Back injuries are a common element in personal injury claims. Whether you’re in a car accident, injured on the job, or slip and fall on someone’s property, it’s easy to suffer a strain, sprain, or herniated disc. Serious injuries involving a spinal cord injury are even worse, as they often involve long-term disability.
If you’ve injured your back in an accident, your first priority should be to seek immediate medical attention. Focus on your health, not the pending lawsuit. When you’re ready, an experienced personal injury attorney will help you obtain compensation for your injuries, losses, and damages.
Calculating a Back Injury Settlement
When you find a personal injury attorney and sign a contract to retain their services, one of the first things your attorney will do is calculate your compensable damages. Depending on your case, that will likely be a combination of general (non-economic) and economic (special) damages.
Often referred to as non-economic damages, general damages should compensate you for non-monetary losses resulting from your back injury. It’s tough to put a dollar value on these damages because there usually isn’t a hospital bill or lost paycheck that you can refer to, but they’re still an important part of your settlement.
Examples of general damages included in a back injury settlement include:
To compensate a victim for the psychological toll of their injury and recovery, some personal injury cases included emotional distress damages. Emotional distress often manifests in conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, fear, depression, humiliation, and panic attacks.
Pain and Suffering
To account for physical suffering and mental anguish, insurance companies often apply a pain multiplier to economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.). Minor cases often use a multiplier between 1.5 to 5, while serious injuries may result in a much higher multiplier.
It’s safe to say the average pain and suffering settlement is usually between 2x to 10x the economic damages.
Loss of Consortium
In serious cases where the victim’s back injury results in life-changing circumstances (e.g. paralysis or disability), the victim’s family often suffers. Whether it’s a spouse who cannot enjoy an intimate relationship or children who can no longer play with their parent, such losses are directly attributable to the back injury that changed their lives.
When these elements are present in a personal injury case, the victim’s general damages may include compensation for these family members. The affected families members also have the right to file a separate lawsuit for loss of consortium damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages are based on concrete figures like bills, lost paychecks, and missed opportunities. In short, money that the victim owes, money that they lost, and potentially money that they will miss out on down the road.
In most cases, the value of past and future medical bills makes up the lion’s share of economic damages. This includes ambulance bills, hospital stays, surgeries, doctor’s visits, rehabilitation, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and more.
If your back injury is likely to result in future surgeries or medical care, these anticipated costs should be included, too.
Keep in mind, however, that your health insurance is primarily responsible for your medical bills. The responsible party’s insurance company is only on the hook for your portion of the bills, after your insurance pays their portion.
That includes the value of your deductible, co-insurance payments, and anything that’s not covered by your insurance (e.g. some insurance policies don’t cover emergency transportation by helicopter).
Lost income and wages also plays a role in calculating your economic damages. It’s easy to calculate how much income you’ve lost by missing work, but it can get a little tricky when your future earning capacity is impacted by your injury.
For example, if you work in a position where heavy lifting is required yet your back injury prevents you from doing so, it’s safe to say your career trajectory has fundamentally changed. Whether you have to find a new position at the company or a new career field entirely, your economic damages should include compensation for future lost income.
Workers Compensation Settlements
While workplace injuries do fall under the scope of personal injury claims, they’re a little different than car accidents and slip & fall accidents. When you injure your back at work (the most common workplace injury, by the way), you’ll most likely receive compensation from your employer’s Workers Compensation Insurance (Workers Comp).
In Arizona, employers are required by law to carry Workers Compensation insurance for their employees. Furthermore, Arizona law operates under a “no fault” system where the employee is entitled to benefits regardless of who is ultimately responsible for the injury. An employee who is injured due to an employer’s negligence is just as entitled to benefits as an employee who negligently injures themselves.
Generally speaking, Workers Compensation insurance covers four things:
- Emergency transportation: ambulance rides are covered, but air transportation isn’t always covered. Check your employer’s policy for specifics.
- Immediate medical treatment: includes emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgery, doctors visits, etc.
- Lost wages: unlike traditional personal injury claims, this only pertains to your missed paychecks. It does not account for future lost income.
- Ongoing care: after your immediate injuries are treated, you’ll probably require some sort of ongoing care. For back injuries, that often includes chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and check-ups with your doctor or specialist. These costs should be covered by Workers Comp.
On the surface it sounds like Workers Comp settlements for a back injury should be easier than suing a private insurance company, but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, Workers Comp cases often take longer than the average personal injury case.
Sometimes the extended wait is due to a state-run Workers Comp program that’s simply overburdened by cases. Other times it’s because your employer is putting up a fight. There isn’t much you can do to grease the wheels of an overburdened system, but when you’re up against an employer who refuses to pay you the compensation you deserve, you’ll need an experienced attorney in your corner.
If your Workers Compensation insurance plan doesn’t adequately compensate you for your injuries and losses, you have the right to sue your employer directly for damages.
Receive Help With You Back Injury Settlement in Arizona
Personal injury attorney, Jared E. Everton, and the JacksonWhite personal injury team are dedicated to protecting Arizona accident victims.Whether you hurt your back in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or while you were on the job, the best way to get the most out of your back injury settlement in Arizona is to work with an knowledgeable, experienced attorney that will fight for fair compensation for you and your family.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.
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