If you are diagnosed with a bulging disc as the result of being in an accident caused by someone else, you may be able to get money for your injury.
1. What is a bulging disc and can it be caused by an accident?
When one of your intervertebral discs in the spinal column is injured in your back or neck, the disc weakens and it can bulge or extend into the spinal canal. A bulging disc in your back or neck can cause pain. A bulging disc can be caused by a car accident, slip and fall and many types of other accidents. If you are injured and someone else is at fault, you may be entitled to damages.
I know at least one orthopedic doctor in Florida who believes that people in their 20’s and older all have bulging discs. He does not believe that they are significant. In fact, he reviewed an MRI CD for me in a case where my client was diagnosed with a herniated disc. I will talk about the effect of this orthopedic doctor’s opinion later in this article when I explain how to calculate a case value for an injury claim involving a disc bulge.
2. Settlement value for pain and suffering component of a bulging disc.
If you have a bulging disc from as the result of an accident, you may be asking yourself, “How much is my case worth?” Although every case is different, in Florida I use $10,000 to $15,000 as the starting point for settlement purposes of the full value of the pain and suffering component only of a bulging disc. If you have a significant resultant disability, then I increase that the full value. I am only speaking about settlements in Florida when I talk about the above mentioned settlement range.
The low-end of this settlement range is for minimal treatment and if there are limitations on your activities. The higher end of the range is for a significant resultant disability, more treatment and/or more limitations on your activities of daily living. Individuals who receive a longer amount of treatment may get closer to the upper range or above for the pain and suffering component.
That settlement range is for the full value of the pain and suffering component only. The range does not include other damages to which you may be entitled, such as lost wages and medical bills. That settlement range is the full value and does not include other factors that can result in a reduction of the full value and lead to you recovering nothing, a lower amount or a larger amount.
Occasionally I hear about a verdict where the Plaintiff (person who was injured) gets over $100,000 for pain and suffering for a bulging disc. This is extremely rare. Do not expect the insurance company to offer you that kind of money for pain and suffering.
This article does not apply to a workers compensation case against your employer if you are injured while working. If you are injured while working, but you have a case against someone other than your employer, then this article applies to the portion of your case against the third party.
3. Actual Bulging Disc Settlements and Verdicts in Florida Accidents
My case: $75,000 Settlement (Gross) for a young woman who had arthroscopic knee surgery and epidural injections to a bulging disc in her lower back (L5-S1). Progressive paid $50,000 under the bodily injury coverage, and $25,000 was paid under the underinsured motorist coverage on the car owner’s auto insurance policy (Allstate).
My Case: $57,000 Settlement on behalf of a police officer who was suffered back injury, while he was on duty, when he was rear ended in a car accident in Medley, Florida (North Miami-Dade County). This settlement is before deduction for attorney’s fees and expenses. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result. This is one of my many settlements for a bulging disc that I talk about in more detail on my car accident settlements page.
$47,500 Settlement (not my case) for a 53-year-old woman who slipped and fell at a Publix in Broward County, Florida. She had multiple bulging discs in the neck and lower back as well as a knee contusion (bruise). She slipped and fell on water in the frozen food section. Her husband, filed a loss of consortium claim against Publix. Publix admitted liability (fault).
My thoughts: I am not sure how many disc bulges the shopper had. Unfortunately, I do not know the amount of medical bills that she had to pay from this accident. I have said before that as a starting point the settlement value in Florida for pain and suffering from a bulging disc is between $10,000 and $15,000.
This case is one of the first reported cases against Publix since the new slip and fall law went into effect on July 1, 2010. Surprisingly, Publix admitted liability. I could not find any information as to how the shopper was able to show that Publix knew or should have known that the water was on the floor. The case is Jeanne Michel and Jacques Jules vs. Publix Supermarkets, Inc.
4. Examples of how to calculate settlement value for bulging disc cases
Let me give you an example of a settlement involving pain and suffering for a bulging disc (disc bulge):
Example #1 – Car Accident
You are rear ended in Miami-Dade County, Florida (or any city in Florida) by a car while you are stopped in traffic. You are 18 years old and do not have prior injuries. You own the car (a 2012 Toyota Camry) that you were driving at the time of the accident.
Your personal injury protection (P.I.P) coverage on your auto insurance policy may pay for up to $10,000 in your medical bills and lost wages. (Learn more about how to get your medical bills and lost wages paid after a car accident.) The car that you were driving is totaled. You treat with an orthopedic doctor in and get therapy for about two months.
Your pain has not gone away so the orthopedic doctor sends you to get a MRI. The MRI shows that you have a bulging disc. You get therapy for one month after the MRI and you still have occasional pain. The orthopedic doctor says that you have a 6% permanent impairment.
According to this doctor, you have a permanent injury which allows you to argue to a jury in Florida (most cases don’t get to a jury) that you are entitled to pain and suffering from this car accident.
The owner of the car that hit you has a $10,000/$20,000 bodily injury (BI) liability insurance policy with State Farm. This means that the most State Farm will pay you for your personal injury is $10,000 because only one person (since you were involved in this wreck).
The driver of the at-fault vehicle does not own the car and does not have auto insurance. Your out-of-pocket medical bills are $2,000. Let’s assume that the full value of your pain and suffering is $10,000, which is the low-end of the average settlement range for a bulging disc in Florida.
The settlement formula for this case is:
Possible Settlement = out of pocket medical bills + lost wages + pain and suffering
Possible Settlement = $2,000 + 0 + $10,000
Possible Settlement = $12,000
I say “possible settlement” above because there is no guarantee that State Farm will pay you a dime. They can take this case to a jury and you could possibly get nothing. Since the possible settlement is $12,000 and State Farm’s BI limits are $10,000, they may pay the $10,000 so that they are not exposed to a higher judgment for acting in bad faith.
Because you have to prove that you have a permanent injury in most car accidents in Florida in order to get money for pain and suffering, auto insurers such as State Farm, Allstate, GEICO, Progressive and others may take a tough stance when your injury is a bulging disc.
They may hire a radiologist or orthopedic doctor who says that your injury is not permanent and/or that the bulging disc should not be causing pain. Some juries believe the doctor hired by an insurance company and this is part of the reason that these auto insurers may be difficult to deal with in regards to personal injury claims involving a bulging disc.
Example #2 – Slip and Fall Accident
You are shopping at Publix Supermarkets in Fort Lauderdale, Florida – or any city in Florida – and you slip and fall on liquid in the aisle. The liability claims adjuster for SRS on behalf of Publix tells you that they have accepted liability because an employee knew that the liquid was there for one hour before your slip and fall.
You are 18 years old and have not had any prior injuries. You treat with an orthopedic doctor and get therapy for two months for your lower back (lumbar) pain. Your pain has not gone away so the orthopedic doctor sends you to get an MRI of your lower back.
The MRI shows that you have a bulging disc. You get therapy for one month after the MRI and you still have occasional pain. The orthopedic doctor says that you have a 6% permanent impairment.
Unlike most car accidents in Florida, in a slip and fall accident you do not have to prove that you have a permanent injury to be entitled to damages for pain and suffering. In this respect, it is easier to get money for pain and suffering for a bulging disc in a slip and fall incident than in most car accidents. You have 4-years to file your personal injury lawsuit against Publix.
Your out-of-pocket medical bills are $10,000. Let’s assume that the full value of your pain and suffering is $10,000 which is the low-end of the range for a bulging disc mentioned above. The settlement formula for this case is:
Possible Settlement = Out of pocket medical bills + lost wages + pain and suffering
Possible Settlement = $10,000 + 0 + $10,000
Possible Settlement = $20,000
I say “possible settlement” above because there is no guarantee that Publix Supermarkets will pay you a dime. They can take this case to a jury and you could possibly get nothing. For purposes of this example, Publix may pay you $20,000 to settle this case before a lawsuit is filed. If you file a lawsuit, you may still get a $20,000 settlement.
I have settled many cases totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars where my client’s injury was a bulging disc.
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