Value of Injury Cases: Disc Injuries
I think it is useful to write about jury verdicts and give thoughts as to why I think the jury found as they did and the issues that arose in the case. Why? Because people are looking online for information about the value of their cases.
On our website, we provide a ton of verdict information for victims, many of which suffered a herniated disc. This helps give some lens to the value of a case. But it hardly tells the real story of the claim and why a jury may have valued it the way that they did. So hopefully posts like this help educate those looking for answers.
Facts of Mayrink v. Luchsinger
This is a herniated disc case. Plaintiff, a painter by trade, crashed into a median strip after being pushed off the road by the defendant who must have changed lanes without looking. Usually, in these lane change cases, you almost invariably have a liability fight on your hands. Defense counsel in this case, probably wisely, admitted responsibility. Why is this wise? Defense counsel often admits liability because they know if they fight and lose there is real credibility lost on the scope of the injuries battle. By admitting fault, the defendant seems more credible and honest than if they fight on liability and lose.
Plaintiff claimed he injured his neck, shoulder, right arm, chest, and back. The key complaint was a herniated disc at L-5-S-1. But his complaints of pain were not over the top by any stretch. He said that he can’t jog and play soccer as long as he used to be able to before the crash. That gives him much needed credibility himself but obviously weakens the damages case. Plaintiff also spent a lot of time with a chiropractor and brought him to trial to testify.
I’m not a huge fan of bringing chiropractors to trial. I did it once in a trial in Baltimore City against USAA. I got a $200,000 verdict on a $17,000 offer. But afterward, the jury asked why I brought the guy. It is not often the jury gives you exactly what you asked for in a trial and you still feel like you made a mistake.
But that is not a universal rule. Some chiropractors can provide a meaningful human touch at trial and usually know the patient better than the orthopedic doctor. But unless you have a very impressive chiropractor, that is a witness best left on the shelf.
But they brought the treating chiropractor who gave him a 5% percent permanent impairment rating. I think there is a real argument that a chiro can’t even give this opinion in many states. (Moreover, I think the idea of an “impairment rating” in a personal injury case is the wrong path. This is a workers’ comp device that does not serve its purpose in third-party liability cases.) But he was allowed to in this case. More importantly, the treating orthopedist also testified that the disc injury was related to the motor vehicle crash and that he will need future medical treatment as a result, including lumbar facet injections.
Defense counsel put on an ortho – I’m sure one of the usual suspects in Florida – to opine the lower back injury was not caused by the collision.
The trial lasted two days and the jury took a matter of minutes to decided the case. They awarded:
- $28,354 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost
- $74,200 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost
- $20,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
- $20,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering
A grand total of $142,554.
Lessons from this Case
The critical lesson from this case is hard numbers. They matter. A lot.
What are hard numbers? Economic loss from the crash as opposed to pure pain and suffering damages. Less than one-third of this award is for pain and suffering. Really? A man needs what appears to be lifelong treatment and they only award $40,000 in pain and suffering. But juries are more quick to give back the hard medical costs. So the lesson for plaintiffs’ counsel is to do whatever you can to try to get the hard economic damages as high as you reasonably can. How do you do that? You do what this lawyer did here: cultivate credible testimony on future medical expenses or other economic losses.
One thing most lawyers are quick to forget in this regard: prescription drug costs. The real cost is much higher than what you are paying your pharmacist when you make your copay.
I hope you got something out of this verdict analysis. This post was originally written in 2014 and updated on December 17, 2018 to add some more current thoughts on this case and herniated disc cases in general.