Value of Back Injury Cases in Workers’ Compensation
A back injury is one of the most difficult injuries to quantify in Maryland workers’ comp. The back injury can be severe, all the way up to paralysis. It can also be minor, something as little as a mild strain, warranting a day or two off of work. As far as the Workers’ Compensation Commission is concerned, these are the same injury – the back injury. They vary in degrees, of course, but the body part is the same.
A strong back used to be a fundamental foundation of the American worker. We used to work with our hands. We used to rely on lifting. We used to bail hay a bail at a time, gripping it with our hands and using our back to hurl it onto the truck. We’re a ways from that, but many workers still have back strength as a crucial piece of their job. There are numerous examples. A few include construction, law enforcement, or landscape work. Even medical and government fields can involve the back in a major way.
Why is It So Hard to Quantify?
How much is a workers’ comp back injury worth is a complicated question because of four factors:
• Back injuries vary substantially in severity
• The back is an unscheduled body part in Maryland, making it worth 500 weeks of pay if it were completely (100%) disabled.
• Medicine’s ability to diagnose a back injury is more difficult than other body parts, making malingering a bigger problem.
• Treating a back injury is less predictable than other injuries.
That said, we can look at some averages from the Comp Pinkbook. Pure back injuries are the most common injury in Maryland workers’ comp. There were 3,358 back only injuries in the 18 months measured by the Comp Pinkbook.
• The average back involved in MD workers’ comp was 12.56% disabled
• The average permanent partial disability case was worth $17,467.
• The average final settlement case was worth $33,748.
• In total, for 18 months, Maryland workers’ comp awarded $75,375,662 for back only injuries.
The figures above do not include medical bills and expenses. (If you’re looking for specific info on back injury medical procedure rates – click here for the WCC’s rates.) The figures also do not include payments for time missed from work. These represent only PPD awards or final settlements. If you don’t understand the difference, or don’t know about these kinds of awards, you should consider a workers’ comp lawyer.
The Largest Awards are worth…
The largest PPD back injury award recorded by the Comp Pinkbook were $351,708 against Chesapeake Employers Insurance Company (then called IWIF). The second largest was $266,800 for a roofer. The three largest final settlements for workers’ comp back injuries were all over $400,000, two involving the subsequent injury fund.
Back Injuries Combined with Other Body Parts
Complicating matters with back injuries, is they are often coupled with injuries to other parts of the body. For instance, back and neck combination injuries are the seventh most common, at more than 700 total awards. Add the shoulder to those two for another 278 awards. The back together with just the knees, just the shoulder, or just the legs all represent more than 220 awards. These are the 16th, 17th, and 18th most common injury sets, respectively.
The spinal cord might be thought of as the back, but it is actually listed as a separate injury. It is the 13th most common comp injury in MD with more than 390 total PPD awards or final settlement awards. The average final settlement award for a spinal cord injury is more than $50,000.
How much is a back injury comp case is no easy question as all of the data above indicates. The best course of action is to speak to a workers’ comp lawyer as soon as possible. A good comp lawyer is going to make maximizing the value of your claim easier. If you would like to get slightly more specific with regard to the value of your case, you can visit our workers’ compensation calculator.
Medically Related Back Injury Information
Back Injury – Regions of the Back
The 33 bones of the “vertebral column” are grouped into the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal regions.
- Cervical vertebrae – The seven vertebrae forming the upper part of the spine. The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull. The individual cervical vertebrae are abbreviated C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7.
- Thoracic vertebrae – The twelve bones between the neck and lower back.
- Lumbar vertebrae – The five largest and strongest vertebrae located in the lower back, between the chest and hips.
- Sacral – The bones at the base of the spine, composed of five vertebrae fused together.
- Coccygeal – The coccygeal region, or coccyx, is more commonly known at the “tailbone,” and is made up of four fused vertebrae.
Back Pain and Injuries
Back injuries are the most common cause of back pain. It is important to understand that back pain is a symptom of a medical condition, not a diagnosis itself. Back pain includes sore muscles and tendons, herniated discs, fractures, and other problems.
In a sudden, acute back injury, pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. There are numerous work related actions that can cause back injuries and pain. Examples include lifting, pushing, grabbing, pulling, or sometimes, even just bending over. The result can be sprains and strains, herniated disks, and fractured vertebrae. These injuries can cause pain and limit your movement. Treatments vary but might include medicines, icing, bed rest, physical therapy, or back surgery.
Back Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
We often hear injured workers concerned about or complaining that their back surgery isn’t covered under workers’ comp – they aren’t getting the treatment they desire. That’s a problem. Often, repeated injections simply don’t do the trick. Don’t let an insurance company dictate your treatment.
 Henry Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body (Warren H. Lewis ed., 20th ed. 2000).
 Management of Back Pain, WebMD.
 Stewart G. Eidelson, M.D., Cervical Spine Anatomy (Neck), SpineUniverse, http://www.spineuniverse.com/anatomy/cervical-spine-anatomy-neck (last updated Oct. 12, 2012).
 Management of Back Pain, WebMD.
 Back Problems and Injuries, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/back-problems-and-injuries-topic-overview (last visited Mar. 12, 2014).
 Causes of Back Pain, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/causes-of-back-pain (last visited Mar. 12, 2014).
 Understanding Back Pain – the Basics, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/understanding-back-pain-basics (last visited Mar. 12, 2014).