Spondylosis is a degenerative condition in the spine compromising the cushions between the spinal disks and the joints between the bones of the spine. When these discs are compromised, the bones of the spine lose their place, sometimes pressing on the nerve, which can cause an auto accident victim a great deal of pain.
In essence, the shock absorbers of the spine are compromised. If you have spondylosis and are injured in a car accident, an "injury" that you did not even know you had can become life-altering.
Spondylosis can affect any disc. Typically, our lawyers see a disproportionate number of cases of lumbar (back) spondylosis at L4 and L5 that contribute to our clients’ pain from a car accident. We also see cervical spondylosis, most frequently at C4, C5, and C6.
Sometimes a neck or back x-ray will show that the vertebra is out of place and that a disc is degenerating. More often, a CT scan or MRI is ordered to provide the detailed disc images needed to confirm the diagnosis and understand the scope of the spondylosis.
Typically, spondylosis is degenerative, which means your discs are wearing down as a result of the aging process, and the toll physical exertion takes on your spine.
Can a car accident cause spondylosis? No, your car accident cannot cause spondylosis. But what an auto accident will do is take an "injury" where the person has no pain or symptoms and turn it into a life-altering accident.
This is the critical point. Symptoms of spondylosis can be caused by the trauma of a car accident. Spondylosis patients may have no symptoms until the accident, but because of this latent preexisting injury, they cannot heal quickly or fully from their injuries despite treatment.
So, sure, perhaps the injury would not have been as severe had the person not had spondylosis. But this does not absolve the defendant from compensating the victim for the harm that was caused.
Said differently, if someone rear-ends you and you have eggs in the back of your car, it is not a viable defense to argue that the eggs could have just as easily been golf balls. In law school, a torts professor describes this as taking the plaintiff as you find them.
Actually, in the abstract, the trial value or settlement formula in spondylosis cases is quite simple: you are entitled to recover for the medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering you had that you would not have had but for the accident.
What does that mean? It means you are entitled to the damages you have suffered as a result of an accident. For example, your preexisting injury – say cervical spondylosis, in this case, causes you to have a pain level in your back of 2.
As a result of the crash, your pain level has now risen to 7. Your compensation from the accident is the medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering, not for the pain level of 7, but for the difference between the pain level of 2 and 7.
Two Maryland jury instructions this:
- susceptibility instruction (Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction 10:3)
- aggravation of preexisting condition instruction (Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction 10:4).
But while the settlement formula itself is easy, the application of the formula is where the battleground is fought in spondylosis or any other preexisting injury cases.
Typically, our accident lawyers are going to argue – usually supported by the treating doctors, which is almost invariably the situation if we have accepted the case – that the plaintiff’s suffering was caused either wholly or partially by the car accident.
The insurance companies’ doctors argue that the plaintiff was already in pain before the accident and that their condition made them, essentially, a ticking time bomb. The key is having a lawyer who can plainly articulate the difference between your condition before the accident and your current physical condition.
Ankylosing spondylitis is arthritis that can cause pain and stiffness in your spine. Does a car accident exacerbate ankylosing spondylitis? There are conflicting opinions. Some studies say trauma does not impact this ankylosing spondylitis while others suggest the condition is made worse by a traumatic event like a car accident.
- Louisiana, 2021: $4,316,378 Bench Verdict. A 34-year-old man was rear-ended by a police officer. He suffered C4-5 and C5-6 protrusions and spondylosis. The man also suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. He experienced arm pain and hand tingling. The man underwent a discectomy and fusion. He also treated with a neurologist. The man developed personality changes, depression, and sleep issues. He could no longer work as a trucker. The man alleged that the police officer’s negligence caused his injuries. He claimed he failed to maintain a proper lookout and timely brake. Following a bench trial, the man received a $4,316,378 verdict.
- Texas, 2020: $153,044 Verdict. A 49-year-old man was T-boned. He suffered spinal disc herniations with radiculopathy, lumbar spondylolisthesis, and pain in his neck and back. The man alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused these injuries. He claimed she drove inattentively, made an illegal right turn, and failed to maintain a single lane. The defense denied liability. They argued that the man suffered from degenerative injuries. The jury awarded $153,044.
- New York, 2019: $100,000 Verdict. A woman was T-boned. She suffered C4-5 and C5-6 herniations with spondylolisthesis, C6-7 and C7-T1 bulges, internal right shoulder derangement, and tears to his tendons and cartilage. The woman alleged that the at-fault driver’s careless operation of her vehicle caused her injuries. The woman received a $100,000 verdict.
- Maryland, 2013: $291,000 Verdict. Plaintiff is hit in the rear in stop-and-go traffic in Frederick, Maryland. Defendant offered $8,200 citing the degenerative changes in the client's back. [Our attorneys handled this case against State Farm. You can get more details on this claim here.]
- Illinois, 2013: $2,386,000 Verdict. A 59-year-old truck driver is parked and asleep in the sleeper berth of his truck when he is struck in the front corner by another truck. Plaintiff’s MRI revealed two degenerative conditions in his lower back, spondylosis at L3-4 and stenosis at L4-5, requiring injections, physical therapy, and eventually two fusions. Plaintiff sues the driver and his employer. Defendant disputes the nature and extent of the accident and that the “jostling” could not have been nearly as severe as Plaintiff claims. Plaintiff asks for $3.85 million for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of normal life. After deliberating for 2 hours, the jury awards Plaintiff $2,386,000.
- 2014, Illinois: $41,608 Verdict. Plaintiff, a 28-year-old network consulting engineer was struck on the passenger side while making a left-hand turn. Plaintiff declined treatment at the scene, but later sought treatment for neck and back pain. An MRI months later revealed a C5-6 herniation. Plaintiff received off and on physical therapy for two years. Plaintiff filed suit and asked for $80,000 which included $20,633.06 in past medical specials. Plaintiff’s expert testified that the herniation found could have been caused directly by the accident, or was at least an aggravation of a previous degenerative condition. The defense disputed Plaintiff’s allegations and contended that the herniation occurred before the accident and was not further aggravated by the collision in question. The defense further contended that Plaintiff was entitled to $754 in meds for his initial hospital bill and some brief follow-up treatment, and no more than $5,000 in pain and suffering. The jury found Plaintiff’s story a bit more plausible and awarded $16,608 in meds, and $25,000 in pain and suffering, for a total verdict of $41,608. The liability carrier in this matter was State Farm.
- Get more degenerative disc disease settlements and verdicts cases in Maryland
If you have a neck or back injury you believe has been largely or wholly caused by an auto accident, call us at 800-553-8082 or 410-779-4600 or get a free online case consultation.
- Example Report of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Thoracic Spine
- Example Report of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Cervical Spine, without contrast
- Example Report of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Cervical Spine & Lumbar Spine
- Example Operative Notes on Lumbar Spine
- Example Operative Notes on Cervical Spine
- Anterior Cervical Fusion Surgery on Video
- Herniated Disc Information Page (more on herniated disc injuries)
- Making Sense of Your MRI Results (reading your MRI and how it impacts the settlement value of degenerative injury cases)
- Value of Herniated Disc Cases (settlement and trial values of disc injury cases)
- Back Injury Settlements (an overview of the valuation of back injury cases for settlement and trial)
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