Average Settlement for a Workers Compensation Back Injury
Workers Comp Attorney Corey Pollard Can Help You Obtain Wage Loss and Medical Benefits and Negotiate a Full and Final Settlement if You Hurt Your Back at Work in Virginia
Work-related back injuries and disorders are a leading cause of disability in Virginia and throughout the United States. Each year more than 1 million back injuries are reported in the workplace, costing employees and employers billions of dollars in productivity.
This article provides an overview of back injuries in the workplace and how to protect your legal rights under Virginia workers compensation if you hurt your back on the job. After reading it you will know the answers to:
- Am I likely to hurt my back at work?
- What are common causes of back injuries at work?
- What are the most common workplace back injuries and disorders?
- How do you determine the settlement value for a workers’ compensation back injury?
If you have a question about your back injury case, or are looking for top-quality legal representation, contact workers compensation attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation. We can help you navigate the claims process and negotiate a top-dollar workers compensation settlement for your back injury.
Am I at Risk of Suffering a Back Injury at Work?
No one wants to believe that they can get hurt at work. But every day employees across Virginia and the United States suffer life changing back injuries on the job. Statistics show that roughly 80 percent of adults will suffer a back injury in their lifetime, with around 10 percent suffering a re-injury In fact, back injuries account for roughly one in five workplace injuries and 24% of all occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days missed from work.
The following occupations account for a large percentage of back injuries at work:
- Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
- Laborers, such as on construction sites
- Stock and Material Movers
- Nursing Assistants
- Janitors and Cleaners
- Maintenance and Repair Workers
Even if you don’t work in one of the above occupations, you are likely at risk for suffering a back injury at work. If your job involves the following then there is a good chance you will hurt your back on the job at some point during your career:
- Lifting and carrying items;
- Stocking or shelving products;
- Pushing and pulling machinery or carts;
- Bending to pick things off the floor;
- Kneeling or crawling;
- Operating heavy machinery; or
- Driving a motor vehicle
Common Causes of Back Injuries and Disorders in the Workplace
Back disorders can develop gradually due to repetitive activity or motion over time or can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as a car accident, construction accident, forklift accident, or slip and fall.
Other common causes of back injuries at work include:
- Insufficient training on proper lifting techniques
- Improper lifting techniques
- Not getting help with lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling because you’re in a rush to finish the task
- Reaching while lifting
- Poor posture
- Poor physical condition
- Repetitive lifting of heavy items, equipment, or patients
- Twisting while lifting
- Bending while lifting
- Poor footing such as slippery or wet floors
- Lifting with force
- Vibration, such as with machines
- Heavy lifting
- Maintaining a bent posture
Common Back Injuries at Work
Many of you will suffer at least one back injury during your career, with a low back injury being the most common. Unlike some other types of work injuries, back injuries put you at greater risk of suffering a second back injury. And a severe back injury can cause degenerative disc disease and arthritis that will get worse with time and increased wear and tear. This is another reason it’s so important that you hire an experienced workers comp lawyer to get your initial back injury covered.
No two back injuries are alike. But many fall within the following categories:
Lumbar Strains and Sprains
The spine is held in place by ligaments and muscles, which include:
- Two iliopsoas muscles. These run along both sides of your spine.
- Two erector spinae muscles. These run the length of the spine, right behind it.
- Several paraspinal muscles. These are short muscles that run in between your vertebrae.
- Abdominal muscles. These run from the bottom of your rib cage to the pelvis.
You may suffer a muscle strain or ligament sprain if you try to lift or carry a heavy item, move too quickly, or twist the wrong way.
Back strains are classified as follows:
- A Grade 1 muscle strain causes damage to a few muscle fibers and limited loss of function. This is the least severe type of back strain.
- A Grade 2 muscle strain causes tissue damage and some loss of function or strength.
- A Grade 3 back strain is the most severe type of muscle strain. It means the muscle is either torn completely or the person is experiencing complete loss of function.
Lumbar sprains can be painful, but usually resolve within a few weeks or months because they are musculoskeletal in nature. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy for your back strain.
Ruptured or Herniated Disk
You have 24 moving vertebrae in your spine and nine that are fused together. A disk sits between each vertebrae and acts as a shock absorber that cushions the vertebra from trauma.
A disk has a tough covering, with its interior being soft and jelly-like. If a disk is squeezed suddenly by the vertebrae above and below it, which may happen when a person is lifting a heavy object or gets struck in a motor vehicle accident, the disk covering may tear. This is called a rupture. The disk’s interior can squeeze through the tear and bulge out. This is known as a herniated disk.
The bulge can compress, irritate, and damage its accompanying spinal nerve root, which causes more pain. A herniated disk can also cause sciatica.
The location of the herniation can be described using the MSU Classification for herniated discs.
A Grade A herniation occurs at midline.
A Grade C herniation is a lateral herniation that protrudes into the intervertebral foramen, which is where the spinal nerves travel.
Grade B herniated discs are located between grades A and C, with the facet joint serving as the focal point for the lateral border.
Aggravation of Degenerative Disc Disease or Osteoarthritis
Most of us will have degenerative disc disease once we hit our 30s. It’s a fact of life.
Degenerative disc disease in your back can take many forms: spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the spinal canal; spondylolisthesis, which is displacement of vertebrae in the low back; or, osteoarthritis, which is deterioration of the cartilage that protects your vertebrae or narrowing of the space between vertebrae.
If your work accident aggravates or accelerates your pre-existing condition, such as degenerative disc disease in the back, you may get approved for workers’ compensation benefits. We have won benefits for several injured workers with pre-existing back problems.
Determining the Value of a Workers Compensation Back Injury in Virginia
When determining the value of a back injury under workers’ comp, we examine several different factors:
Is the Back Injury Accepted as Compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act?
Because of the potential cost of lifetime medical treatment and the possibility that an injured worker will be out of work for an extended period, many workers’ compensation back claims are disputed and denied by insurance companies. For example, the insurance company may deny your back injury claim on the ground that you had a preexisting condition that caused your back injury or that your back pain or degenerative condition is due to aging or repetitive motion, not the specific trauma described.
If your back injury has been accepted as compensable, then it has more settlement value than if your injury is denied. This is because there is always a risk that you will lose on the issue of compensability at your workers’ compensation hearing. An insurance company is unlikely to pay the full value of your claim unless it knows that it is already liable for medical care.
If the insurance company is denying your back injury claim for any reason, contact an experienced workers comp lawyer who has handled many back injury cases. We have helped injured employees with extensive pre-existing back conditions obtain benefits and back injury settlements through aggressive development of the medical evidence and by presenting a strong case at hearing that focused on the difference between the workers’ pre-injury and post-injury symptoms and abilities.
What Type of Medical Treatment Will You Require for Your Back Injury?
Some of you will suffer back injuries that can be healed with conservative treatment. Conservative treatment includes cold therapy to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms, heat therapy to reduce pain and relax sore muscles, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce your back pain and swelling, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage.
If conservative treatment doesn’t work then your orthopedic doctor may refer you to pain management for your back injury as the next step in treatment. The pain management doctor may conduct injections, including spinal nerve blocks and epidural steroid injections, to try to reduce your pain and inflammation.
If conservative treatment and injections don’t work, then you may have to undergo surgery for your work-related back injury. Common types of workers’ compensation back surgeries include:
- A discectomy where a portion of the herniated disc that is protruding into the intervertebral foramen is removed. This is also known as lumbar decompression surgery.
- A total disc replacement where the entire herniated disk is removed and replaced with an artificial one.
- A kyphoplasty where bone cement is injected into the injured disc to try to correct the deformity. This is used in cases where the injured employee has suffered a spinal compression fracture.
- A lumbar fusion surgery where a bone graft is used to stop the motion at the painful vertebral segment. Bone grafts and a bone stimulator may be used with the lumbar spinal fusion surgery.
Spine surgeries cost anywhere from $25,000 to more than $150,000.00. The need for surgery increases the potential workers’ compensation back injury settlement value.
Further, many injured workers will require continued pain management post-surgery, especially if they are diagnosed with failed back syndrome. An unsuccessful back surgery increases the potential settlement value of the workers’ comp claim.
What Type of Job Did You Have Before Your Back Injury?
The more physical your pre-injury job, the greater the likelihood that you will be unable to return to it following a work-related back injury.
For example, a nurse or construction worker who suffers a back injury on the job and undergoes a lumbar fusion will likely have permanent restrictions that prevent him or her from returning to the pre-injury job.
On the other hand, a person with a sedentary job that requires no lifting who injures his or her back in a work-related car crash and undergoes a diskectomy may be able to return to work with no problems within a few months of the accident.
If you are unable to return to your pre-injury job because of a work-related back disorder, then you will be eligible for more temporary total disability and temporary partial disability payments. And chances are good that you will time from work. This increases the potential workers’ comp back injury settlement value.
Are You Eligible for Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Because of Your Workplace Back Injury?
In Virginia injured workers are not entitled to permanent partial disability benefits for permanent impairment of the back related to a work accident. They are, however, entitled to permanent partial disability benefits for a back injury if the injury causes loss of use of one or both legs. This is common in back injuries that cause radiating pain due to damage to the spine.
If a doctor believes that you have permanent impairment of the legs because of your work-related back injury, then you have a better chance of receiving a high-dollar workers’ comp back injury settlement.
Contact an Experienced Attorney for Help With Your Workers’ Compensation Back Injury Claim
It doesn’t matter what type of back injury you suffered at work. If you can prove that a specific work accident caused or contributed to your back disorder, you can receive workers’ comp benefits with the right attorney on your side.
Various reports put the average value of a workers’ compensation claim based on a back injury at $20,000 to $25,000, with the average case taking roughly 18 months to resolve. We have settled numerous workers’ compensation back injury cases for many multiples of this average amount and in less time than the national average. We do this by working with you and other witnesses to develop the present an effective story of how the work-related back injury has affected your life and by working with your doctors and other medical experts to show how the most recent workplace accident caused your injury and disability.
Most injured workers want to get back to work right away. Having to deal with workers’ compensation is stressful and they would rather work than have to deal with the insurance company. But don’t push yourself too fast and too far. Follow your doctor’s advice and focus on your recovery while your attorney focuses on the Virginia workers compensation claims process for back injuries.
We are passionate about helping victims of workplace back injuries obtain every penny and medical treatment they are owed. Call now for a free consultation regarding your back injury case: 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614. We will also evaluate your situation to determine whether you’re eligible for Social Security Disability due to limitations resulting from your workplace back injury.