HOW MUCH DOES WORKERS' COMP PAY FOR BACK INJURY?
Back injuries are among the most common and problematic injuries in the United States. Everything from the nuisance of a pulled muscle to something as serious as a spinal cord injury. When these injuries happen at work, the employer tends to be responsible for footing the bill for all expenses involved in the recovery process.
If you've injured your back on the job, and are beginning the process of getting well, then you're likely wondering how much money you stand to receive from your workers' comp settlement.
This is a common question. As an experienced workers' comp attorney let me say that there is no "normal" amount of financial compensation for a workers' comp back injury settlement. Every case, just like every injury, is unique. While it is difficult to provide accurate estimates without knowing the specific details and nature of an injury, I can share the average payouts for back injuries based on data-driven research conducted by various organizations and third-parties.
What Is The Average Workers' Comp Settlement For A Back Injury?
As I mentioned, it's difficult to predict what amount of money you stand to receive in your back injury settlement in a workers' compensation case before going through the process in earnest.
That said, we can at least shed some light on what workers have received in recent years.
According to Martindale-Nolo research, the average back injury settlement was somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000. About 75% of all claimants eventually receive some compensation, but it can take roughly a year or so to receive it.
Data from the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI) are consistent with Martindale-Nolo's findings. The NCCI found that the average workers' comp insurer costs for a low back injury were $37,000 and $33,000 for a claim involving an upper back injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) data also suggests that the average cost of a worker's comp back injury claim is between $40,000 and $80,000 per employer. This amount includes medical treatment, medical costs, medical bills, wage loss benefits, vocational rehabilitation services provided when the case remains open, and a negotiated settlement.
According to a survey conducted by Lawyers.com, the average settlement compensation for back injuries in workers' comp cases was $23,600. It can take a while to get a settlement, however.
What Are The Most Common On-The-Job Back and Spinal Cord Injuries?
Even if you haven't suffered a back injury, it's more than likely that you have dealt with some form of back pain in this body part during your adulthood.
One of the reasons is that the back is a complex and delicate structure made up of muscles, ligaments, and bones. Back pain comes down to the way these parts of your anatomy interact with each other.
The back is a cluster of 24 bones interspersed with shock-absorbing discs that cushion the bones and bend the spine. Woven throughout the spine are ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons. And the spinal cord, as you well know, is what transmits nerve signals from your brain to the rest of your body.
Your back is as delicate as it is necessary to your overall functioning. Here are some of the more common back injuries I see in injured workers:
Sciatica is a widespread back injury that is characterized by pain that runs along the sciatic nerve (follows down one or both legs from the lower back. Sciatica is usually caused when a herniated disk or bone spur presses into a nerve.
Spinal Stenosis is essentially a narrowing of the spinal passage or canal. This type of back injury puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, typically in the low back around the lumbar. The condition is often caused by age-related wear and tear.
Lumbar Fractures, Strains, and Sprains are perhaps the most common back injuries of all. After all, who doesn't know someone that complains about low back pain or discomfort? A work-related accident or slip and fall can very easily cause damage or injury to the lower back. The extent of the injury will in large part determine the size of financial compensation to recover fully. A workers' compensation claim for a sprain or strain may also lead to a claim for temporary total disability if the pain or injury renders you unable to work or move properly.
Bulging, Degenerative, or Herniated Discs are common causes of a multitude of other back injuries. The discs in your spine act as "shock absorbers" to cushion the vertebrae from trauma. If a disc is squeezed forcefully or at a wrong angle, the disc can squeeze through and bulge out from its protective covering. This is a herniated disk. A compressed, bulging, or herniated disk can press into a nerve and cause irritation, which causes more pain, and frequently, sciatica.
Common Causes of Occupational Back Injury
In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 97,990 employee-reported back injuries were caused by overexertion of some kind while lifting or lowering. Lifting and lowering actions primarily caused back injuries or impairment.
Here are some other common causes of back injuries at work:
Driving Long Distances
Operating Heavy Equipment
Factors That Determine The Value of a Back Injury Settlement
The value of your back injury settlement will come down to several key factors. These factors include:
The type and severity of your back injury. More than anything else, the nature and severity of your back injury will determine what amount of compensation you get. Spinal cord injuries are typically more severe than other types of back injuries (sprains or soft tissue damage). Thus the payouts tend to be on the higher end. Also, more severe injuries may result in more time off work and potential disability for extended periods.
If you can't return to work due to the injury. If your back injury prevents you from earning income, that amount will be factored into the value of your injury settlement payout. Generally-speaking, the more time away from work, the higher the settlement amount.
Medical expenses. Any bills or ongoing medical expenses associated with the workplace injury may be factored into the settlement. Costs may include surgeries, medications, physical therapy, rehabilitation, in-home care, for example.
Disability. If your back injury resulted in disability, you might get a higher settlement. And if the injury left you with a permanent disability, there would be an increased amount of workers' compensation benefits available.
These are just a few of the factors that can influence your settlement outcome. Each one will be discussed thoroughly during the negotiation phase with a workers' compensation insurance claims adjuster.
An experienced workers' comp attorney can help make sense of the facts and steer negotiations towards the ideal outcome for you.
Types of Back Injury Settlements
Louisiana state legislature §1271 says it is the right of parties to settle or compromise. In other words, settlements are entirely voluntary: the injured employee cannot force the insurance company to settle, and vice versa.
Under state workers' compensation law, there are two main types of settlements of claims.
Lump-sum settlement agreement: A lump sum settlement, as the name suggests, is a discrete, one-time payment from your employer or its insurance company. A lump-sum is usually the result when there is no real dispute about whether a claim is valid or not.
Compromise settlement agreement: A compromise settlement is the most common type of settlement. Unlike a lump-sum, a compromise resolves a dispute between the employee and the insurance company about how much compensation the injured worker is owed.
Lump-sums and compromise settlements are the most common in Louisiana, but there are a few less common types of workers' comp settlement agreements to understand.
Structured settlement: A type of compensation where the injured employee is paid in smaller, discrete fixed payments over time, potentially in the months or years time range.
Combination settlement: A type of compensation where it is agreed that only part of the claim is compensable, while the rest is disputed. A combination settlement is a combination of a lump-sum and a compromise settlement agreement.
Partial settlement: A partial settlement is where specific individual claim components are settled, while others aren't.
What is the Difference Between a Settlement and a Verdict?
The difference between a settlement and a verdict is simply who decides the outcome of the case.
A verdict decision happens in a court proceeding; a judge or jury issues a verdict after a trial. A settlement is a voluntary agreement between two parties that takes place outside of court. It's typically in everyone's best interest to settle before going to trial.
Possible Reasons for Denial of a Workers' Comp Payout
The workers' compensation system is meant to support injured workers. Here are a few situations when worker's comp benefits for a back injury aren't a viable option:
If there is a pre-existing injury on the medical record (the most common reason)
If you miss an important filing deadline
If the injury wasn't work-related
If the injury wasn't serious enough to warrant compensation
If the injury was not legitimate (if it was fabricated)
There is a lot to keep track of in the process of filing a workers' compensation claim. The legal advice from an experienced workers' compensation lawyer can help you at every stage of the process and reach a fair settlement for your back injury.
Contact A Workers' Compensation Attorney To Discuss Your Back Injury Claim
Not every workers' compensation case ends in a settlement, but the majority of them do. At Bruscato Law, a personal injury firm, I have helped countless car accident victims and injured employees walk away with settlements that help recover the fullest extent of their injuries.
Workers' compensation settlements for back injuries are complex, but there is no need to go through the process alone. Contact Bruscato today to discuss every detail of your case, including potential medical benefits, disability benefits, medical care costs, legal proceedings, and more.