A Jury Verdict Research report found that over the last ten years, the national median award at trial in personal injury cases for a vertebra fracture is $112,537. Almost two-thirds of the cases in the study were motor vehicle accidents, which is the leading cause of spinal injuries in this country. Our lawyers have seen a lot of these spinal cord injuries, particularly from motorcycle accidents. Not surprisingly, the median award for multiple vertebrae fractures is almost double the single vertebra amount, $207,000.
When I first read this report, I assumed these vertebral fracture numbers were low because they excluded cases where there was a spinal cord or head injury. But apparently, 7.5% of the verdicts were in excess of $2,500,000, which means they have to include vertebrae fractures where the spinal cord was implicated or there was an accompanying head injury.
Because of the proximity of the vertebrae to the spinal column, and because of the weight-bearing implications of a vertebra injury, I assumed this number would be much higher, but there must be more minor fractures to vertebrae without significant injury to the spinal cord than I realized.
Examples of Fractured Vertebrae Cases
Here are some sample verdicts over the last four years from around the country with as many cases in Maryland as I could find. These alone cannot tell you the value of your case. But used with other resources, it helps you to appreciate the most likely range of outcomes for your claim.
- 2020: California: $21,513,000 Verdict—A farmworker suffered a cervical spine fracture after a vehicle rear-ended the van that he was a passenger in. He went to the hospital, where doctors performed cervical fusion surgery on him. Despite the surgery, he was now partially quadriplegic and used a wheelchair. His neurosurgeon testified that he was wheelchair-bound for life. The jury awarded the man $21,513,000. Unlike many states including Maryland, California does not have a cap on non-economic damages, a fact that we become clear in the next two cases. That said, I’m sure the medical bills were extremely high and his future medical care needs certainly run in the millions.
- 2020: California: $4,875,000 Settlement—A retiree suffered vertebrae fractures at T7, L2, L3, L4, and L5 after a vehicle struck his head-on at an intersection. He also suffered sternum, left ulna, right ilium, and rib fractures. The man underwent multiple surgeries to repair these injuries. He was hospitalized for over 170 days. His counsel contended that he could no longer walk on his own and needed round-the-clock care for life. The case settled for $4,875,000.
- 2020: California: $5,500,000 Verdict – A nursing home resident suffered multiple injuries after a fall. Nursing home Staff was escorting her to an activity right before she fell. She suffered a C1 vertebrae fracture, head trauma, a mild traumatic brain injury. The elderly woman was not a candidate for neck surgery because of her age. She wore a collar for three months instead. She also underwent physical and occupational therapy. Her daughter sued the facility for negligence, seeking recovery for past and future pain and suffering. The jury awarded a $5,500,000 verdict.
- 2020: New York: $2,195,000 Settlement – A sprinkler installer was working at a renovation site. He fell 11 feet through an opening in the building’s ground floor, landing in the building’s basement. He suffered fractures to his vertebrae, his jaw, his eye socket, and both his wrists. The man also suffered a brachial plexus injury. He visited two separate hospitals right after his fall. At the second hospital, the staff gave him painkillers but did not treat his spinal fractures. He was hospitalized for nine days. He was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitative facility, where he received physical therapy. Upon being discharged, he underwent outpatient physical therapy courses. He testified that his spinal cord injury left him with a weakened right arm and residual neck and back pain. The man underwent spinal nerve-transplant surgery to treat his weakened arm, but it was unsuccessful. He no longer worked as a sprinkler installer but worked as a chef instead. The case settled for $2,195,000.
- 2020: New Jersey: $400,000 Settlement – A woman suffered pelvic and back injuries after an SUV sideswiped her sedan. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where staff diagnosed her with L2-3 and L-4 disc herniations, L2 and L3 fractures, and pelvic fractures. She was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, where she received physical and occupational therapy for two weeks. The woman testified that her injuries decreased her strength and mobility from the motor vehicle accident. Her balance was also impaired. Her orthopedic surgeon recommended decompression and intervertebral disc fusion surgery. She had not undergone surgery at the time of settlement. The parties negotiated a $400,000 pretrial settlement.
- 2019: Maryland: $475,000 Verdict – This case involved three vehicles. A vehicle rear-ended another vehicle while they were at an intersection in Harford County. The impact forced the other vehicle into a head-on collision with a 70-year-old man’s vehicle, causing it to go airborne and land in a field. The man suffered a cervical fracture to his C-5 vertebra, a clavicle fracture, a facial laceration, rib fractures, and a punctured lung. He was also later diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The man was hospitalized for three days following the car accident. He received a neck brace. His doctors noted that little intervention was available because of his injuries. Over several months, his injuries resolved. He did not attend physical therapy but had periodic checkups while he wore the brace. After three months, doctors removed it. He received no further treatment. The man testified that he experienced constant neck pain and difficulties turning his head to the left. He received a $475,000 jury verdict.
- 2019: Maryland: $309,276 Verdict – A dump truck rear-ended a real estate investor’s vehicle. The collision’s impact forced his vehicle into the vehicle in front of him. This motor vehicle accident involved a total of five cars. An ambulance took the real estate investor to the hospital, where staff diagnosed him with rib fractures, a displaced sternum fracture, and multiple thoracic fractures. They also diagnosed him with thoracic spondylosis, thoracic compression fracture pain, and chronic neuropathic pain. The man eventually underwent open reduction surgery to his sternum. He also underwent physical therapy. His medical experts testified that he suffered permanent injuries and could no longer work as a real estate investor. The Montgomery County jury awarded him $309,276.
- 2019: Maryland: $379,975 Verdict – A married couple was involved in a head-on collision car accident. The wife suffered T11 and T12 fractures. She also suffered an annular tear to her C6-7. The woman sought physical therapy for about a year and also received a pain injection to her spine. She sought no further treatment. In court, she testified that her permanent back pain affects her daily activities. Her husband suffered soft-tissue shoulder injuries. He sought only physical therapy for about seven months. He testified that his shoulder injury affected his daily activities. St. Mary’s County jury awarded the woman $300,270.26 and her husband $79,704.28. However, the liability policy limit capped her damages to $250,000. (I’m assuming it was an uninsured motorist policy behind the claim. The policy limit would not impede the collection of the full verdict under Maryland’s bad faith law. )
- 2017: New Jersey: $525,057 Verdict – A New Jersey man was sideswiped by a car executing an illegal u-turn. He suffered vertebral column breaks at C5-C-6.
- 2016: Washington: $2,700,000 Verdict – A 24-year-old avid cyclist approached an intersection in which the “Don’t Walk” signal for pedestrians was illuminated. When the signal changed, the man crossed the median he as hit by a semi-truck. He fractured 10 vertebrae, had 9 fractured ribs, and fractured his hip and pelvis.
- 2016: Georgia: $739,500 Verdict – A female retired anesthesiologist was driving down the highway when a driver trying to merge with traffic hit her vehicle, forcing her into a concrete median wall. She suffered cervical fractures and a bilateral jump facet injury which required fusion surgery from C3 to T2.
- 2014, Pennsylvania: $490,000 Verdict – A Philadelphia plaintiff was arrested after a bar fight and placed in the back of a police car. He claimed that the officers then drove around erratically after failing to restrain him properly. He brought legal action against the city after he suffered three fractured vertebrae, claiming that the erratic drive resulted in the injury. The defendant argued that the injuries actually occurred from the plaintiff banging his head against a holding cell door while intoxicated. The plaintiff could return to his construction position. Eventually, the defendant settled for $490,000.
- 2010, Maryland: $10,500 Verdict – The plaintiff was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by a dump truck. As the plaintiff’s car slowed for a yellow light, the defendant failed to observe the changing light. She suffered five fractured vertebrae and sought $10,500. The defendant alleged that the injuries from the truck accident were minor and that she recovered to her pre-accident status. Plus, she had sustained back injuries in the past. The jury awarded a $10,500 verdict.
- 2009, Maryland: $45,000 Settlement – While the plaintiff was driving, a tractor-trailer ran her off the road and into a median. She sustained two fractured vertebrae and had to be transported to a local hospital via ambulance. She pursued a claim against her uninsured motorist carrier and settled for $45,000.
- 2009, Pennsylvania: $87,035 Verdict – The plaintiff was driving in a car on a two-lane road when the defendant crossed the center line, hitting the car head-on. The crash resulted in a fractured vertebra, prompting the plaintiff to sue the other driver. The jury awarded her $87,035.
- 2010, Massachusetts: $600,000 Settlement – While the plaintiff was in the hospital, a nurse attempted to change the sheets on her bed. During the process, she caused the plaintiff to fall out of the bed, which fractured two of her vertebrae. She had to undergo corrective surgery, which then resulted in an infection and subsequent surgery. The parties settled for $600,000.
- 2014, Florida: $250,087 Verdict – The plaintiff was shopping in a Dollar General store when she slipped on spilled detergent. A child had caused the spill several minutes prior to the plaintiff’s fall. She was a 68-year-old woman who suffered broken vertebrae. The jury awarded her $250,087.
A burst fracture is one of the most challenging vertebra injuries we see. These are most commonly seen at L1 or T9-L5. A burst fracture is a serious injury in which the vertebral body appears to be exploded. The burst injury mechanism involves the failure of the end-plate causing the nucleus to force into the vertebra, causing it to burst with an outward displacement of fragments. The bone is compressed and splintered. It is created by a load or a force being applied to the spine which causes the bone to compress and then expand, causing the bone to be propelled back into the spinal cord. It is usually an awful injury that causes severe pain and bleeding, leaving the victim unable to walk immediately after the injury. This injury often requires immediate neurosurgery. Burst fractures will typically have higher average settlements than other compression fracture cases.
With a crush fracture, instead of a bone-breaking across, you can see a sharp line representing the break in the bone continuity. The bone just collapses, as if crushed from pressure. This injury sounds awful. But it is usually a mechanically stable fracture unlikely to undergo more changes that could lead to a greater injury. This spinal fracture is more common in elderly patients, but you also see crush fractures in motor vehicle accidents.
A wedge fracture is the most common compression fracture. It reduces the height of the anterior portion of the vertebral body. Basically, the upper and lower surfaces just rotate downward and compress the anterior portion. The impacted vertebra looks like a wedge, thus the name.
The treatment depends on the scope of the injury. If the reduction in height is modest – between 10-30% – the treatment is bed rest along with hyperextension for about a week. This is followed by bracing and then physical therapy. If the height loss is between 30-50%, traction is typically recommended, followed by bracing and then physical therapy. If the loss of height is over 50%, surgery is often required to provide lasting stability to the victim’s spinal column.
Getting Help with Your Case
Our personal injury attorneys are in Maryland. Our firm handles these kinds of cases all over the country. My number is at the top of the page. You can call me or fill out a contact form. We will do everything we can to help you and, if you hire us, to maximize the value of your claim.