EP 03 S 08: Back Injuries & Your Personal Injury Lawsuit: Medical Care and Case $ Value
The amount of back or neck settlement awarded for your injuries depends on several factors, let’s discuss them in this new video!
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Hi. This is Arkady Frekhtman in New York City, a personal injury trial attorney. And today we’re talking about how much money you can obtain for a back injury, so assuming liability or the question of who is at fault has already been decided or is equal then what is a back injury worth? And when we talk about back injuries, we’re talking about the entire spine, so from the neck which is the cervical spine to the middle back which is the thoracic spine all the way down to the lower back which is the lumbar spine. So usually what people do after a back injury is they get, what’s known as soft tissue treatment or physical therapy. Let’s say it’s a simple case like a car crash. Somebody will go to a medical doctor and that doctor will have different specialists under one roof. They’re going to have a chiropractor, a neurologist, perhaps, an orthopedist will visit.
They’re going to have a physical therapist, maybe an acupuncturist, and they’re going to give you that care, and that’s going to include an MRI. And the MRI known as magnetic resonance imaging is a type of radiological test that’ll tell you what your injury is. For example, a bulging disc where the disc inside your spine is just bulging, so you could see here, this is an example of a disc. You have the vertebrae which is the bone and you have the disc which is a circle, and if that disc is bulging, that is an injury. If the disc is herniated, that just means that the injury is so bad that the jelly inside the disc has broken through all the walls of the disc, and is now even the final wall which is the exterior of the disc has been broken and now that jelly is leaking outside the disc, and you could see it in the red part right here and it’s touching the nerve root.
And that is a herniated disc, meaning it’s herniated, it’s exploded and it’s leaking out. That’s very painful, and so then your physical therapist will probably refer you to a pain management doctor, and the pain management doctor can do is usually, they can put a little medicine on there and that’s known as an epidural steroid injection, and then the medicine will alleviate the pain. So you still have this leak from your disc, but you don’t feel it because the steroid medicine is preventing you from feeling the pain, and if you just have physical therapy and nothing else, your case is probably worth anywhere from zero to, let’s say 50,000 maybe a hundred thousand, for the most part. Of course, there are outliers, but for the most part. If you have this injection where they do a series of three, now it probably went up to anywhere from 50 to maybe a hundred thousand, 150,000.
And so the next step is… The problem with epidurals is that all it’s doing is masking the pain with medicine. It’s putting medicine on the problem rather than removing the injury which is the leak from the disc, and so it usually is temporary. It lasts for a month or two then the pain just comes back and you could only do a series of three, I believe once a year. You can’t just keep putting steroids in there. It’s just not safe, so then the next step is known as a percutaneous discectomy, and what that means is they go in with a Stryker Dekompressor and it’s almost like a straw. Think of it as a straw, and they suction out this red part which is the leak from the disc. They just suck it all out. Now, you don’t have the red part. Now, it’s just like the level above, a perfect disc which is a circle with no leaks and it’s not touching the nerve roots so you don’t feel any pain, voila.
That is done in the doctor’s office. It takes 10 minutes, and it’s a nice procedure. It works, people have gotten a lot of relief from it, but it is a surgery. It could take at least 10 minutes, it could take longer. It could take half an hour, an hour, and the point of it is that in terms of legal value, I would say a percutaneous discectomy surgery probably increases the case value. If you have the insurance available, now, the case could be worth anywhere… On the low end, I would say 80 or 90,000, and on the high end, I would say half a million or more. We ended up getting a verdict in Manhattan for 547,000 on a percutaneous discectomy, so it increases the value substantially.
And then the next step is that for some people, the injury is so bad. The disc is so devastated that the percutaneous discectomy just doesn’t help, so what they need is a full-blown surgery, and that is known as a spinal fusion. There, what the doctor will do is remove the disc completely. Now, you don’t have your disc and they’ll install an artificial disc, and when they do that, they’ll have to put in a plate. And oftentimes, they’ll have to put screws into the vertebrae, into the bone, and that’s like a permanent structure that will be inside your spine for the rest of your life. And those cases are usually worth 1 million or more easily. I mean, there was a verdict, I believe for 9 million on a fusion. There have been many verdicts for 5 million, 7 million even some cases getting into the eight figures, and over 10 million for a fusion because that is a very serious injury.
And what you have there is you have all the different elements of damages that you’re allowed to claim in a lawsuit which includes loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering past and future, loss of enjoyment of life past and future, medical expenses past and future. Just the cost of this surgery is over a hundred thousand, and then you may need revision surgeries, so your economic damages are there. Lost wages if applicable, then you may need a life care plan, a vocational rehabilitation expert. You’ll probably hire an economist, so if the policy is there, these cases can be absolutely monumental. They could be very, very big cases because the injury is so serious. It’s a forever injury that someone’s going to have to live with permanently, and so that usually summarizes… Now, there are other types of surgeries other than fusions.
There are laminectomies, there are full-blown discectomies, and those can be worth into the seven figures as well, but for the most part, I think it’s very helpful to think of back injuries in these three categories. Number one, is just treatment, physical therapy which is known as soft tissue or conservative because you’re not doing anything, you’re just getting massages, and treatments for three to six months after a car crash or after a slip and fall. Number two is pain management. That includes the epidurals as well as the percutaneous, either they’re injecting medicine into the spine or they’re suctioning out the leak with the Stryker Dekompressor almost like a straw removing the injury.
And then number three, is the full-blown surgery, either a spinal fusion. It’s known as an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion if it’s in the neck, in the lumbar, it could be a one-level fusion like L5-S1. It could also be a two-level fusion. I mean, some doctors even do very, very advanced surgeries like seven-level fusions because sometimes the injury is so bad that people need that, and then there’s the full-blown laminectomy or a full-blown discectomy, and those cases are usually worth seven figures and up, it can be easily into the eight figures. So I hope this has been helpful, but it’s just a summary of what your back injury case can be worth.