Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

What is the median verdict and settlement value of shoulder surgery lawsuits? shoulder surgery verdicts settlements. The average settlement/verdict in Washington D.C. is $59,500. Maryland is less than half that: $42,636. The average settlement/verdict in a shoulder surgery case in Virginia is $60,000.

Our law firm has handled many shoulder surgery cases from the trauma of a car or truck accident.  These statistics are not very helpful in figuring out the settlement value of your shoulder injury case.  Why?   Because the settlements and verdicts in these cases are all over the map.

An “average” shoulder injury verdict tells you nothing about your case.  Also, liability and insurance matter.  So if it is a medical malpractice or premises liability case with iffy liability, you can’t compare that to a rear-end motorcycle accident case.

This post is supposed to be about a New Jersey Supreme Court decision on whether expert testimony for the admission of photographs of car or truck damage as probative to a plaintiff’s damages/injuries.

But I’m hijacking this post.  Because people see to want to know how to get a property damage photograph into evidence and the questions you have to answer this witness.  How do I know?  I saw it in our traffic analytics.  I’m not sure why that made sense but I want to give people what they want. So here we go:

How to Admit Photograph of Property Damage Pictures

Q: Are you familiar with this photograph?

A: Yes, I am.

Q: Can you describe what is shown in the photograph?

A: It shows the property damage picture to my vehicle after the crash.

Q: Was this photograph taken by you or someone you know?

A: I took the picture.

Q: Is this picture of your vehicle after the crash a true and accurate representation of you vehicle after the car crash with David Johnson on March 1, 2023

A: Yes.

Q: Is this photograph a fair and accurate depiction of what you saw at the time?

A: Yes, it is.

Q: Does this photograph accurately represent the scene as you recall it?

A: Yes, it does.

Q: Did you alter or manipulate this photograph in any way (2023 question we ask)?

A: No, I have not.

Q: Is this photograph a true and accurate representation of what it purports to depict?

A: Yes, it is.

Q: Your Honor, I would like to offer this photograph Exhibit A. We have established the foundation for its authenticity through the testimony of Mr. Davis, who took the photograph and can identify what is depicted in it. We ask that the photograph be admitted into evidence and made part of the record.”

Brenman v. Demellon

In Brenman v. Demellon, is a New Jersey Supreme Court decision on whether expert testimony for the admission of photographs of car or truck damage as probative to a plaintiff’s damages/injuries.

Simple facts:  the Plaintiff was driving in stop-and-go traffic when she was rear-ended by the Defendant. The Plaintiff allegedly suffered a herniated cervical disc requiring cervical fusion.


At trial, the Defendant sought to introduce photographs showing minimal damage to the rear bumper of Plaintiff’s car to contend that the Plaintiff could not have suffered a herniated disc in this accident given the property damage to the vehicles. Plaintiff filed a motion in limine seeking to bar the admission of the photographs absent expert proof to connect the condition depicted in the photographs to the biomechanical forces that resulted from the impact between the two cars.

The trial court admitted the photographs, specifically concluding that “[j]urors can infer from their viewing photographs that the plaintiff could not have been as seriously injured as she claimed” and noted they should leave this question to the discretion of the trial court.

Zero Damages

After an award of zero damages, the Plaintiff appealed, I’m sure with bitterness. The Appellate Division (New Jersey’s intermediate appellate court) reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, adopting a per se rule that requires expert testimony to prove a causal link between the extent of damage to an automobile in an accident and the cause or extent of injuries arising from that accident consistent with Delaware law in Davis v. Maute, 770 A.2d 36 (Del. 2001).

In that case, the Supreme Court of Delaware held that: (1) as a general rule, a party in an automobile accident case may not directly argue the relationship between the damage to the vehicles in the car accident and the extent of Plaintiff’s injuries caused by the accident absent expert testimony on the issue; (2) lawyers may not argue by implication what the lawyer could not argue indirectly, i.e., they may not characterize the accident as a fender-bender or otherwise downplay the seriousness of the accident; and (3) the lower court erred in admitting the photographs of the Plaintiff’s car without a specific instruction limiting the jury’s use of the photographs.

Bumper tap lawyers love Davis v. Maute because they want to keep out photographs of the crash because you want to say what is important is what happened inside the vehicle.  If you have a serous accident case with serious property damage, you want those pictures into evidence.

Supreme Court Reverses

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the admissibility of photographs of the vehicles rests on whether the photograph fairly and accurately depicts what it purports to represent and that this decision rests in the discretion of the trial court. The New Jersey Supreme Court specifically rejected a per se rule requiring expert testimony as a foundation for the admissibility of a photograph of a vehicle even when the photograph is used to show a correlation between the damage to the vehicle and the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries. There was, however, a dissenting opinion that urged a per se rule requiring expert testimony before the admission of property damage photos.

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The most common question I get from friends and acquaintances is whether you can sue if you are not injured in a car accident?   The answer is yes, but with caveats.

Most auto accidents do not result in any physical injuries (75% according to the NHTSA). Even when your vehicle is the only thing that is damaged, you can still file a lawsuit after an auto accident if you were not at fault. This is what is known as a “property damage” auto accident lawsuit. If you file a property damage auto tort case, you can get compensation for the full cost of any damage to your vehicle.

Can I Still Sue If I'm Not Insured in the Auto Accident?

Let’s set aside the property damage because I address that below. The question here is do you have pain and suffering in a car accident where you either had no physical injuries or did not seek medical treatment?

Valuing car accident cases for settlement in Maryland is a challenge. The most important thing is the severity of the injuries.

That is probably all that should matter. But many more variables drive how much money the insurance company will offer to settle an injury claim before a lawsuit is filed. This is a list of 14 factors that really matter in determining the settlement value of any auto collision injury claim:

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I dislike trying personal injury cases with high-low agreements that contain the size of the verdict. If you will force us to take the case to trial, I would prefer the chance of the upside. My gut-level reaction is no deal.

But the problem with this bravado is clients. Our law firm has a decent volume of personal injury cases, which means our lawyers can spread the risk of the possibility of an unacceptable outcome at trial. Clients have just one case, so their risk calculus is very different. An added force of inertia for high-low agreements that makes the numbers more reasonable for injury victims is that insurance companies want to limit the possibility of a verdict exceeding the policy limits. Continue reading

Let me start off by saying I’m generally skeptical of the benefits of an accident reconstructionist as an expert witness in most car accident cases.accident reconstruction

Why?  Generally, I think in most liability dispute cases, jurors feel like they have all the information to make the call. Jurors think they understand basic physics and who is telling the truth and rarely look for help from an accident reconstructionist.  We had a young lawyer trying his first case against a big law firm in a liability dispute case. The defendants hired one of the best accident reconstructionists in Maryland. Our client barely spoke English. We did not bring an expert. But we won because the jury heard the facts and believed our client.

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In a personal injury lawsuit, the amount of money you receive for your injuries is determined by calculating your damages. The idea behind damages in a personal injury case is to make the victim “whole” or restore them to the position they were in before the accident.

The legal concept of damages is broad and it includes costs and expenses that have already been incurred (e.g., medical bills from last month) as well as costs and expenses that will be incurred in the future (e.g., the cost of surgery you will need in three months). These two types of damages are often referred to as “past” and “future” damages.

Past damages, such as prior medical expenses and lost wages, are usually very simple to calculate. Future damages, however, can be much more complicated. Future damages must be supported by opinions from qualified experts, and they often get disputed by the defense. In this post, we will look at the process of estimating and supporting claims for future damages in personal injury cases.

In this post, we will look at personal injury cases in which the plaintiff is seeking compensation for an injury requiring spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion is a common treatment method for certain types of back injuries. When a plaintiff with a back injury undergoes spinal fusion surgery, it can greatly increase the compensation payout in their lawsuit.

Back Injuries in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Injuries to the back are exceedingly common in personal injury lawsuits, especially auto accident cases. Back injuries in tort cases can be grouped into 3 categories or levels based on the general severity of the injury.

LEVEL 1 Level 1 back injuries are the least serious and generally involve soft tissue damage with no permanent impairment. The most common Level 1 back injuries in auto accident cases are whiplash and back sprains.


LEVEL 2 Level 2 back injuries are more serious and usually require more extensive medical treatment. Common Level 2 back injuries include things like disc herniation and pinched nerves. Level 2 injuries can sometimes involve permanent impairment.


LEVEL 3 Level 3 back injuries are the most severe and can often result in permanent impairment or disability. Spinal fractures and dislocated vertebrae are examples of Level 3 back injuries. These usually only occur in high-speed accidents.


Settlement Payouts in Back Injury Cases

The settlement payout for a back injury in an auto accident case is largely dependent on the level of injury and the level of medical treatment it requires. The more extensive the plaintiff’s medical treatment for a back injury, the more financial compensation they will be entitled to in a lawsuit. Just like back injuries fall into levels of severity, treatment options for back injuries can also be grouped into 3 levels.


Medication & Therapy

The first level of treatment for almost any back injury is always some type of anti-inflammatory medication for pain management combined with physical therapy.



Steroid Injections

When pain medication and therapy do not eliminate the chronic pain of a back injury, the next level of medical treatment is epidural steroid injections. The injection of steroids into the epidural space of the spine can reduce inflammation and thereby alleviate pain.



Spinal Fusion Surgery

If the first 2 levels of treatment are not successful, the third and final level of treatment for chronic pain related to a back injury is spinal fusion surgery.

back injury compensation payouts

What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal fusion is a type of back surgery that is utilized in the treatment of chronic pain from back injuries or degenerative conditions. In spinal fusion, vertebrae bones in the spine are surgically fused or joined together to form a single bone. Fusion of the vertebrae bones helps to reduce back pain by preventing the bones from moving independently.

Fusing the bones together is highly effective at eliminating back pain because it eliminates movement and pinching of adjacent nerves that are the source of the pain. The independent motion of the vertebrae bones is usually the primary source of pain related to back injuries. Fusion surgery seeks to eliminate this by immobilizing the bones.

Spinal fusion surgery is only an option when pain is being caused by the movement of the vertebrae bones and the source of the pain is known. Common accident-related back injuries that can be treated with spinal fusion include pinched nerves, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and others.

Impact of Spinal Fusion Surgery on Compensation Payout

Reimbursement for medical expenses is always a major component of money damages in a personal injury case. This means that the more medical treatment and procedures a plaintiff undergoes, the more damages they will be entitled to. Whenever a plaintiff undergoes surgery it will significantly increase the amount of their medical damages because surgical procedures are very expensive. This is particularly true in back injury cases involving spinal fusion surgery.

When a plaintiff in a back injury case undergoes spinal fusion surgery as part of their treatment, it will usually double or triple the potential settlement payout value of their case. Spinal fusion surgery is expensive, so it will significantly increase the amount of medical expenses in the case.

The other reason spinal fusion surgery can boost the settlement value of a back injury case is that undergoing a surgical procedure automatically tends to validate the validity of the plaintiff’s pain & suffering claims. When the plaintiff only undergoes Level 1 or Level 2 treatment for a back injury, insurance adjusters and jurors tend to be more dismissive of pain & suffering allegations. When a plaintiff’s injury requires fusion surgery, however, the injury and resulting pain are viewed much differently and given more credit.

spinal fusion settlement value

Verdicts & Settlements: Spinal Fusion Cases

Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements in recent cases in which the plaintiff received compensation after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

  • $43,131 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2022): vehicle accident caused plaintiff to suffer cervical disc injury which eventually required vertebra fusion surgery to treat.
  • $580,923 Verdict (Wisconsin 2022): left turn accident involving a postal truck alleged caused C5-C6 disc damage which required discetomy and spinal fusion surgery with placement of a titanium plant and screws.
  • $695,000 Settlement (Washington 2021): in addition to knee injury, plaintiff suffered back injury from collision which was initially treated with steroid injections and eventually with two-level spinal fusion surgery
  • $100,000 Settlement (New York 2021): 14-year-old plaintiff suffered numerous injuries including back injuries that required spinal fusion surgery.
  • $1,135,346 Verdict (Washington 2020): middle-aged woman received $1.1 for back injuries requiring spinal fusion surgery and for traumatic brain injury in a multi-car accident on the highway.
  • $700,000 Settlement (California 2020): side-impact collision resulted in rib fractures, disc herniations, and spinal stenosis required spinal injections and eventually fusion surgery.
  • $1,250,000 Settlement (California 2020): sternum fracture, lumbar herniation, cervical herniation, and shoulder impingements required injections and double spinal fusion surgery.
  • $1,051,800 Verdict (Georgia 2020): mid-level injuries to the neck and back from rear-end accident required cervical discectomy and spinal fusion surgery.
  • $2,300,000 Settlement (Florida 2019): 52-year old man underwent cervical and lumbar spinal fusion surgery to treat injuries to his lower back and neck which left him unable to work.
  • $270,000 Settlement (Wisconsin 2019): middle-aged female suffered herniated discs in cervical spine and underwent extensive treatment including two-level cervical spinal fusion surgery.

How much money can you get from a spinal fusion surgery lawsuit settlement?

The average settlement money for a spinal fusion surgery lawsuit is between $150,000 and $200,000. The actual value of many cases may be limited the limits of the defendant’s liability insurance.

Will spinal fusion surgery increase my settlement?

Yes. Surgery will always increase the amount of a personal injury settlement because medical expenses are a main component of damages. In back injury cases, spinal fusion also adds validity to pain and suffering claims.

Is spinal fusion surgery effective?

Spinal fusion surgery is highly effective for certain types of back injuries, but it may be less effective for other types of injuries or conditions.

How long is the recovery time after spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion surgery has a relatively long post-surgical recovery period. It can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks before normal movement and function is possible.

Can you mess up a spinal fusion?

Yes. The fusion between vertebrae bones can be broken or damaged after the surgery. This can result from another injury or from chronic conditions and other things.

In Berry v. Queen the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the cost of getting a rental car must be covered under the uninsured motorist component of auto insurance policies. This is a significant decision that will impact any Maryland drivers who get in an accident with an uninsured driver.  For the first time, we have a clear ruling that uninsured motorist coverage requires the insurance company to provide a rental car.

What Were the Facts in Berry v. Queen?

This was actually two cases involving the same issue that were consolidated for purposes of the opinion on appeal. The underlying facts of the cases had no real impact on the court’s analysis or decision, but they are worth a brief overview.  They both involve State Farm. We have had to battle State Farm many times to get our clients’ a rental car. So it is fitting these are State Farm cases.

Case 1

Do you want to make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer?  I believe car crash injury victims are always better off hiring a lawyer for many reasons not worth fully exploring here (but I do here) even in soft tissue muscle, tendon, and ligament injury cases.

Why You May Not Want a Car Accident Attorney

But attorneys’ fees are a lot of money, usually taking one-third of your recovery. If there is any claim where an injured person can justify proceeding without a personal injury attorney, it is in the classic neck or back soft tissue/whiplash injury traffic collision case with pain and suffering but clearly no permanency. My belief has always been that the benefit of an experienced Maryland car accident attorney can bring to a case is proportionate to the severity of the injury. If you have a permanent injury, you are foolish if you don’t hire a lawyer. (I wouldn’t handle my own case, either. Because that is also an awful idea.)

A quality car crash attorney in serious injury and death cases will statistically get the injured party a lot more money.  I’m talking about the money that put in your pocket.  The same is probably true in tendon strain neck/back injury cases, too. But car accident lawyers cannot run from the fact that the difference is much less significant in smaller cases. 

Some people just prefer the path where lawyers are not taking money away from their settlement. So be it. As long as you understand you run a risk just like you run a risk when you try to install your own bathroom floor, just typically with a lot more money at stake. Continue reading

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