Making a Personal Injury Claim for Nerve Damage

Proving the nature and extent of injury in a nerve damage claim can be challenging. Here are the main factors to consider.

By , Attorney · University of Michigan Law School

It is commonly understood that nerve damage can cause some of the worst physical pain a person can suffer, as well as disability. Proving the existence and extent of nerve damage can be challenging in a personal injury case, and predicting a jury's response can even more confounding. This article discusses the role of nerve damage in personal injury claims and common issues confronted by the person suing (the plaintiff) and the person being sued (the defendant).

(If your injury resulted from your job, you'll be limited by law to a workers compensation claim - in most cases. Please see Worker's Compensation Coverage for Nerve Damage).

Nerve Damage Can Cause More Than Just Physical Pain and Suffering

"Pain and suffering" damages are often the largest component of damages in a personal injury case, and are not simply limited to compensation for the immediate physical pain that the plaintiff suffers. A plaintiff can also be compensated for mental and emotional pain and the overall loss of quality of life. Such mental and emotional pain and suffering damages could conceivably be quite high for a plaintiff who is likely to suffer from nerve damage and the resulting discomfort and possible diminished functioning of organs or limbs. Living with chronic nerve pain and/or related disabilities can also potentially lead to damages for psychological issues like depression.

The Intangible Nature of Pain and Suffering Damages

Unlike other damages (like lost wages for example), pain and suffering from nerve damage cannot easily be assigned an exact dollar amount. If a case goes to trial, the jury will award damages based on their own assessment of the plaintiff's testimony, any medical expert testimony and any other evidence presented during trial.

Accurately predicting what that number will be ahead of time is limited to an educated guess based on verdicts in similar cases in the past. For this reason, settlement negotiations can get hung up on what the respective parties believe to be fair compensation for a plaintiff's nerve damage pain and suffering.

Objectively Documenting Nerve Damage

While the plaintiff can never establish the exact dollar value of the nerve damage pain and suffering, proving objectively that nerve damage occurred is possible. Diagnostic nerve conduction tests can show impairment of nerves. Less directly, the plaintiff's injuries can sometimes be shown to commonly or always lead to nerve damage, usually with the help of expert medical testimony. Once the fact of nerve damage is established, the plaintiff will testify to what his or her personal experience has been, and the impact the injuries have had on all aspects of life. In any case, medical expert testimony will be necessary regarding tests, common symptoms from injuries and any other sophisticated medical arguments and evidence.

Examples of Nerve Damage Verdicts and Settlements

Here is a quick look at some real-world personal injury settlements and jury awards in cases involving nerve damage:

  • $6,000,000 verdict for nerve damage at birth that caused an Erb's Palsy.
  • $2,300,000 settlement for nerve damage to bladder resulting from nursing negligence.
  • $488,500 arbitration award after car accident caused nerve damage and tinnitus.
  • $470,000 verdict for negligent use of excessive force leading to fracture and radial nerve damage.
  • $100,000 settlement for slip and fall case that included injury to plaintiff's saphenous nerve.

As you can see, the range is extremely large due to the numerous factors that affect any given claim. If you need an analysis of the value of your claim, you will need to consult with a local attorney.

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