Following serious accidents or certain medical procedures, many victims sustain spinal cord injuries that permanently impact their lives, leading to long-term financial and personal struggles. As a result, these victims often seek compensation from liable parties whose negligence led to the accident or medical mistake and subsequent injuries.
If you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury and believed another party was responsible, you may be able to recover total compensation through a claim or lawsuit. At the same time, you might wonder exactly how much you’re able to recover for all the damages resulting from the accident.
When determining how much your spinal cord injury is worth in a lawsuit, there are some factors to consider when calculating the total settlement amount.
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How Much Is a Spinal Cord Injury Worth in a Lawsuit?
Spinal cord injuries frequently occur yearly, some more serious and life-altering than others. According to data from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, around 18,000 new spinal cord injury cases develop yearly in the U.S. These injuries often result from the negligence of individuals or entities, warranting compensation to victims in many cases.
You might be curious to know how much compensation the average victim receives for these injuries, but the fact is that these settlements vary greatly. Many of these cases settle for thousands to millions of dollars, but there isn’t a universal average for these accidents. Each case is different and involves various contributing factors influencing the total settlement amount.
In an accident resulting in a spinal cord injury, it’s important to learn about the facts of the case to help calculate the total amount of compensation victims may be eligible to recover.
Factors Influencing Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit Settlements
In every type of accident case, specific factors will help determine the total value of the potential settlement. When negotiating with insurers or taking the case to court, the following are the specific items to consider when calculating the settlement amount. An attorney may be able to help you determine how much your case is worth based on each of these considerations.
The Extent of the Injury
One of the main factors that will impact the settlement amount in a spinal cord injury lawsuit is the severity of the injury. Spinal cord injuries are among the most serious, resulting in different degrees of paralysis in many cases.
They can cause paralysis affecting the lower legs and body, known as paraplegia, or they can affect the majority of or the entire body in the form of tetraplegia or quadriplegia, respectively. Injuries involving paralysis are particularly debilitating, potentially leading to lifelong disabilities that prevent victims from returning to work in the same capacity as before the injury. Some with full-body paralysis may be entirely unable to work after an accident.
Generally, the more severe the spinal cord injury, the higher the settlement amount will be to compensate for the changes in the victim’s life. Serious spinal cord injuries will require longer recovery times, more extensive treatment, and significant medical expenses in many cases, all of which will lead to greater financial losses.
The Damages Resulting from the Accident and Injuries
The extent of the injuries sustained in an accident will affect the damages involved in a spinal cord injury lawsuit, with many of these cases involving economic and non-economic damages. Knowing all of these damages will help you calculate the total value of your case.
Economic or special damages account for all financial losses in an accident case.
Spinal cord injuries often result in many economic damages that contribute to a settlement, with some of the different economic damages including:
- Medical expenses, including hospital stays and urgent care, along with long-term treatment
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Modifications made to homes or vehicles to accommodate disabilities
- Property damage
In addition to economic damages, spinal cord injury victims may be able to recover various non-economic or general damages. This helps quantify the personal pain and suffering that victims experience because of their injuries and subsequent losses.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and mental anguish
- Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium and companionship resulting from disabling injuries
Some cases may also involve punitive damages. Only the courts can award these in a trial setting, but they may play a role in a lawsuit if the defendant acted with gross negligence or malicious intent. These damages aim to punish the defendant and prevent future instances of similar behavior.
Another type of damage that spinal cord injury cases may involve is wrongful death. If the victim of an accident passes because of their injuries, the victim’s immediate family may be able to sue for certain wrongful death damages. These damages could include the economic and non-economic damages discussed above. Still, they may also account for other damages, such as burial and funeral expenses, along with the pain and suffering experienced because of the victim’s death.
Cases resulting in spinal cord injuries often involve much damage, making calculating their impact on the final settlement challenging. An experienced attorney will be able to help determine how much a case is worth based on the impact of all damages.
The Certainty of Liability
In cases where liability is clear and there is little to no doubt that the defendant is responsible for an accident, the settlement amount is likely to be higher. The need for certainty of liability makes it important for plaintiffs in these cases to show precisely how the defendant caused the accident and subsequent injuries.
With the help of an accident lawyer, you may be able to effectively argue how the defendant’s negligence or malicious intent caused an accident and resulted in injuries. This could entail gathering ample physical evidence to prove your case, including footage of the accident scene and injuries, witness statements, police reports, and more.
The Liable Party’s Insurance Policy
The coverage on the liable party’s insurance policy will also influence the total compensation you may recover for a spinal cord injury. In most cases, defendants in negligence cases will go through their insurers to settle, and the insurer will work to negotiate a settlement that falls within the defendant’s policy limits. If the nature of the accident and injuries is serious and leads to substantial costs, insurers may offer a settlement equal to the policy’s limit.
The litigation costs can quickly add up, and complex cases may require extensive expenses in this area. For example, defendants and their attorneys may need to pay high costs to depose witnesses, perform clerical work, and hire expert witnesses and other professionals. In these instances, defendants and their lawyers may be willing to reach a higher settlement to avoid the potentially high costs of litigating.
How to Maximize Your Settlement Amount in a Spinal Cord Injury Case
Following an accident resulting in a spinal cord injury and related damages, you may be able to recover a large settlement from liable parties. To maximize the potential settlement amount, take the right approach to your case. Here are some of the specific steps to take to increase your chances of reaching a fair settlement:
Don’t Wait to Seek Medical Treatment
Many spinal cord injuries will be obvious and require immediate medical treatment following an accident, but this isn’t always true. Some victims may still be able to function after a spinal cord injury and believe that the injury isn’t serious, only to worsen later and result in a more serious injury.
If you’re in an accident involving impact to the head, neck, or back, or have undergone a medical procedure affecting these areas, and experience any symptoms of a spinal cord injury, seek immediate medical attention. Not only will this help you receive a formal diagnosis and get you started on the recovery process, but it will also generate medical documentation that may serve as crucial evidence in an accident claim or lawsuit.
Gather Sufficient Evidence to Support Your Case
Another way to increase your potential settlement amount in a spinal cord injury lawsuit is to collect and present as much evidence as possible.
Many pieces of evidence are crucial in these and other injury cases.
Examples of this evidence may include:
- Medical records and bills
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- Photographs or video footage of injuries and the accident scene
- Expert witness testimony
If you have difficulty obtaining any of this evidence for use in your case, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to help. They may have the resources to contact medical professionals, witnesses, police, and others to collect the necessary evidence to support your case.
File Your Claim or Lawsuit as Soon as Possible
In addition to seeking medical attention soon after your accident, you must file a claim or lawsuit against liable parties as soon as possible. All cases have a specific statute of limitations that gives accident victims time to build a case before they cannot seek compensation. The statute of limitations will depend on the specific type of case and the state where the injury occurred.
If you’re unsure how long you have to file, an attorney may inform you of your rights and how much time you have to build a case. You can also visit your state government’s website for information about statutes of limitations.
The sooner you begin your case, the sooner you can also be on your way to recovering total compensation. This will help ensure you don’t have to foot the bill for medical expenses and other costs for too long after sustaining a spinal cord injury.
Don’t Settle for the First Offer from Insurers
When seeking compensation for a spinal cord injury, you’ll likely open an insurance claim and begin negotiations with the liable party’s insurance company. Insurers will do what they can to avoid making large payouts and losing too much money, meaning that adjusters will often make initially low settlement offers in the hope that the claimant will accept this settlement and close the claim.
Remember that if you accept a settlement offer and the case closes, you will typically be unable to reopen the case and seek a higher amount of compensation. The risk of permanently closing a case makes it crucial for claimants to get what their case is worth before accepting an offer. However, many claimants don’t know exactly how much their cases are worth, leading them to accept an offer prematurely without making any counteroffers.
Whenever an insurer makes an offer, you should ensure it covers the amount you stand to recover for your injuries and damages. If you’re not sure how much your case is worth, an attorney may be able to help you calculate the full amount and negotiate with insurers to reach a fair settlement.
Speak With a Personal Injury Attorney
Before you begin a case, consult a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. An attorney can meet with you in a free consultation to review the details of your injury and the incident that caused it. They may then disclose the options available regarding compensation and building a claim or lawsuit.
If the attorney decides to take on your case, you may benefit from representation throughout the claims or legal process. An experienced lawyer will be able to collect and organize evidence to support your case, negotiate with insurers, and take the case to court if needed.
Get the Assistance You Need for a Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit
If you or a loved one sustains a spinal cord injury and want to begin a case, you may be able to build a case against liable parties for causing the injury and various damages. By contacting a reputable personal injury lawyer, you can determine what course of action to take to recover compensation. By taking the right steps after an injury, you’ll find out how much your case is worth.