Representing Victims of Herniated Disc Injuries in St. Louis
Herniated discs are a fairly common injury following may types of motor vehicle crashes, slip and falls, and other traumatic accidents. A herniated disc may be the cause of leg pain, back pain, and muscle weakness. Simply put, a herniated disc occurs when the cushion sitting between spinal vertebrae is forced outside its normal position. This serious condition must be properly diagnosed and treated to prevent permanent pain.
If you suffered a herniated disc as a result of someone else’s careless or negligent actions, turn to the team at The Dixon Injury Firm. Our St. Louis herniated disc lawyers can help you determine if you have grounds to file a personal injury claim and seek fair compensation from the liable party. We understand that these types of injuries are often catastrophic, which is why we seek maximum recovery on behalf of our clients.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
The human spine comprises a series of disc-shaped bones resting between shock absorber-like cushions of cartilage. This acts as an intricate shock-absorbing system. A disc herniation occurs when the shock-absorbing cartilage is forced out of the normal structure of the spinal column. A disc herniation is an extremely painful condition that often occurs from the forces involved in a motor vehicle crash or a fall.
The pain associated with a herniated disc is caused by the interruption of the intricate nerve system woven into the spinal column. According to Dr. Johnathan Cluett, M.D., when the herniated disc pushes outside of its normal resting place, spinal cord and spinal nerves can become pinched. This pinching of the spinal nerves may cause debilitating pain and suffering.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
When spinal nerves become compressed, they fail to work properly.
This irritated nerve malfunction tends to produce one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain that radiates or shoots into the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling and numbness or an “electric” sensation
- Neck and/or back pain
- Possible bladder complications
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best to consult with an orthopedic surgeon about your condition. An orthopedic surgeon will order a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), to obtain a complete picture of the spinal discs and cushions. Treatment of a herniated disc ranges from surgery to physical therapy.
How Are Herniated Discs Caused?
A herniated disc is often caused by forces involved in motor vehicle crashes. An automobile crash produces sudden forces which jolt the spine, forcing the cartilage cushion from its natural safety position and pinching the complex spinal nerve system. There are also several other natural conditions of the spine—such as degenerative disc disease, thinning discs, bulging discs, and disc degeneration with osteophyte formation.
Due to the various types of disc-related injuries, it is important that a disc injury is diagnosed properly and early on. If you have suffered a disc injury as the result of the negligence of another person, a disc herniation lawyer can fight to ensure you receive full reimbursement for your injury. In the realm of disc herniation, large insurance corporations attempt to blame the painful symptoms on previous injuries or natural causes. This is a common tactic insurance companies use to avoid paying claims, and thereby make a profit for their stockholders. It is crucial that disc injuries are diagnosed properly to prevent insurance companies fraudulently denying your reimbursement claim.
Bulging Discs vs. Herniated Discs
Discs serve as protective cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. They are composed of two layers:
- The outer shell is called the annulus fibrosus. It is composed of tough, fibrous cartilage that binds the vertebrae together but is flexible enough to allow movement.
- The nucleus pulposus is the innermost part of the disc, composed of softer cartilage. It serves as a shock absorber to support the body’s weight and to maintain the structural integrity of the spinal column.
There is often some confusion as to the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated or ruptured disc and the likely cause of each. A bulging disc extends beyond the space it normally occupies, much like a hamburger patty that is too big for its bun. Typically, the part of the disc that bulges is the tough outer shell, the annulus fibrosus. Bulging discs are most commonly associated with the normal aging process and, as such, they are considered symptomatic of a degenerative process or pathology. Bulging discs are relatively common, especially among the aging population. They usually—but not always—cause no pain.
By contrast, herniated discs result when a crack in the annulus fibrosus allows some of the soft inner cartilage, the nucleus pulposus, to protrude outside the disc. Herniated discs are also known as ruptured or slipped disc. While a bulging disc represents a degenerative pathology, herniated discs are associated with a traumatic force—a violent burst of energy as may occur in a fall or car accident.
Damages & Compensation for Herniated Disc Injuries
In order to determine the reasonable amount of compensation you deserve, you and your lawyer will have to consider several factors. One factor is the nature of the accident. Is it work related injury? Is the other party really responsible for it? Did you contribute to the accident as well? These are some of the questions one must ask to know the exact thing that happened during the accident. You have to prove that the accident was really caused by someone else’s mistake and that they are the one responsible.
The severity of your injury has to be taken into account as well. Insurance companies will need to know how you were affected by the accident. Some of them are wary about the accident’s true impact on the victim’s life because there are people who would deliberately make it look worse than it actually is just to get more money. You need to be honest and clear about your injury. Would it affect you in a long period of time? What treatment is required? Will you be unable to work because of your injury? One must make these considerations when determining the severity of the injury and the amount of reimbursement required.
You should also prepare for tactics that insurance companies and defending lawyers use to fight your claim. One of these strategies involves pre-existing degenerative conditions, which are medical conditions that also cause herniated discs. The other party might argue that your injury is not entirely due to the accident but to these pre-existing conditions. Given this, make sure that you know whether you have such conditions or not prior to the accident.
Car accidents and bad slip and fall may cause herniated/bulged disc or other spinal injuries. If this happens to you because of another party’s carelessness, then you are entitled to reimbursement. However, you must understand that filing such a claim involves various factors to consider. It is not something you do just to get back at the person or company you blame for the accident. It is something you undertake in order to reimburse your harms and losses.
The amount of reimbursement for herniated disc and other personal injury cases varies, as it depends on several factors. Among these factors are the gravity of the accident and the seriousness of the injury. But basically, determining the worth of compensation all boils down to damages.
When you say damages, it points to the injury’s impact on the different aspects of the victim’s life. This impact can be financial, mental, physical, and emotional in nature. Though the physical injury is easier to determine through medical examinations and treatments, other factors might be more complicated to gauge.
Damages are the amount paid to the victim by an insurance company or the other person/party responsible for the accident. There are different types of damages, including compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are awarded to the victims in order to help them deal with the financial effects of the accident. Its amount is usually determined based on medical expenses, loss of income, and property damages that the victim has to shoulder. Some damages are easy to identify and calculate, while others, like pain and suffering caused by the injury, are harder to determine.
Compensatory damages often include the following:
- Medical Treatment: In this case, the damages are set depending on the medical expenses you have already spent and will spend in the future. The kind of treatment you need and the future medications you’ll require are also taken into account.
- Property Damages or Loss: Accidents often result in damage to physical property. If the accident not only injured you but also damaged your vehicle, property, or any other personal possessions, then Missouri law mandates reimbursement for them. The amount might depend on how much you will have to spend for repairs and the property’s market value.
- Income Loss: Sustaining spinal injuries like a herniated disc, might force you out of work. Because of this, you might lose income. What is worse is that you might be unable to work the way you used to because the injury was so severe. If this is the case, then you will likely receive compensatory damages appropriate for the income you have lost and will lose.
- Pain, Suffering, and Emotional Distress: Accidents can have a huge emotional impact on the victim. Some victims will have to live with pain for a long period of time because of the injury. The accident can also cause fear and anxiety, as well as lead to sleep difficulties.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are applied in cases where the wrongdoer committed an extremely dangerous act that led to an injury. If evidence showed that the defendant’s act was undertaken with knowledge that harm would result, punitive damages may be added to the compensatory damages. Punitive damages are a way to punish the party responsible for the accident and send a message to the community that this conduct is not acceptable.
Pattern of Tear Is a Telltale Marker: Circumferential vs. Radial
The telltale marker distinguishing a bulging disc from one that is herniated is the type of tear manifesting in the annulus fibrosus. Any kind of tear in the annulus fibrosus can alter disc shape, but in determining causation, the pattern of tear indicates whether it is symptomatic of disc pathology or related to trauma, either current or pre-existing. This can be determined through an MRI or discogram or by examining how the disc reacts in the presence of the tear.
At the most basic level, bulging discs will show a circumferential tear through the annulus fibrosus; radial tears are caused by trauma, either current or pre-existing. Studies have shown that circumferential tears are produced by chronic forces—stress and strain over a prolonged period of time, causing the layers of the annulus fibrosus to separate. Radial tears are caused by a single burst of energy—as happens in a fall or car accident—when the innermost nucleus pulposus is incapable of absorbing the shock.
Issues in Herniated Disc Claims
Herniated discs are complex injuries, and there are numerous issues that can come into play in herniated or bulging disc lawsuits. Many people have pre-existing spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, or other bulging discs. These conditions can arise as early as around the age of 30 and may or may not cause pain or other symptoms. When there is a pre-existing condition, or previous back pain treatment, this can complicate your bulging disc case, as the opposing side will certainly allege that your injury was not the result of your accident. When this happens, it’s necessary to have an attorney who has a strong understanding of the medical issues involved in bulging disc cases and who can obtain and present the evidence needed to prove that your bulging disc injury was caused or made worse by the accident or incident in question.
The Plaintiffs’ Role in the Incident
A case involving spinal injuries is not just about identifying the actions of the defendant because the role of the plaintiff is also determined. As a matter of fact, the plaintiff’s action or lack thereof can affect the damages awarded to him/her.
Most states have a comparative negligence rule, which associates the cause of the accident with the damages. If you are found to have contributed to the accident, even partly, the damages paid to you can be affected. There are even states that follow the concept of contributory negligence, in which a plaintiff would not receive any compensation if he/she did something that led to the accident.
Another thing to keep in mind when being involved in an accident is to act accordingly. Do not wait to either receive treatment or determine the scope of damages caused by the accident. Otherwise, you will be subjected to failure to mitigate damages, and this can affect your claim. There are cases wherein the victims refrained from getting immediate medical treatment, which made their injuries worse and led to more expensive medical bills. In such cases, the defendants use the plaintiff’s inaction to reduce the amount of compensation they will have to pay.
Doing Everything Right
With the information given above, you may now realize how complex filing a claim for your spinal injury can be, especially if the situation is complicated and severe. However, it is still recommended to pursue your claim if you are entitled to reimbursement. Of course, you will have to evaluate your situation first before deciding whether filing a complaint against the responsible party is appropriate. Making such a decision can be difficult; however, getting legal advice will definitely make things easier for you.
Having an experienced and trustworthy herniated disc lawyer to talk to can help you obtain all the needed information. This will allow you to do everything right and make a wise choice. In addition, getting an injury lawyer who focuses on the kind of case you have will eliminate the need for you to personally deal with insurance companies, as well as lawyers representing the party that caused the accident.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Hiring a St. Louis personal injury lawyer experienced in handling herniated disc cases is a smart move for many reasons. Your lawyer can protect you from insurance companies and lawyers representing the defendants when they try to trick you into agreeing to an unfavorable settlement. Many victims will immediately say yes to any amount as long as it covers their medical bills, not knowing that they are entitled to additional reimbursement.
Lawyers know the laws and policies when it comes to accidents causing herniated discs and other personal injuries. In addition, they can deal and communicate with insurance companies and lawyers without revealing sensitive information that they can use against you later on. With the knowledge of your case and situation, an attorney can estimate the reasonable amount of compensation that you deserve.
Having a lawyer by your side will also allow you time to gather and organize the documents and information relevant to your case. Lawyers are experienced when it comes to organizing data and using information and pieces of evidence that can help you in the settlement process. Another good thing about having a lawyer is that you can focus on treating your injury, as your lawyer works on other matters related to your settlement so you do not have to. This allows you a lot of time and energy and helps you avoid unnecessary stress.
Contact The St. Louis Herniated Disk Injury Lawyers Today
If you suffered a herniated disc or similar injury in any type of accident or after using a defective product, contact the St. Louis personal injury lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm right away to learn how we can help. We offer free initial consultations and provide our services on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not owe any attorneys’ fees unless/until we recover compensation for you.
The Dixon Injury Firm
9666 Olive Blvd #202,
St. Louis, MO 63132