What Is the Usual Work Comp Settlement for Lower Back Injury

What Is the Usual Work Comp Settlement for Lower Back Injury

The usual workers' comp settlement for a lower back injury varies greatly depending on the severity of the injury, the medical treatments necessary to treat the condition, and whether the worker suffers permanent disability. Understanding how the workers' compensation process works and the kind of settlement injured workers may be able to recover can help you estimate the value of your work injury claim.

What Is the Usual Work Comp Settlement for a Lower Back Injury?

Research from a Martindale-Nolo study found that the average workers' comp settlement for a back injury is around $20,000 to $25,000 related to medical care expenses only. Additionally, research from the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI) determined that the average cost to insurers for lower back injuries is around $37,000, while upper back injuries typically cost roughly $33,000.

These averages apply to lump sum payments only. The settlement amounts mentioned generally only apply to medical costs. They don't include money recovered to replace lost income resulting from the recovery process or permanent partial disabilities. 

It can also take a long time to receive a workers' compensation settlement, and around 70% of workers' comp claims studied were denied at first. Approximately 60% of those claims were eventually approved, but injured workers frequently needed to hire workers' comp lawyers and request a hearing or file an appeal before their claims were approved.

These figures are national averages. As such, settlement amounts can vary based on the type of injury incurred, among other factors. 

Types of Work-Related Back Injuries

There are many types of back injuries that can affect the lower back and other areas. Some of the most common types of Iowa Workers' Compensation back injuries that happen in the workplace include:

Soft Tissue Injuries

Some of the most frequently sustained back injuries include soft tissue strains and sprains. Strains involve the tearing or overstretching of tendons or muscles in the back. Meanwhile, springs involve the tearing or overstretching of ligaments.

A few key symptoms of soft tissue injuries include stiffness, tightness, difficulty moving, muscle spasms, and general pain. 

These injuries may result from various causes, including overuse due to stressful, repetitive movements and accidents such as falls.

Fractures

Fractures of the vertebrae can also occur along the spine. While falls, vehicle accidents, and other trauma can cause fractures, they may also naturally develop due to osteoporosis.

Herniated Discs

Many work injury victims also sustain herniated disc injuries. These occur when the discs that support the spine experience tearing that forces the nucleus of the disc into the spine.

The symptoms of a herniated disc may include numbness, weakness, tingling, or back pain.

Individuals may suffer herniated discs under a couple of circumstances. The first is wear and tear, as repeated motion that weakens the ligaments could cause a hernia. Vehicle accidents, falls, and other accidents could also cause herniated discs.

What Benefits Can I Claim Under Workers' Compensation?

In Iowa workers' compensation cases, claimants may be able to recover four main types of benefits. A top Iowa Workers' Compensation attorney can assist in obtaining these benefits. These could include:

Medical Treatment

One cost that workers' compensation settlements cover is medical treatment, including any costs resulting from diagnosis and care. This compensation may also cover equipment that injury victims need as a result of their injuries, including wheelchairs. Additional coverage could include compensation for therapy and counseling.

Rehabilitation

If injury victims require rehabilitation to make a recovery, workers' compensation benefits may also cover these costs. Settlements could cover therapeutic care along with training for employees to relearn what they need to in order to gain employment after recovering.

If individuals are unable to return to their previous job after an injury, some states may provide benefits such as vocational rehabilitation. These would cover training, evaluation, and other costs pertaining to getting a job in another capacity.

Disability

Work injury victims may receive coverage for disability expenses if they are unable to work due to disability. The four main types of disability include:

  • Temporary partial disability — This type of disability only enables employees to continue working in a limited capacity and for a limited amount of time. 
  • Permanent partial disability — This disability entails a degree of permanent disability that keeps individuals from working to some extent. Individuals may still qualify for these benefits even if they are able to return to work in some capacity.
  • Temporary total disability — This disability prevents individuals from working entirely for a period of time, but the injury victim will likely make a complete recovery and be able to return to their former job. 
  • Permanent total disability — If an individual has a permanent total disability, he or she will never be able to return to a former job because of the severity of the injury.

If you become disabled because of a work injury, a doctor will calculate your workers' com disability rating. This will determine what percentage of functionality you have based on the degree of your disability.

Death Benefits

If an employee dies because of a work-related injury or illness, the victim's family may be able to recover death benefits. These benefits may provide financial support for financially dependent spouses or children who relied on the decedent, and they may cover other related costs such as funeral expenses.

The Factors Impacting Injury Settlements

There are multiple factors that can influence the settlement amount in a work injury case, including Iowa workers' compensation shoulder injury claim worth or the amount of compensation for another injury. An Iowa Work Comp lawyer/ Iowa Workers Comp attorney can help to maximize these benefits. The best and most experienced workers' compensation lawyers can instruct you on the benefits you can obtain. 

These factors may include the following:

The Degree of Injury

Severe injuries will limit a person's ability to return to work or even prevent them from working entirely. These injuries will also require more extensive treatment and potentially long-term care, which would lead to even more costs.

Future Medical Costs

Workers' comp covers medical expenses, including early treatment along with more prolonged care, which may involve future doctor's appointments, physical therapy, and other forms of treatment.

Income Adjustments

Injuries could also affect income by either preventing people from going to work for a limited time or completely, and people who return to work may be unable to work in the same job. 

Unpaid Medical Expenses and Disability Benefits

Workers' comp settlements may cover both unpaid medical expenses and disability benefits.

The Victim's History and Other Characteristics

Before deciding on a settlement amount, workers' comp insurers will investigate the claim. This will entail looking at the claimant's background and other details such as the individual's age, capacity to return to work, and life expectancy.

How Do I Bring a Successful Workers' Compensation Claim?

To succeed with a workers' compensation claim, injured workers need to take certain steps. The following are some of the essential elements of successful workers' compensation claims.

Quickly Report the Injury

Work injury victims should immediately report their injury to their employer. Failure to do so could severely hinder the claimant's chances of filing a successful workers' comp claim.

Seek Medical Treatment

Injury victims also need to get immediate treatment for their injuries if they're in a workplace accident. This will help begin the recovery process while also generating more proof of injury in the form of medical records and bills. Some businesses may have workers' compensation insurance that determines which medical professionals employees should see. However, they may be able to visit another doctor for a second opinion regarding their injuries.

File the Necessary Paperwork with Consistent Accuracy

Employers may need injured workers to complete a form when reporting the accident. If this is the case, individuals should make sure that the form is consistently accurate. The details of the injury and the cause behind it should align with all other documentation and interviews. 

Obtain Witness Information

If witnesses were present at the time of the accident, they may be able to support the injury victim's version of events, supporting their claim. This is why it's important for injured workers to get the names and contact information of any witnesses involved.

Avoid Giving an Official Statement to Insurance Companies

Insurance companies often want to get a recorded statement from injury victims. Even if the claimant gives an accurate account of events, making any mistake or saying the wrong thing could hurt the case. It's important to remember that insurance companies are never on the injury victim's side. Adjusters want to avoid maximizing payouts and will attempt to reach the lowest settlement amount possible or look for a reason to deny the claim.

Consult with a Lawyer

One of the most important steps to take in any workers' comp case is to consult with a lawyer, particularly if a workers' comp case is complex. A workers' compensation attorney with experience in this practice area will be able to help calculate potential benefits and walk injury victims through the workers' comp process. Whether suffering from a back injury or another type of work-related injury or illness, an attorney can help determine what kind of compensation a victim may receive based on the specifics of their case.

What Can I Do to Maximize My Compensation?

By taking all of the above steps, individuals can file a successful workers' comp claim. Quickly reporting the injury, seeking treatment, being consistent, and working with an attorney can all increase the chances of success with a workers' compensation claim. 

Correct documentation, ensuring the claim is legitimate, and carefully communicating with doctors and insurers will ultimately help maximize compensation. An attorney can also help calculate the total amount of compensation the case is worth. Additionally, they can communicate with insurers on the claimant's behalf to avoid potentially compromising the case.

Photo of Niko Pothitakis
For the past 15 years Mr. Pothitakis has focused his practice on Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Cases. The firm has two locations, one being in Burlington, Iowa and the other in Keokuk, Iowa. Mr. Pothitakis works with many area unions and employee organizations to provide advice, assistance, and guidance as it relates to employment issues. Mr. Pothitakis provides free consultations to those with legal questions in the firm's areas of practice. In this initial meeting or conference potential clients are provided advice on their need for assistance and how they need to proceed.