Los Angeles Herniated Disc Injury Lawyer
Herniated disc injuries range from a week of back pain requiring time off work, to severe paralysis of the lower limbs and loss of bladder/bowel function. Far too often, insurance companies try to minimize the pain and suffering of patients with spinal cord injuries like herniated discs, when in reality the likelihood of future back problems is extremely high. The compassionate legal team at Ellis Law in Los Angeles, California has experience in handling these claims – and winning substantial amounts for our plaintiffs.
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine, resulting in a limited range of motion, serious pain and numbness or tingling. This debilitating condition is also referred to as a ruptured, protruding, or slipped disc.
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What is a herniated disc?
The spine is made up of individual bones (vertebrae), separated by rubbery cushions (discs), stacked upon one another. The disc itself is somewhat like a jelly donut, with a tougher exterior and a softer interior. Sometimes the disc tears, causing softer “jelly” to leak out. Some people may experience no symptoms associated with this occurrence, while others suffer nerve irritation such as pain, numbness, or weakness in a leg or arm.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, up to 80 percent of people will experience some type of lower back pain during their lifetimes – and a portion of these will be attributed to a herniated disc.
Persons of older age are more likely to suffer a disc injury, as the vertebral tissue and collagen within deteriorates over time. Other times, however, a herniated disc is caused by a traumatic incident – such as falling on a hard surface. The forceful impact of a fall or sudden blow to the spinal vertebra can cause a disc’s jelly-like nucleus to bulge out, causing acute pain.
If the nucleus pushes out far enough, this puts pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord leading to inflammation.
Most people suffer herniated discs in the lower lumbar region, but it may also occur in the cervical spine or neck area. When the lowest portion of the spinal canal is affected below the waist, disc herniation may compress long nerve roots that resemble a horse tail (the cauda equine region), prompting emergency surgery to avoid paralysis and permanent weakness. Sufferers may experience severe pain or a loss of all sensation in the inner thighs, backs of legs, and rear. Bladder and bowel dysfunction is likely.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, a herniated disc can leave victims with life-altering complications and potential disabilities. For this reason, prompt medical treatment is important after suffering a slip and fall or being involved in a car accident that has left you with low back pain, muscle weakness or numbness in the lower extremities. If your line of work entails a lot of heavy lifting, like construction, you may also be more prone to suffering a slipped or herniated disc.
At Ellis Law, our award-winning lawyers provide sound legal representation for victims of catastrophic personal injuries throughout Los Angeles. Our legal team has the resources and knowledge to achieve the money damages deserved when your injury was caused by the negligence of another.
Common symptoms of a herniated disc
Sudden onset of lower back pain is the most common symptom of a herniated disc. Due to the complex network of nerves around the spinal cord, symptoms may be felt in other parts of the body as well. In many cases, the symptoms are unilateral – or experienced on one side of the body.
- Sharp or burning pain in the arms or legs
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, calves, legs, back or toes
- General muscle weakness
- Pain that gets worse after certain movements
- Sciatica – an intense pain that shoots from the buttock down the back of the leg
- Loss of bladder control or bowel control (this is less common and necessitates fast medical attention)
Prognosis & treatment for herniated disc injuries
About one-third of patients suffering from herniated disc injuries significantly improve within a week, and two-thirds of patients are back to work within a month. There are a wide number of physical therapies available. Full recovery is often evident after a few months, without surgery. Patients with pain persisting longer than 6-12 weeks become candidates for surgery. However, research suggests that up to 75 percent of patients will suffer from recurrent back pain after their injuries have “healed.”
Imaging and nerve tests will determine the location and severity of the disc injury and what type of treatments are necessary. In minor cases, patients may recover with conservative therapy including targeted exercises, OTC pain medications, chiropractic treatment, and corticosteroid injections.
If after three months, patients still have pain or numbness stemming from a herniated disc, then surgery is generally the next step. The surgery, known as a cervical discectomy, can cost upwards of $30,000 and is not without risk of serious complications. Some may be candidates for spinal fusion surgery or a disc replacement where a prosthetic is implanted.
Top causes of herniated discs
Sometimes herniated discs occur due to genetics or the simple wear-and-tear degeneration that accompanies aging. Over time, the collagen structure of the outer portion of the disc changes. The number of water-attracting molecules decrease, which reduces the ability of the discs to handle back movement. Risk factors for disc degeneration include smoking and obesity.
When to file a herniated disc lawsuit
In other cases, another person’s negligence or recklessness may have contributed to a herniated disc injury. It’s worth contacting a lawyer who can give you a free case review to see if there is legal grounds for liability. We often take on cases where plaintiffs suffered herniated discs resulting from:
- Improperly lifting large, heavy objects at work (sometimes due to poor training or lack of equipment)
- Traumatic falls or blows to the back (due to faulty equipment, workplace accidents, or violent attacks)
- Motor vehicle accidents (covered by personal injury law)
- Slip and fall accidents (covered by premises liability law)
What is the cost of herniated disc surgery and treatment?
The cost of treating a herniated disc can be quite high. The surgery itself may cost between $20,000 and $50,000. Complications like infection, poor wound healing, or secondary pain syndrome can add significantly to the cost, and even prompt the need for secondary surgeries or procedures. Lost time off work and diminished earning capacity for physical laborers only add to the pain.
Many patients find their medical insurance policy limits or worker’s comp claims only cover the initial round of doctor’s appointments, diagnoses, and some physical therapy. Over the course of a herniated disc sufferer’s life, it’s easy to imagine lost income and the cost of medical care reaching $3 million. On top of that, there is depression, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional upheaval, loss of consortium with a spouse, and loss of life expectancy due to mobility limitations.
Filing a herniated disc injury lawsuit allows Californians the opportunity to recover all of these costs so they can focus on healing.
How much is my herniated disc case worth?
The value of a personal injury claim will depend on several factors, but sufferers of herniated discs can increase the chances of a fair payout by working with a reputable firm like Ellis Law. Our accident attorneys have won numerous accolades for professional achievements and outstanding case results, and are no strangers to the courtroom.
California plaintiffs have recovered generous settlements for herniated disc injury claims, several topping $1 million.
The following elements will be factored when determining the value of your claim:
- Your age and medical history
- If you have a history of pre-existing conditions that may have caused or worsened the injury
- The cost of your medical care
- The amount of lost income
- The length of your recovery
- Associated pain and suffering from the injury
- If you will have lingering complications or are expected to recover fully
- Whether your actions or inaction contributed to the accident
Average herniated disc settlements in California
According to Jury Verdict Research, the median herniated disc settlement in California was $84,550, compared to the national average of $50,000. However, there are many cases where the settlements and jury awards are much higher. Here are just a few stories of herniated disc injuries in California:
- $270,742: After rejecting a settlement offer of $75,000, the plaintiff recovered a much larger sum to cover nonsurgical herniated disc treatment resulting from an automobile accident.
- $1.3 Million: A 31-year-old suffered herniated discs of the lumbar spine that required laminectomy and lumbar spinal fusion. Later surgery was required for implantation of a spinal cord stimulator and the plaintiff developed cauda aquina syndrome with loss of bladder/bowel function as a direct result of her spinal injuries.
- $2.8 Million: A 26-year-old California woman with pre-existing emotional problems was rear-ended by a vehicle going 15 MPH, which caused a herniated disc, back and neck pain, numbness, and emotional disturbances such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and abnormal brain functioning. At the time of trial, her medical bills and wage losses were estimated at $298,759. However, the plaintiff was on long-term disability, and required long-term pain management for her physical injuries, as well as five years or more of psychological treatment, which increased the amount of compensation.
Generally speaking, motor vehicle accidents tend to see smaller payouts between $10,000 and $180,000, while commercial truck accidents, premises liability settlements, and business liability cases range between $50,000 and $800,000. These are all just ballpark estimates and in no way guarantee what a plaintiff can expect, as each case has its own unique merits.
Herniated disc injury lawyers in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Law have won more than $350 million for our clients. Don’t let a herniated disc diminish your quality of life or your family’s financial future. After any kind of accident, call Ellis Law for a free case review.
There are ZERO fees unless we win, so there is no risk to speak with qualified legal counsel about the merits of your case.