critical structures, and even a little bit of swelling can cause serious permanent injuries and limitations.
Your discs have a tough exterior, called the annulus. During a crash, forces can rip and stretch a disc’s annulus, pushing out its jelly-like interior. While the ripping and stretching itself can be painful, many of a herniated disc’s symptoms take time to develop.
The now-misshapen and damaged disc can press on your spinal cord, nerves, and other structures, causing back pain, muscle weakness, and other issues. You may feel pain that shoots down a limb, which doctors call “radiculopathy.” In very severe cases, you may experience paralysis or incontinence. (If you notice these symptoms after a collision or traumatic event, go to the ER immediately.)
What Happens When I Settle My Herniated Disc Lawsuit?
When you settle a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you are giving up your right to any additional compensation or damages. Rather than battle in court, you accept a payment from the insurance company and agree not to pursue your legal claims.
Once you settle your herniated disc claim, you typically cannot go back and demand more compensation, even if your condition worsens and you need spine surgery.
There are two common forms of herniated disc settlements:
- Lump-sum: You receive a single payout
- Structured: You get scheduled payments over time
Most personal injury settlements are issued in a lump sum. However, if your case has a very high settlement value, the insurance company may propose a structured settlement. Because the precise terms and conditions of a structured settlement can impact its overall value, make sure you consult an experienced injury attorney before you agree to structured payments.
How Much Is My Herniated Disc Worth In Texas?
As part of your legal claim, you can demand compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, property damage, and other losses. If the at-fault party’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. However, there’s no simple answer to the question, “how much is my herniate disc worth?”
When insurance companies calculate their settlement offers, they consider a variety of factors, such as:
- The severity of your back injury
- Your chances of making a full recovery and returning to work
- Whether you’ll need ongoing medical treatment for your injured spine
- The strength of your legal claims and the company’s defenses
- Whether a personal injury lawyer represents you
- The at-fault driver’s policy limits
However, one thing is certain: the insurance adjuster’s first settlement offer will be much too low. Insurance companies give their representatives a certain amount of “settlement authority,” but they rarely, if ever, offer the full amount they’re willing to settle for right away.
How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Calculate Herniated Disc Settlements?
At Crosley Law, we don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to herniated disc injury claims. Instead, we get to know our clients, carefully review their medical records and other evidence, consult with respected experts, including doctors, crash reconstructionists, and life care planners. Then, based on all the information we gather, we calculate their cases’ settlement values. This process takes a lot more time than just typing some numbers into an online calculator, but it’s worth it — we’ve recovered hundreds of millions in settlements and jury verdicts for our clients.
While nothing compares to a personalized analysis of your herniated disc claim from an experienced attorney, we can tell you some factors that may impact your case’s settlement value.
Will Your Herniated Disc Need Surgery?
You may be surprised to learn that not everyone with a herniated disc needs surgery. Sometimes, physical therapy, medication, rest, steroid injections, and other treatment protocols are enough. However, a significant number of people with herniated discs eventually need an operation.
There are many types of spinal surgeries, including:
- Spinal fusion: Doctors use hardware to stabilize your spine, fusing two vertebrae
- Laminectomy: Your surgeon removes part of a vertebra, called a lamina; this gives the disc more room and hopefully removes pressure from your nerves and spinal cord
- Discectomy: Doctors remove part of the damaged disc
It can take a year or more to recover from spinal surgery, depending on the complexity of the procedure and your unique risk factors. Most people need physical therapy, diagnostic studies (like x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and EMGs), and chronic pain management treatment before and immediately after surgery. While some people only need one surgery, others experience complications that result in many years of medical care.
Sometimes, your lawyer will suggest that you wait until your medical condition stabilizes and you reach “maximum medical improvement” (MMI) before you settle. It’s easier to assess your future medical needs at this stage, since it’s unlikely that your condition will improve with more medical treatment (although chronic pain management and other services can help maintain your quality of life). If you cannot wait until you reach MMI, your attorney will probably consult with your doctors and other medical professionals and assess your future needs.
Your Pre-Existing Conditions and Back Problems
As we age, our spine and back begin to develop degenerative changes. Even active, healthy people can have bulging discs and arthritis in their backs, but these conditions are usually asymptomatic. However, a car crash or another traumatic event can change all in a split second.
It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to fixate on your previous complaints of back pain and minor degenerative changes that were picked up in x-rays and other diagnostic tests. However, if the insurance adjuster denies your herniated disc claim or tries to reduce your settlement value, arguing that your pain and injuries are due to a pre-existing condition, you should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately.
Under Texas’ “eggshell skull doctrine,” the insurance company is responsible for your herniated disc if the crash or incident caused or contributed to the condition. If you can prove that a collision worsened your pre-existing arthritis or bulging discs, you’re owed compensation. However, proving that the crash caused or contributed to your injuries isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Your injury lawyer may need to consult with medical and accident reconstruction experts to connect the crash to your condition.
How Much Income You’ll Lose Over Your Lifetime
It can be difficult to work with a herniated disc. You may experience chronic pain and weakness that makes long periods of sitting, standing, walking, and other activities impossible. Your medications may make you drowsy and unfocused. And, your weekly schedule of doctor and therapy appointments may dramatically cut into your work hours. You must consider these losses as part of your case’s settlement value.
Your lawyer should determine how your herniated disc will impact your wage-earning capacity over your lifetime, and they may even consult with vocational and other experts.
Whether You Have PIP or UM/UIM Coverage
After a car crash, most people focus their attention on the at-fault driver. That’s because Texas’ motor vehicle accident laws are fault-based, and you’ll need to file an injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company. However, many victims don’t realize they may have other sources of insurance coverage.
In Texas, most people have at least a modest amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. UM/UIM steps in and covers some or all of your losses when the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance. PIP is a supplemental form of no-fault insurance that will cover some or all of your medical bills, even if you caused or contributed to the wreck.
In a herniated disc claim, you may have hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, which will quickly burn through even larger liability insurance policies. Your PIP and UM/UIM policies can help supplement the at-fault driver’s insurance if you have significant medical expenses and lost income due to a disc herniation, fusion surgery, or other crash-related issues.
Unlike the Insurance Adjuster, Your Lawyer Wants You to Get a Fair Settlement or Jury Award
The insurance adjuster’s job is to close cases as quickly and cheaply as possible. You should never assume that they’re providing you with honest advice or a fair offer. If you want fair compensation for your injuries, it’s in your best interest to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Your lawyer has an ethical obligation to educate you about your legal rights and options and fight on your behalf. For example, when you work with Crosley Law, we will typically:
- Outline your case’s strengths and challenges so you can make smart decisions about settlement
- Carefully calculate your herniated disc case’s value, considering your current and future needs
- Identify all the insurance policies that might apply to your case
- Consult with experts and preserve your evidence, potentially strengthening your claims
- Aggressively negotiate with the insurance company
- Use mediation and other alternative dispute resolution techniques to pursue a fair settlement
- Take your case to trial, if necessary
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. 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.
Crosley Law: Fighting for Crash Victims With Back and Neck Injuries
If you’re living with severe back pain and a herniated disc after a crash, it’s time to contact Crosley Law. Our lawyers have handled a wide variety of back injury claims, including cases involving permanent injuries, herniated discs, and failed surgeries.
We work with people in San Antonio and Texas, helping them get the settlement or jury award they deserve. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation or learn more about our track record of success, contact our office today. You can call Crosley Law at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our brief contact form.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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