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 (with amounts). 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 a Car Accident Cause a Herniated Disc?
Yes. A car accident can cause a herniated disc. Additionally, motorcycle accidents, and slip and falls, can cause a herniated disc.
In many personal injury cases, the at fault party has insurance. His or her insurance company gets to hire their own doctor to examine you.
These insurance company doctors often say that symptoms appear very quickly if there is a disc herniation that was caused by a car accident. Or caused by any type of accident.
Therefore, insurance company doctors will say that your herniated disc wasn’t caused by the accident if you didn’t have pain shortly after the accident.
What is the best part of a motorcycle rider’s case if he or she has a herniated disc?
That the claimant doesn’t have to prove that the herniated disc is a permanent injury in order to get money for pain and suffering. All things equal, motorcycle riders get more money for herniated discs than an occupant of a car.
In other words, motorcycle accident settlements tend to be higher.
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.
$260K Settlement for Disc Protrusions (Uber Accident in Miami)
Here is a video about this $260K settlement for disc protrusions with a steroid injection.
The actual crash diagram from the police report is below:
My client, Ray, was an Uber driver who was engaged in a ride in Miami, Florida. He was in Vehicle 2 in the above diagram. He had a passenger at the time of the crash.
A company van (vehicle #1 in the diagram) was heading in the opposite direction. The van made a left hand turn.
The front of the van collided with the left driver side of the Uber driver’s car. You can see the damage to the car that Ray was driving (below):
The van wasn’t as badly damaged. Check out the photo below:
At the hospital, the MRI of the Uber driver’s back showed two disc protrusions. I’ve labeled them here:
They showed a L4-5 left paracentral disc protrusion with some indentation on the thecal sac with moderate subarticular recess stenosis on the left.
It also showed a L5-S1 left paracentral disc protrusion, which abuts against the thecal sac and may abut against the exiting nerve root on the left.
The doctor at the hospital called these protrusions “bulging discs“. They did not call refer to them as “herniated discs“. However, some doctor use the term disc protrusion when referring to a herniated disc.
He had one epidural steroid injection to his lower back. The Uber driver also had a fracture of the lamina of his T3 vertebrae.
I settled the Uber driver’s personal injury claim for $260,000. CNA, the insurer for the at fault van, paid the $260K settlement.
If the driver of the van would’ve been driving for Lyft, the settlement would’ve likely been similar. This is because Lyft’s insurance company (Zurich) pays similar to CNA. York Risk Services handles Lyft claims.
Do Steroid Injections Increase the Value of a Herniated Disc Case?
Image from video of injection to lower backAll 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.
$100K 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.
$39K Settlement for Herniated Disc and Steroid Injections (Pinecrest, Miami-Dade County)
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.
$150K Settlement for Lower Back Fusion Surgery on Herniated Disc (Miami)
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.
He then had a lumbar spinal fusion. Here is what a lumbar spinal fusion looks like:
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. She sued in Hillsborough County, Florida.
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.
Bright House appealed the verdict. On February 28, 2018, the appeals court (2nd DCA) said that the verdict was fine. On April 6, 2018, Harlow filed a document with the court saying that the insurance companies paid the entire judgment.
The appeal case number is 2D17-273. The trial court case number is 14-CA-011547.
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
Watch a video of the injured driver’s version of the accident and his settlement.
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.
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.
Below is another view of the herniated disc. This time the MRI is looking from top down.
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 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. They claimed a lien of $4,744.93.
The good news?
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.
$70K Settlement for Herniated Discs and Other Injuries After Car Hits Pedestrian
Watch an interesting video about this settlement:
A pedestrian was picking up a hose in the middle of the street in West Palm Beach, Florida. A driver of car crashed into her. The accident happened during the day.
I represented the pedestrian. I claimed that the accident caused or aggravated herniated discs in her back and her neck.
You can see herniated discs in her neck at C5-C6 and C6-C7.
Below you can see the herniated disc in her lower back at L5-S1.
USAA insured the driver. They paid us $70,000 to settle. Here is the settlement check.
$20K Settlement for Herniated Disc (Miami Car Accident)
Liz was a passenger in an SUV. She was heading straight on NW 25 St in Miami, Florida. Jose was driving a Jeep. Jose ran a red light.
The front of Liz’ SUV hit the right front side of Jose’s Jeep. This occurred in an intersection.
Here is what the SUV looked like after the crash.
Here is another photo showing the damage to the front and driver side of the SUV.
The diagram from the Florida crash report is below:
Police gave Jose got a ticket for running a red light.
Liz was not transported by ambulance to the hospital.
She had a L2-3 central posterior protruding herniated disc, which measures approximately 2.1 mm causing stenosis of the central canal with compression of the thecal sac. Here is what the herniated disc looked like:
The MRI showed straightening and loss of the normal cervical lordotic curvature, which the radiologist said which may be seen in sprain or strain injury.
An MRI also showed a C4-5 central posterior disc bulge present without stenosis of the central canal or neural foramina. The MRI showed straightening and loss of the normal cervical lordotic curvature, which may be seen in sprain or strain injury.
The crash caused a cut and scar on Lisa’s forearm. You can see the scar in the photo below.
Infinity Insurance company insured the Jeep driver who paid its $10,000 BI liability insurance limits.
I filed a civil remedy notice of insurer violation with the Florida Department of Insurance. Progressive paid the $10K underinsured motorist insurance limits.
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.
$10K Settlement for Herniated Discs from Car Accident (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Watch this video, where my client talks about his case:
My client was in his car and stopped at a light in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A drunk driver hit him. My client had neck and back pain. Here is the crash diagram:
This is a photo of my client’s car after the accident:
Neck MRI Showed 3 Herniated Discs
His cervical (neck) MRI said that he had:
1. At C3-4, there is a right paracentral disc herniation with no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
2. At C5-6, there is a central disc herniation abutting the ventral aspect of the cord. There is no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
3. At C6-7, there is a broad-based disc herniation with no significant neuroforaminal narrowing, but there is mild spinal canal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with spinal stenosis are over the age of 50. Though degenerative changes can cause spinal stenosis in younger people, other causes need to be considered. These include trauma, such as a car accident.
Neuroforaminal narrowing refers to a reduction of the size of the opening in the spinal column through which the spinal nerve exits. As this opening narrows, the nerve becomes compressed, which in turn can lead to pain that radiates along the path of the nerve.
Back MRI Showed 1 Herniated Disc and 2 Bulging Discs
His lumbar spine (back) MRI showed:
1. At L3-4, there is a broad-based disc bulge with mild bilateral neuroforaminal narrowing, but no significant spinal canal stenosis.
2. At L4-5, there is a broad-based disc bulge, more eccentric to the right. There is mild bilateral neuroforaminal narrowing, but no significant spinal canal stenosis.
3. At LS-51, there is a broad-based disc herniation, more eccentric to the right. There is no significant neuroforaminal narrowing or spinal canal stenosis.
GEICO insured the car that the drunk driver was driving. Within 37 days of the accident, GEICO paid us the owner’s $10,000 BIL insurance limits.
Some of my favorite herniated disc cases are when the at fault driver was drunk at the time of the accident. This is because we can make a claim for punitive damages.
Here is a photo of my client and I after the settlement.
Miami injury attorney Justin “JZ” Ziegler with happy client
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 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).
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 Amounts 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.
The 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.
$100K Settlement for Aggravation to Pre-Existing Herniated Disc from Car Accident (North Miami Beach)
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 was injured while working. Commercial Risk Management, Inc. was the workers compensation servicing agent who paid for his medical bills and most of his lost wages.
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.
$326K Verdict for Herniated Discs (GEICO Uninsured Motorist Insurance)
This is not my case. Valerena Candy was in a three car motor vehicle accident on July 18, 2009.
At the time of the accident, Candy was riding as a passenger in the front seat of a vehicle being driven by Annalise Mannix.
Annalise Mannix’s vehicle came to a stop in a line of traffic, when it was rear ended by a second vehicle that was propelled forward by a third vehicle, which was being driven by Danais Hernandez.
The second vehicle caused minimal damage to Mannix’s vehicle.
Thereafter, she was treated conservatively for chest, neck and low back pain.
Candy had lumbar and cervical MRIs, which revealed multi-level disc herniations.
GEICO’s adjuster stated that:
Although there was approximation, reports were negative for spinal cord compression and nerve root impingement.
Spinal cord compression and nerve root impingement increase the value of a case.
She had two cervical epidural steroid injections.
Around June 22, 2010, Candy Valerena sued GEICO in Key West, Monroe County, Florida.
On October 28, 2010, GEICO offered $20,233.54 to settle Candy’s uninsured motorist insurance claim.
She Had Neck Surgery
On March 2012, she had neck surgery to repair injuries allegedly caused by the accident. Specifically, she underwent a diskectomy and fusion at the C5-C6 and C6-C7 with interior plating inner body grafts by Dr. Kalman Blumberg, a spinal surgeon.
GEICO’s attorney hired an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Rafael Fernandez, to give his opinion on Candy’s injuries. Dr. Fernandez’ opinion was that Candy’s injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the accident.
Side note: Dr. Fernandez was a workers’ compensation doctor who did shoulder surgery on a client of mine whose case I settled for $210,000. In my case, when I spoke with Dr. Fernandez, his opinion was that the shoulder surgery wasn’t related to the rear end crash.
Back to this case…
GEICO hired a biomechanical engineer who said that the delta force of the Honda was only 4.3 miles per hour in the crash. Therefore, he said that Candy could not have been injured in the crash with such a low impact.
GEICO used its in house Miami lawyers to defend the case. However, 5 days before trial, they brought in outside counsel (attorneys) to defend GEICO at trial. This costs GEICO more money because they likely had to pay the outside counsel by the hour.
57% of the Total Verdict Was for Pain and Suffering
On April 11, 2013, at trial a jury awarded her $326,468. Candy was 51 years old at the time of trial.
The jury awarded her $141,408 in past medical expenses. However, in Florida the injured person cannot recover the billed charges if insurance paid at a lower rate.
Candy received $10,000 in PIP and $10,000 in Medpay Benefits. Thus, GEICO was entitled to a $20,000 credit for PIP and Medpay.
Also, she had health insurance that paid a good amount of her medical bills. Since her health insurance company had a contract with some of her medical providers, GEICO was entitled to a credit for the discounts. Thus, GEICO got a credit of $55,299.81 for her health insurance discounts.
Basically, GEICO only owed Candy $66,108 for her past medical bills after GEICO got credit for her PIP, Medpay and health insurance discounts.
Apparently, Candy also settled with Progressive for $7,000. I don’t know who Progressive insured in this case.
After all of the credits (setoffs), the $326,468 verdict was reduced to $244,108.19. Thus, the case value was 1.7 times the total medical billed charges.
Case Was Worth 3.8 Times the Medical Bills that GEICO Owed
The case value was 3.8 times the amount of medical bills that GEICO owed.
Candy did not ask the jury to award her future medical expenses.
$77,700 was for past pain and suffering. $107,300 was for future pain and suffering.
Again, the total judgment was for $244,108.19.
Candy only had $50,000 in uninsured motorist insurance with GEICO. However, her verdict against GEICO was for way above the $50,000 limits.
Next, she sued GEICO in federal court for failing to pay the $50,000 UM limits when it could and should have.
The bad news?
The jury for the bad faith case found that GEICO did not act in bad faith. Thus, Candy’s payout was capped at $50,000. In addition, she recovered her court costs of $12,042.47.
$55K 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
Is a Herniated Disc Worth More than a Fracture?
In most cases, no. For an example, insurance companies tend to pay more money for a broken wrist than a herniated disc.
Did you suffer a herniated disc in an accident in Florida, or a cruise or boat? Do you have another type of injury?
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated.