Can Degenerative Disc Disease Be Aggravated By A Car Accident?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a medical condition that can be worsened by a car accident. DDD is a natural part of aging in which the spinal discs undergo wear and tear, leading to neck and back pain. However, premature degeneration of discs may indicate DDD. While a car accident may not directly cause DDD, it can exacerbate the symptoms of this preexisting condition by inflicting injury or trauma to the spine. Therefore, individuals who have DDD may experience aggravated symptoms after a car accident.

You might get whiplash and see a doctor who tells you that your diagnostic tests show degenerative changes. While degenerative disc disease may not be caused by a car accident, you can get compensation if the accident aggravated your neck pain or initiated it under the “eggshell plaintiff” rule.

Understandably, many prospective clients want to know the average degenerative disc disease car accident settlement amount. However, it is incredibly difficult to give an average settlement figure. That is why it is best to speak with an experienced Florida car accident lawyer near you.

Various factors impact settlement value, including the total amount of your damages and liability. Because degenerative disc disease is not caused by a car accident, assigning a general settlement range is even more complicated. According to the settlement examples listed on this page, the typical herniated disc settlement values in Florida vary greatly from $300,000 to $1,575,000. Settlements depend greatly on the unique circumstances of each case, so the amount for degenerative disc disease car accident settlements in Florida varies greatly. These claims can be very complex to pursue, which is why you should speak with an experienced Florida car accident attorney as soon as possible. 

Here’s how you can best determine an idea of the settlement you could receive, speak with an experienced aggravated injury settlement attorney from Abrahamson & Uiterwyk, we will go over all the specifics of your case. We can tell you the potential strengths and weaknesses of your claim and let you know what you might receive through settlement negotiations or in a jury trial. If you attempt to handle your claim independently, you will likely receive a much lower settlement or even find your claim denied.

Insurance companies know injured victims do not understand the legal system or what their claim is potentially worth. They often take advantage of that fact by extending a lowball settlement offer or unfairly denying your claim. Many insurance adjusters will lead you to believe that you are not entitled to compensation because degenerative disc disease is a pre-existing condition.

If you receive an offer from the insurance company, you should speak with an attorney before agreeing to settle. The first offer that you will receive will always be less than your case is worth. If the insurance company outright denies your claim due to a preexisting condition, do not give up without contacting an attorney first. Insurance adjusters are hoping you will take their denial at face value and walk away. When you work with an experienced attorney, we will not allow the insurance company to engage in unfair practices or try to resolve your case for an insulting amount.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Before discussing potential degenerative disc disease settlement value, it’s crucial to understand what degenerative disc disease is and how it impacts your claim. Degenerative disc disease is a very broad diagnosis and can encompass many injuries, including bone spurs, disc bulges, tears, and more.

Most people with degenerative disc disease experience pain in the neck or lower back, or both. The reason is that these two areas of the spine undergo the most stress and motion, thereby making them more susceptible to wear and tear. However, some people do not even realize they have degenerative disc disease because they do not experience any pain until they sustain injuries in a car accident.

What Is an Eggshell Plaintiff?

When an injured victim is more vulnerable to injuries, the “eggshell plaintiff” rule might apply. This theory means the at-fault party must take the plaintiff as they find them. Each case is different and depends on the facts. Generally speaking a defendant is liable for any injuries they caused, regardless of how uncommon or unforeseen your injuries are. 

The term eggshell plaintiff comes from the example of someone with an eggshell-thin skull. This individual is more susceptible to a skull fracture than most people. That means even a minor bump on the head could be catastrophic for someone with an eggshell-thin skull. If a negligent party causes a minor head bump to someone with a fragile skull, they are still responsible for any catastrophic injuries.

This rule also applies to people with pre-existing injuries, not only people with natural conditions like a thin skull. Negligent parties are responsible for aggravating someone’s preexisting condition in an auto accident. They will not be liable for the entire injury, only the extent that the accident worsened the preexisting condition. For example, consider a plaintiff who is recovering from a meniscus tear. If someone causes an accident that worsens the pain or causes further damage, they could be liable for the aggravated injuries.

When someone is suffering from excruciating pain that did not exist before the accident, the defendant could be liable. The question is whether the preexisting condition or the accident led to the pain. If the preexisting condition was there, but the plaintiff had no pain complaints, then the accident probably aggravated the condition. 

The eggshell plaintiff rule means that a defendant cannot argue that if someone else were the injured victim, they would have lower damages. Florida law does not let a defendant avoid liability for causing an injury just because the injured person was more vulnerable due to a pre-existing condition.

Examples of settlements of Disc Herniation

$1,575,000 / Motor Vehicle / Hillsborough, FL

53-year old male was rear ended by the Defendant. Client suffered from a three level herniation which was ultimately operated on with anterior cervical disc fusion. Case settled for $1,575,000 shortly before trial.

$1,074,169 / Motor Vehicle Accident / Right Arm, Neck and Back Injuries / Hillsborough

44-year old male was injured when the defendant sideswiped the vehicle that the client was operating. As a result of the collision the client sustained a severely fractured right arm, cervical disc herniations, and back pain. Due to the severity of the fracture to the client’s right arm, the plaintiff underwent two surgeries including bone grafts to repair his arm. The amount above represents the remaining limits of available insurance in this case.

$500,000 / Motor Vehicle Accident / Herniated Disc / Pinellas County, FL

The defendant in this case turned left into our client’s path causing a serious accident. Our client suffered a herniated disc in his neck which required surgery.

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Potential Compensation in a Degenerative Disc Disease Aggravated By A Car Accident

Florida is a no-fault state, which means you must seek recovery initially under your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy. Your PIP policy can cover some of your expenses, such as medical costs and time off work. However, severely injured victims can easily have medical bills that far exceed the PIP limits. In these cases, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault party for the remaining damages. Your PIP policy does not cover non-economic damages either, such as your pain and suffering. To seek noneconomic damages in Florida, your injury must be significant and permanent. 

Understanding your legal rights is essential. Your nearby attorney will discuss the best course of action and what types of compensation you might be entitled to receive. In very limited scenarios, you might be entitled to a punitive damages award. The law reserves punitive damages for cases involving gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The award is designed to “punish” the defendant and deter them from similar actions in the future.

Contact an Experienced Florida Car Accident Lawyer

If you or someone you love sustained injuries in a car accident, do not attempt to handle your claim on your own. Let the professional team at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk assist you. We have over three decades of experience helping injured victims just like you. Our top priority is to protect your legal rights, so you can concentrate on your recovery.

We take pride in our professional yet compassionate representation and an excellent record of success. We’ve represented thousands of clients near you for personal injuries in Florida. To see how we have helped other clients, read our client testimonials and case results pages.

Our legal team has the necessary skills and knowledge to take your case to trial if the insurance company does not take your degenerative disc claim seriously. We can refer you to excellent specialists and experts who can review your records, evaluate your injuries, and determine to what extent the car accident exacerbated your degenerative disc disease. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.   

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