Back injuries are, unfortunately, one of the most common injuries people sustain in accidents. Whether you are in a vehicle accident, fall in a store, or hurt your back while working, a back accident can exert long-term effects on your life. Many people experience long-term pain and even permanent disability from back injuries. About 20 percent of people with acute low back pain develop chronic back pain.
If your accident occurred because of the negligence of another party, such as a careless driver or an unrepaired broken sidewalk in front of a store, you might wonder what damages you may pursue. Below, we will review the circumstances under which you may recover a damage award.
How to Obtain Compensation for a Back Injury
Obtaining compensation for any back injury is not automatically guaranteed. If another party (a person or an organization) is at fault for the accident, you could pursue compensation in two ways. The first is to contact the responsible party’s insurance company. The second is to bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
To contact the responsible party’s insurance company, you will need to know what insurance the at-fault party carries. This is one of the reasons people who are involved in vehicle accidents should always make sure to exchange insurance information.
Texas is a fault state for vehicle accidents, so you are free to pursue damage compensation from an at-fault person’s insurance company, as long as your back injury stems from the accident and no other cause. This is not the case in many other states.
If you are injured in other circumstances, though, finding the proper insurance carrier might pose challenges. What if you slip and fall on a broken sidewalk outside of a store? Generally, store owners bear responsibility for the property directly in front of the establishment. But, it may take some digging to assign the proper responsibility and then to find the insurance carrier.
Contacting an attorney to help you can be prudent in circumstances like these. Lawyer’s offices frequently work with investigators who help find what party is responsible, determine their insurance policies, and uncover evidence that may be helpful in your claim.
Injured people may seek damage compensation in the following categories:
- Medical expenses related to the injury and its treatment. This type of compensation could cover doctor’s appointments, diagnostic tests, surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, assistive devices, prescriptions, and even reconstruction if your home required to accommodate your back injury.
- Wages lost from work due to the injury and recuperation. If the accident, the injury, and the recuperation period all required you to take time off from work, you would likely seek compensation for the amount.
- People who suffer permanent disability may not retain the ability to work at a former position, or to work at all in the future. If that happens to you, you may seek compensation for the lifetime earnings lost.
- Property damage. You could seek compensation for any personal property damaged in the accident, such as a vehicle.
- Pain and suffering. Back injuries cause pain and suffering. You may seek compensation for physical pain and suffering, as well as psychological pain and suffering.
How to Determine Compensation
Now that you know the compensation categories that both insurance companies and civil courts use, we will discuss how they determine your potential compensation.
Back injuries are not all the same, so an injured person’s ultimate compensation depends on the extent of the injury, the effect the injury exerts on the injured person’s livelihood and life, and the amount of pain and suffering.
The determination of damages for medical compensation is relatively straightforward. The total expenses are tallied up.
If your doctor believes you will need medical treatment for the back injury in the future, the doctor could make estimates of the treatment needed, and then the associated cost. At times, an insurance company may require expert opinion (from someone other than your personal doctor), both to verify the standard treatment for your condition and the cost forecast.
The determination of lost wages is computed by totaling the time you have lost from work, and multiplying that time by your existing salary. If you are expected to miss time in the future, the amount of time is estimated and multiplied by your salary as well.
If your back injuries lead to partial or complete disability, your personal injury lawyer may use an expert opinion from an economist to calculate your disability payments, based either on your salary or expected lifetime earnings.
If you suffered property damage in the accident, the cost would be estimated using the current market value.
Pain and suffering does not come with a bill attached. So how would your compensation for pain and suffering be computed?
Insurance companies use a figure called a multiplier to help determine your potential payment. A number, frequently between 1.5 and 5, is multiplied by the economic damages.
The multiplier is based on your injuries, the extent and severity of the injuries, and their likely impact on your life. Multipliers on the lower end of the scale reflect less far-reaching and serious injuries unlikely to exert a lasting effect on your life. On the higher end of the scale, though, the multipliers reflect injuries that are either extensive or severe (or both) with a significant and long-lasting impact.
So, if the accident strained your back, your treatment may include bed rest, physical therapy, and pain medication; your total medical bills equal $5,000 and your total wages lost from work equal $5,000; the insurance company assigns a 1.5 multiplier; the total of $10,000 multiplied by 1.5 is $15,000; then your total compensation would equal $15,000.
But, in a situation where your accident caused chronic physical pain and loss of mobility, both your medical expenses and wages lost from work may rise much higher.
If you need surgery and extensive physical therapy, along with pain medication and assistive devices; your medical bills total $200,000; your time off work lasts a year, so your wages equal a year’s salary, or $45,000; as a result, your total economic damage compensation equals $245,000. Your injuries would receive a higher multiplier of 3. Why? Because the impact on your life is more long-term and significant. Your total compensation would thus total $735,000.
Your personal injury lawyer may use other, more human ways to calculate higher or more appropriate non-economic damages based on similar cases or his or her own impression of your pain and suffering.