If you suffer a back injury because of someone else’s negligence, you may be in a desperate situation. Bills are mounting, you may be out of work, and your life may have suddenly changed now that you can no longer – do as much or do as well – the daily things that you used to do. That’s why you may be wondering what you can expect as far as compensation when you make a claim against an insurance company or file a lawsuit after suffering a back injury in Illinois.
The first thing to understand is how injuries are evaluated by insurance companies and defendants when they make settlement offers.
Insurance companies don’t just randomly make settlement offers to accident victims. They make their offers based on what amounts they have settled or juries in other trials have awarded claimants who have suffered injuries that are similar to yours.
Of course, every claimant is different, every case is different, and every jury is different. In fact, one jury doesn’t have to follow what another jury awarded, even if two injuries in two different cases are very similar. There is no book or law that dictates “a herniated disc should be paid $175,000.”
This means that over time, looking at averages, insurance companies will look to see what juries normally award for a given type of injury, and the insurance company will likely make you an offer that falls somewhere below that average. Your back injury lawyer in Palatine will have experience in settlements they have negotiated for clients. It is important to also know that there are data services that provide jury verdicts results. An experienced back injury lawyer will have access to these databases. You must remember that whatever a prior jury gave someone else, doesn’t mean that another jury will award the same thing in any other case.
The insurance company or defendant also may look at your conduct in the accident that occurred to see if you have responsibility for your own injuries. If so, they will reduce what they offer in settlement to you accordingly. In other words, if you were hit by a car, but you were drunk and walking in the middle of the highway, even though you may be catastrophically injured, the compensation you can expect will be reduced because of your own conduct.
There are other factors insurance companies and defendants consider, that don’t even have to do with your back. For example, they will ask whether you are a “sympathetic” plaintiff/claimant. In other words, do you seem genuine, are you likable, and will a jury, at trial, if your case ever proceeds to trial, like and relate to you? How has the injury affected you – do you have young kids, or a physical job, where a back injury could significantly alter the course of your life?
The defendant or insurance company will then evaluate what your damages could be at a trial. This is essentially an analysis of your damages, both economic and non-economic.
In a back injury case, you likely have economic damages. These are the types of damages that you can add up.
For example, a medical bill is economic damage. You can look at the bill and tell exactly what your doctors charged. The same is true for lost wages. You can see how many weeks you were out of work because of the accident, and calculating your income, figure out exactly how much in wages you have lost.
Economic damages also include future medical expenses. For example, if your doctor says that you may need follow-up surgery, or your doctor says that you may need to miss 3 weeks of work every year, because of flare-ups in your back condition, these are future damages that the jury will be persuaded to take into consideration.
The defendant and insurance company will also look at non-economic damages. These are damages that you can’t count. These damages do not have bills and there is no exact calculation to measure them.
For example, there is no exact price tag on the amount of pain and suffering your back injury has caused you. There is no exact value to the loss of being able to hold your child, being unable to play your favorite sport, or not being able to go to work every day without pain.
Non-economic damages can include anxiety, depression, PTSD, or the loss of the enjoyment or quality of your life caused by your injury. You may notice that these aren’t necessarily injuries to your back – they are psychological or emotional. That’s okay, the defendant still must compensate you for these damages. For example, your depression after your accident isn’t part of your back. But it may certainly be caused by the limitations you now have, or the financial problems you now face, because of your back injury.
The insurance company will put a value on these non-economic damages, which will be based on what your back injury lawyer in Palatine details and explains to the insurance company about your life (and based on what you say in a deposition, should your lawsuit be filed in court).
The defendant or insurance company will also look at what type of back injury you have. There are a lot of different kinds of back injuries. Some may recover almost completely in time, while others can be permanently debilitating, for the remainder of your life.
Like other parts of your body, the skeletal bones in your spine (called your vertebrae) are connected to each other, and to your musculature, by ligaments and tendons. And, like other parts of your body, those ligaments and tendons can be pulled, stretched, or even tear completely.
When these ligaments pull or stretch, these are called sprains or strains. Although they are sometimes called (in a derogatory way) “whiplash,” in fact these kinds of injuries can be quite serious. It is generally not recommended by a physician to surgically operate on a sprain or strain, and depending on your health, age, and the severity of the sprain or strain, the pain you have may be with you forever.
The vertebrae in your back are flexible, as you can tell because you can bend forward and backward. This happens because the bones aren’t rubbing against each other. There is a jelly-like cushion between each vertebra. These are your discs. In a serious accident, the discs can be pushed out of place, start to bulge or herniate, or even rupture. When that happens, they can push against the nerves in your spinal column.
Budging, herniated, or ruptured discs may need surgery. In other cases, they cannot be repaired surgically (or surgery is not recommended), but with therapy, the pain you feel can be minimized. Pain from disc problems can be very significant, and in serious cases, people can lose function, such as bladder control, if the disc pushes too hard on the wrong area of your spinal cord.
The vertebrae themselves can fracture, as they are bones. A fractured vertebrae can be very debilitating.
Of course, all these injuries are much more preferable to what many consider to be the ultimate back injury: paralysis, which can be fully or partially.
When a vertebra or a disc is pushed so far into the spinal column that the spinal nerves are “cut off” or damaged, you can experience paralysis. The degree of severity will depend on where in your back the injury occurred (upper or lower back). Also, to some degree, how quickly you get medical attention. There is some evidence that quick medical intervention and therapy are correlated with the extent of recovery. Your back injury attorney in Palatine has had a case like this and can help you maximize the amount of money you recover.
If you have some idea what your back injury may be worth after accounting for all of these factors, you then need to account for your age. For example, if the medical evidence says that you will miss a month every year because of flare-ups in your back condition, those lost wages will have to be multiplied by how many working years you have left.
Whatever type of injury you have, the insurance company or defendant will need to see how well or how fully you recover. Everybody claimant’s body is different. The value of your case will be higher, the less that you are able to heal or recover and get your life back to normal (in that case, of course, you would rather get as healthy as possible, even if it means the value of your case goes down). Sometimes, it can take time to see how well you will heal, or how well certain medical procedures help you before your back injury case can be valued.
Remember that the defendant or insurance company is trying to resolve the case by paying as little money as possible. It may take time to get the true value of what you have endured. Your back injury lawyer in Palatine can help you evaluate whether any offer made by the insurance company is fair or not, and what your chances are of getting more-or less-are, are by going forward with your case in court.
Call our back injury attorneys in Palatine at Claim Your Justice to schedule a free consultation at 847-434-3555 to help you with your car or truck accident case.
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