Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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.

LEVEL 1:

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.

 

LEVEL 2:

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.

 

LEVEL 3:

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.

  • $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.

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?

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.

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

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

maryland auto accident lawyerBecoming the victim of an auto accident can have a profound effect on your life. Even though an accident can happen in the span of a few seconds, it can cause death or injuries and hardships that last months, years, or a lifetime. With that in mind, victims of auto accidents should seek an attorney to ensure that they are compensated for their injuries and/or losses. However, not every attorney is qualified to handle every case. Clients should ensure that they receive the representation that they deserve.

Here are five things to consider when hiring a Maryland car accident attorney:

History of Results

Uber accident injury
Uber and Lyft are the new on-demand transportation (or “rideshare”) companies that have revolutionized the for-hire and taxi transportation business in the last few years. Users download the Uber or Lyft app to their mobile phone and set up an account with a credit card for payment.  Once set up, users can request a ride pickup from their phone to which nearby Uber or Lyft drivers in the area respond. The apps allow riders to track the driver and process payment electronically.

Lyft and Uber are relatively new companies, but they have exploded in popularity over the last 5 years. My sister is in Kenya right now, and she is traveling around by Uber. Lyft, Uber’s kid brother, is about to go public and make their founders and estimated $9.4 bazillion.  Car accidents involving Lyft or Uber drivers are becoming more and more common, and these cars flood our roads.

Claims Against Lyft or Uber

Knee dislocations are relatively rare in automobile accidents.  But we have seen several of them recently, so I’m writing today about these injuries and to give you some idea of the potential settlement value of these claims.  If you are trying to find the general settlement value of knee injury cases, we provide statistics and verdicts for you elsewhere.

Knee Dislocations in Car Accidents

knee dislocation valuesKnee dislocations are technically a dislocation of the patella. Our lawyers have seen a lot of these cases.  Our knees are in a grove at the end of our thigh bones.  This allows the kneecap to slide back and forth.  When our clients have a knee dislocation, what we see is the kneecap is completely out of the knee’s grove.  You can see it off to the side of the bone. If it is just partially out and perched on the edge, that is a subluxation or partially dislocated knee.

I just hung up with an adjuster from Erie after a settlement call.  It is difficult to settle a personal injury claim with an adjuster who does not — or pretends not to — understand the law.

One thing I can say about Erie is that the Erie adjusters—particularly in larger cases—are pretty sophisticated. Agree or disagree with them, they are usually very sharp. Their defense lawyers—Erie relies on Rollins Smalkin a lot in the Baltimore area and McCarthy Wilson throughout much of the rest of Maryland—are very competent and easy to deal with on personal injury claims. So when I see an Erie defendant, I expect a worthy but reasonable adversary.

Continue reading

I have long said it is an open question under Maryland law whether you are required to give a recorded statement to your own insurance company if you are making an uninsured motorist claim even if the insurance contract obligates you to do so.

The theory is that Maryland has a statutory scheme that preempts any such contractual obligation imposed by the contract.  I didn’t make this up, I stole it from Janquitto’s book on Maryland insurance law.  (You should own if you are a lawyer handling auto tort cases in Maryland.)

I’m not sure whether this argument was advanced in Dolan v. Kemper, a new Maryland Court of Special Appeals case decided last week.  But if it was, the CSA shut the door on it.

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