If someone’s negligence caused or aggravated your herniated disc, you want to get compensated fairly. To increase your chances of getting a good payout, you must understand the facts that led to past herniated disc settlements and verdicts.
Here, I’m going to give as much detail as possible about actual herniated disc settlements. I’ll point out both facts that increased the value, and facts that hurt the value of the case.
Before I show you how to calculate the settlement value of a herniated disc case, I’ll explain what a herniated disc is and its relationship to an accident.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a spinal injury. It is a disc in your spine that ruptures. When it ruptures, the jelly like center of the disc leaks and irritates the surrounding nerves.
Can an Accident Cause a Herniated Disc?
Yes. An accident can cause, or aggravate, a herniated disc. This includes car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, and more.
Herniated Discs can Be in Lower Back, MidBack or Neck
You can get a herniated disc in your lower back, mid back (thoracic) and/or neck (cervical). You may see the term “axial” pain in your medical records or on a diagnostic report (MRI or CT scan report, etc.).
Axial pain is limited to the neck and back.
Herniated Discs Aren’t Usually Found at the ER
Most injured accident victims, who ultimately diagnosed with a herniated discs, are not given the diagnosis at the emergency room.
This is because emergency rooms generally use a CT scan and not an MRI when taking images of your spine. A herniated disc is found on an MRI much more than on a CT scan in most cases that I have handled.
Do Steroid Injections Increase the Value of a Herniated Disc Case?
All things equal, yes. Before getting steroid injections, ask the doctor to have his or her assistant video the injections. You can even use your cell phone.
$100,000 Settlement for Injections to Lower Back After Car Crash
I had a left turn car accident case where my client had diagnostic nerve block injections to her lower back. The doctor’s assistant used my client’s cell phone to video the injections. An image from the video is above.
In the video, you could hear my client crying (in pain) when she received the injection. This helped us get a $100,000 settlement with GEICO.
$39,000 Settlement for Herniated Disc and Steroid Injections
My client was driving a pickup truck in Pinecrest, Florida. A car ran a stop sign and crashed into him.
Before the crash, he had pain in his back and neck. He also had a lot of treatment to these areas before the crash.
He claimed that the collision caused or worsened his neck and back pain, and herniated discs. After the crash, he had steroid injections.
$150,000 Settlement for Lower Back Fusion Surgery on Herniated Disc
An occupant of a car claimed that a car wreck caused or aggravated his herniated disc. He had epidural injections to his lower back. However, they didn’t work.
I represented the injured claimant.
$2.199 Million Awarded for Epidural Injection, L5 Laminotomy and S1 Laminotomy with L5-S1 Discectomy
This isn’t my case. Judy Harlow sued Bright House Networks, LLC after a car accident.
At trial, Mrs. Harlow’s treating physician and surgeon, Dr. Gary Moskovitz, testified regarding Mrs. Harlow’s accident related injuries.
At the time Dr. Moskovitz initially saw Mrs. Harlow, he testified:
she continued to have persistence of low-back pain with radiation into the left-lower extremity associated with intermittent numbness in the lower extremity. Her pain was made worse by sitting. Overall level of pain varied from 4 to 9 out of 10 depending on flare-ups.
Dr. Moskovitz’s initial diagnosis was a L5-S1 disc herniation. Regarding his review of Mrs. Harlow’s lumbar MRI, Dr. Moskovitz testified:
[m]y interpretation of her MRI scan is that she had a L5-S1 disc herniation with high intensity zone, indenting the dural sac.
Dr. Moskovitz testified he later performed a:
L5 laminotomy and S1 laminotomy with L5-S1 discectomy. And I also did a epidural steroid injection.
Here is an illustration of a discectomy:
Dr. Moskovitz assigned Mrs. Harlow a permanent physical impairment of 18 percent. All things equal, a high permanent physical impairment rating increases the case value.
She had Problems After the Surgery Because Her Disc Was Torn
Dr. Moskovitz testified Mrs. Harlow was experiencing problems after the surgery, stating:
Well, she’s still having problems because she — because she had a disc herniation, she had a damaged disc and her disc was torn. We removed a piece of the herniation that was protruding into the spinal canal. The disc is still torn. Just like if you have a car tire and there is a tear and the inner tube sticks out and you go ahead and remove it, the inner tube will still have a tear within the wall of the car tire. So you lose certain volume from inside the disc. So that disc is much more predisposed to collapse. She had also scar tissue due to surgery itself.
Regarding Mrs. Harlow’s need for future surgery, the following exchange took place
when her attorney asked Dr. Moskovitz’s questions:
Q. Will her symptoms increase over a period of time?
A. Over a period of years she’s probably going to get worse over time.
Q. And why is that?
A. Because she has a damaged disc, and that disc is going to be more predisposed to
accelerated degenerative changes and collapse.
Q . Will she require surgery in the future?
A. She probably will.
Q. What type of surgery will she require?
A. L5-S1 fusion.
Surgeon Said L5-S1 Fusion Surgery Costs Between $120,000 to $160,000
When asked “[a]nd it’s your medical determination that she will need this future surgery, caused from the collision, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty?” Dr. Moskovitz replied, “[y]es, within the remainder of her lifetime.”
Regarding the total cost of the future L5-S1 surgery, Dr. Moskovitz said it’s
approximately between $120,000 and $160,000
He went on to say:
it includes the use of the operating room at the hospital. And, obviously, the longer it takes, the more they charge for it. It includes the cost of the implants, it includes postoperative nursing care and the hospital care. Then there’s also the bill from the anesthesiologist, and also my bill, the surgeon’s bill.
Her Emotional Pain from the Accident Likely Caused the Big Verdict
Mrs. Harlow also testified about how her emotional well being had been affected by the accident to the point of visualizing her suicide. She described her loss of sleep on a nightly basis due to pain.
Further, Mrs. Harlow described how the quality of her relationship with her husband had been affected by her accident related injuries. She testified this was extreme emotional pain.
Together, Mrs. Harlow’s lawyer argued that Dr. Moskovitz and Mrs. Harlow presented enough reliable testimony supporting her claim for pain and suffering, disability, physical impairment, mental anguish, inconvenience, aggravation of a disease or physical defect and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life sustained in the past and to be incurred the future.
The jury found that she suffered a permanent injury. The jury awarded past non-economic damages of $713,468.00 and future non-economic damages of $1,070,202.00. Non-economic damages are pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.
The total verdict was for $2,199,000. The jury awarded $89,652 for past medical expenses. They also awarded $263,816 for future medical expenses. The jury gave $61,862 for lost wages.
Jury Awarded $237,882 Per Year for Past Pain and Suffering; $59,455 Per Year for Future Pain and Suffering
Basically, the jury awarded $237,822 per year for pain and suffering from the date of the accident through trial. The jury awarded $59,455 per year for her future life expectancy of 18 years.
The defense asked the court to reduce the amounts awarded for pain and suffering. They said that since the accident, the claimant traveled to Israel, and still worked. Thus, they argued that the jury awarded too much for pain and suffering.
National Union Fire Insurance Company, PA was the primary liability insurer of the defendant, Bright House Network. National Union operates as a subsidiary of AIG.
St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company covered Bright House with an umbrella policy of liability insurance. St. Paul operates as a subsidiary of The Travelers Companies, Inc. (I’ve settled several injury cases with Travelers).
Bright House asked the trial court to reduce the verdict by $1,283,670.00. They argued that $500,000 is reasonable for both past and future pain and suffering. The court denied the request.
Thereafter, Bright House appealed the verdict. The 2nd DCA appeals court says that the injured lady’s response to the appeal is due on November 29, 2017. Thus, the appeals court may not decide the case until December 2017 or early 2018.
Jury Awards $1,002,238.17 for Epidural Steroid Injections to Herniated Disc
This isn’t my case. In Hurtado v. DeSouza, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2015, a man was rear ended while stopped at a traffic light.
He claimed that his herniated disc was caused by the crash. He had three epidural steroid injections during his four months of treatment.
A jury awarded him $1,002,238.17. The appeals court ordered a new trial because the claimant’s attorney made improper comments.
Below is a Herniated Disc (in the Lower Back) from a $100,000 Settlement
Below is an actual MRI of a herniated disc in the lower back. It is from a $100,000 motorcycle accident settlement that I had.
$100,000 Settlement for Herniated Disc Where Driver Had Surgery To His Lower Back
Here is a photo of the crash scene.
The crash reported listed his injuries as possible. His airbag didn’t deploy.
Keith was not transported to a hospital. After the crash, he complained of neck and back pain to his father, who was his primary care physician.
His father gave him a corticosteroid drug, Prednisone, which helps with inflammation. It improved a little bit but didn’t go away.
On the date of the crash, Keith didn’t have car insurance on his car. Thus, he couldn’t make a claim with anyone else’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.
About eight months after the crash, Keith had terrible pain. His father ordered an MRI.
Below is another view of the herniated disc. This time the MRI is looking from top down.
His dad referred him to a neurosurgeon.
He had back surgery. Specifically, he had a L5-S1 hemilaminotomy, medial facetectomy and microdiskectomy, using a microsurgery.
Below is an illustration of a laminectomy (which is the most similar procedure to a laminotomy that I have an image of).
A hemilaminotomy is a surgery where a window is drilled in the bone through which the nerve root and disc are accessed. A herniated disc is typically removed through such a bony opening. Neurosurgeons often perform such procedures under an operating microscope.
As I mentioned, Keith also had a microdiskectomy. Here is an illustration of a discectomy.
Keith was given general anesthesia for the surgery.
His health insurance paid for most of his medical bills. Keith’s health insurance was through his employer.
Keith Had Lost Wages For Not Being Able to Work After the Surgery
Keith missed about 12 days of work from the surgery. He wasn’t working at the time of the accident. Thus, he couldn’t get workers compensation benefits. His employer didn’t compensate him for these lost wages.
He didn’t have short term disability insurance.
This is in the incision from the surgery.
He was left with a scar on his lower back from the surgery.
I sent State Farm a written request to give me certain insurance information required by Florida Statute 627.4137.
The At Fault Driver Had $100,000 in BIL Insurance
Eventually, without filing a lawsuit, State Farm offered the $100,000 limits. Here is the $100,000 settlement check.
I mentioned earlier that his health insurance paid most of his bills.
The health insurance company had a right to get paid back from the settlement.
Since he worked for a smaller company, the health plan wasn’t self-funded.
Why does this matter?
Since the plan wasn’t self-funded, they had to reduce their lien (claim) by my attorney’s fees and costs.
It gets better:
They also had to reduce by any other equitable factors. I argued that because State Farm’s policy was only $100,000, it didn’t compensate Keith fully for his back surgery.
His health insurance company claimed a lien of $4,744.93. I got them to accept $1,265.31 to settle their lien.
Neither Keith, nor the vehicle that he was in, had uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance.
I was Keith’s attorney.
He was very happy with his settlement.
Below is a Herniated Disc (in the Neck) from a $17,000 Settlement
Below is an actual MRI of a herniated disc in the neck. It is from a $17,000 Miami, Florida car accident settlement that I had.
Most Neck or Back Pain Goes Away in 6 Weeks
Most neck or back pain resolves in about 6 weeks or so. If you have radicular symptoms, it means that you have pain that is radiating into your arm or leg.
Radicular Symptoms Usually Occur When You Have a Pinched Nerve; Increase Value
Radicular symptoms can include pain, numbness and tingling, and usually occur when you have a compressed (pinched) nerve. An image of a pinched nerve is below.
Herniated Disc Impinging on Spinal Nerve May Need Surgery
If you someone’s carelessness caused your herniated disc and it is impinging on the spinal nerve, this may increase the full value of the personal injury case.
ACDF Surgery Raises Full Case Value
An ACDF surgery generally increases the full value of the personal injury case.
Herniated Disc Can Cause Sciatica
A herniated disc can lead to sciatica or back pain. The image below shows the sciatic nerve.
People that are injured sometimes call a herniated disc a “slipped disc”, though doctors do not use this term.
You Can Herniate a Disc from an Accident; But Maybe Not More than 2
You can herniate a disc from an accident. I recently heard an orthopedic doctor say that you cannot herniate more than 1 to 2 discs from an accident.
Can a Disc Protrusion be Painful?
Send Claims Adjuster CT scan and/or MRI films
If you are diagnosed with a herniated disc, you should immediately request the MRI or CT scan of your neck or back. You should then mail or send this disc to the claims adjuster.
The claims adjuster may hire a radiologist to read the films and determine whether he feels that you have a herniated disc.
Settlement value of pain and suffering for a herniated disc caused by an accident in Florida, or on a cruise ship or boat.
This article applies to Florida herniated disc claims for many types of accidents. I wrote separate articles on:
This article also applies to the personal injury portion of your claim if you are hurt while working and you also have a personal injury claim.
This article applies to seamen or crew who suffer an injury while on a boat or ship.
Full Case Values May Not Apply to Workers’ Compensation Claims
Some of this article does not apply if you only have a Florida workers compensation claim.
Radiating symptoms are known as radiculopathy, which means that pain is extending to the arms and/or legs.
Case Can Be Serious Even Without Radiating Pain; Don’t Listen to the Adjuster!
I do not accept this argument. Claims adjusters often tell me that my client’s case is not serious because he or she does not have radicular symptoms.
Radiating Pain Generally is Worth More
But adjusters generally offer more money if you have radicular symptoms. You can learn more about settlements for neck injuries or back injuries in Florida regardless of the specific type of injury (herniated disc, bulging disc, compression fracture, and soft tissue injury).
Know The Breakdown of Past Verdicts and Settlements
It is important to itemize damages from past cases so that you can know the going settlement rate for a typical herniated disc.
Every Herniated Disc Isn’t Worth the Same Amount
If you hear that someone injured in an accident settled a herniated disc case for $25,000, don’t assume that every herniated disc case is automatically worth $25,000.
For all you know the medical bills alone in the that case totaled $25,000.
Without Breakdown of Damages, Settlement Values are Worthless
Hearing about a settlement – without a breakdown of damages – does not help you when you are trying to determine how much your case is worth.
But if the damages are itemized, then you can learn more about recent trends in Florida for the amounts being offered or jury verdicts for a herniated disc. If you know how much your case is worth, then you can know whether to accept an offer by the liability insurer.
Your Attorney Should Know Your Case Value…After You’re Done Treating
One of 11 reasons to hire a lawyer is that an attorney should know the fair settlement value of case when the case is ready to settle.
Find out how a Florida liability insurer may deny or minimize the existence, cause or severity of a herniated disc.
Full Settlement Value of a Pain and Suffering for Herniated Disc Case ($25,000 to $50,000)
In Florida, for settlement purposes and as a starting point, I value the full value of the pain and suffering component of a typical non-surgical herniated disc between $25,000 and $50,000.
The full value of the personal injury component is then added to the full value of the other components in the case.
Lower end of the above settlement range is with little medical treatment and little disability.
High end of the settlement value for the pain and suffering component of a typical herniated disc in Florida $50,000
The higher end of the range is when the treatment is longer and you are left with more of a disability.
On the other hand, if another person or company did something severe (such as drunk driving) and caused your accident, the value of a case involving a herniated disc can significantly increase.
Serious Disabilities May Be Worth More than $50,000
If you’re left with a serious disability due to your herniated disc, the full value of pain and suffering can increase above the $50,000 mentioned above.
Driver Gets $100,000 for Aggravation to Pre-Existing Herniated Disc
See a $100,000 settlement for a lady hit by a car in North Miami Beach. She said the crash worsened her pre-existing herniated disc.
She also broke her nose. Her neurologist diagnosed her with lumbosacral radiculopathy, and lumbosacral intervertebral disc displacement.
GEICO paid its $100,000 BI insurance limits shortly after the crash. I represented the injured driver. This settlement was also mentioned earlier in this article, since my client received a nerve block injection.
Customer Gets $370,000 Verdict for Pain and Suffering from 3 Level Fusion of Herniated Disc
This isn’t my case. for a 57-year-old woman who had a 3 level cervical (neck) fusion, as well as surgery on her shoulder.
She was shopping at Home Depot in Vero Beach, Florida. The shopper claimed that a metal rack fell on her neck and shoulder. She had a herniated disc in her neck.
Some herniated disc cases that I have handled are on my Florida injury settlements page.
$550,000 Verdict for Pain and Suffering of 3 Herniated Discs
This is not my case. The pain and Suffering alone for an adult woman who suffered a herniated discs and osteophyte complex at C4-5, C5-C6, C6-C7, as well as pain in her tailbone.
She slipped and fell on a clear substance on a stairway at a condominium building in Orange County, Florida owned by the defendant.
She said that the condominium association failed to inspect the stairway and fix the dangerous condition (the substance on the floor). The condo association said that they did not know and that it was unreasonable for them to know of the alleged dangerous condition.
Defendants also said that the woman did not provide notice to them of the condition of the stairway as required by Florida Statute Section 83.201.
Jury Found Her 40% at Fault, But Awarded Her Big Money for Medical Bills
The jury found the condo association 60% at fault and the woman 40% at fault. The case is Manzo v. The Sanctuary at Bay Hill Condominium Association, Inc.; Apogee Association.
The jury awarded a huge amount, $375,617, for past medical bills. That leads me to believe that there were surgeries. The jury awarded the woman almost $120,000 in pain and suffering for each herniated disc.
This is above the starting point that I believe fair for purposes settlement value for pain and suffering from a herniated disc in a Florida accident.
I have said before that the starting point that I use in an operated disc case for the full value of pain and suffering is between $25,000 and $50,000 for pain and suffering only. But it may need to get significantly adjusted up or down.
$210,00 Settlement for Herniated Discs and Shoulder Surgery
We settled a case for $210,000 for a Florida truck driver who was rear ended in Georgia. He claimed that the crash caused or aggravated his herniated discs.
He also had a shoulder labrum surgery. When a Florida resident is hurt in an auto accident in another state, he has to deal with the laws of at least two states.
$55,000 Verdict for Pain and Suffering for Herniated Disc and Rotator Cuff Tear
This isn’t my case. A passenger slipped and fell on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship gangway (walkway) when it was raining.
Most Herniated Discs Occur in the Lower Back
Most herniated discs occur in the lower back. You should know about past settlements for accident cases involving a herniated disc in the lower back.
Herniated Disc Cases Often Come with Other Injuries
In many cases where someone injures a herniated disc, he or she also has other injuries as well. The value of those other injuries should be added to the full value of your case when trying to settle it.
Prior Neck or Back Pain in the Same Location as Herniated Disc
If you had pre-existing injury, it can decrease the value of your case. However, you still may be entitled to damages that stem from an aggravation of a pre-existing injury.
Your age may impact the amount of your Florida injury settlement. Older people are much more likely to have a herniated disc than younger folks.
Many People Have Herniated Disc and Don’t Know About (Study)
Research Study of 67 People With No Low-Back Pain, Sciatica or Issues
This is, in part, because there was a study where an MRI was given sixty-seven individuals who had never had low-back pain, sciatica, or neurogenic claudication.
- About 30% of the subjects were found to have a substantial abnormality.
Study Showed Under 60 Years Old, 20% Had a Herniated Disc and 1 Had Spinal Stenosis
In the study, for people who were under 60 years old, 20 per cent had a herniated nucleus pulposus and one had spinal stenosis. Below is an image of spinal stenosis.
60 Years or Older, 57% of Scans Had Issues
For people who were 60 years old or older, the findings were not normal on about 57% of the scans.
Degeneration or Bulging Disc at At Least 1 Lumbar Level in 35%
There was degeneration or bulging of a disc at least 1 lumbar level in 35% of between 20-39 years old and in all but one of the 60-80 yr. olds
Even though those individuals never had low-back pain, sciatica, or neurogenic claudication, many of them still had pre-existing issues.
Other factors that may make your herniated disc case tougher:
Little Damage to the Vehicles Involved
History of Working in Manual Labor Jobs (Construction Worker, etc.).
The insurance company may say that your herniated disc is the result of your hard labor, including but not limited to heavy lifting. They may deny that the accident caused your herniated disc.
Defense Doctor May Say Your Disc Isn’t Herniated
Often times, the radiologist hired by the insurance company for the at-fault person or company will say that you have a disc bulge and not a herniated disc. Bulging disc settlement values are generally less than the settlement value of a herniated disc.
Prior Treatment at Same Vertebrae Level as the Herniated Disc
If you’ve had prior medical treatment at the same level as the herniated disc, this may decrease the case value.
If the Liable Party Has $10,000 in BI Liability Insurance, and You Have a Herniated Disc, Will They Pay You the $10,000 Limits?
Maybe. $10,000 is the most common bodily injury (“BI”) insurance limit that Florida cars have.
Factors that may increase the chance that an BI liability auto insurer pays its $10,000 limits are:
Treatment with a Chiropractor Instead of an Orthopedic Doctor
Big damage to the car that you were in
You were a pedestrian when the car hit you
At fault driver was drunk
You only have 1 herniated disc
Surgery is Recommended
Herniated Disc is Big (e.g. 6 millimeters)
The type of accident doesn’t require you to prove your injury is permanent
You’ve had epidural injections or surgery
You Have Surgery
Herniated Disc is in Your Neck; Or Back but Not a Rear End Crash
Many more factors
Note: You can always take your case to trial and see how much a jury will award you.
Example of Calculating a Herniated Disc’s Settlement Value
As a starting point only, I use a settlement range of $25,000 to $50,000 for the full value of the pain and suffering component a disc herniation from an accident in Florida, or on a cruise ship or boat. Let’s use a figure that is in the higher end of the range, $40,000, for this example:
Case may be worth = Full value x (100% – X% reduction because you didn’t report incident)
Possible Value = $40,000 x (100 – 25%)
Case may be worth = $40,000 x (75%)
Possible Value = $30,000
Did you suffer a herniated disc in an accident in Florida, or a cruise or boat? Do you have another type of injury?
See Our Settlements
Check out some of the many Florida injury cases that we have settled, including but not limited to car accidents, truck accidents, slip or trip and falls, motorcycle accidents, drunk driving (DUI) accidents, pedestrian accidents, drunk driving accidents, taxi accidents, bicycle accidents, store or supermarket accidents, cruise ship accidents and much more.
We want to represent you!
Our Miami law firm represents people who were injured by someone else’s carelessness anywhere in Florida in car accidents, truck accidents, slip, trip and falls, motorcycle accidents, bike accidents, drunk driving crashes, pedestrian accidents, accidents at someone else’s home, condo or apartment, accidents involving a Uber or Lyft Driver, cruise ship or boat accidents and many other types of accidents.
We want to represent you if you were injured in an accident in Florida, on a cruise ship or boat. If you live in Florida but were injured in another state we may also be able to represent you.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated.