Florida is a large state with an ever-increasing population. As more people inhabit and visit the Sunshine State, your chances of being in a motor vehicle accident increase. Florida has more than 17 million registered vehicles in our state and almost that many licensed drivers.
The odds of you being in a car accident on Florida roads and highways are real. Every year, over 400,000 accidents happen in Florida, resulting in more than 250,000 injuries and 3,000 fatalities. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe that these figures will decrease anytime soon.
Many of these collisions are fender-benders. They end up being mere inconveniences for motorists who then must live without their vehicle for a few weeks while it’s in the auto body shop. However, they have no real consequences beyond that.
Sadly, other motor vehicle accident victims wish they had only sustained property damage in their crashes. As a result, victims often incur neck and back injuries with lifelong physical pain and ongoing financial costs.
Even injured parties with health insurance coverage can be left responsible for a growing stack of bills that they can’t pay, thanks to copays, high deductibles, and coinsurance requirements. Even worse, those without health insurance coverage will suffer financial disaster after a severe accident. Not surprisingly, medical debt is one of the primary reasons individuals resort to filing bankruptcy.
In fact, two-thirds of all bankruptcy filers list medical bills as a factor in deciding to file.
However, this doesn’t have to be you. Florida law provides that individuals who are injured by the negligence of others and given an extreme financial burden can pursue damages or monetary compensation from the person or party who hurt them. Most car accident victims can recover more compensation with representation from a skilled car accident lawyer.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations
Even though you may not feel well and are trying to pick up the pieces after your accident, don’t put off seeking the services of an experienced car accident attorney. Florida law, known as the statute of limitations, generally requires that you file an injury lawsuit within four years from the date of the motor vehicle accident.
Since this is a strict deadline, if you file after four years, the court will most likely dismiss your lawsuit, leaving you no legal recourse to seek compensation for your injuries. It won’t matter how sound your legal claims are or how seriously you were injured.
You should also keep in mind that the sooner you file, the sooner you might receive compensation from the other motorist’s insurance company.
Unfortunately, your medical providers and their bill collectors pay no mind to the statute of limitations or your injury claim. They want to be paid and can legally take specific steps to get you to do so-such as filing a lawsuit or garnishing your wages.
However, when you enlist the help of an experienced car accident attorney, they can speak with your medical providers, often setting up agreements or medical liens to ensure they can collect their payment when you receive your settlement or court award while keeping them from taking further collection actions now.
Types of Car Accident Neck and Back Injuries
Unfortunately, neck and back injuries are common car accident injuries. They can range in severity from sore muscles and bruises to total paralysis that the individual will never recover from. Here are some of the most common types of neck and back injuries we see in our motor vehicle accident clients.
#1. Herniated Discs
Vertebrae and discs that cushion them make up the spinal column, supporting the entire skeleton. Herniated discs can occur when sudden back-and-forth movements displace them. These discs contain a jelly-like substance that a sudden impact can compress, causing them to herniate away from the spinal column.
The herniated disc creates pressure on the vertebrae and surrounding nerves, often causing sharp and sudden pain in the lower back or numbness in their arms and legs.
#2. Fractured or Dislocated Vertebrae
Herniated discs can also impact the vertebrae by pulling them apart to make matters worse. If this happens, the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together can tear, allowing the bone to move. In some cases, the vertebrae will break. The presence of fractured vertebrae can be hazardous, as pieces can pierce the spinal cord, resulting in either temporary or permanent paralysis.
Whiplash is commonly sustained in rear-end collisions, mainly when they occur at high rates of speed. This soft tissue neck injury happens when the neck experiences a forceful back-and-forth motion, mimicking the movement of a whip. Even if they wear a seat belt, motor vehicle accident victims can still have whiplash. Other injuries usually heal and improve over time. However, the problem with whiplash is that it can worsen before it gets better.
Those diagnosed with whiplash might have:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Decreased mobility of the neck
- Numbness and tingling in the arms
Although whiplash might sound minor because it is a soft tissue injury, it can still be quite painful and debilitating. Therefore, it’s essential to hire an attorney who understands this, as most insurance companies aggressively fight whiplash injury claims.
#4. Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
By far, the most severe back injuries are those involving the spinal cord, not just because of the damage caused by the injuries alone, but they also leave victims at risk for other types of medical problems. The spinal cord is so critical because it connects your brain to every part of your body.
The spinal cord can suffer permanent damage, resulting in total or partial paralysis, loss of function and reflexes, or loss of feeling in different body parts. Other medical problems, such as bleeding or blood clots, pneumonia, and spinal fluid leaks, can happen after a spinal cord injury.
What Are Your Neck and Back Injuries Worth?
If you suffered an injury in a car crash and face both physical and financial challenges due to neck or back injuries, one of your most significant and most pressing questions is likely how much your injuries are worth. The value of a car accident claim relies heavily on the specific facts of that individual case.
Florida law allows car accident victims different types of monetary damages they may pursue from the driver or another party who is at fault for their injuries, including:
Economic damages allow injured parties to recover their actual cost to diagnose, treat, and recover from their injuries. Fortunately, economic damages are relatively easy to calculate and already have an actual dollar amount assigned to them.
You can seek economic damages for anything you get a bill for, including:
- Medical treatment: Such as any ambulance transportation, your initial hospital stay-including the emergency department visit, X-rays, lab tests, diagnostic testing, and surgeries. Even after you leave the hospital, you may still have ongoing costs for follow-up medical appointments, prescriptions, or various types of therapies such as physical, speech, or occupational. In addition, some severe or catastrophic injuries also necessitate victims to undergo rehabilitative treatment, either residential or outpatient.
- Medical equipment: Victims can recover the expense of various types of medical equipment required due to their injuries, including wheelchairs and walkers, oxygen tanks and concentrators, or even prosthetic devices.
- Current lost wages: Even when injuries are relatively minor, victims often still miss work time to treat them or go to follow-up appointments. Severe injuries can result in lengthy work absences, making a car crash’s financial hardship even worse than just the medical bills that quickly add up.
- Future lost income: Some victims may permanently lose their ability to work, especially when there is damage to the spinal cord. In other cases, an accident victim can return to work but is unable to return to their previous job. As such, they have to take a different job that pays less because of their new physical or mental disabilities arising from the accident. They deserve compensation for the difference in wages over the rest of their working years. Unfortunately, these aren’t as easy to calculate as the wages you have already lost. Still, if you face a future long-term loss of wages, an actuary can calculate that amount. You may recover it from the person or party who injured you. You can calculate future wage loss by considering such factors as your pre-accident wage, professional training, education, the potential for advancement, age, and life expectancy.
- Services: If your injuries keep you from performing services for yourself or your household, you may recover the cost of hiring someone to do those services in a car accident claim. You can potentially receive compensation for the cost of childcare or transportation, grocery shopping, housekeeping, and maintenance, or lawn care.
Since economic damages compensate victims for actual losses, it’s imperative that you carefully track all of these expenses. As stressful as it might be to see them, open your medical bills and place them in a file to give to your attorney. You should also keep receipts and invoices for things like medication, equipment, and services.
To document your lost wages, ensure that you track not just any base salary lost but also any tips, retirement contributions, overtime, bonuses, or commissions you can not earn due to your injuries. When in doubt about keeping a piece of paper, save it, and tuck it into a file.
By doing this, you will never regret not knowing how much your injuries cost you. You can always dispose of unnecessary receipts and bills later, but generally, you can’t get back what you have already lost or thrown away.
Non-economic damages represent intangible losses that are still very real. However, they often apply to your case if you suffered a physical impairment or disfigurement. Victims are allowed by law to recover damages for their inconvenience and physical and mental pain and suffering. Those with neck and back injuries may face paralysis and thus should seek compensation for the loss of use of their bodies and all that comes with it.
Although non-economic damages are more challenging to prove, as they lack a monetary price tag, legal and medical experts can review your circumstances and assign an appropriate sum to these very real damages.
Medical experts can testify about the level of pain that patients with the same condition usually experience and how long it might last. Counselors, mental health professionals, and psychiatrists can account for the level of mental anguish you have demonstrated to them. In some cases, it might even be appropriate for family members to share their insights about how you have changed since the accident.
Did You Suffer Neck and Back Injuries in a Florida Car Accident? An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help
It’s risky to pursue a car accident case on your own, especially if you have severe or catastrophic neck or back injuries. The other driver’s insurance company will no doubt secure a team of attorneys whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the insurance carrier pays you as little as possible.
These complex cases often require hours of meticulous records review and interviews with industry and medical professionals and witnesses, plus a thorough understanding of Florida personal injury law.
Most car accident claims settle out of court, making excellent negotiating skills necessary for anyone fighting on your behalf. If your case doesn’t settle because you don’t receive a full and fair offer, then you have the option to take your case to a jury trial. If this occurs, you will want a seasoned attorney on your side with years of trial experience.
Don’t attempt to manage your neck and back car accident injury claim alone. Instead, hire a skilled neck and back injury attorney to fight to maximize your injury compensation. Doing so will help you focus on your physical recovery while your attorney pursues your financial recovery.