How Much Is a Fair Herniated Disc Settlement in Georgia?

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Herniated discs are very common injuries that can result from a car accident, nursing home neglect, or even a slip and fall. It doesn’t always take much to cause a spinal disc to tear; even low-speed collisions can lead to significant pain.
 
Yet despite how common they are, herniated disc injuries can be notoriously difficult to value in a personal injury case. The size of the accident settlement or jury verdict can vary drastically due to many different factors, including the severity of your symptoms, how much the injury affects your life, and even whether you can convincingly tie your symptoms to the crash itself.
 
What Is a Herniated Disc?
 
We’ll start with a quick, basic anatomy lesson.
 
Your spine consists of a series of bones called vertebrae, stacked in a column. Between each adjacent pair of vertebrae, you’ll find a spinal disc (also known as an intervertebral disc). These discs are designed to be strong yet flexible, and serve several important roles, including:
  • Holding the vertebrae together
  • Allowing the spine to flex and move
  • Acting as shock absorbers to protect the vertebrae and spinal cord from serious injuries.

Discs have a gel-like center contained by a tougher exterior made from cartilage. A herniated disc occurs when this outside layer tears, rips, or weakens, allowing the inner portion to bulge outward.

When a disc bulges, it can press on the spine’s sensitive nerve roots or the spinal cord. This can cause severe and even permanent damage.

Most herniated discs occur in either the lumbar spine (low back) or cervical (neck and upper back) spine. Thoracic herniations, which are located in the mid-back are relatively rare—but they are possible.

Common Symptoms and Complications

While some people experience no symptoms whatsoever from a herniated disc, others may experience:

  • Moderate to severe pain, often in the neck or the lower back, arms, shoulders, buttocks, thighs, and calves. Pain is often concentrated more on one side of the body than the other, although this is not always the case.
  • Numbness, tingling, or even muscle weakness. This is due to the herniated disc pressing on sensory and motor nerves. If muscle weakness is present, you may find it difficult to maintain your balance, hold objects, or perform certain tasks.

It’s important to understand that herniated disc symptoms can develop gradually, over periods of weeks or longer. If you have any discomfort in your neck or back, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Sometimes, those “minor aches and pains” are early signs of a more serious injury. (And even if you just have a mild case of whiplash, your doctors can prescribe medications and document your injuries.)

Untreated bulging discs may eventually lead to progressive loss of sensation, bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, or in extreme cases permanent muscle weakness or paralysis.

Callout: If you are experiencing severe pain, bladder or bowel issues, or a drop foot, please seek medical care right away. These symptoms might be signs of a severe injury and you might need emergency surgery to avoid permanent damage.

How Car Crashes Cause Herniated Discs

Discs are designed to absorb impact shocks and protect the sensitive bones and nerves that make up the spine. However, they are not invincible—and years of wear and tear can sometimes make them vulnerable.

During a high-impact event like a car accident, your body endures many forces, including acceleration and deceleration. This trauma can damage your spinal discs, nerves, vertebrae, and the back’s soft tissues.

Factors That Can Influence Your Claim’s Settlement Value

Since there is a massive disparity in what herniated disc cases can be worth—all the way from a few thousand dollars to seven figures—giving a simple average or median isn’t particularly helpful.

Instead, we can look at some of the most important factors to consider when calculating a potential settlement amount.

  • Current (and estimated future) medical bills. Herniated discs are typically diagnosed with an MRI, and sometimes other diagnostic tests are needed. Most symptomatic cases require treatments to help with the pain, such as steroid injections. More severe cases may require physical therapy, or even back surgery. Potential procedures include removing the bulging portion of the disc, fusion surgery, or artificial disc replacement.
  • Lost wages. If your herniated disc forces you to miss work, you can claim your lost wages, as well as reduced future wage-earning potential.
  • Pain and suffering. The costs of a herniated disc aren’t only measured in terms of bills and lost wages. Physical pain, emotional anguish, increased stress, inability to enjoy your favorite activities, and other factors that affect your quality of life can also increase the value of your personal injury claim.
  • Punitive damages. If the at-fault party behaved maliciously or especially recklessly (for example, drunk drivers), you may be able to recover punitive damages. These are meant not to compensate you for losses, but to punish the perpetrator.
  • Insurance policy limits. In Georgia, individual motorists only have to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage per person (and $50,000 per incident if more than one person is injured). If the at-fault driver is uninsured, or their insurance isn’t enough to cover your damages, you may also need to make a claim to your own insurance company via your uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage (UI/UIM). If the at-fault driver has no insurance and few assets, and you do not have your own UI/UIM coverage, the unfortunate reality is that there may be little you can recover.

Factors That Can Complicate Your Herniated Disc Claim

Herniated disc cases are often complex, and proving liability can sometimes be challenging. While it’s not hard to diagnose the condition, conclusively tying it to the crash isn’t always straightforward.

Insurance companies, unfortunately, will try to take full advantage of any uncertainties or gray areas in an attempt to deny or minimize your claim.

Some specific challenges you could be facing include:

Delayed or Intermittent Symptoms

While most accident-related disc herniations do produce noticeable pain immediately (or within a few hours or days of the incident), sometimes symptoms don’t become noticeable or severe for weeks afterward.

The later the onset, the harder it may be to prove the herniation was caused by the accident—especially if medical records show that you didn’t seek medical treatment soon after the incident.

Age and Medical History

Herniated discs are very common in adults over 40 to 50 years of age, and often completely asymptomatic. Furthermore, while car crashes are a frequent cause of herniated discs, they can also be caused by much more benign actions like lifting, twisting, or just degeneration over time from wear and tear. So simply diagnosing a herniated disc on an MRI isn’t necessarily proof that it was caused by the crash.

The insurance company may try to argue that you are trying to take advantage of the crash to receive compensation for a previously existing injury, or an injury that occurred after the crash that was unrelated to it. You may need to back up your claim with strong evidence that the crash was directly responsible for either a new injury, or a significant increase in symptoms.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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