Although they can vary widely in severity, spinal fractures are frequently serious injuries. While some fractures heal completely with only conservative care, others can lead to multiple surgeries, severe chronic pain, digestive or breathing issues, or in rare cases, even paralysis.
Because of the potential for expensive long-term care—and the fact that there are frequently additional injuries resulting from the same incident—spinal fracture settlements are often significant. Assuming the insurance coverage is sufficient, we typically see these cases settle for 6 to 7 figures.
However, you can’t assume that you’ll get a fair settlement from the insurance company, just because you suffered a spinal fracture in an incident that wasn’t your fault. The long-term effects from a spinal injury can be difficult to project, especially soon after an accident. Meanwhile, the insurance adjusters will be looking to settle quickly and as inexpensively as possible, often before the full physical and mental consequences of your injuries are understood.
The best way to increase your chances of obtaining a fair settlement or favorable verdict at trial is to hire a personal injury attorney experienced in dealing with spinal injury cases. At Crosley Law, we use a combination of expert witnesses, the latest medical testing and research, and sophisticated legal strategies to fight for what our clients deserve.
What Is a Spinal Compression Fracture?
Most spinal fractures are compression fractures.
Your spine is made up of a column of several small bones called vertebrae, which protect the spinal cord, support your weight, and give your back strength and flexibility.
When a vertebra is subjected to more downward force or pressure than it can withstand, the main vertebral body of the bone can crack and start to compress. Ordinarily cylindrical in shape, the vertebral body may look more like a wedge after compression. In some compression fracture cases, damaged pieces of bone may start to press on the spinal cord and other nerves.
Car Accidents Are a Top Cause of Compression Fractures
Particularly in the realm of personal injury law, car crashes are by far the most common cause of compression fractures. The sudden, forceful impact of an auto accident can cause devastating spinal injuries even in young, healthy individuals. The incident need not be a high-speed collision; relatively minor, low-speed car crashes can do significant damage, too.
Other types of incidents, such as slip and fall accidents, can also result in spinal compression, particularly in those who have pre-existing back issues such as osteoporosis, cancer, or tumors.
How Are Spinal Compression Fractures Treated?
Treatment options for compression fractures can vary significantly based on the severity of the injury, as well as how your body responds to initial treatments.
Typical conservative treatment measures include rest, pain-relieving medications, and temporary use of a back brace, followed by physical therapy to restore strength and mobility. For mild fractures, it typically takes 2-3 months on average for the bone to heal, and you may still experience painful symptoms for a while after healing.
If the fractures are more severe, or conservative treatments alone aren’t effective, surgery may be necessary. The most common surgical procedures for spinal compression are:
- Vertebroplasty. Bone cement is injected into the fractured part of the vertebra to reduce pain and harden it against further damage.
- Kyphoplasty. Similar to vertebroplasty, but it also involves inserting a medical balloon into the fracture and inflating it to restore the bone’s original height and shape, then removing it and filling the space with bone cement.
While the goals of treatment are to greatly reduce or eliminate pain and restore you to your previous lifestyle, the reality is that some people do continue to deal with symptoms for extended periods of time even after treatment.
What Is a Spondylolisthesis?
Another common condition caused by spinal fractures is spondylolisthesis. While it’s difficult to say, it’s simple to explain. Sometimes, cracks or fractures in a vertebra will cause it to slip out of alignment, causing severe pain that sometimes runs down your leg or arm.
While you might never notice a minor “grade I” spondylolisthesis, more severe cases can press on your spine’s nerve roots and they often need intensive medical care. This might include physical therapy, pain medications, bracing, injections, and even back surgery (like a decompression or fusion).
What Kind of Settlement Can I Expect After a Spinal Fracture?
Depending on the particulars of the case, a spinal fracture settlement can range from the tens of thousands to several million dollars.
Case Value Examples
Here are a few examples of some of the settlements Crosley Law has earned for clients who suffered spinal fractures.
- $237,500. While riding with her friend, Donna suffered a severe compression fracture in her mid-back that required kyphoplasty after a driver crashed into their motorcycle. Crosley Law recovered a total of $420,000 for both Donna and her friend; Donna’s portion was $237,500. After expenses and fees, the net recovery for both totaled $279,800.
- $750,000. Crosley Law helped Lee recover the maximum amount possible under his insurance coverage after an accident led to multiple spine fractures and other severe injuries. After expenses and fees, his net recovery was $420,801.
- $2,550,000. After being pinned under her vehicle after it was struck by a driver who had fallen asleep, Brandy suffered a thoracic spine fracture, mild traumatic brain injury, and other injuries. After taxes and fees, she recovered a net of $1,605,054.
How Is a Settlement Value Calculated for a Spinal Fracture?
Some of the major factors that go into calculating a settlement amount for back injuries like spinal compression include:
- How much insurance coverage applies to your personal injury claim. Regardless of how much your injury costs you in damage, you cannot recover more than the coverage limits of the applicable insurance policies. In Texas, minimum liability insurance ($30k per injured person, $60k per accident, $25k in property damage) is almost always insufficient for spinal fracture cases, which is why additional forms of coverage (uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection, etc.) is strongly recommended.
- The cost of your medical care. This includes treatments you’ve already received, and any future follow-up treatments or surgeries that are likely to occur based on your injuries.
- Lost wages and future wage-earning capacity. People who are younger as well as those who work in high-earning occupations can often negotiate a larger settlement.
- Pain and suffering. A spinal fracture can lead to significant and permanent reductions in your enjoyment of life, such as preventing you from being able to play with your kids, engage in hobbies you used to enjoy, etc. Your settlement should provide fair compensation for these kinds of losses, too.
- The strength of your legal claims. If there’s any ambiguity about who was at fault in the accident, or other potential weaknesses in your legal case, the insurance company will try to exploit them to reduce the size of your settlement.
- Punitive damages. In cases where the at-fault driver behaved maliciously or with excessive recklessness (such as driving while intoxicated), punitive damages may be added to the settlement or jury verdict to discourage similar behavior in the future.
For a more in-depth explanation of these and other factors, please see our recent blog post: The Average Settlement for Car Accident Back and Neck Injuries.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
Even a so-called “minor” spinal fracture that heals in a matter of months can result in substantial medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If these injuries occurred due to the negligent or reckless behavior of another driver, you deserve to be compensated fairly for these damages.
However, reaching a fair settlement without legal representation can be difficult, for many reasons.
It May Take Time for the Long-Term Effects of Your Back Injury to Reveal Themselves
Back injuries can be notoriously complex, especially if there has been any damage to the spinal cord. It may be several weeks (or more) before you and your doctors have a good idea of whether you’ll need surgery, whether you might need further medical care or revision surgeries later in life, and how long you’ll need to be off work.
What may seem like minor aches and pains at first could end up costing you a lot more time and money than you first imagined. A lawyer who has experience with back injury claims can help you get a clearer picture of what your claim may be worth.
The Insurance Company Will Want to Settle Quickly—But Not for Your Benefit
Insurers know that back injuries can be costly, which is one of many reasons they may pressure you to take an early settlement. Their goal is to minimize their own costs, not to ensure that all your needs will be covered.
Many people who don’t seek legal advice first take the initial settlement, before realizing that it’s far less than what they need—and that, by settling, they have given up their right to seek more compensation later.
Even if you don’t take that settlement, insurance adjusters will often try to get you to admit partial responsibility for the crash, or give other statements that can be used to reduce your settlement amount. Even social media posts you make about the crash might be used against you.
Again, the sooner you retain the services of a personal injury lawyer, the better protected you will be against these insurance company tactics.
The Insurance Company May Dispute Certain Damages
One way that insurances companies try to dodge compensating you for your damages is by claiming that certain tests or treatments were medically unnecessary. However, the precise cause of back injury symptoms can often be notoriously difficult to pinpoint. X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans may be needed to confirm a diagnosis, and doctors often recommend a variety of treatment options (injections, physical therapy, and surgery) to try to address the pain.
The insurance company may also try to argue that your back pain was a pre-existing condition, not related to the accident itself.
It’s important to understand that Texas observes the “eggshell rule” when it comes to personal injury cases, meaning that pre-existing conditions do not reduce an at-fault party’s liability. In other words, even though conditions such as osteoporosis or a previous back injury may have made you more susceptible to suffering a compressed vertebra, they cannot be considered when determining fault or damages from the accident.
You Need to Focus on Your Healing
Dealing with a spinal fracture is painful and stressful all on its own. To give yourself the best chance at a quick and complete recovery, you need to dedicate your mental, emotional, and physical energy on your own health and wellness—and not on learning your legal rights, fighting with claims adjustors, and making sure you don’t miss any critical filing deadlines.
How Crosley Law Can Help
After a back injury following a car crash, selecting the right personal injury attorney can make a huge difference in terms of how much you’re able to receive in compensation.
Remember, the insurance company is going to be prepared to fight with lawyers of their own, and they will be looking for any opportunity to reduce or deny your personal injury claim. If you want to level the playing field, you’ll need experienced, determined, and thorough legal representation of your own
Crosley Law’s personal injury attorneys have extensive trial experience, a network of experts to rely on, and are ready to put in the hard work, including:
- Using sophisticated forensic tactics and dogged determination to investigate and prove the at-fault driver’s negligence, like we did for JT after his back injury from a truck crash.
- Working with doctors, scientists, and other key experts in almost every major field of medicine to accurately determine, explain, and defend your damage claims, even in highly complex cases.
- Securing expert witness testimony to back up your claims in court, as we did for Carol after her car accident.
If you’ve been struggling with a spinal fracture, or any other neck or back injury following a motor vehicle accident, reach out to the team at Crosley Law today for your free consultation. We’d love the opportunity to speak with you and see if our law firm can help. Simply call us 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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