Of the many injuries that an individual can suffer in a car accident, a back injury is one of the most painful and debilitating. Drivers and passengers who suffer back injuries frequently find themselves in agonizing pain for weeks or even months. Even after multiple surgeries intended to repair an injury, it may never completely return to normal.
Individuals who suffer a back injury in a car accident frequently lose their range of motion and their ability to stand or walk for more than a few minutes, and many injured individuals lose their ability to complete their jobs. Chronic pain may become a constant in their lives, and problems with prescription pain medications sometimes follow.
Individuals who have sustained a car accident back injury often need help paying for all of the resulting losses. If someone else’s dangerous decisions or conduct caused the accident, then the injured individual may have the option to seek compensation through a lawsuit.
In speaking with a car accident lawyer about their case, many back injury victims want to know what their claim is worth. This is a tricky question, and no attorney can promise a specific recovery amount. Below, we discuss how an experienced lawyer may evaluate the value of a car accident back injury claim.
Establishing the Value of a Back Injury Accident Claim
In the normal course of their jobs, attorneys that represent back injury victims must first establish the value of their clients’ claims. Every claim differs, so there is no single, uniform value to place on a back injury. Instead, figuring out what a claim is worth involves a process that analyzes three broad factors.
1. The Extent and Impact of the Back Injury
To begin, the severity of a back injury and the effects it has had on the injured individual’s life plays a critically-important role in determining the value of an accident claim. The type and amount of damages that back injury victims can claim in a lawsuit will vary based on the severity and impact of the injury.
- Medical costs constitute a core component of any back injury claim, and they tend to rise with the severity of the injury. The greater the harm done to the victim’s back in an accident, the higher the likelihood the victim will need multiple back surgeries, longer courses of medical care and therapy now and in the future, and more and higher doses of medication to treat the injury.
- Non-medical costs also represent an important component of any back injury claim. These costs tend to rise the longer and more extensively that a back injury interferes with a victim’s life. A back injury that leaves an accident victim permanently disabled, for example, may force the victim to make extensive, costly home modifications to accommodate that disability.
- Lost wages and income affect many accident victims who sustain back injuries and face a long layoff from work while they heal from surgeries and other medical treatment. Also, many individuals suffering from back injuries cannot return to work in their former capacities, and some cannot return at all. The greater the limitations on the ability to work, the heavier the toll on the victim’s current and future earnings, and the more money the victim may have a right to seek as damages in a lawsuit.
- Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages also inflict a significant cost on the lives of back injury victims, even if those costs do not easily translate into dollars and cents. The chronic pain of a back injury can drive victims to despair or dependency on habit-forming pain medication. The physical limitations of the injury can prevent victims from enjoying life’s simple pleasures, like playing with their kids, participating in their favorite activities, or simply sleeping through the night pain-free. The more widespread these non-economic impacts, the more money a victim may have the right to seek as damages.
A skilled lawyer for accident back injury victims knows to explore all aspects of the severity and impacts of a client’s back injury to ensure that the amount of money demanded in an insurance claim or legal filing accounts for the full scope of the harm done.
2. Who Has the Legal Obligation to Pay Damages and How Much That Party Has the Ability to Pay
The next all-important factor in figuring out how much a back injury car accident claim is worth focuses on the parties from whom the victim demands payment. After all, for a claim to have real value, someone must have the ability to pay it.
As a general rule, a claim’s value rises with every additional party who may owe damages to the victim, and with every additional insurance policy, asset, bank account, or another fund of money that the victim’s lawyer may pursue for payment. To put it another way, a claim for back injury damages against five wealthy, well-insured parties is, as a practical matter, worth more than the same claim made against a single, poor, under-insured party.
For that reason, experienced lawyers for accident victims with back injuries know to examine the facts of an accident to identify every party who might have liability to the victim under the applicable laws.
For any given back injury claim, those parties may include:
- The driver of one or more vehicles that crashed, if the driver made a mistake behind the wheel that caused the accident;
- The employer of a driver who crashed a commercial vehicle while working, since employers generally have legal liability for their employees’ actions;
- The manufacturer of any vehicle involved in a crash, if a defect in the vehicle contributed to the cause of the accident;
- A bar, restaurant, or social host that served a minor or visibly intoxicated person who caused a crash as a drunk driver;
- A government contractor or agency that contributed to the cause of the accident by failing to keep the roads safe from preventable dangers;
- A medical provider who failed to provide adequate emergency or ongoing care to the victim and made back injury worse; or
- A pharmaceutical manufacturer who knowingly produced, sold, and promoted dangerous, addictive pain medications to treat the victim.
These are just some examples. An experienced lawyer will keep an open mind in examining the facts of an accident that the back injury caused, knowing that every party who may owe damages to a client effectively increases the value of the client’s claim.
3. The Strength of the Evidence and the Skill of the Back Injury Lawyer
Finally, the value of a back injury claim depends on the strength of the evidence and the skill of the injured individual’s lawyer. Two identical car accident back injury claims could have two different values if the evidence supporting them differs or if the lawyers presenting them have unequal skill.
Evidence is important to the value of a back injury claim because it serves as the claim’s foundation. The stronger that foundation, the more certainty and confidence a victim’s lawyer will have in proving it in a court of law, and the more likely defense lawyers and insurance companies will offer to pay its full value. On the flip side, the weaker the foundation, the more likely the parties opposing the claim will fight it and discount its value.
Skilled lawyers for back injury victims commonly treat evidence-gathering as a top priority. That’s because they know the power of solid evidence. That seemingly tiny detail in an accident case, such as documents, sworn testimony, physical items, can turn an average case into an unbeatable one.
This brings us to the second part of this third and final factor affecting the value of a back injury claim: the talent and output of the lawyer who argues the case. The fact is that the quality, work habits, personalities, and skillsets of lawyers who represent accident victims vary widely. For a back injury accident claim to realize its highest possible value, the lawyer who takes the reins in the case must have sufficient knowledge, resources, and experience to drive it across the finish line.
The right lawyer to maximize the value of a back injury claim:
- Has a strong understanding of the anatomy and medical science of back injuries, which is necessary to have a grasp of the type and severity of the client’s condition and prognosis;
- Has successfully handled multiple back injury matters for accident victims;
- Has a sterling reputation in the local legal community as a lawyer who knows how to get results;
- Possesses a fine instinct for when and how to conduct settlement negotiations with insurance companies and defense lawyers;
- Welcomes the opportunity to present a back injury claim to a judge and jury when that’s what it takes to succeed in a claim; and
- Has the ability to explain complicated subjects, like back injuries, in simple terms that anyone can understand.
Tips for Protecting the Value of Your Back Injury Claim
If you have read this far, you probably realize by now that there is no single answer to how much a back injury claim is worth. The value will vary based on the factors above.
Still, accident victims who suffer back injuries often want to know what they can do to make their claims worth as much as possible. That’s a sensible question, but you can do little to make your claim worth more—but you might make your claim worth less if you do not use care.
Following the tips below can help accident victims protect the value of their back injury claim.
- Seek medical help right away. A severe back injury can feel at first like an unpleasant twinge. Accident victims may feel tempted to dismiss minor discomfort as no-big-deal and to skip the inconvenience of going to the doctor to get it checked out. We strongly encourage accident victims not to make that mistake. Always seek medical care after any accident, especially if you feel any discomfort whatsoever in your back. Following this advice minimizes the severity of your injury as much as possible, creates important records of your medical treatment that your lawyer can use as evidence, and protects the value of your claim that you made your injury worse by not seeking the care you needed.
- Follow your medical treatment plan, even when it feels frustrating. Back injuries can prove difficult to treat. Therapy treatments that seem to work at first may lose their effectiveness after a while. You may develop a tolerance for, and dangerous dependence on, powerful pain medications. Doctors may offer surgeries while also telling you that there’s no guarantee they’ll make you feel any better. All that uncertainty and inconsistency can make you doubt your doctors, but do your best to stick to a sensible treatment plan. Skipping therapy, refusing treatments, or deciding to stop your care altogether will only harm your claim in the long run by making it look like you did not take proper care of yourself.
- Get a car accident back injury lawyer involved right away. Waiting to seek legal advice after you suffer a back injury in an accident only makes your lawyer’s job more difficult once your case finally starts. As time passes, evidence has a way of disappearing, witness memories start to fade, and defense lawyers and insurance companies take your claim less seriously. Your strongest back injury damages case is the one you begin as soon as possible after finding, and hiring, a lawyer with deep knowledge and experience in representing accident victims who suffer back injuries.
Find out What Your Back Injury Accident Claim Is Worth
If you suffer from a back injury you sustained in a car accident, then we don’t need to tell you how debilitating, painful, and frustrating your day-to-day life can feel. A lawyer cannot take away your chronic back pain and other challenges. The right lawyer can, however, work on your behalf to secure the most money legally available to support you in your physical and emotional healing.
Contact a skilled back injury car accident lawyer today to learn more.