Workers Comp Back Injury Settlements
Back pain, and the back injuries that underlie it, is a common kind of work-related injury in Arizona.
- Every year in the United States, more than 1 million back injuries happen in the workplace.
- Back injuries are 20 percent of all occupational injuries.
Second only to the common cold, back injuries are the most frequent reason why employees miss work in the United States.
If you have suffered a back injury, call our team of dedicated Arizona workers compensation specialists at (800) 229-3880 to set up a free workers comp benefits claim evaluation with a workers compensation lawyer. Or, you can contact us online. We’ve negotiated the highest settlement in Arizona workers’ compensation history, and will apply the same effort to get you the compensation you’re entitled to.
Because back injuries can lead to long-lasting consequences that can limit or prevent your ability to return to work, it is important for you to receive all the benefits you need to treat your injury when making a back injury claim under Arizona workers compensation.
Sources of Back Injuries
Work-related back injuries trace to one of three main causes: one is muscle strains and joint sprains, and the other two are injuries related to your spinal column: herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae.
Car accidents cause about half of all work-related back injuries. The second most common cause is falls. Other activities you can do at work that can lead to a back injury include being struck by equipment or machinery, repetitive motion stress, any sudden movement that twists the spine, overexertion when lifting objects, and in some cases, through physical assault by another person.
Higher Risk Occupations for Back Injury
Back injuries can happen in almost any line of work. Analysis of labor statistics shows that some jobs carry a higher risk of a back injury event. These include:
- Construction industry work
- Employment as a law enforcement or corrections officer
- Janitorial workers
- Long-haul truckers
- Laborers and freight handlers
- Stock and material movers
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Teacher assistants
Overall, as many as 4 of every 5 workplace back injuries are the result of workers moving materials.
Types of Back Injuries
Muscle Strains and Joint Sprains
Strains and sprains are muscle injuries in the back. They can happen gradually, or suddenly. The difference between a strain and a sprain is that a strain usually comes from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon, while a sprain typically is the result of a spinal ligament being forced out of normal position because of a fall or other trauma.
Symptoms of a back strain or sprain include pain, swelling, muscle spasms, cramps, and difficulty engaging in motions like bending, walking, sitting, or standing up. In some sprain cases of back sprain, injured workers report feeling the joint “pop.”
Spinal Cord Injuries
In your spinal column, a disc is the cushion that is positioned between each of the vertebrae bones to keep them from grinding together and to allow your spinal column to flex. Each disc is made up of an exterior casing enclosing a soft, jelly-like core. A herniated disc occurs when the outer disc casing tears, allowing the soft core material to protrude. This is why a herniated disc is also known as a “bulging” disc.
Herniated discs are often the result of compression injuries. They usually occur in the lumbar part of your spinal column (the lower part of your back), but herniated discs in the neck are also common.
Sometimes a herniated disc will not display any symptoms. Other times, you can experience pain, weakness or a numb or tingling sensation in one or more of your arms or legs when the rupture irritates nearby nerve endings in the spinal column.
A vertebra is one of the round bones that, together with spinal discs, protect your spinal cord as it runs along the length of your back and neck. Vertebrae is the collective term that describes multiple vertebral bones.
A fractured vertebra is one that has developed a crack in it, which is also known as a compression fracture (or spinal fracture). Sometimes this happens because of the advancement of old age, but in a work context it can be the result of a fall or other trauma.
Symptoms of spinal fractures include back pain that can be intense and acute or chronic. A fractured vertebra can also make it harder to keep proper posture because of the pain involved.
Additional Considerations for Spinal Cord Injuries
Doctors and insurers divide your spinal column into four regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), lumbar (lower back) and sacral (hips). The symptoms and severity of your spinal cord injury depends in part on which of these regions your back injury affects.
Cervical injuries: These are the most serious of injuries to the spinal cord, because of the close proximity to the brain. Because the spinal cord is the mechanism through which the brain controls your ability to move your arms and legs, a cervical spinal cord injury can affect the use of all your limbs.
- Thoracic injuries: Thoracic spinal injuries can affect the use of your arms and hands. They can also affect your chest and abdominal muscle functions.
- Lumbar injuries: An injury to the lumbar area of the spinal cord can interfere with theuse of your hips and legs, up to the point where you may need a wheelchair or braces to move. Lumbar area sprains and strains can also be among the most intensely painful kinds of acute back injury.
- Sacral injuries: Compared to a lumbar injury, a sacral injury is less likely to result in loss of your ability to walk. An injury to this part of your spine can affect your use of your hips, thighs, and buttocks.
Complete Versus Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Under Arizona’s workers compensation system, spinal cord injuries fall into one of two classifications: complete or incomplete. A complete injury is one that causes permanent damage to the area where the injury occurred, and can lead to partial or total loss of use of parts of the body (paraplegia or tetraplegia).
An incomplete spinal cord injury is one causing partial damage to the cord itself. How much an incomplete injury affects your ability to use your limbs, and how much or whether medical treatment and therapy can be effective, depends on the severity of the injury, your medical history, and your overall health.
Back Injuries and Back Pain
How Work Injuries Can Cause Back Pain
One of the symptoms that you will likely experience with any back injury at work is physical pain. Doctors categorize back pain into three types: acute, subacute, and chronic.
- Acute back pain occurs suddenly and can be the most intense form of pain, but it also tends to be of short duration, usually a few days to no more than a few weeks. Lower back strains and sprains, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae can all be sources of acute back pain.
- Subacute back pain can happen suddenly, but it can also gradually develop. Subacute pain usually persists for about 4 to 12 weeks. Injuries from muscle overexertion or overuse are two examples of how subacute back pain can happen.
- Chronic back pain, like subacute back pain, can happen suddenly or gradually. Chronic back pain is a condition that affects you daily, and lasts for longer than 12 weeks. Chronic back pain can come from repetitive stress on the lower back, or can be a lasting consequence of a more serious back injury like damage to nerve endings surrounding the vertebrae or injury to the spinal cord.
Back Pain Symptoms
Back pain injuries can lead to several kinds of back pain that affect your back, hips, neck, and legs in different ways.
For example, you might experience pain in a localized area like your lower back. Or, the pain can cover the entirety of your back or even shoot into other parts of your body and create a feeling of numbness, much like an electric shock.
Other forms of pain can be intermittent, like pain that occurs and grows worse when you engage in activities like bending or lifting. Pain can also be accompanied by back stiffness when waking up in the morning.
In some ways, back injury pain can be your ally: it is your body’s way of reminding you to rest an already injured muscle, disc, or vertebra so it can heal. But some kinds of back pain can also be a warning sign of a more serious health problem like nerve damage. If your back pain comes with additional symptoms like numbness or weakness in your legs, difficulty urinating, fever, or unexplained weight loss, these you should consult with your doctor about to make sure they are not signs of a serious medical condition.
The same is true if your pain symptoms persist for more than a few weeks.
Treatment of Back Injuries
Back injury treatment can be simple or complex, or short-term or long-term, depending on the type of injury and its severity.
Back strains and sprains are usually easy to treat, especially if treated soon after the occurrence as delaying medical treatment can lead to aggravation of the injury. Treatment is often home-based, using a cold compress to reduce the pain and swelling that accompanies a muscle injury and an over-the-counter pain reliever for the accompanying pain.
Often, you should be able to begin to resume activity after one or two days. If pain and swelling continue for two weeks or more following the date of your injury, then it is a good idea to consult with a doctor to make sure you aren’t dealing with a more serious medical condition or injury.
Treatment of Herniated Discs
Often, a herniated disc will heal itself over time. Herniated discs seldom need surgery to repair. Treatment is usually a combination of reducing use of the affected part of the back coupled with medication to treat pain symptoms. Treatment might start with over-the-counter pain medications, but in more severe cases prescription medications including neuropathic and muscle-relaxing drugs and cortisone injections.
In some cases, physical therapy can also be a part of treatment.
Treatment of Fractured Vertebrae
Treating a fractured vertebra usually involves rest, pain medication, physical therapy, and possibly wearing a brace. Sometimes minimally-invasive surgery is necessary.
Surgery is usually not needed to treat a herniated disc. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options, which may include rest, epidural injections, medication or physical therapy.
Arizona Workers Compensation Back Injury Settlement
As you can see from what we have covered above, workers comp settlements for back injuries can have serious and long-lasting consequences on your ability to work and to do normal life activities down to the simple ability to move without assistance.
Medical expenses, lost wages, and long-term disability costs for a work-related back injury can quickly add up into thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars.
How much compensation you might receive in fair settlement for your workers comp claim depends on several factors. Consider:
- The average workers comp back injury settlement amount (including neck injuries) in Arizona is about $1.4 million, with a mean settlement amount of $500,000.
- The cost to treat impaired motor functions can be up to $375,000 in the first year, and $45,000 every year thereafter. Treating a complete tetraplegia injury for an injured employee can cost more than $1 million in the first year, and $200,000 annually after that.
- The highest workers comp settlement settlement amount for an injured employee back injury in Arizona was more than $7 million.
- If your back injury requires acute care unit treatment in a hospital, the average length of stay is about 10 days. Rehabilitation hospital stays take an average of 30 days.
- Fewer than 1 percent of injured workers who suffer a spinal cord injury will recover fully by the end of their initial hospital stay. In many cases, even successfully treated back injury patients (surgery, therapy, etc.) continue to experience symptoms for years after the date of the injury.
- For an injured worker, resuming work after a spinal injury is frequently impossible. 10 years after a spinal cord injury, only about one-third of injured employees are employed again. Only one-third of such injured workers will ever return to work.
- About one-third of spinal cord injury victims will require a hospital readmission for their injury, with its related future medical costs. The average length of stay for a readmission is 18 days.
How the Fendon Law Group Can Help With Your Workplace Back Injury Claim
At the Fendon Law Group in Phoenix, Arizona, we have more than 40 years of combined experience in Arizona Workers’ Compensation law. We offer a free consultation so that we can evaluate your workers comp claim and provide you with the best advice possible for your workers comp settlement. Contact us today for a case assessment!
Arizona Workers Compensation for Back Injuries
Arizona workers compensation can provide you with wage loss benefits during your recovery from a workplace back injury.
You begin your Arizona workers compensation settlement claim by notifying your employer in writing of the accident and by filing a Worker’s Report of Injury with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA). Your employer will then notify its insurance company of your claim.
Arizona workers compensation covers three categories of workplace back injuries:
- Aggravation injuries: These occur when you have a precondition at the time of the injury event that the back injury makes worse.
- Sudden injuries: Events like falls are examples of sudden injury events at work.
- Chronic injuries: These workplace injuries are ones that develop slowly over time.
A key advantage to filing a workers compensation settlement claim in Arizona to address these injuries is that workers compensation is a form of no-fault insurance that your employer carries. This means that unlike suing your employer for your injuries in a personal injury lawsuit, in a workers compensation claim you do not have to prove anything other than the occurrence of the accident and its connection to your job.
Workers compensation settlements cover many of the costs and losses that come from a back injury on the job. These include medical bills, lost wages, physical and vocational therapy, prescription medications, travel expenses to and from medical treatment and therapy, and more.
Why You Need a Workers Compensation Attorney on Your Side
Workers compensation claims for back injuries in Arizona can become what insurers call “mega claims.” These are claims for which the insurance company is more likely to contest either the validity of or their compensation value.
Although you do not need to prove fault to collect workers compensation benefits in Arizona, you do need medical records and other evidence to support the value of your work-related injury claim, especially if the insurer tries to low-ball you in a settlement offer.
At the Fendon Law Group we recommend to our clients that they not accept an insurer’s initial offer of settlement before one of our experienced workers compensation lawyers can examine your claim first to make sure the settlement covers all the kinds of treatment you will need and your lost wages disability benefits throughout the duration of your back injury disability.
We can make sure that you do not inadvertently pass up on any of the workers compensation benefits your back injury entitles you to. We can also advise you when an insurer’s settlement is so low that you should consider contesting it before an administrative law judge, and present your case before the judge.
Lastly, if for any reason your workers compensation settlement claim is denied, we can appeal that decision on your behalf and represent you in your appeal hearing.
Call the Fendon Law Group Today
When your back injury at work can cost thousands in medical bills or even a million dollars or more to treat, the stakes are too high not to have an experienced, capable workers compensation attorney to help you.
We have offices in the following Arizona locations:
In settlement negotiations with the insurance company, our Arizona workers compensation lawyers will make sure that your workers compensation benefit application is complete and supported by the best available evidence. We will also make sure it addresses any challenges that your employer’s insurer may raise against it. And we see to it that your settlement for a work related back injury includes all the medical benefits you need, including future medical treatment.
If you have to fight an unfair settlement offer before an administrative law judge, a Fendon Law experienced workers comp lawyer will represent you in the hearing before the judge and aggressively present your workers compensation settlement case for you.
Call us today, toll-free, at (800) 229-3880 to talk with one of our Arizona workers compensation specialists and to set up a free claim evaluation consultation. Or if you prefer to use the Internet, you can contact us online to ask a question or to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
If you have suffered a back injury and have not yet notified your employer of your workplace accident or filed a Worker’s Report of Injury with the ICA, remember that you only have a very limited time to get started with your claim before the insurer will argue that you waited too long. We can help you get started in time.
Don’t wait—call us now, (800) 229-3880, and let us help you to protect and pursue your back injury claims.