Injuries to the neck and back can be among the most painful and difficult to recover from, with many injuries taking months or even years to resolve. The majority of neck and back injuries are caused as a result of road traffic accidents, slips or trips, and in some cases, from sporting mishaps. It's also common to injure your back when lifting heavy objects incorrectly, and so many of these injuries are as a result of workplace accidents.
If you injure your neck or back, like any other part of your body, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. In order to be successful in recovering compensation, someone else must be at fault for your accident. This may be an individual, a business, or a public body. For instance, if you injured your neck or back as a result of a workplace accident, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim against your employer.
Types of Neck and Back Injury
The structure of the neck and back is complex. It is comprised of the spine, discs, nerves, as well as muscles, ligaments and tendons. There are over twenty muscles in the neck alone: extending from the base of the skull and jaw down to the shoulder. The muscles in the back provide support for the spine and allow for a range of motion. Together, these muscles allow us to bend, lift objects, move our head, chew and swallow, and even breathe. Between the bones of the spine are discs, there are soft jellylike pieces of tissue that allow the spine to bend and twist naturally.
The majority of neck and back injuries are muscle-related, although more serious injuries can include herniated discs and fractured vertebra (the interlocking bones in your spine). A sprain or strain can occur when the ligaments in the neck or back are torn. This can be caused by repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement. For this reason, this type of injury is common in road traffic accidents or workplace accidents. It's possible for an incorrectly positioned keyboard or computer screen to lead to a neck strain. Sprains or strains in the back and neck can be very painful and can have a serious impact on mobility. A herniated disc, sometimes known as a slipped disc, can happen when a spinal disc becomes torn; the soft interior of the disc then bulges and protrudes and can press on a nerve. This can cause arm or leg pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Herniated discs can be the result of wear and tear, or from a sudden injury like a fall. Spine or vertebral fractures are breaks in the bones of the spinal column. They most typically occur as a result of trauma such as serious road traffic accidents. Spinal fractures can cause sudden onset back pain, reduced mobility, as well as height loss, deformity and disability. Depending on the severity of the fracture, it can also lead to partial paralysis in the arms or legs. For more information on spinal injuries, read our Value of a Spinal Injury article.
What can you claim for?
If you have suffered a neck or back injury, the amount of compensation you may be entitled to will depend on the severity of the injury and the effect it has had, and will continue to have, on your life. Some of the factors relevant when assessing the level of compensation are:
- The degree of pain experienced and the length of time it takes to make a full recovery;
- The effect of the injury on your everyday life and its long-term implications. This includes the ability to continue to work or take part in hobbies and activities previously enjoyed;
- Wage loss, both past and future, and whether any services have been required by family and friends;
- The extent of the treatment required, particularly whether surgery was needed; and
- Whether there was a pre-existing back or neck problem and the extent to which this was exacerbated by the accident.
Our experienced personal injury solicitors will be able to quantify these factors and establish how much you are likely to receive in compensation.
What could your back or neck injury claim be worth?
If you have a claim for compensation, how much could you be awarded?
Morton Fraser's Compensation Calculator is a handy guide which can provide you with an indication of the value of your injury. It is based on the Judicial College Guidelines which take account of recent court decisions and serve as a reference point for lawyers when considering compensation. The recommended awards for neck and back injuries are set out below.
- For very minor soft tissue injuries where a full recovery is made within a period of three months, a Court would likely award up to £2,090. Where the recovery takes up to two years, the award would likely be in the region of £2,090 to £6,730.
- Moderate neck injuries that have (a) exacerbated a pre-existing condition over a shorter period of time or (b) require a protracted period of recovery leaving the individual with an increased vulnerability to permanent symptoms can attract awards in the region of £6,730 to £11,730.
- Neck injuries involving fractures or dislocations which cause immediate and severe symptoms, as well as serious soft tissue injuries resulting in permanent or recurring pain, stiffness, or discomfort are typically valued between £11,730 and £32,840.
- For more serious fractures and dislocations that lead to chronic conditions and significant disability, the Court would likely make an award between £38,800 and £47,760.
- Similar serious fractures, but that result in substantial loss of movement in the neck and loss of function in one or more limbs can attract awards of between £56,100 and £111,690 depending on the severity.
- The most severe neck injuries which are associated with incomplete paraplegia or require many years of treatment and leave the injured person with little or no movement in the neck are often valued in the region of £126,550.
- Very minor back injuries, including less serious strains, sprains, and soft tissue injuries that do not require surgical intervention are usually valued at between £2,090 and £10,670. A Court will consider the recovery period when making an aware. Injuries that heal within three months are valued at the lower end of the scale, while injuries that require two to five years for recovery are valued at the higher end.
- More moderate back injuries, such as those that result in prolonged backache, those that exacerbate pre-existing back complaints, and take around five or more years to heal can attract awards between £10,670 and £23,680.
- For similar injuries that result in a low degree of residual disability, the Court would make an award between £23,680 and £33,080. These types of injuries can include compression or crush fractures (where the vertebrae in the spine collapses, restricting blood and oxygen flow to the spinal cord).
- Severe back injuries, such as those involving spinal disc fractures leading to chronic conditions, which often involve surgery, are valued more highly at between £33,080 and £59.490.
- The most severe injuries: those that result in life changing disability and can attract awards between £62,280 and £137,330. These types of injuries can result in incomplete paralysis, as well as significantly impaired bladder, bowel, and sexual function.
Our personal injury lawyers based in Edinburgh and Glasgow have successfully recovered damages in a number of cases where individuals suffered neck and back injuries following accidents at work, road traffic accidents, and as the result of slip/trip accidents. This includes cases where our clients were unable to continue with the job they carried out before their accident due to difficulties with their mobility following injuries to their neck and back. In those cases, we require to consider carefully how our client is going to earn a living in the future so that we can assess any future loss of earnings and the potential for a claim for future loss of employability to account for difficulties in gaining employment. This claim would also take into account the costs of training for a new role and the likelihood of securing employment in a different sector. We will work with clients to consider the position, often with the assistance of employment experts.
Who is the claim against?
Who is liable to pay compensation will depend upon the circumstances of the accident and who is to blame for your accident occurring?
Many back and neck injuries are caused as a result of slipping or tripping in the workplace for which your employer may be liable if there has been a breach of duty. You may also be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence if your back or neck injury is due to a surgical error, delayed treatment or misdiagnosis. Morton Fraser's Personal Injury Team has extensive experience in pursuing all types of claims and we can provide you with advice on who is liable to pay compensation once we have discussed the facts and circumstances of your claim.
The above guidelines and our Compensation Calculator provide an initial indication of the values a court may award for the 'pain and suffering' you have endured, but do not take into account other losses such as assistance you required following your accident, the cost of medical treatment, past and future wage loss, pension loss and any other expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident. Each individual case must be considered on its own facts and circumstances. Our experienced Personal Injury team will take the time to assess your back or neck injury claim and can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us today on 0131 247 1000 or through our personal injury compensation enquiry form.
The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Morton Fraser LLP accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this webpage refers. Morton Fraser LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.