Back and spine injuries are one of the most common work injuries we see in injured workers. Whether you injure your back or spine from lifting an object in the office or working a physically demanding job, it can be painful, debilitating, and you may need treatment for that injury.
When you injure your back or spine in a work accident, there is a possibility that you will be able to arrange to settle your workers’ compensation case. One of the first questions we hear most often from new clients is, “How much can I expect if I get a settlement for my case?” The truth is that there is no single answer for everyone. The settlement value of your back or spine injury will depend on several different factors.
These factors include, among other things, what injuries you have, what your compensation rate is, what lost wages you are entitled to, and what your future medical treatment is expected to be. Given all of this, there really is no average amount for a workers’ compensation settlement.
Work injuries are too “fact-specific” for there to be an average amount that we can put on workers’ compensation benefits. In order to negotiate a fair settlement for your personal injury, you will want to discuss your case with an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorney. The actual money you receive for your workers’ compensation claim, whether it be through regular payments or a lump sum settlement, will depend a lot on negotiations with the insurance company, the workers’ compensation insurance company that your employer works with, your ensuing medical bills, anticipated medical expenses in the future, and the medical care that you need both now and in the future.
A workers’ comp claim can be a straightforward and simple process that starts and ends relatively quickly, or your claim can become a complicated maze through workers’ compensation law that we’ll need to navigate in order to get you what you are rightfully entitled to receive.
Common Back and Spine Injuries
There a many different back and spine injuries that can result from a workplace accident. For instance, your injury may be a ruptured disc, spinal stenosis, or even aggravation of pre-existing arthritis.
Back injuries and back pain can be especially difficult to prove if there are no severe or obvious outward signs of injury, or if they’ve developed over time rather than being the result of a single, sudden incident. It’s even possible that you’ve been suffering from back pain and didn’t even realize you had actually been injured until you finally spoke with a doctor about it.
A large part of what your back or spine injury settlement is worth will depend on what your exact injuries are. The reason for this is that if you have a covered back or spine injury, the insurance carrier will be responsible for your medical treatment.
The treatment that you will need will depend on your specific injury, and, in turn, the monetary value that can be claimed for that health care treatment will depend on what your doctor finds and recommends for treatment. Below, we will go over some common workers’ compensation back and spine injuries:
Sciatica is one of the most common back injuries. It can result in chronic back pain as well as feelings of numbness and tingling throughout the body. If you’ve injured your back but have pain in your arms or legs, then you may have sciatica. Sciatica means that as a result of your back or spine injury, you have also injured a nerve in your body that connects to an arm or leg, resulting in pain and discomfort in that part of your body as well.
Treatment for sciatica can include regular office visits with your doctor, costing $130 to $200 per visit; in addition, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy, which would cost about an additional $75 to $200 per visit. If physical therapy does not work, the doctor may try steroid injections to relieve your pain, and this can cost between $1,000 to $4,000 per year.
In some severe cases, your doctor will recommend surgery to treat your sciatica. Depending on the surgical procedure, surgery will generally cost between $15,000 to $35,000. Alternatively, your doctor may refer you to a pain management doctor to help manage your sciatic pain with medication, which usually costs between $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
Sciatica is very common in people who have worked for long periods at jobs where they have to do a lot of heavy lifting, especially if they are not given the proper equipment and/or training to minimize their chances of suffering a back injury. Years of this kind of work will certainly take their toll.
Your spinal cord is surrounded by the spinal canal for protection. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal and can result in nerve pain due to pressure on your spinal cord. Spinal stenosis happens naturally, but can also be aggravated as a result of a work injury. The symptoms of spinal stenosis are similar to those of sciatica. Those suffering from spinal stenosis often experience pain, numbness, and tingling in your arms or legs.
The treatment for spinal stenosis is also very similar to the treatment for sciatica. This treatment includes regular visits with your doctor and physical therapy to start off.
If physical therapy does not resolve your problems, then your doctor may try injections, just like with sciatica. Your doctor could perform a surgical procedure called a laminectomy to relieve your symptoms. This surgery typically costs between $15,000 to $25,000. If surgery is not an option, or it doesn’t fix your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe you pain medication, which generally costs between $1,000 to $5,000 per year.
Muscle Sprain or Strain
Muscle sprains and strains are also very common back injuries. Usually, a muscle sprain or strain will resolve relatively fast, but there are times where a sprain or strain may linger and cause both pain and problems with normal movement. The common treatment for a sprain or strain would include visits with your doctor, costing between $130 to $200 per visit, and physical therapy, costing between $75 to $200 per visit.
Oftentimes, your doctor will recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to treat this injury. These medications usually cost between $50 to $200 per year. If your pain lasts for a very long time, then it is possible you have an injury other than a muscle sprain or strain.
A workers’ compensation claim for the sprain or strain of one or muscles could also lead to a claim for temporary total disability if the injury or pain leaves you in a state where you are unable to work or move properly.
Our spines are made up of small, individual bones called vertebrae. A spine fracture is when one or several of those vertebrae fracture, resulting in pain and discomfort. What symptoms you will experience will depend on where your fracture occurs. In addition to pain and discomfort, sometimes a spine fracture can lead to an injury to a spinal nerve, resulting, again, in symptoms like those found in sciatica.
Oftentimes, spine fractures can be treated without surgery. Common treatment would include seeing an orthopedist, costing between $130 to $200 per visit, pain medicine, costing between $1,000 to $5,000 per year, and physical therapy, costing $130 to $200 per visit. In some cases, you may need surgery to repair the fracture of nerve damage resulting from the fracture, which usually costs between $15,000 to $25,000.
For the many people who drive as a part of their job, a car accident can lead to extremely painful and severe back injuries. Someone who could file a workers’ compensation claim as part of an injury sustained in an accident would be a delivery driver, a service provider that travels to residences to do things like mow lawns or provide pest control services, or even someone just making a one-off trip somewhere in their car because something is needed for the office.
If it can be proven that you injured your back in a car accident and you were driving for reasons related directly to your work, you will most like like be able to file for workers’ comp benefits.
These are only a few of the possible back or spine injuries that can result from a work accident. Consult with our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys to discuss your specific injuries and the settlement value of your case.
When you have a back or spine injury that is covered in Virginia and you are left unable to work, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost wages in addition to any medical benefits. As part of any possible settlement for your back or spine injury, we will take into account financial problems that you may have incurred due to lost wages due to the fact that you were not able to work.
The lost wages you are entitled to will depend on what your average weekly wage was before your accident, whether you are working at the time of your settlement, whether your doctor is keeping you out of work because of your work injuries, and how long you are expected to either be out of work or unable to perform the job you were doing before you suffered your injury.
In some cases, your doctor may say that it’s ok for you to return to your job if there is a light-duty work position available. This situation, of course, may have an effect on your wages as well.
Consult with one of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys to discuss what type of compensation you may be entitled to claim for wages lost because of a job-related injury. Every case is different, and our attorneys will be able to guide you as to the fair settlement value for your wage loss as part of a settlement for your back and spine injury.
Types Of Workers’ Comp Settlements
In Virginia, there are several different types of settlement agreements that can be made. Each has it’s pros and cons and should be considered carefully.
Full And Final Workers’ Comp Settlement
This is the most common type of settlement made. In this case, the insurance company pays a lump sum to cover all of the benefits owed to you and your case is finalized and closed. Any future needs regarding your injury become your full responsibility.
Full and Final Settlement With A Medicare Set Aside (MSA) Arrangement Funded by the Insurer
An MSA is a special account set aside to pay for expenses related to your work injury. When the MSA fund runs out, Medicare will pay for the rest of your medical care as long as the funds from the MSA account were properly used. You may need to make arrangements for an MSA account if:
- You have applied for Social Security Disability benefits and your claim is pending with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- You are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
- You are eligible for Medicare coverage because of your age.
Workers’ Compensation Settlement Wage Replacement Portion, With Continuing Medical Benefits
This type of settlement is also sometimes called an indemnity only/open medical settlement.
If you accept this type of workers’ comp settlement, you give up your right to additional temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, total disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits. The insurance carrier, however, must continue to pay for all medical care that is deemed to be reasonable, necessary, authorized, and related to the work injury you have sustained.
Most insurance companies will refuse this type of settlement because it leaves them in a situation where they can’t be certain about what kind of medical costs might crop up in the future. They usually prefer to deal with the claim completely and have everything finalized so they don’t have to worry about any future medical expenses.
Structured Workers’ Comp Settlement
A structured workers’ compensation settlement works almost exactly the same as a lump sum settlement except that you are agreeing to receive a certain amount of money divided up into regularly scheduled payments. This type of settlement will close and finalize your case just as a lump sum settlement would.
This type of settlement tends to be offered only in cases where the amount of money to be paid would be very large, such as several hundred thousand dollars or more. In most cases, it’s actually better to take a lump-sum settlement and invest the money with a good financial advisor. This way you can preserve as much of the original settlement money as possible and draw regular payments yourself from your investment(s) when you want to.
When To Consider A Settlement Offer
When you file a personal injury claim through workers’ compensation for a work-related injury, a lump sum payment offer might sound tempting, but you have to be very careful about accepting one. If you do accept, your case will be closed and you will not be able to make another claim based on the same injury if you happen to need any extra care in the future, such as an unexpected surgery, for example.
Most attorneys and medical professionals will recommend that you not take any settlement offer until you have reached what is known as maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement means that your injury and/or the symptoms that you suffer are not expected to improve with any new treatment. You may be left with a permanent impairment or even a permanent total disability, but your healthcare provider doesn’t believe there will be any new treatments that can improve your condition.
Once your treating physician believes that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, you’ll have an idea of what type of medical care and medical expenses you’ll be faced with in the future, so you can make a much more informed decision about whether or not accepting any type of workers comp settlement is the right thing to do in your situation.
Permanent Partial Disability
Depending on your injury, you could be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. These are benefits that are awarded when you have a loss of use of a body part. Virginia does not award permanent partial disability for a loss of use of the back, neck, or spine. However, if your back or spine injury results in total disability in an extremity, such as an arm, hand, leg, or foot, you could be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits.
The compensation you could be awarded is dependent on what body part you have a loss of use of, your average weekly wage before suffering your injury, and the impairment rating the doctor assigns to the affected body part. Consult with our attorneys to find out if you may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits due to your back injury.
The Settlement Amount And Settlement Offer
Under Virginia law and the Virginia workers’ compensation act, any settlement offer made by the insurance company needs to be approved by the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Commission before it can be officially agreed upon by both parties and finalized. The Commission will basically review the offer in order to determine whether or not they believe it to be fair and in the best interests of the injured worker. This step is more or less considered to be just a formality and there is usually no problem, but sometimes further negotiation may be required.
Contact Injured Workers Law Firm Today
There are many factors to consider when settling your workers’ compensation claim for a back or spine injury. If you have a back or spine injury, contact Injured Workers Law Firm right away to make sure that your rights are protected. Our attorneys know that each case is different, and will work with you to get the benefits to which you are entitled.
You should never speak with anyone from any insurance company or make any statements, written or orally, until you’ve spoken with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. Even an innocent comment that comes out wrong could later be used to deny your claim and hurt your workers’ comp case.
We believe that a competent and experienced workers’ comp attorney should be able to take care of all the legal arguments, insurance negotiations, and red tape so that you can be allowed to concentrate on what’s most important right now, getting well and getting back to your normal life. That’s exactly what our team tries to do for each and every one of our clients.
You can contact us online through our contact form anytime or call 866-515-1654 for a confidential and free consultation. We’ll be happy to go over the details of your case and discuss exactly what we can do to help you.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.