If you have suffered a serious ear injury because of the negligence of someone else, you want to know the potential settlement value of our case. The purpose of this page is to improve your understanding of the range of potential value of your claim. We also have information elsewhere on the settlement value of hearing loss cases.
The ear is a complicated instrument, responsible for a variety of different functions in the body. Injuries that affect the outer, middle, or inner ear could result in vastly different symptoms, such as hearing loss, dizziness, or increased sensitivity to sound. In cases that involve an ear injury, it’s important to get specific.
There is no one-size-fits-all estimation for the value of an ear injury claim, so we have to take the symptoms, type of injury, severity, available treatments, recovery potential, and mechanism of injury into consideration for each and every individual case. With that in mind, this article will explore the different types of ear injuries that could arise from an auto accident or another traumatic event, and provide examples of trial verdicts and settlements for cases involving ear injuries. In addition to the type and severity of the ear damage, these sample cases will give you a sense of how claim value can also vary based on jurisdiction, the severity of any additional injuries, and a multitude of other factors.
A larger hole or tear in the eardrum often coincides with a greater hearing loss. Most of the time the hearing loss is temporary and will subside after the eardrum heals on its own.
Sometimes, in severe cases, doctors will place a medicated bandage over the perforation to help it heal, or surgically patch the tear. In cases where scar tissue forms over the eardrum, hearing impairment may be permanent. The following verdicts and settlements are examples of what to expect from a middle ear injury or perforated eardrum claim resulting from an auto accident.
- 2020, New York, $6,825,000 Settlement. A 50-something man was installing tiles from an unsecured eight-foot ladder. As he tried to get onto an unlocked Baker’s scaffold, it shifted. He fell to the ground and struck his head. The man suffered a skull fracture, a ruptured eardrum, and an unnamed condition that prevented him from closing his eyelids. He needed surgery to treat all these conditions. The man was left with cognitive deficits, including memory, concentration, and balance issues. He was unable to return to work. His family testified that whether he spoke in his native Turkish or English, he was sometimes unintelligible. He is also permanently required to take anti-seizure medications. The case settled for $6,825,000.
- 2019, New York, $25,000 Settlement. An 11-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle after he exited a school bus. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in retrograde amnesia. The boy also ruptured his eardrum and accumulated fluid in his middle ear. His father claimed that the vehicle’s driver was responsible for his medical bills. The parties settled for $25,000.
- 2019, Texas, $42,000 Verdict. A motorcyclist suffered a ruptured eardrum and a bruised kidney after a vehicle struck him. He alleged that the driver failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to apply brakes, and failed to turn his vehicle away from him. The driver denied liability, claiming that the motorcyclist failed to exercise care and caution. A Dallas jury awarded $42,000. However, the award was reduced, and the final judgment was $33,630.
- 2017, New York, $22,500 Settlement. When a boy’s bicycle collided with the defendant’s vehicle, he suffered a perforated eardrum and ossicular chain discontinuity, or the separation of his middle ear bones. He additionally suffered a fractured nose, a concussion, and superficial lacerations. His perforated eardrum required surgery to repair it, and he was left with a small facial scar.
- 2014, Maryland, $15,000 Verdict. A 32-year-old male was driving the middle car of a three-car pileup. The defendant’s vehicle rear-ended him with enough force to push the plaintiff’s car into the vehicle in front of him. As a result of the accident, he suffered a ruptured eardrum, left ear tinnitus, and post-traumatic headaches, as well as left shoulder, arm, and back strains, and bruising on his chest and shoulder. His jury award included $5,200 for pain and suffering, $6,200 for past medical costs, and $3,600 for past loss of wages.
- 2008, Michigan, $75,000 Settlement. The 15-year-old male plaintiff was riding as a passenger when his vehicle struck the rear of another vehicle at an intersection. The plaintiff sustained a perforated eardrum during the collision and suffered partial hearing loss as a result.
- 2007, Tennessee, $375,000 Settlement. A 17-year-old female suffered a closed head injury and a ruptured eardrum when her bicycle was struck by a tractor-trailer. Her head injury resulted in pneumocephalus or (air in her brain) and her ear injury required surgery and resulted in permanent right ear hearing loss.
The peripheral vestibular system, located in the inner ear, helps the brain and body understand how to move in relation to gravity. The inner ears are essentially a system of fluid-filled chambers, often referred to as a “labyrinth,” that help to regulate balance, head movement, and eye motion. Injuries to the inner ear, therefore, can cause vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness, unclear vision, or neck pain.
The temporal bone, the firmest bone in the body, surrounds and protects the sensitive mechanisms within the inner ear. Inner ear balance can start to decline with age, but for the most part, it takes a serious traumatic injury to break the temporal bone and affect the inner ear. In the event of any kind of head trauma, including a car crash or a sports injury, patients should be monitored for the symptoms of inner ear damage.
The inner ear also includes the cochlea, a highly sensitive organ for hearing. After sound vibrates through the eardrum and the three middle ear bones, it passes along into the spiral-shaped cochlea and causes the tiny hairs lining the cochlea to move. The hair cells turn this movement into chemical signals for the hearing nerve. The cochlea, just like the peripheral vestibular system, can be injured from head trauma. But in addition, the tiny hairs in the cochlea can be damaged and flattened by a sudden loud noise. Noise trauma can cause increased sensitivity to sound, hearing loss, or tinnitus (ringing in the ear). The verdicts and settlement below highlight several examples of inner ear damage in car accident claims, including damage to the peripheral vestibular system and to the cochlea.
- 2019, Idaho, $20,393 Settlement. Two women, one of them in her 80s while the other was in her 60s, were in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. The woman in her 80s suffered a concussion, inner ear pressure and pain, and soft-tissue injuries to her hip, neck, back, left wrist and right hand. She sought an ENT and a chiropractor for her injuries. Her settlement awarded totaled $10,342. The woman in her 60s suffered soft tissue injuries to her ribs, right shoulder, left ear, neck, and back. She only sought chiropractic care. Her settlement award totaled $9,951. The total settlement amounted to $20,393.
- 2018, Massachusetts, $4,000,000 Settlement. A 51-year-old fisherman slipped and fell on the deck of his employer’s vessel. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, decreased cognition, and post-concussive syndrome. The man also suffered inner ear damage. He alleged that his employer’s vessel was unseaworthy because the deck was unsafe. His employer denied these allegations, contending that the man slipped on a skate fish rather than slipping on only the deck. This case settled for $4,000,000.
- 2013, California, $262,601 Verdict. The plaintiff sustained a vestibular injury to her inner ear, as well as ongoing problems with her cervical spine, left shoulder regions, and head and body aches when her vehicle was rear-ended on a city street. Her inner ear injury affected her balance and equilibrium, causing her to experience dizziness, vertigo, and decreased depth perception. The plaintiff’s verdict included $50,727 for past medical expenses, $15,000 for future medical expenses, $71,874 for lost wages, $25,000 for future loss of wages, and $75,000 for pain and suffering.
- 2009, Virginia, $750,000 Verdict. A 54-year-old female suffered a perforated eardrum, a concussion, labyrinthine vertigo, and headaches when her car was struck broadside at a controlled intersection.
- 2007, Oregon, $292,000 Settlement. A 52-year-old male driver was T-boned by a vehicle pulling out from a driveway. The man suffered a neck injury and inner ear trauma, with associated complaints of dizziness.
- 2005, Texas, $35,000 Verdict. The defendant driver ran a red light and hit the plaintiff’s vehicle, which was partially in the intersection. The plaintiff suffered minor neck and back symptoms, but her major injury was tinnitus, likely resulting from the airbag going off in her left ear.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull, acting like a sliding hinge between the mandible and the temporal bone. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are primarily considered to cause jaw pain, but because of its close proximity to the inner ear, TMJ dysfunction can also cause hearing impairment or balance issues. The pain or jaw tenderness, difficulty chewing, or locking of the joint that are characteristic of TMD can be caused by a variety of naturally occurring factors, such as disc erosion, arthritis, or chronic teeth clenching, but up to 99 percent of TMD cases involve some kind of injury.
The type of head trauma that occurs during a car accident often results in TMD. Whiplash, in particular, can cause TMD by stretching or tearing muscles connected to the TMJ. When whiplash occurs, the jaw is yanked open as the head is thrown back, and then the jaw snaps shut when the head is thrown forward. This violent and sudden motion can damage soft tissue in and around the TMJ, which causes the TMJ to swell and impact the inner ear. As many as 87 percent of people who suffer whiplash injure their TMJ and are therefore at risk for ear damage. Even though TMJ is such a prevalent side-effect of whiplash, and ear injuries are a common complication of TMD, whiplash victims’ complaints of dizziness or hearing impairment often go unreported, untreated, and unconnected to their TMD.
In the most serious auto accidents with severe head injuries, TMD and ear injuries are often correlated because the same blow can cause both. Because the TMJ is located right under the inner ear structures, an impact that breaks the jaw or misaligns the TMJ could easily have enough force to break the temporal bone and damage the inner ear. TMD-related ear injuries often occur as one small part of a larger head trauma, so it can be difficult to isolate the value of a TMD-related ear injury from the other injuries that result from a car accident. The following examples of auto accident verdicts and settlements can help paint a picture of how the value of a TMD-related ear injury claim can vary based on the other injuries sustained by the car crash victim.
- 2016, California, $35,000 Settlement. As a result of a seat belt malfunction during a chain-reaction collision, a boy suffered a ruptured left eardrum, bleeding in the ear, TMD, temporal bone fractures, mouth lesions, memory loss, vertigo, headaches, hearing loss, depression, and emotional distress.
- 2011, New Jersey, $375,000 Settlement. A Mack truck struck a 50-year-old driver in the rear of her vehicle. The impact blew out the back window of her car, she felt like an explosion had occurred, and she struck the left side of her head against the driver’s side door. She developed persistent headaches and vertigo shortly after the collision, and her diagnosis included middle ear fistulas or a tear in the oval window that separates the air-filled middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. She underwent left-sided surgery, but the severe dizziness soon returned. It is believed that the plaintiff also suffered TMJ dysfunction that required dental surgery, as well as anxiety and depression.
- 2008, Florida, $12,078,825 Verdict. After improperly using a left-hand turn lane to accelerate, a dump truck cut off the plaintiff’s vehicle and caused a rear-end collision. The plaintiff suffered a closed head injury, complex facial smash injury, facial disfigurement, a fractured heel and upper arm, amnesia, slowed mental processing, a crushed eye socket with vision complications, crushed sinuses with permanent complications, four herniated discs, TMD, and hearing loss as a result of the accident. The plaintiff’s award included $280,133 for past medical expenses, $3,300,000 for future medical expenses, $27,568 for past lost earnings, $421,125 for lost earning ability, and $8,050,000 for pain and suffering.
Hiring a Lawyer to Fight Your Injury Claim
If you have cosmetic auricle damage, tinnitus, a perforated eardrum, labyrinthine vertigo, TMD-related ear damage, or any other type of ear injury, you need the best possible lawyer to help you get what you deserve. The value of ear injury cases varies wildly, sometimes due to the quality of the victim’s legal counsel. We have handled many of these cases, and we know how to fight to get as much compensation for ear injury victims as we possibly can. Call our Baltimore-based law firm at 800-553-8082 or get a free claim evaluation online.
- “What to do about Ear Trauma” from The Canadian Journal of Diagnosis
- “Perforated Eardrum” from the American Academy of Otolaryngology
- “Eardrum Rupture” from HealthLine
- “Ear Trauma” from EarHelp
- “TMJ Disorders” from the Mayo Clinic
- “How TMD Can Affect Your Hearing” and “The Effects of Whiplash” from MedCenter TMJ
- “Temporomandibular Joint Disorder” from Cedars-Sinai