Cervical spine injuries typically occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Hospitals in the US reportedly observe around 869,000 traffic crash-related cervical spine injuries each year. These injuries range from minor to moderate disc herniation to severe spinal cord injuries.
If someone else’s negligence caused the car crash resulting in your cervical spine injury, you may be eligible to recover compensation. Negligence in car accident cases usually occurs when the at-fault driver disobeys traffic rules, such as speeding, tailgating, or driving while intoxicated.
Like other personal injury cases, settlement values for cervical spine injuries can differ significantly, making it difficult to determine the proper compensation. It requires investigating all aspects of your car accident case to accurately assess the impact of the injury.
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows what legal actions to take to maximize cervical spine injury settlement amounts. They can provide legal guidance in navigating the injury claim process and avoiding mistakes that can hurt your right to compensation.
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Types of Cervical Spine Injuries Commonly Sustained After an Auto Accident
The cervical spine, known as the neck region, comprises seven specialized vertebrae labeled C1 through C7. Its location starts below the skull and ends above the middle section of the spine. It contains facet joints located at the spine’s back, facilitating the neck’s flexibility and range of motion.
A network of muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments envelops the cervical spine, providing sensation and allowing mobility to all parts of the body. Sitting between the cervical vertebrae are intervertebral discs. They function as the spine’s shock-absorbing system during daily activities.
The cervical spine or neck region is the most vulnerable to injuries among all spinal column segments due to its anatomical position and flexibility. It’s closer to the head and likely to affect overall bodily functions. Likewise, damage to the cervical vertebrae can be the most serious injury sustained in the spinal cord.
Unfortunately, the neck region lacks substantial protection. As a result, blunt force trauma in car accidents will likely cause injury to the cervical spine and its surrounding areas. The following are the most common cervical spine or neck injuries sustained after a car crash.
The acceleration-deceleration force in motor vehicle accidents is often abrupt, particularly in rear-end collisions. The impact forces the head to jerk and overstretch beyond its typical range of motion. This can strain or sprain the nerves, muscles, ligaments, and other neck soft tissues.
Cervical whiplash is among the most common soft-tissue injuries from car accidents. When cervical tissues suffer an injury, it also causes various clinical symptoms that can affect one’s quality of life. Some signs may only be temporary but can persist or worsen when left untreated.
Neck pain, stiffness, and discomfort are common manifestations of cervical whiplash. Car accidents victims may also exhibit the following symptoms after sustaining cervical whiplash:
- Shoulder and upper back pain
- Headaches and dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
Disc herniation is another common neck and back injury after a car accident. It occurs when a significant force in a car collision breaks the outer layer of a spinal disc.
When that happens, the inner soft-jelly-like substance of the discs in your spine may leak into the spinal canal. This may cause two adjacent vertebrae to rub against each other, compressing the spinal cord and increasing pressure on its nerves.
Herniated discs may happen at various spine levels, depending on the collision type and extent. But most often, they manifest in the cervical spine and lumbar spine or lower back region. Symptoms of cervical and lumbar herniation may vary but frequently include the following:
- Pain in the upper back or the neck’s side
- Decreased range of motion
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the hand or arm
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain in the lower back
A break in one of the upper vertebrae of the spinal column may result in a cervical fracture. The high-energy trauma from a car crash can significantly twist the neck, causing the bones in the cervical spine to crack.
Complications can arise if the cervical fracture damages the spinal cord, including temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body. Injured victims with cervical fractures commonly experience these symptoms:
- Localized neck pain and stiffness
- Bruising and swelling in the neck region
- Inability to take a deep breath
- Shoulder pain that radiates to the arms
- Marked weakness and numbness in the arms and legs
Misalignment in two or more adjacent bones in the vertebrae structure can result in cervical dislocation. Any forceful impact that places excessive pressure on the neck can result in the abnormal separation of the cervical vertebrae.
Subsequently, dislocation within the cervical spine may lead to instability and impairment of neurological function. Car accident victims suffering from a fractured cervical spine may also experience the following:
- Restricted range of motion
- Inflammation or swelling in the affected neck area
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic pain in the neck
- Nerve pain or tingling sensations
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Nerve root damage
Nerve root damage occurs when the nerves in the cervical spine experience compression or pinching due to an injury. For instance, the pressure herniated disk may exert on one or several nerves can damage or compress the nerve roots.
Depending on the injury’s location, damaged nerve roots can result in different radiculopathy symptoms. In cases of cervical radiculopathy, the pain begins in the neck and goes down the arm, affecting the specific area of the damaged nerve.
Moreover, damage done to the cervical spine’s nerve roots of the cervical spine can lead to the following symptoms:
- Tingling or electrical sensations in the fingers and hands
- Diminished reflex responses
- Weakness in the arm, shoulder, or hand muscles
- Neck pain and restricted mobility
The violent force of a car crash can cause structural injuries in the spine that can cause or worsen spinal stenosis. It’s a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal, where the space within the backbone becomes too limited for the spinal cord and nerve roots.
This condition can place excessive pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. The abnormal compression can result in various symptoms, including pain, numbness, and tingling. Severe symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis may include:
- Bowel and bladder function issues
- Difficulty walking or maintaining balance
- Sexual function problems
Factors Affecting Cervical Spine Injury Settlement Amounts
A cervical spine injury can profoundly alter an injured victim’s life. Along with emotional and physical trauma, it can result in significant financial setbacks. Using the multiplier method, the average settlement amount for cervical spine injuries can range between $100,000 to $200,000.
But no single formula will determine the exact compensation in a car accident settlement. Moreover, cervical spine injuries may affect car accident victims’ lives differently. Hence, the settlement value may exceed the average amount, mainly if the damage is severe or permanent.
The final payout for the cervical spine or neck injury settlement amounts will depend on various factors, such as the following:
Economic damages are one of the types of damages you can collect in your cervical spine injury settlement. These refer to the financial losses you incurred because of the injury sustained. These may include medical costs, loss of income, lost earning capacity, and property damage.
Depending on the type of injury, cervical spinal injuries may need extensive medical care to heal properly. Some mild cases are treatable with physical therapy and other conservative management techniques for extended periods.
However, more serious injuries may require surgical procedures, such as discectomy and cervical fusion surgery. Besides the substantial medical expenses, a cervical spine injury may also affect your capacity to work and earn an income.
You can expect to obtain more significant settlement amounts if you lose more income and accumulate higher medical bills due to the injury. It’s more so when the injury prevents you from returning to work and earning income in the future.
Non-economic damages refer to subjective losses. They don’t have direct monetary value, and you’ll likely need a lawyer’s assistance to prove them.
Typical examples of non-economic damages include:
- diminished quality of life
- pain and suffering
- disability or disfigurement
- emotional distress
- loss of enjoyment of life
- loss of consortium
Your settlement amount may increase if you suffer a more serious cervical spine injury as they may qualify for higher compensation for pain and suffering.
The severity of the injury
The severity of your injuries can significantly affect the compensation you’re entitled to recover. Besides the higher medical treatment costs of serious injuries, they may also need more recovery time.
Prolonged recovery periods may result in more missed time at work and more loss of income. Add to this the long-term care that may come if you suffer a permanent injury on the cervical spine. Compared to minor soreness and bruising, severe spinal cord injuries will likely result in a larger payout.
A pre-existing health condition like disc herniation or chronic lower back pain may also affect your settlement amount.
The insurance company may claim that your cervical spine injury existed before the accident to reduce the value of your settlement. However, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to secure compensation for your neck injury and resulting losses.
Using the Eggshell Skull Rule, an experienced personal injury attorney can safeguard your right to fair compensation. This legal principle holds the defendant liable for actual damages even if a pre-existing condition makes the plaintiff more susceptible to serious injury.
Degree of liability
Some states follow a comparative negligence rule. It allows personal injury victims to recover monetary compensation even if they’re partially responsible for the accident. However, the percentage of your fault reduces the settlement amount of your cervical spine injury.
If your case resolves out of court, the personal injury lawyer and insurance adjuster can negotiate for the apportionment of fault. However, if it proceeds to court, the judge or jury will determine the degree of liability based on the evidence and arguments presented.
A Case Example of Cervical Spine Injury Settlement Amounts
Most cases involving cervical spine injuries end in a settlement instead of a trial. But there are some circumstances where you must file a lawsuit to acquire fair compensation for a cervical spine injury.
Suppose you suffered a severe cervical spine injury that leads to long-term or permanent disability. Filing a lawsuit may be necessary to acquire appropriate compensation for your future financial and medical needs.
For instance, the case of Karen Rawers, a victim of a vehicle collision caused by a negligent USPS truck driver. She suffered damage to the spinal cord stimulator, which requires replacement and revision.
In Rawers v. United States, the plaintiff had a right to recover for past and future medical expenses amounting to $382,379.62 and $764, 759.24 for pain and suffering. The total damages, in this case, were $1,147,138.86.
Settlement amounts or awards for a cervical spine or neck injury ultimately depend on the facts of the individual case. It’s always beneficial to work with an experienced lawyer to determine your case’s worth and take the best course of action.
Did you know?
Cervical spine injuries frequently occur due to significant trauma, such as in car accidents. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients suffering from blunt trauma have sustained cervical spine injury.
Understand Your Legal Options With a Competent Lawyer
The physical pain and long-term health consequences of getting injured in a car crash are already daunting enough. It becomes even more overwhelming when you cannot work while medical bills and other expenses accumulate.
Legally, you can opt to file a personal injury claim to pursue compensation for your accident-related injuries and losses. But insurance companies are often reluctant to extend substantial payouts. As a result, they’re most likely to give a lowball settlement offer or refuse to enter into negotiations.
When pursuing a compensation claim, a personal injury attorney from a reliable law firm can put you in a more advantageous position. With their legal knowledge and experience, they’re skilled at negotiating fair settlements and fighting for the compensation you legally deserve.
Obtain a free case evaluation at The Personal Injury Center today. We’ll connect you with a competent car accident lawyer who can help you understand and navigate possible legal options for your case.
Ensure maximum compensation for your cervical spine injury. Schedule a case review at The Personal Injury Center.
FAQs on Cervical Spine Injury Settlement Amounts
Solid proof is an essential foundation of every successful personal injury case. Here are some forms of evidence to prove the occurrence of a cervical spine injury following a car crash:
- Photos showing the extent of your injuries and damage to property
- Copies of bills and receipts showing the costs of medical treatment
- Medical records documenting the severity of the injury
- Testimonies from medical professionals and accident reconstruction experts
- Pain journal detailing the impact of harm to the victim's quality of life
- Witness accounts supporting the injured victim's narrative of events
- Police report containing complete details about the accident
- Traffic camera footage capturing the crash scene
Hiring a lawyer isn't always required to negotiate a settlement for a cervical spine injury. However, personal injury claims can be complex. You'll need to present solid evidence to substantiate your claim and counter opposing arguments from the other party involved. The lawyer's assistance will be valuable, increasing your chances of reaching a fair settlement.
The recovery period of a traffic crash-related cervical injury depends on its severity and other factors. But most patients experiencing minor neck strain or pain will recover within four to six weeks. In cases where the cervical spine injury is severe, recovery can be significantly longer.