Neck and back pain due to one or more herniated, or “slipped,” discs is one of the most common health complaints for adults. Most of these problems develop over a lifetime as normal wear and tear creates tiny fissures in the hard casing around the jelly-like discs that serve as cushions between vertebrae. As the discs bulge outward, they impinge on nerves and triggering shocks of pain, tingling and numbness.
Trauma from a car crash or fall can also cause or exacerbate a disc herniation, which is when personal injury lawyers often need to take on insurance claims adjusters to ensure that accident victims receive adequate compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. The fact that a majority of herniated discs are preexisting conditions give insurance companies readymade arguments for contesting and denying claims from people who suffered neck and lower back injuries.
The Legal Problem With Back and Neck Problems
In addition to usually being a chronic condition before a crash or fall, herniated discs are difficult to diagnosis and treat. MRIs, which are considered a gold standard for diagnosing orthopedic conditions and for proving the existence of an injury that merits an insurance settlement or civil trial jury award, are often inconclusive when it comes to showing the extent of disc herniation.
Second, surgeries done to relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc rarely accomplish their intended purpose. Pain relief usually proves temporary, and the risks for complications are high.
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As a result of these factors, people who suffer a new or worsened disc herniation in a crash or fall receive vague diagnoses, symptomatic treatment and skepticism (if not outright hostility) from insurance company representatives. The claims adjusters and defense lawyers will insist that the pain “can’t be serious” if the accident victim refuses to undergo “routine” surgical procedures. Our job as personal injury attorneys in Virginia is to help our clients clear these hurdles to holding the people or organizations that hurt them accountable.
Making Sure the System Works for Accident Victims
My Virginia Beach-based personal injury law firm colleagues and I have written elsewhere about compiling and presenting medical evidence in the most effective ways. For cases involving herniated neck and lower spine discs, we first try to ensure that our client is not receiving care from a doctor who may end up testifying for the insurance company and against them.
This seems difficult to believe, but it happens with too much frequency. In our hometown, in fact, one generally well-respected orthopedic surgeon takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve as an expert witness for insurance companies. When asked by clients if we know anything about their health care providers, we warn them about this individual in particular.
Regardless of which health care providers our clients use, we make sure that all treatments, surgeries, prescriptions and therapy sessions are fully documented. This matters for demonstrating the seriousness and debilitating effects of the herniated disc. Keeping good records also makes it possible to calculate the cost of past care and to estimate future medical expenses.
Equally important, we ensure our clients have access to high-quality, reliable expert analyses. Reports, depositions and trial testimony from independent experts do much to counter assertions that an accident did not inflict harm or that the harm was minimal.
Last, we conduct investigations and collect all available evidence to show that our clients were not responsible for causing that crash or fall that injured them. Establishing that our clients are only suffering and in pain due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness is essential to winning any personal injury case in Virginia.