I am often asked what a herniated disc injury is worth. If I tell you $20,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, this does not really answer the question. I will say it all depends, and the client will ask what it depends on. This leads us to the issue of what factors determine case value of a herniated disc case. This is a very complicated question that involves many factors. For instance, a few issues that must be resolved are:
- How many herniated discs do you have? More discs mean more money usually.
- Where are the herniated discs located on the spine?
- How large are the herniated discs? Larger is usually worse.
- What treatment was needed? More medically necessary treatment usually means more pain and suffering.
- Are the discs new or old?
- Did you fully recover? i.e. was your treatment successful?
- How has the injury affected your life physically, emotionally, financially?
- Are the discs extruded? In other words, is the jelly coming out of the donut that is the disc. If so, this extruded disc material can cause major problems with your health as it interferes with nerve roots or the spinal cord itself.
- Is the disc new or old? Sometimes, if there is bone spurring or dehydration / desiccation of the disc, defense counsel will argue the disc is old. This does not mean you do not get compensated, and if true, just means you have an aggravation of a pre-existing disc injury.
In other words, you already had an injury to the disc but the current accident aggravated it. Remember, the defendant must put you back to where you were the day before the accident. If you were not in pain, but now are, he or she has to pay to get you back to where you were, i.e. not in pain. It really does not matter if it is new or not. In fact, old injuries can be harder to heal according to the Mercy Guidelines. Aggravations of prior injuries is one factor listed as to why healing can take longer. So don't be fooled if an adjuster says the disc is old so they won't pay. Only a doctor can determine newness looking at all the factors, and even if it is an old disc, don't be fooled into thinking you do not deserve any compensation for the injury. This is a red herring used by some insurance companies. Remember, they have to pay to get you back to the level of health you were at before the accident.
One factor that comes up a lot is whether you were treating for the pre-existing disc right before the accident. If it was an "actively" treated disc then it is harder to separate out how much additional pain you are suffering, if a new MRI does not show additional damage beyond your original injury. Also, defense counsel will likely argue any additional damage occurred as a natural result of the first disc injury, and unless you have an MRI shot weeks before the current accident, this argument can sway a jury. Your credibility and those of your co-workers and family honestly stating you were not in any pain or the pain is much worse after the current injury in intensity, frequency and duration can go a long way in convincing a jury of the seriousness of your injuries.
The type of medical treatment you need to resolve the symptoms of the disc injury also plays a large part in case value. If you need only minor physical therapy vs injections vs a laminectomy surgery vs a fusion surgery vs multi-level fusion helps to determine case value.
Also, whether you recover from treatment is important. If your surgery fails to stop your pain, then you have a life long injury, and you should be compensated accordingly. If you will live 40 more years, and you arguably deserve $100 + per day for pain and suffering, you can see how this adds up quickly.
Also, if you cannot work as a result of the injury despite the treatment, then you may have a life time lost wages claim, which can be quite large.
These are just a few of the many factors an experienced personal injury lawyer looks at when trying to determine the value of a herniated disc case. No two herniated disc cases are the same, because no injury, treatment, recover, lost wages, etc are the same. This is why you cannot guess what a typical case is worth. You may be able to find out what a typical insurance company will pay for a disc case if you don't have a lawyer. That is easy, usually not that much in my experience.
Adjusters rarely make the same offer to you that they will eventually make to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Why would they? You cannot sue them really by yourself, so why would they give you top dollar? Even after an attorney takes his fee, in my experience, you get more money in your pocket with an aggressive lawyer on a typical herniated disc case. This assumes the lawyer routinely goes to court and fights on these types of cases, and doesn't just take what the insurance company offers from the start. Anybody can do that. Even you.