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Bulging Disc Compensation in Car Accident Cases

Our injury lawyers handle herniated disc and bulging disc accident cases in Maryland. Whether you are in Maryland or not, this page will help you better understand what you might be able to expect in a compensation payout if you reach a settlement in your claim or lawsuit.

One source of confusion for lawyers, patients, and even doctors is the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. Statistically, the difference is not insignificant. As you will see below, the settlement value of herniated disc cases is typically higher than that of bulging disc cases.

This is not necessarily based on sound science: some bulging disc injuries are more likely to cause nerve root impingements than herniated discs.

What is the Difference Between a Bulging Disc and a Herniated Disc?

A bulging disc is a disc injury in which the presence of disc material goes beyond the normal margins by at least 50% (although some say even 25%)of the disc’s circumference. So it is only the outer layer of tough cartilage that is involved.

In contrast, a herniated disc is defined as the displacement of disc material beyond the limits of the disc space that extends less than 50% around the disc’s circumference.

It does not sound quite as bad if it is a bulge instead of a herniated. Insurance company defense lawyers and their adjusters try to exploit the difference between a herniated disc and a disc bulge. The irony? A bulging disc may impinge nerve roots or the spinal cord more significantly than a herniated disc.

Defense Lawyer Argument in Bulging Disc Cases

Defense lawyers argue that a bulging disc is no big deal and a very soft sign of a real injury. The defense lawyer will likely say in the defendant’s opening statement that when we stand up, we all probably get a little bulging of our discs from gravity alone. This is true.

More to the point, they argue through their medical experts that disc bulges are not post-traumatic but are degenerative secondary to annular degeneration and/or ligamentous laxity. In other words, a motor vehicle crash cannot cause a bulging disc.

This defense can be defeated with science and common sense. Yes, a bulging disc is not an acute injury. But that is not the point. The real issue is whether a disc bulge is the source of the plaintiff’s pain and whether that pain is the result of a car accident.

If you have a disc bulge and you have no symptoms, the injury is not an injury at all. When a car accident makes that dormant injury a real injury that causes pain and suffering, that is the injury for which the victim should be awarded compensation.

  • Video on settlement amounts for bulging disc injury lawsuit

Statistics on Settlement Value of Bulging Disc Injury Cases

The harsh reality is that bulging/protruding disc cases recover much less statistically than herniated disc cases. For bulging/protruding discs, the average jury award nationally is $140,311 ($31,000 median). In contrast, the average jury award for herniated or ruptured discs was $413,917 ($60,000 median).

Sometimes, bulging disc cases are undervalued because the plaintiff’s lawyer does not always appreciate the science of these cases and does not line up the appropriate experts to explain why a bulging or protruding disc can be just as painful if not more than a herniated disc in many cases. Do these lawyers who don’t understand these lawsuits lower the average settlements in these statistics? Of course they do.

Example Bulging Disc Settlement Amounts and Jury Payouts

We put up a lot of sample verdicts and settlements on this website. Normally, when we describe these results, we give a long speech with platitudes about how you cannot assume that a similar case will have the same compensation. Our attorneys have a million different ways to repeat the trite saying that one case’s outcome does not predict another’s value. Now take that speech and multiply it by 100.

Just like there is no bulging disc settlement calculator based on average compensation payout statistics, stories of how other victims were compensated are not an exact match for your injury claim.

The variations in how much a bulging disc is worth in a car accident are endless. Settlement amounts will wildly vary even with the same exact facts and the exact same jurisdiction. Why? Because the credibility of the plaintiff in a bulging disc case will drive the compensation payout of the claim.

You will not pull this out of these statistics but most disc injuries are caused by rear-end accidents and T-bone bulging disc injury cases typically have higher compensation payouts on average in our lawyers’ experience.

    • January 2024, Massachusetts $140,000 Settlement. A 31-year-old man was hit by a delivery truck that ran a stop sign. He suffered soft tissue damage and disc bulges at L3-4 and L4-5. Despite the defendant’s claim of pre-existing conditions, the plaintiff, who had no prior pain, opted for physical therapy over suggested epidural injections. He aimed to prove the employer’s negligence due to imposed delivery deadlines. But that was not necessary – the case settled for $145,000.  He had $24,254.58 in medical expenses. His lawyer’s settlement demand was $200,000.
    • June 2022, Texas $20,000 Verdict. The plaintiff suffered a C5-6 annular disc bulge which aggravated his pre-existing degenerative disc issues resulting in multiple symptomatic disc injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder when his vehicle was rear-ended in a multi-car pileup.
    • January 2022, New York $25,0000 Settlement. A 14-year-old male suffered bulging cervical and lumbar discs when the bus he was a passenger on was rear-ended by a vehicle that fled the scene. The case settled for $25k, presumably a policy limits settlement.
    • January 2021, Maryland $93,500. Settlement. Our client is sitting at the light when she is struck by a vehicle that was been struck by another vehicle making an illegal turn. She suffers a bulging disc but had relatively low medical bills. The defendant offers less than $20,000 so we file a lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. The defendant offers up the $30,000 policy and the uninsured motorist carrier offered almost their full insurance limits to resolve the case. The value of our case went up by almost five times the original offer because our lawyers were willing to file a lawsuit and throw some punches. This is common in bulging disc cases because the insurance companies offer compensation payouts far less than the reasonable settlement value of the case.
    • October 2020, New York: $50,000 Verdict. A 29-year-old man was a passenger in a T-bone collision. He sustained L3-4 and L4-5 bulges, cervical and lumbosacral herniations, and a torn right quadriceps tendon. He underwent nine months of physical therapy. He also had steroid injections in his lower back and knee. Steroid injections are considered to be one rung on the ladder before disc surgery.  There was also a lost wage claim because he could not work for nine months. Because of his residual pain, he could not tolerate prolonged running, seating, or standing. The man alleged that the negligence of his driver and the other driver caused his injuries. A jury assigned 100 percent liability to the man’s driver in a bifurcated trial. Before the damage phase began, the case settled for $50,000. Does this sound low? Yes, it sounds low.
    • October 2020, New York: $1,300,000 Verdict. A 31-year-old woman was rear-ended in a chain-reaction collision. She suffered C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, and C6-7 bulges. The woman also aggravated her pre-existing C5-6 bulge, which became herniated. She experienced upper limb radiculopathy. The woman treated with a chiropractor and physical therapist. She underwent painkilling left shoulder injections. The woman subsequently underwent a C5-6 discectomy and fusion. She then resumed chiropractic and physical therapies. The woman also underwent a pain management routine. The woman experienced residual neck pain and upper limb weakness. She claimed they affect her ability to perform daily activities. The woman alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused her injuries. A jury awarded her $1,300,000.
    • September 2020, California: $550,000 Settlement. A 29-year-old man was sideswiped by a garbage truck. He suffered an L5-S1 bulge with radiculopathy. The man underwent an L5-S1 steroid injection. His physician recommended future surgeries. The man alleged that the garbage truck driver’s negligence caused his injuries. The defense denied liability. They argued that the man failed to avoid the collision. This case settled for $550,000.
    • September 2020, Louisiana: $128,610 Verdict. A woman was involved in a chain-reaction collision. She suffered an L4-5 bulge. The woman underwent steroid injections. She alleged that several drivers’ negligence caused her injuries. The jury assigned 80 percent liability to one driver and 20 percent to the other. They awarded the woman $128,610.
    • July 2020, Georgia: $1,000,000 Verdict. A 28-year-old man was sideswiped by a dump truck. He suffered C2-3, C3-4, and C4-5 bulges. The man was also diagnosed with headaches, spasms, shoulder pain, and cervical and lumbar sprains. He eventually received cataract and glaucoma diagnoses. The man underwent physical and chiropractic therapies. His neck and back pain healed well. However, the man experienced residual headaches. He also underwent multiple treatments for eye inflammation and corneal neovascularization. This included eye drops. However, his eye injuries failed to resolve. The man became legally blind two years after the collision. He underwent four eye surgeries. None of them were successful. The man’s vision loss was permanent. He could no longer drive, read, or watch television from a reasonable distance. The man could not return to work. He alleged that the dump truck driver’s negligence caused his injuries. The man claimed he drove while on his phone. He also made a vicarious liability against the dump truck driver’s employer. The defense denied liability. They argued comparative negligence. This case settled for $1,000,000.
    • June 2020, Maryland $100,000 Settlement. Our client is t-boned at an intersection in Rising Sun in Cecil County. She aggravates existing bulging discs in her neck that ultimately required surgery. Thankfully, she had a quick recovery. Our car accident lawyers were able to get her a quick settlement of the maximum allowed under the insurance policies applicable to the crash.
    • December 2019, Washington: $415,000 Settlement. A 35-year-old man was T-boned. He suffered an L4-5 bulge, an L5-S1 protrusion, spondylosis, and spinal stenosis. The man underwent physical therapy. However, his injuries failed to resolve. He then underwent a discectomy, a laminectomy, and a foraminotomy. The man alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused her injuries. This case settled a $415,000 payout.
    • June 2019, New York: $2,000,000 Settlement. A 26-year-old foreman fell from a ladder while at work. At the time, he was removing ceiling-mounted hangers that were supporting a ventilation duct. The man initially suffered a neck laceration from a portable grinder he was using. He also suffered C3-4, C5-6, and L3-4 bulges, L4-5 and L5-S1 disc herniations, and a right shoulder tear with impingement. The man developed right shoulder bursitis. He underwent physical therapy and painkilling injections in his right shoulder. His initial treatments failed to resolve his symptoms. The following year, the man underwent a right shoulder arthroscopy and a bursectomy. He then underwent a discectomy, a laminectomy, a fusion, and a bone graft. The man subsequently resumed physical therapy. His residual pain prevented him from returning to work. The man claimed he might need to undergo a fusion revision. He alleged that the premises’ owners’ negligence and failure to maintain safe premises caused his injuries. The man also claimed that the grinder he was using at the time required two hands, which prevented him from bracing against a fall. This case settled for $2,000,000.

  • November 2018, California: $323,300 Verdict. A 26-year-old woman was struck at an intersection. She suffered an L4-5 bulge and the aggravation of an L5-S1 bulge. The woman also suffered soft-tissue chest, abdomen, right thumb, and right ankle injuries. She underwent chiropractic and pain management therapy. The woman also underwent an epidural injection. She experienced residual lumbar pain, especially from prolonged seating. The woman’s physician recommended a discectomy. She alleged that the at-fault driver’s failure to yield the right-of-way caused her injuries. The defense contested liability. They argued comparative negligence. The jury awarded the woman $323,300.
  • December 2017, Louisiana: $907,016 Verdict. A 63-year-old female librarian is rear-ended by a GEICO-insured pick-up truck. She suffers a disc herniation at the C4-C5 level of her cervical spine and suffered a disc bulge at the C5-C6 level of her cervical spine. For her disc bulge, she gets a facet-caged fusion surgery. She also, not surprisingly, has headaches from the disc injuries she suffered.
  • August 2017, Maryland: $40,000 Verdict. A 47-year-old man falls after the stairway handrail he holds comes out of the wall while working at a police department complex in Baltimore City. He is diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back requiring L4-5 laminectomy and total discectomy. His lawyers sought for him over $1 million in past and future lost wages and medical bills, not to mention his pain and suffering. The jury did not agree his injuries were significant and awarded only $40,000.
  • March 2017, Illinois: $222,026 Verdict. This is a pretty crazy truck accident fact pattern. A truck driver is hit by an 18-wheel truck in a truck stop parking lot while the plaintiff was asleep in the cabin of his truck. He gets up and falls backward, hitting his head due to the impact of the collision. The other truck driver from Eagle Transportation then reverses his vehicle, causing it to plaintiff’s vehicle. This causes the victim to fall backward again. He suffers a head injury, an annular tea causing a disc bulge, cervicalgia, lumbar radiculitis, nerve inflammation in his lumbar spine, lumbar facet pain syndrome, and headaches. (Headaches are a common thread as much as defense lawyers try to deny the relationship between bulging discs and headaches.) The defendant’s final settlement offer in the cases was $75,000. A federal jury awards $222,026.
  • December 2013, Maryland: $290,000 Settlement. A 40-year-old woman in Anne Arundel County suffers from a bulging disc after getting hit twice in a rear-end collision. She suffers a bulging disc in her back. She undergoes surgery for a nerve root compression. In all, she totaled nearly $50,000 in medical bills. GEICO was the target defendant in the case. Miller & Zois handled this case for the victim.
  • December 2013, Maryland: $198,433 Verdict: Plaintiff, a 45-year-old nursing assistant, was stopped at a red light in Baltimore County when a vehicle driven by the Defendant rear-ended her. After the accident, she was diagnosed with a bulging lumbar disc that required multiple sessions of physical therapy and epidural pain shots. Eight months after the accident, Plaintiff suffered an injury at work, which further aggravated the injuries sustained in the accident. The plaintiff sued the driver of the van and his employer for motor vehicle negligence, seeking $22,000 in medicals, $1,300 for lost wages, and damages for pain and suffering. Defendants argued the extent of her injuries and felt the plaintiff’s damages were limited up to the date of her work injury. The parties brought their arguments to the Baltimore County Circuit Court where the jury returned a $198,432.76 verdict for the plaintiff. But the damages were capped before trial by a high-low agreement at the insurance policy limits of $100,000.
  • June 2012, Maryland: $170,467 Verdict: The plaintiff was stopped at a traffic signal-controlled intersection in Prince George’s County. While stopped, a collision occurred between two vehicles, one bounced from impact and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. He suffered from cervical and lumbar pain, including a non-operative bulging disc. He treated for a year and a half and received multiple injections to treat his bulging disc. The plaintiff sued both drivers for motor vehicle negligence, alleging both drivers failed to obey the traffic signal. He claimed that due to the injuries he sustained from the accident, he was unable to perform his usual duties at work and lost a government contract with the IT service company that he owned. Defendants individually denied liability, contending the other was at fault. Defendant 1, insured by Union-Pittsburgh, claimed Defendant 2 sped through the intersection to beat the light. Defendant 2, insured by Erie, argued that she could not stop because the light had turned yellow when she was already in the intersection. Both Defendants disputed Plaintiff’s claim for wage loss and that his loss of the government contract was unrelated. The case proceeded to the Circuit Court of Prince George’s County. The jury found Defendant 2 100% responsible for the accident and awarded Plaintiff $170,467.
  • Get more bulging disc verdicts and settlements

Can a Bulging Disc Heal on its Own?

With bulging and herniated discs, the symptoms can usually resolve over time. Your body reduces the bulging disc by implementing an immune response against the material sticking out of the disc. The body recognizes this material as “foreign” and sends cells to destroy it, decreasing the size and inflammation.

Additionally, water absorption can help with recovery. Discs are filled with water, and over time, this water is reabsorbed into the body. Once the water has been absorbed, it decreases the size of the disc and can help it retract back into place.

Finally, many doctors believe specific exercises can help repair a bulging disc or help you build the strength to manage it.

How Do You Treat a Bulging Disc?

Most people use conservative treatment to fix a bulging disc. Avoiding painful movement, regularly taking pain medication, and relaxing the muscles can help repair a bulging disc within a few days to a few weeks.

There are other options for more severe cases of a bulging disc. Cortisone injections can be used to directly reduce the affected disc’s inflammation. With this type of treatment, a doctor will insert a needle into the nerve area around the bulging disc and inject a corticosteroid.

In the last case resort, some people may need to use opioids. Due to the significant danger of becoming addicted to opioids that everyone is now talking about, many doctors understandably hesitate to prescribe them. If truly needed, doctors try to use a short-term dosage.

What Happens If a Bulging Disc Goes Untreated?

For most people with a bulging disc, there won’t be any long-term consequences besides possible chronic pain. However, there can be permanent damage to the nerves if a severe case of a bulging disc is left completely untreated.

In rare instances, a bulging disc can cut off nerve impulses to the cauda equina nerves, which travel down to your lower back and legs. If this happens, you could have bowel or bladder control.

Another rare complication is saddle anesthesia, in which the bulging disc causes you to lose sensation in your inner thighs, the back of your legs, and around the rectum. If you have a bulging disc and are unable to perform your everyday activities, it’s best to see your doctor.

We have handled hundreds of bulging disc injury claims. None of our accident lawyers have seen cauda equina nerves or saddle anesthesia. So they are rare. But we do see a lot of rare injuries, and you always want to ensure you are protecting against the downside risk of something that can cause a permanent injury.

Is a Bulging Disc Serious?

In most cases, a bulging disc is not a severe cause for concern. For many people, it’s just a natural part of aging. A bulging disc from an accident may take longer to heal, but it may not present any lingering symptoms once it recovers.

In some cases, however, a severe case of a bulging disc, especially one not approached with conservative treatment, can seriously threaten the nerves around the spine. Many permanent conditions can originate from bulging discs, even from disc surgery. If you were in a car accident and you are struggling with severe pain or have limited mobility for an extended amount of time, you should go to your doctor immediately. You need a more in-depth look at how severely the disc is damaged.

Is a Bulging Disc Painful?

If you have a bulging disc, you probably already know the answer. Pain from a bulging disc can range from mild to severe. Our lawyers have clients who do not know they have a bulging disc. Some people can have a bulging disc with no symptoms at all. The disc heals on its own without the person being aware of the injury. Our law firm also represents accident victims who have great pain. You may feel arm or leg pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. In severe cases, the pain can be significant to the point where you can’t normally walk.

How Much is a Bulging Disc Injury Worth in a Lawsuit?

The average settlement value for a bulging disc in a personal injury lawsuit is about $15,000 to $30,000. The median jury award in bulging disc cases is $31,000. Bulging disc cases have a lower average settlement value than herniated disc cases.

Can You Get a Bulging Disc from a Car Accident?

Yes. A bulging disc is a very common injury from a car accident. The impact force of a typical car accident can cause an already bulging disc to aggravate an existing building disc condition.

So what is happening is an otherwise dormant bulging disc that is asymptomatic is activated by the trauma of a car accident.

What Impacts the Value of a Bulging Disc Case?

The plaintiff’s age, prior medical history, and credibility are the most critical factors driving the settlement value of a bulging disc case. If the plaintiff is relatively young (under 35) and has no prior history of degenerative back problems, their bulging disc injury is going to have a much higher settlement value than an older plaintiff with pre-existing back issues.

The general credibility of the plaintiff also makes a big impact on compensation payouts. If the jury or the claims adjuster finds the plaintiff credible and honest, the case will have a higher value.

Let’s break down some of the key factors in calculating settlement amounts for a bulging disc injury.

  1. Medical Expenses: Includes all costs for medical treatment, such as doctor visits, physical therapy, medications, and any procedures like epidural injections. Future medical expenses should also be considered if ongoing treatment is necessary. Futures are a big deal in these cases because they imply permanency.  Surgery is a big deal, too, because juries correlate surgery with the severity of the injury.
  2. Lost Wages: If the injury led to time off work, these lost earnings are calculated into the settlement. Future lost earning capacity is also considered if the injury affects the ability to work long-term and, again, suggests a permanent injury.
  3. Pain and Suffering: This is the biggest element of damages in almost every bulging disc car accident settlement. This non-economic damage compensates for the physical pain and emotional distress experienced. The severity of the injury, the impact on daily life, and the duration of recovery play into this amount.
  4. Insurance Coverage: In any car accident lawsuit, the settlement compensation will also be influenced by the policy limits of the insurance coverage held by the defendant.

Are Bulging Disc Injuries Hard to Prove in a Lawsuit?

Proving the existence of a bulging disc is usually not very difficult. However, in many cases, it can be challenging to establish that the bulging disc was caused by the accident and not by a pre-existing condition.

Hiring a Lawyer for Your Disc Injury Case

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you have a bulging disc injury, call us to talk about your potential claim at 800-553-8082 or get an instant free claim evaluation. (For claims outside of Maryland, go here.)

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