Car accident victims who have spinal injuries resulting from the accident are often worried that they cannot claim compensation if they are suffering from pre-existing degenerative disk disease.
It is possible to have Degenerative Disc Disease before the crash and not notice any symptoms. Insurance companies will use that to their advantage because it is difficult to show that the pain is only occurring because of the auto accident. However, as long as you get help from an experienced personal injury attorney, you may still claim compensation as your pre-existing condition can be exacerbated by the trauma involved in the crash.
Herniation caused by the crash builds on the already damaged disk and can cause extreme pain. You are entitled to claim compensation for the extra pain and suffering caused by the effects of an accident that was not your fault.
Explaining the Link Between Degenerative Disc Disease and Car Accidents
Degenerative disc disease is a natural occurrence over time, but it is worse in some people than it is in others. Sometimes these normal spinal changes lead to pain. The spinal disks act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae – which are the bones – in your spine. Acting like shock absorbers between the bones of the spine, they help maintain the flexibility of your back, enabling you to twist and bend. As you age, they can show signs of wear and tear and result in pain.
Trauma, such as that suffered in a hard fall or an auto accident, are the most common cause of degenerative disk disease having its symptoms activated. Auto insurers often argue that degenerative disk disease is a pre-existing condition, so it isn’t a result of the crash and the insurance company isn’t liable for your medical expenses or your pain and suffering. Often, many accident victims don’t suffer from back pain caused by degenerative disc disease until after the car crash.
While degenerative disc disease was pre-existing, the pain was caused by the crash itself. The pre-existing condition was aggravated by the car accident and the accident victim was more susceptible to suffering pain and injury than others who could have been in the same kind of crash. A personal injury attorney can help prove that the pain is the result of the crash, and that the condition was aggravated by the impact and that is what led to your pain and suffering and caused your need for medical care and time off work.
Excessive disc damage can be sufficiently painful to prevent the sufferer from going back to work or even enjoying a normal life. Medical treatment may be needed and could be required for a long time after the injury.
Find out more about how other kinds of injuries affect personal injury claims.
How Can a Car accident Cause Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a chronic and painful condition that has several causes, including trauma like the trauma received in a car accident. Degenerative disc disease happens when the discs along the spine become damaged and start to deteriorate.
Because these isn’t a lot of blood circulating through the discs along the spine when the discs are damaged they can’t repair themselves the way that other parts of the body can repair themselves after an injury. Over time as the discs deteriorate more they can cause a lot of pain and can even be disabling. According to the Arthritis Foundation common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:
- Pain that ranges from nagging to severe and disabling
- Pain that affects the low back, buttocks and thighs
- Pain in the neck that may radiate to the arms and hands
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Pain that gets worse when bending, lifting or twisting
- Pain that lessens when walking and moving
- Pain that lessens with changing positions often or lying down
- Periods of severe pain that come and go, lasting from a few days to a few months
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Weakness in the leg muscles or foot drop may be a sign that there is damage to the nerve root
There are some therapies like using heat and ice and physical therapies that can help manage the symptoms of this disease but once the discs of the spine are damaged they can’t be fixed.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. To diagnose this disease a doctor must do a physical exam and take an M.R.I. to see if there is damage to the discs. But because the damage gets worse over time there might not be a lot of damage to be seen at the time of the accident. Regular exams and M.R.I.’s are necessary to track the progression of the disease and to see what damage was done to the discs in the spine.
Causes Of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease can be caused by a couple of different things but one of the primary causes is trauma. A car crash can cause a lot of damage to the discs in the spine and cause degenerative disc disease that will impact the person who was hit in the crash for the rest of their lives.
Back injuries are very common in rear end collisions and in head on collisions where people are violently jolted and propelled forward or back by the impact of the crash. Because degenerative disc disease gets worse over time the person who has been injured could endure decades of pain and suffering. As the discs break down the person could become totally disabled, leaving them unable to get around or work. Anyone who could possibly have degenerative disc disease after a car accident should consider the long-term consequences of this disorder when filing an injury claim.
Damages That Can be Claimed For Exacerbation of the Pain Caused by Damaged Discs
It has been common practice for insurers to try and deny compensation if there is evidence of pre-existing degenerative disc disease. However, state law is clear that a pre-existing condition does not prevent an accident victim from claiming compensation as long as it can be shown that the damage from the car accident worsened the existing deterioration.
As with other herniated disc claims, damages claimed include:
- All medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Possibly punitive damages (which may be awarded if the accident can be shown to have been caused by excessive negligence)
Medical opinion on the degree to which the accident has made the disc damage worse will become important evidence when compiling the details of the claim demands.
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Calculating The Cost Of A Degenerative Disc Claim
You will need to come up with a value for your personal injury claim settlement for the degenerative disk disease pain and injuries from the car accident. You will suffer a variety of damages, so you will want to create an itemized list and make sure you include both your economic and non-economic losses. Here are some of the damages you will claim.
- Your medical expenses include anything pertaining to your medical care after the crash where you suffered degenerative disc disease pain. This includes physician visits, any surgical procedures, physical therapy, prescriptions, medical devices, hospitalizations, scans, x-rays, and lab work. It is essential to make sure you have all your expenses together, so keep medical bills and medical records. If you will need any future medical care, make sure you include those costs in the medical expenses total as well.
- Your lost wages. You will need to keep track of missed work and lost wages. Also, consider if you will have a loss of earnings in the future as well.
- Any property damages should also be included. Get photos of the damaged vehicle and if possible, the accident scene. Get written repair estimates for fixing the damages. Include the costs for towing your vehicle and for any rental car you drive while your vehicle is being repaired.
What Kind Of Settlement Could You Get For Degenerative Disc Disease?
If you are suffering back pain because of degenerative disc disease in a car crash, you will want to file a personal injury claim against the driver who was at fault. There are several factors that come into play when determining the value of your personal injury claim in such cases. First, the total of your medical bills has a significant impact on your overall claim value. Of course, the more medical bills you have and the higher the cost of your medical care, the more your settlement is worth. Next would be your lost wages. That is your time off work and lost wages and any future loss of earnings or any future missed work. Also, the value of the property damages you suffered will come into play when calculating your overall settlement value. Of course, if your degenerative disc disease results in you requiring surgery, which could cost as much as $50,000 or more, your claim will be worth more than if your injury required a handful of doctor’s visits and a month of physical therapy.
No two personal injury claims are the same, so there isn’t an average settlement amount for a workers’ compensation claim because of degenerative disc disease. The claim could be worth $5,000 or so, but again, it could be worth $500,000 or more. It depends on the long-term effects that the accident has on you and the expenses that you will incur because of the crash. All the past and future expenses associated with the accident will need to be considered during the claims process.
Tips For Settling Your Personal Injury Claim
Resolving your personal injury claim can take time. You don’t want to settle too quickly because you may not realize the extent of your injuries and the future costs associated with your condition and care. Your personal injury lawyer will work to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and then if a settlement is reached, it could take a couple of weeks for everyone to sign off on the paperwork. After everyone has signed off, it must be approved by a judge.
Depending on the judge’s caseload and schedule, it may take two weeks or longer for a judge to approve the settlement. After the settlement has been approved, the insurance company usually has anywhere from 14 to 30 days to send the check for the settlement amount. The check will be sent to your personal injury lawyer. At that point, any outstanding medical bills will be paid.
Your attorney will take his or her pay since they worked on a contingency basis. Usually, the agreed amount is 20 percent of the settlement. You will receive the rest of the funds to cover your lost wages, property damages, and any other costs associated with your accident. You should consider any future medical expenses or lost wages and plan for them. You will not receive additional money later to cover those costs. You want to make sure your related costs are properly addressed with the settlement.
Why a PI Attorney Will be Vital in a Personal Injury Claim
If you have degenerative disc disease which has been worsened by an injury caused by a car accident you may find that it will be hard to convince an insurer that the pain you have experienced is not entirely due to the condition you already have.
You will need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, preferably one who has dealt with degenerative disc disease accident victims before, to present a convincing case for rightful compensation.
Take our Free Case Evaluation to find out more how a personal injury attorney can help you with your case.