The science of headaches from motor vehicle accident cases is evolving. So are the settlement and trial value of these cases.
We are learning more about what we do not know about head and neck injuries and how they impact the brain. These NFL players' lawsuits and head injuries of veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan underscore how nascent the science of these injuries still are.
The conventional wisdom had always been that you can get a concussion or a head or neck injury in a motor vehicle accident, and usually the problem would resolve itself with a little rest. People now realize that headaches from auto accidents can be debilitating and can last the rest of your life.Settlement and Verdict Statistics in Headache Cases
Statistical data on the value of any personal injury claim is bound to be a little bit misleading. This problem is compounded with headache cases for several reasons. Rarely, is a headache the only injury in the crash. So many of these cases where there are headaches are categorized.
There are also way too many minor headache cases that are brought that completely distort the data. There is obviously a big difference between, "I had a headache for weeks after the accident" and "I have had massive migraine headaches ever since the crash and my neurologist thinks it will be this way the rest of my life." But these two polar extremes are thrown together in the studies.
With those caveats firmly in place, one good study found that the average verdict for headaches from the injuries is just a little over $30,000. The median, arguably a more telling number, is $11,000. But, again, you cannot get bogged down in these numbers. Every case is different, and there are headache cases that are worth millions.
Headaches are not considered a major injury in a car accident but they still have some settlement value in auto accident lawsuits. The average settlement value of a head injury resulting in chronic headaches in tort lawsuit is between $5,000 to $20,000. The average jury verdict in these cases is $30,000. Some headache cases can have a much higher value depending on the specific circumstances.
The value of a personal injury cases involving headaches is primarily based on the extent and severity of the head the injury and the nature of the resulting headaches. If the headaches are the result of a major head injury like a serious concussion, they will have a higher potential settlement value. Prolonged or chronic headaches will also have a higher value. Headaches are a subjective injury, so another factor which impacts value in theses cases is the plaintiff’s credibility.
You can bring a car accident lawsuit based on headaches, but you probably won’t have much success getting significant compensation unless the headaches are the result of some demonstratable physical injury to your head. It is very rare to see a car accident case where headache is the only injury.
Below are sample verdicts and settlements in headaches caused by motor vehicle accident cases (and one malpractice case for the treatment of headaches). These cases are illustrative of how juries (trial) and insurance companies (settlement) valued these particular cases. But these cases do not and cannot predict the outcome of future cases. There are so many more variables that go into these claims that are not entirely described, such as quality of counsel, venue, and applicable law.
- 2015, Anne Arundel County, Maryland: $300,633.73 Verdict. An adult female is in a rear-end collision with the defendant while at a stop sign. Due to the accident, she suffers a hairline fracture of her skull, headaches, emotional distress, and injuries to her back and neck. The defendant attempts to argue contributory negligence on the plaintiff’s part and to dispute the reasonableness of the medical services provided to the plaintiff, but a jury agrees with the plaintiff and awards her $300,633.73.
- 2015, Montgomery County, Maryland: $32,284 Verdict. A 26-year old female is rear-ended while stopped at a traffic signal. She suffers from radiating neck pain, numbness and tingling into her fingers, temporary losses of hearing, headaches, and emotional distress as a result. Her fibromyalgia also flares up after being asymptomatic for four years prior. The defendant attempts to argue the extent and causation of plaintiff’s injuries, but a jury awards her $32,284.
- 2015, Prince George’s County, Maryland: $16,066 Verdict. An adult male is involved in a collision with the defendant driver who loses control of his vehicle. Plaintiff suffers a concussion with loss of consciousness, post-traumatic headaches, memory problems, cervical strains, and emotional distress as a result. The defendant admits he was negligent and liable but disputes the extent of plaintiff’s injuries. The jury agrees with the plaintiff and awards him $16,066.
- 2014, Baltimore City, Maryland: $262,000 Verdict. A 38-year old taxi driver is proceeding through an intersection when defendant’s vehicle runs a red light and strikes his vehicle. Due to the collision, the plaintiff suffers a brain injury that leads to headaches, poor balance, dizziness, poor concentration, depression, disc herniation’s and bulges in his back, chest wall contusions, and back sprains. The defendant admits he is liable but disputes the extent of plaintiff’s injuries. A jury agrees with the plaintiff and awards him $12,000 in medical expenses and $250,000 in non-economic damages.
- 2014, Prince George’s County, Maryland: $53,319 Verdict. An adult female is driving her vehicle when she is struck from the rear by the defendant’s vehicle. As a result, she experiences cervical facet syndrome, which leads to cervicogenic headaches, along with injuries to her back, left shoulder, and hips. The awards her $53,319. (2014 WL 4749486)
- May 2014, Florida: $794,572 Verdict: A 37-year-old youth counselor was involved in a collision in Milton. She was rushed by ambulance to a local emergency room with concerns of neck and back discomfort and headaches. X-rays were conducted, and she was discharged. A few weeks later she visited her primary care doctor with complaints of neck and back pain. She was referred to a chiropractor who diagnosed her with posterior soft-tissue injuries in her lower back. She also sought treatment with a neurologist for constant headaches. The insurance company of the at-fault driver agreed to settle for the policy’s $25,000 limit. She then brought an underinsured motorist claim against her own insurance, State Farm. Naturally, State Farm argued the woman had no apparent signs of head or brain issues and contended she had a history of treatment for migraine headaches. A Pensacola court disagreed and awarded nearly $800,000. [Get more State Farm verdicts here.]
- March 2014, Maryland: $61,628 Verdict: A 78-year-old retiree was involved in a collision at the intersection of Migrator and Newburgh Road in Catonsville. Following the collision, he sought treatment from his primary care doctor with complaints of headaches and lower back pain. He was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome and required physical therapy for aggravation of a prior lumbar fusion. Throughout the year he found he was unable to work as he experienced debilitating headaches and light sensitivity. He sued the driver claiming the Defendant failed to stop for a stop sign and failed to yield the right of way. Plaintiff’s primary care physician testified Plaintiff did not have headaches before the accident. This is usually key in all tort case but particularly headache cases because so many people have them without getting in an accident. Defendant argued that Plaintiff had pre-existing lower back problems that were unrelated to the crash and that there was no objective proof of headaches. A Baltimore County jury rendered a $61,628 verdict for the Plaintiff.
- June 2013, Maryland: $620,000 Verdict: After she had developed a severe headache, a 41-year-old woman visited the emergency room at University of Maryland Medical Center. There she was given a spinal tap, administered painkillers and released. Less than 24 hours later she developed severe neck pain and returned to the emergency room. Additional testing revealed a cervical disk herniation that required three-level fusion surgery. She sued the hospital for medical malpractice, claiming the staff applied excessive pressure to her neck while preparing her for the spinal tap. A Baltimore City jury found the Defendant negligent and awarded the woman $620,000.
- April 2013, Maryland: $2,301,250 Verdict: A 48-year-old occupational therapist was driving down Oakridge Drive in Hagerstown when rear-ended by a Zurich insured truck. She was transported to a local emergency room for treatment for a concussion and whiplash. She sued the driver for motor vehicle negligence and his employer for vicarious liability. Plaintiff claimed after the accident she experienced ongoing headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and difficulty finding her way to clients’ homes. Defendants argued the Plaintiff’s headaches and dizziness were caused by pre-existing migraine headaches unrelated to the accident; Plaintiff denied any pre-existing migraine headaches. A Washington County jury heard both arguments before rendering a $2,301,250 verdict for the Plaintiff.
- July 2012, California: $26,381 Verdict: A 14-year-old high school student was riding her skateboard on the crosswalk at the intersection of Mission and Bosworth in San Francisco (a big SF intersection) when she was struck by a vehicle. The driver of the vehicle did not call 911 but instead dropped her and two friends off at the hospital. There, she was treated for a right wrist sprain and discharged. Shortly after the accident, she began to experience frequent headaches and neck pain. Filing on her behalf, her father sued the driver for motor vehicle negligence. Plaintiff claimed she had the “walk” symbol when the Defendant failed to yield the right of way. Plaintiff contended the Defendant, as the only adult at the scene, was responsible for notifying the police and neglected to provide his contact information. Defendant claimed Plaintiff was comparatively at fault because as she was riding a skateboard without a helmet. Defendant also contended the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries, claiming the complaints of head and neck pain were not until 2 to 3 months after the accident. This is the usual defense argument. It worked a little bit here. A San Francisco jury awarded the Plaintiff $26,380.80. However, they found the Plaintiff was 20% liable, which reduced the award to $21,104.64.
- April 2012, Virginia: $150,000 Settlement: A woman was involved in a sideswipe collision with a Progressive insured driver in Loudon County. She received treatment for headaches and nausea along with treatment for a cervical strain. She sued the driver that struck her for motor vehicle negligence. While the Defendant did not dispute liability, he did contend that the Plaintiff’s headaches were not permanent. Both parties agreed to settle prior for $150,000.
If you believe that you have a potential motor vehicle accident injury claim, contact us at 1.800.553.8082, or send us a free internet request for consultation.