Herniated cervical discs are often commonly referred to as "slipped discs." The condition usually occurs because of some traumatic event that causes the disc in the neck area to tear open. This leads to fluid pushing against surrounding nerves in the neck, resulting in neck pain and other aggravating symptoms. Herniated discs can also arise due to age, which causes the discs in the spine to lose flexibility and tear open.
Symptoms of a herniated cervical disc include arm pain that radiates through the body, neck pain, shoulder pain, and numbness and/or tingling in the arm or hand. The pain may be dull or acute and is usually one of the first signs of the condition. Subsequent weakness in the arm may require medical treatment. Treatment for these symptoms may range from basic exercise and medication to spinal fusion surgery. The most extreme treatment is artificial disc replacement which is an alternative to fusion surgery.
If the herniated cervical disc or slipped disc occurred due a traumatic event caused from someone's negligence, the victim has a right to file a claim to recover damages that includes medical costs, lost wages and in some cases, pain and suffering. The victim may also pursue a civil suit. In either case, the pursuit for compensation falls under the legal theory of negligence which requires the injured person (the “claimant” or “plaintiff” in a lawsuit) to show a duty of care and a breach of that duty (which resulted in the alleged injury). If, for example, the injuries arose from a car accident caused by an at-fault driver, a duty of care has already been established through statute. The claimant must then show that the other party breached this duty (usually by careless driving or some violation of the traffic laws) and that the breach is the direct cause of the claimant's injuries.
Proving fault may be difficult, and it is prudent for any claimant to retain legal representation at this point. An attorney will investigate the circumstances around the event that caused the injury. In a car accident, the claimant or attorney should collect witness testimonies attesting to the other driver's carelessness, police reports, photos, other documentation, and most important, medical reports.
If the claimant wants to pursue a settlement, he must contact the other party (and their insurance company) as soon as possible. A phone call may initiate the claim or certain forms may need to be filed. Once the claimant proves the fault of the other party, the claimant may then seek a larger settlement or pursue a civil suit in court to recover damages for medical costs, lost wages, rehabilitative therapy, and in some cases, pain and suffering. At some point, the claimant must determine whether a settlement will cover actual damages, both present and future. Since insurance companies seek to minimize payouts, the claimant should retain a skilled negotiator to avoid these "lowball" efforts and get the most offered under the policy.
However, even the maximum policy amount may not be enough to cover actual costs that could include physical therapy, surgery, dialysis, caretakers, as well as any accompanying property damages (from a car accident). The compromise in receiving a settlement is that the claimant is barred from pursuing the case in civil court afterward and if any future costs arise, the claimant is then responsible for these costs. In this case, the better alternative may be pursuing damages in court. Jury awards are usually more than settlement offers and will cover current and future medical costs.
Damages vary on a case by case basis depending on the actual damages, treatments and the circumstances surrounding the initial event. Compensation may be also reduced or barred due to any negligence on the part of the injured individual. In certain cases, punitive damages may be considered.
Because this type of back injury can potentially involve a lifetime of pain and medical issues, it's important to have a good understanding of the compensation available under law before accepting a settlement. See our section on damages and compensation for lots of information.
If you have suffered a herniated cervical disc due to the negligence of another, you may be able to pursue actual economic damages such as medical costs and lost wages. You may also pursue non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and possible compensation.