Back, Neck, and Spinal Cord Injuries

Attorney John Christopher Maples has recovered millions of dollars for his clients who have suffered neck and/or back injuries. Mr. Maples has been representing cleints who have suffered spinal cord injury for over 20 years. He is a past presenter at the Abilities Expo for Spinal Cord and Brain Injury. Mr. Maples has successfully litigated multiple multi-million dollar structured settlements for his clients suffering spinal cord injury to ensure they are taken care of for the rest of their life.        

Every case must be evaluated and a value determined on a case-by -case basis. A spinal injury to your neck or back can be devastating, permanent, and life-altering. A back or neck injury claim allows you the opportunity to get reasonable compensation from the person or business that is legally responsible for causing your injuries and related damages. Since back and neck injuries can range from so-called acute "soft tissue" strains and sprains, to chronic neck and/or back pain, to serious spinal cord injuries and paralysis, therefore, again, the settlement value of any given claim must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Believe me, no one wants a multi-million dollar spinal cord injury. However, if you have such an injury, it is very important for you to be properly compensated for life. Here are some general guidelines that apply when assessing the settlement value of a back, neck, or spinal cord injury claim, and some tips to keep in mind.

Value is Based on Compensable Damages

Typical compensation for a back, neck, or spinal cord injury claim includes both economic and non-economic damages (which are usually grouped together as a single award of “compensatory damages”). Let’s take a closer look at both types of damages in a typical back injury case, as well as other forms of financial recovery that may be available.

Economic Compensatory Damages

Economic compensatory damages (sometimes called "Special Damages") are actual financial losses due to money spent -- or money you are not able to earn -- because of your injury. Potential economic compensatory damages in a back injury claim include:

  • Past and Future medical bills: These will vary based on the severity of your injuries. For a herniated disc, surgical procedure (including injections) costs vary from about $1,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on the type of surgery required and the outcome.  X-rays, which are often required even for minor strains and sprains, can cost from $100 to more than $1,000, while physical therapy will likely cost at least $100 per session. In cases involving serious spine injuries and paralysis, the cost of future medical care (lifelong in some cases) can be tens of millions of dollars. You must accurately document the cost of any past medical expense you incur and out law office can help you to do that. If you will need future medical treatment, we will hire the right experts to prove that.    
  • Lost income and wages: In a back or neck injury claim, you’re entitled to compensation for any lost income and expected future reduction in your earning capacity. Lost wage damages are determined by an examination of your salary history and the amount of work you missed, including sick time or vacation time. Lost future income (or loss of earning capacity) is calculated under a complex formula that includes assessment of your projected earnings and the impact your back or neck injuries will have on your ability to do any kind of work. It is important that you thoroughly document any lost income with your employer and keep a log of missed time from work. 

Non-Economic Compensatory Damages

Non-economic compensatory damages (sometimes called "General Damages") provide compensation for non-monetary losses associated with the effects of your neck and back injuries -- losses that aren’t always easy to put a dollar value on. Non-economic compensatory damages typically include:

  • Pain and suffering: A layperson typically believes that some type of pain multiplier is used to assess pain and suffering damages. That means your economic compensatory damages (i.e. medical expenses and lost wages) will be multiplied by a set number (between 1.5 and 5, for example) although in cases of serious injury, the multiplier may be significantly higher (10, for example). That is simply no the case in the real world. Pain and suffering damages are determined on a case-by-case basis. The value is based upon the type of injuries, the type and length of treatment, scarring, permanent injuries, the estimated life expectancy of the injured person, the amount of and frequency of suffering, the effect of the injuries on the "activities of daily living" of the injured party, and the jurisdiction that the accident occurred in.These are all factors that must be considered and the reason that you need an experienced personal injury attorney like John Christopher Maples.           
  • Emotional distress: When applicable, severe emotional distress damages may be assessed separately or compensated as part of pain and suffering, depending on the individual circumstances and the effect on the injured party.   
  • Loss of consortium. When back or neck injuries are so serious (as in cases of partial or total paralysis, for example) that the victim’s spouse is deprived of a normal loving relationship and companionship (including the loss of a marital sexual relationship), loss of consortium damages may be awarded. Affected spouses must bring a claim and/or sue separately for loss of consortium damages.

Punitive Damages

In rare circumstances, punitive damages may be awarded in a back or neck injury case. But there must be proof that the defendant’s action or inaction in causing the accident amounted to more than just run-of-the-mill negligence, and even then, punitive damages are usually only awarded after the case has gone through a full civil trial and a jury has decide that punitive damages are appropriate. The defendant’s conduct must be considered so outrageous or egregious that payment of additional damages is justified -- not in order to compensate the back injury victim, but to punish the defendant’s behavior.

Other Factors That May Affect the Value of Your Neck/Back/Spinal Cord Injury Claim

While the severity of injuries is the major determining factor in the value of a back/neck/spinal cord injury claim, two other considerations can also affect the amount of compensation received in a settlement or jury verdict. These include: 

  • Comparative/contributory negligence: In a small minority of "contributory negligence" states, you recover nothing at all if you were partially at fault for causing the incident that resulted in your injuries. In the majority of states, as in California, a different rule called “comparative negligence” applies, and you may be able to recover as long as the other party was responsible (states have different rules on the required fault percentage). Your damages award will be reduced by the amount of responsibility that you bear (so if you’re deemed 20% at fault, you’ll only collect 80% of your total damages). 
  • Failure to Mitigate Damages: After an accident, you are required to take reasonable steps to mitigate your damages. For instance, let’s say you suffer a back or neck sprain and your doctor prescribes a compression brace for you to wear for up to 12 hours a day. But you don’t wear the brace at all (in fact, the defendant can prove you never even picked it up from the pharmacy), and your injuries become worse. Since you could have taken reasonable steps to treat your injuries, but chose not to, the defendant could be off the hook for at least a portion of your damages. Note - exceptions may apply.