It’s always tricky to talk about an average settlement in a personal injury case because that is not what you’re looking for. You really want to know what a person like you, who was injured like you in a case like yours, can get. So, with that limitation to your question in mind, let’s examine New York car accident neck and back injury settlements.
First, you should know that there are some not easily obtained statistics about these settlements. Important factors in determining the amount you might receive are the kinds of injuries you suffered, how those injuries will continue to affect your life, the expenses and losses you suffered, and your characteristics. We’ll consider all of these below.
What Are the More Common Neck and Back Injuries in a Car Accident
- Compression fracture – a crushing injury that causes the vertebrae to collapse in on itself; it can cause pain, deformity, and loss of height.
- Slipped or herniated disk – herniation or slipping of the disk can occur at any point of the spinal column; it results when the cushioning disks between vertebrae are forced out of alignment or even crushed due to an injury.
- Whiplash – whiplash is a very common injury that results from the rapid jerking movement of the head during a car accident stretching and tearing soft tissues in the neck and spinal area.
- Fractures – a car accident can injure many bones in the neck and spinal column. Depending on where along the spinal column the fracture is located, the injury can be moderate or, if high on the spinal column, can result in severe consequences, including quadriplegia or even death.
- Acute and chronic pain – neck and spine injuries lead, among other things, to nerve damage. That nerve damage can result in longer-term chronic pain that remains with you far longer than the acute pain arising out of your immediate injuries.
- Neck or bank sprain or strain – Sprains result from torn ligaments causing reduced movement or muscle spasms; strains are usually injuries to the facet joints, tendons, and connective tissues.
- Pinched nerve – pinched nerves occur when other damaged tissues such as bones or muscles rub up against and apply inappropriate pressure to a nerve causing severe pain and often numbness or tingling.
- Joint injuries – facet joint injuries can lead to a debilitating, degenerative disorder if not treated. The injury can occur at the joint or through damages to the cartilage or leakage of the fluid that lubricates the joints.
- Muscle spasms – muscle spasms in the neck or back following an accident are very common. However, you may experience spasms in the shoulders and arms as your body attempts to shield itself from further injury.
What Are the More Common Symptoms of Neck and Back Injuries
Neck and back injuries can display immediate and delayed symptoms. For this reason, you seek medical treatment as soon as you can after the accident and stay in treatment as long as your physician suggests.
Immediate symptoms include:
- Severe or immediate a headache
- Extreme pain in the neck, back, or head
- Inability to move your limbs or digits
- Tingling, burning sensations, or numbness anywhere
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Unable to control bowels or bladder
- Difficulty in breathing
- Inability to move parts of your body
- Finding yourself in an unnatural position after impact
Delayed symptoms are also important to treat. This urgency is one of the reasons you want to be sure to finish any treatments or care prescribed for you right after the accident.
Some of the delayed symptoms are:
- Pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising in the abdomen or torso
- Pain or strange sensations in the shoulders, neck, or back
- Tingling or numbness that doesn’t subside
- Decreased hearing or vision
- Developing feelings of stress, anxiety, or inexplicable panic
- Disrupted sleep patterns
No matter which group of symptoms your problems fall into, you will be suffering longer or shorter-term consequences from those injuries. The extent of the injuries, the severity of the symptoms, and how long the problem continues will all impact the potential settlement amount for your case.
What Kind of Damages Can I Recover for My Injuries
There are generally two types of damages that you can recover in a personal injury car accident suit. The first group, called economic damages, includes losses and out-of-pocket expenditures that you can establish with a receipt or invoice, or bill.
- Medical and hospital – the money you spent and can prove you spent on hospitals, doctors, prescriptions, and similar out-of-pocket costs.
- Lost wages – The amount of money you would have earned when incapacitated due to your injuries. Usually proven with old wage statements.
- Rehab – The actual costs of learning to do things again, the therapy needed to return you to function as you did before the accident.
- Assistive equipment and personnel – This consists of the equipment you will need like wheelchairs and walkers and the people who will teach you to use it after you complete rehab.
Those in the legal field often refer to the other common form of damages as non-economic damages. These are the damages that are much more subjective and less susceptible to clear-cut proof. Because of this subjectivity, and because they are potentially far larger than the economic damages, they are also often the primary focus of any settlement award battles between the insurance companies’ lawyers and yours.
The non-economic damages you can recover are:
- Pain and suffering – for purposes of recovering in a personal injury lawsuit, pain and suffering are the physical discomforts and emotional distress suffered by the accident victims. It includes any pain, discomfort, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma that may come from an injury.
- Loss of earning capacity – Loss of earning capacity refers to the amounts of wages or salary that the victim would have been able to earn in the future. It does not include the wages that the victim lost during the recovery period from the injuries.
- Loss of motor and cognitive function – Loss of motor and cognitive function can create a large range of non-economic damages. Pleasures that one used to enjoy may become impossible; earning a living may be impossible, or at least earning the same kind of living. Executive functions may be lost, barring one from senior-level professions that may once have occupied their lives.
- Loss of consortium – Many people think of the loss of consortium as meaning loss of marital relations. But it is much broader than that. It may refer to the loss of the living and relationship with one’s children and spouse or the pleasures of socializing in general. It is supremely difficult to quantify, but a life without it is a much poorer one. In New York, it is narrowly focused on the spousal relationship, but not just on the sexual aspects of it.
Very rarely, a New York court may award punitive damages. They are generally only awarded in cases of extreme or egregious conduct such as reckless or willful indifference to the consequences so severe that it shocks the conscience of the court. The law does not intend punitive damages to make the injured party whole but rather to punish the at-fault party and warn others away from similar conduct.
New York does not place caps on personal injury damages of any kind.
What Dollar Amount Corresponds to Those Injuries?
A lot of factors go into calculating the award for any particular injury and its consequences. Among the most important is the actual impact of the injury on your life. For example, you may have experienced a car accident in which you were tossed around a bit but only suffered a few bruises that time fully healed within a few weeks. On the other hand, you may have been in a car accident and suffered broken vertebrae, severe traumatic brain injury, and significant internal bleeding. The first example equates to a very small settlement in terms of out-of-pocket costs, the extent of incapacity, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
In contrast, the second accident with, on the surface, much the same facts is probably going to be life-shattering for you. There are likely severe motor and cognitive skill losses and long-term hospitalization, rehab, and lost wages. Moreover, the extent of the potential loss of capacity means that your ability to earn a living and your need for ongoing assistive services into the foreseeable future means that your damages award could be huge, particularly if you are young or have a family.
That heads-up aside, some statistics quote ranges for settlements and awards in personal injury cases. The ranges, as you’ll see, reflect essentially the same issues just discussed.
Significant examples include:
- Quadriplegia & Paraplegia – Lifetime costs for a person with quadriplegia can be astronomical, and awards in the tens of millions of dollars are not unheard of. Even paraplegia awards have reached into the $100 million range.
- Pain & Suffering – As mentioned above, New York does not cap damages awards. Therefore, individual non-economic claims are subjectively calculated and can become very rich indeed. However, courts can drastically reduce the value of such awards.
Finally, Who Are You, the Victim?
It may seem unfair, but car accident lawsuits do not work like lottery tickets. This isn’t the week where the Powerball Personal Injury Jackpot is $347 million, and you win it all. There is, in actuality, somewhat of a sum of money set aside for your case, and that constitutes the policy limits on any insurance coverage relevant to your case.
The court and the trier-of-fact (usually the jury) will look at all the claims you and your lawyers made, combined with those of the insurance companies and their lawyers and those of any other parties involved in the litigation. Each party will submit evidence and arguments supporting those claims and denials of claims under oath during the trial. Then, based on the losses you can prove the defendants caused, you will receive an award.
In determining the final amount of your award, the court and trier of fact will look at things like:
- Your age – how long will your injury impact your life
- Your profession – how severe is the reduction in your earning capacity?
- Skills lost – did you have special skills or talents that you will no longer be able to exercise.
- Hospital stays – How long and with how many procedures? Do you still need more hospitalization or surgery; do you have long-term drug needs
Thus, as you can see, the settlement award of a 25-year-old athlete with young children could well be very different from that of a single 87-year-old who was healthy and retired.
Speak to a New York Neck & Spine Accident Attorney Today.
Because of the very many different potential defendants and because of the complexities in navigating settlements and litigation, not to mention your depleted abilities, it is critical to retain a skilled and knowledgeable car accident attorney to handle your case. To focus on your mental and physical recovery, contact an experienced car accident attorney or spinal cord injury lawyer to return to the road to financial recovery.