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 decide 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.
Florida Herniated Disc Injury Summaries
Below are summaries of more Florida injury claims that involve a spinal disc herniation.
- 2020, Florida: $516,905 Verdict. A woman suffered L4-5 and L5-S1 herniations with annular tears after she was involved in a rear-end collision in Jacksonville. She also suffered radiculopathy and recurring back pain. The woman underwent pain management treatment for her injuries. She did not undergo surgery. Her biomedical expert opined that, despite the low impact speed, the force was enough to cause her disc herniations. The defense denied that the collision caused permanent injuries, emphasizing that she was in a collision 20 years prior and suffered lumbar radiculopathy. A Duval County jury found that the woman suffered permanent injuries and awarded her $516,905 in compensation for her injuries.
- 2020, Florida: $250,000 Settlement. A motorist crossed the centerline and sideswiped a 69-year-old man’s vehicle. He suffered three cervical disc herniations. The tortfeasor’s insurer initially denied liability, but eventually admitted liability and tendered his policy limits. He ultimately received a settlement payout of $250,000, which included $38,013 in past medical expenses.
- 2020, Florida: $1.48 Million Verdict. A 43-year-old woman slipped and fell on a puddle of grease next to her apartment’s front door. She suffered a herniation to her C5-6 disc, a herniation and an annular tear to her L4-5 disc, and a torn left meniscus. The woman underwent three knee surgeries and conservative treatment for her disc injuries. She claimed residual pain that affected her ability to stand for extended periods. The woman and her husband sued the apartment complex’s owner for failing to maintain safe premises. The defense counsel argued that the woman knew of the puddle and should have been more cautious. The Pinellas County jury ruled in favor of the couple and awarded a $1.48 million verdict.
- 2019, Florida: $1 Million Verdict. A highway-patrol officer was rear-ended by an uninsured driver while stopped in traffic in the Tampa Bay area. She suffered herniations to her C4-5, C5-6, C6-7, and L4-5 discs. Her trauma also produced an L5-S1 disc bulging. She also sustained a swollen right knee. Her C5-6 and C6-7 disc displacements caused stenosis, while her bulging L5-S1 disc caused spinal nerve impingement. The woman underwent surgery that included a discectomy, a corpectomy, and spinal fusion. She claimed that her injuries made her less physically active than she used to be. The Hillsborough County jury awarded her $1,009,428.
- 2019, Florida: $655,693 Verdict. The 28-year-old real estate broker approached an intersection in St. Petersburg. Upon approaching, a garbage truck struck her SUV. An ambulance brought her to a local hospital, where she received sutures to close her knee laceration. She also suffered a herniation to her L5-S1, a tear to her L4-5, and bulges to her L1-2 and L3-4 discs. The woman claimed that her herniated L5-S1 caused spinal nerve impingement. Her treatment consisted primarily of chiropractic treatment and face-block injections. She claimed that she experienced significant pain while on the job. The Pinellas County jury awarded the woman $655,693.
- 2019, Florida: $1.3 Million Verdict. A 51-year-old microbiologist was stopped in traffic on I-275 in Tampa. The glass company-owned pickup truck rear-ended her vehicle. She suffered herniations to her C4-5 and C6-7 discs, causing residual nerve impingement that resulted in radiculopathy. The woman also experienced a tear in her left rotator cuff. She initially sought treatment through a chiropractor. About a year and a half after the accident, she underwent arthroscopic surgery on her left shoulder. She then underwent a discectomy to remove and replace her C4-5 and C5-6 slipped discs the following year. Physical therapy courses followed both procedures. Her life-care-planning expert testified that she would need physical therapy, epidural injections, ablation of some of her spinal nerves. He further testified that she may need disc replacement and fusion surgery. The Hillsborough County jury awarded her $1,300,000.
- 2019, Florida: $3.9 Million Verdict. A 24-year-old college student was driving on the left lane of I-84 in Winter Park. Rain created wet road conditions. A driver lost control of his SUV and struck a guardrail. Another vehicle, that was in front of the woman, avoided the SUV. The woman could not and struck the SUV. An ambulance transported her to the hospital, where staff treated her for herniations to her C5-6 and L5-S1 discs. These are pretty common disc injuries from car accidents. She initially received trigger-point injections, then underwent chiropractic treatment. The woman eventually underwent spinal surgery three years after the accident. This comprised a laminotomy, a discectomy, and an annuloplasty. Her injuries made her less physically active and affected her self-esteem. Her doctors testified that she would need lumbar fusion surgery. The Orange County jury awarded $3,948,486.
- 2019, Florida: $400,000 Settlement. The 69-year-old woman approached an intersection in Ocala. Another woman ran a red light and struck her SUV. The tortfeasor drove a stolen car and traveled about 100 MPH. The woman was eventually diagnosed with a concussion and post-concussion syndrome. She also sustained herniations to her C3-4 and L4-5 discs. Her L4-5 disc also experienced bulging. She underwent several months of physical therapy and nerve block injections. One year after the accident, doctors performed surgery on her lumbar spine. This included a discectomy, a foraminotomy, a laminectomy, and spinal fusion. She testified that her injuries affect her ability to go horseback riding, one of her favorite activities. Geico agreed to pay her $399,999.99 out of a $500,000 policy.
- 2019, Florida: $649,870 Verdict. An unemployed woman visited the emergency room a day after her lab results showed low hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelet levels. She had a history of anemia. Hospital staff ran blood tests that showed microcytic anemia. Despite this, they discharged her shortly and reported that she was in good condition. While walking back to her car, the woman fell to the ground. An MRI conducted a month later revealed multiple herniated discs. She initially underwent chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and facet injections. Two years after the surgery, doctors performed a microdiscectomy for a lumbar disc. The disc re-herniated, and she would now need revision surgery. The woman testified that her pain makes it difficult to carry her grandchildren. She further testified that her injuries affect her ability to return to work as a home health aide. The woman sued the emergency room physician for discharging her too early. The St. Lucie County jury awarded $649,870.
Lessons from this Case
The critical lesson from this case is hard numbers. They matter. A lot.
What are the 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. We are not just talking about a slipped disc but a lifetime of pain and discomfort.
But juries are quicker to give back the hard medical costs. So the lesson for plaintiffs’ counsel is to do whatever you can 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. Make sure your Florida car accident lawyer is dialed in on this often lost opportunity to maximize your settlement payout.
I hope you got something out of this verdict analysis. This post was originally written in 2014 and updated on February 25, 2021, to add some more current thoughts on this case and herniated disc cases in general.