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If you have suffered a spinal injury as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing, you may be able to claim compensation. These types of injuries can have a significant impact on your quality of life and, in the most serious cases, can cause permanent disability.

Below we look at what constitutes a spinal injury claim, and the different types of injuries that could be covered by this type of claim. We also examine who can submit a spinal injury claim and the process to do this, including what you will need to prove. Finally we look at the amount of compensation that you could recover for your injury and other losses, how long it will take to conclude your claim and how long you have got to issue proceedings.

What is a spinal injury claim?

A spinal injury claim can cover any claim for compensation for the pain and suffering caused by an accident that was not your fault, and in which you sustain an injury to your spine, together with any financial losses and out of pocket expenses. This could include a spinal injury suffered as a result of a road traffic accident, either as a driver or passenger, or following a slip, trip or fall in a public place, such as tripping on an uneven paving stone.

Spinal injury claims can also commonly arise because of workplace accidents or down to poor and unsafe working practices. This could include, for example, slipping on debris or spillages in the workplace, falling from a height, lifting heavy items or equipment, repetitive activities, or being stood or sat in the same position for prolonged periods.

What constitutes a spinal injury?

Spinal injuries cover a whole range of different injury-types to the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back) or lumbar (lower) spine. These can include minor or moderate soft tissue injuries, causing discomfort, stiffness, muscle spasms and short-term mobility issues, to serious and debilitating spinal fractures causing permanent loss of movement or paralysis.

When it comes to soft tissue injuries, these could consist of a sprain, strain, tear, rupture or even lesser damage to either a muscle, tendon or ligament in both the neck and/or back. In the context of road traffic accidents, these are commonly referred to as whiplash injuries. Often likened to the crack of a whip, the sudden and forceful movement of the head and neck can damage the ligaments and tissues, causing painful symptoms that can take anything from a few short days to several months or even years to completely resolve.

In some cases, the occupants of a vehicle may sustain a combination of more than one type of spinal injury. They may also suffer other physical injuries, or even a psychological injury, for which they can also seek to recover compensation, in addition to any spinal injury.

Equally, the spinal injuries arising out of other types of accidents can range from minor to moderate or severe. For example, an injury arising out of repetitive work practices, such as working on a production line, could be relatively minor, including discomfort and stiffness, while a spinal injury resulting from a fall from a height on a construction site or landing badly after slipping in a public place, could result in serious mobility issues or disability.

Who can make a spinal injury claim?

If you have suffered an accident or otherwise sustained a spinal injury as a result of the wrongdoing of someone else, including another driver, the local council or even your employer, you may be eligible to recover compensation by making a spinal injury claim.

In some cases, even if you were partly responsible for the happening of the accident, you may still be able to claim up to the value of any apportionment on liability. For example, if you have been involved in a road traffic accident and you were equally responsible for the accident taking place, you will still be able to recover 50% of the value of your claim.

When it comes to apportioning blame, the same logic can also apply to any other type of accident. For example, if you fall from a height at work because of unsafe working practices, your employer may be found to have caused the accident, although you may be held 30% liable for failing to follow instructions that partly contributed to the accident. In these circumstances, you would be able to recover 70% of the value of the claim.

How to make a spinal injury claim

To make a spinal injury claim, much will depend on the seriousness of your injury and how this was caused. In a road traffic accident (RTA) based in England and Wales, where you have sustained a whiplash injury to your neck or back as a result of a collision for which someone else was to blame ‘and’ the value of your personal injury claim is unlikely to exceed £5,000 (or £10,000, including your injury and other financial losses), you may be able to use the government’s official injury online claims service. This online service has been designed to help injured parties navigate the claims process without a solicitor, although many solicitors will still be able to do this on your behalf for a fixed fee.

For all other types of claims, or for RTA claims that fall outside of the portal process, it is often best to seek expert legal advice from a solicitor specialising in spinal injury claims. Your solicitor will be able to advise you of the merits of your claim and help you to formulate the correct legal argument to establish liability against the proposed defendant.

They will also be able to help you obtain the necessary evidence in support of your claim, including expert and independent medical evidence, and any other documentation needed to prove your spinal injury and any financial losses arising out of the accident.

What if you sustain a spinal injury at work?

If you have sustained an injury at work — where all manner of workers can suffer from work-related spinal injuries, including those who work in offices, on production lines, in warehouses, on construction sites, and in health and social care settings — your employer should be covered by employer’s liability insurance for these types of claims. This means that any claim for compensation will be funded and paid out under their insurance policy.

However, these types of claims can be complex, typically involving a range of different allegations for breach of the employer’s duty of care to ensure your health, safety and welfare. There are also various regulations which impose specific duties on employers when it comes to things like risk assessments, manual handling and the provision of safety equipment. As such, it is always best to seek expert advice from a solicitor specialising in spinal injury claims against employers. In this way, your solicitor can help to negotiate an out-of-court settlement on your behalf or take the matter to court, if necessary.

What will you need to prove a spinal injury claim?

The evidence needed to prove a spinal injury claim will depend on whether or not liability remains in dispute for the accident, and the extent of your injury or combination of injuries.

If the proposed defendant, or the insurers on their behalf, refuse to admit liability, a claim must be issued for the matter to be determined by the courts. In these cases, there must be sufficient evidence to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that there was some negligence and/or breach of statutory duty on the part of the proposed defendant ‘and’ that their negligence or breach caused the spinal injury complained of.

In essence, the evidence must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant was, as a matter of law, to blame for the accident. This could include, for example, dash cam footage of any road traffic accident, photographs of the road layout, engineer’s reports of the damage to each vehicle, together with testimony from the drivers and any witnesses. For an accident at work, this could again include any CCTV footage and photographs of the accident scene, as well as witness evidence and any documentation relating to things like risks assessments, training and the provision of safety equipment.

When it comes to compensation — provided the defendant is held to be responsible, or at least partly responsible, for the accident — how much you could recover for your spinal injury and any other losses will depend on what evidence you can provide by way of proof.

In particular, you will need the written opinion of an independent medical expert, typically a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, to provide a diagnosis and prognosis for your injury. For example, for a whiplash injury caused as a result of a road traffic accident, the medical expert will need to explain the mechanics of the accident and how this caused your injury, together with a clear indication of how long your symptoms are likely to last. For a more serious spinal injury, including a fractured spine and complete or incomplete paraplegia, there may need to be a number of medical reports around your recovery and rehabilitation.

How much is spinal injury compensation?

For minor spinal injuries issued through the online claims portal, there are fixed tariffs based on the length of the injury sustained. These range from £240 for a whiplash injury to the neck and/or back lasting not more than 3 months, to £4,215 for a similar injury, but where the recovery takes between 18 months to 2 years. If you have also suffered psychological symptoms in addition to your spinal injury, as is common following a road traffic accident, you will get a slightly increased award, ranging between £260 to £4,345.

In contrast, for the most severe types of spinal injuries, including fractures or serious damage to the cervical discs, spinal cord or nerve roots, the amount of compensation will be far higher, where careful consideration will need to be given to a range of factors, including the impact of the injury on your life. These type of injuries can often run in tens of thousands of pounds, with six figure sums reserved for the most serious cases.

In addition to any award for your spinal injury, you should also be able to recover damages for your financial losses, including loss of earnings, the value of any care received, even if provided for free by a loved one, the cost of treatment or medication, the cost of travel to medical appointments, the cost of any mobility aids and any other out of pocket expenses.

In cases where your spinal injury has had a significant impact on your life, especially where you are still suffering from ongoing or permanently debilitating symptoms, no amount of compensation can provide the recompense needed to put things right. However, a claim for compensation can help to ease any financial pressure caused by your injury, including any loss of earnings, both past and future, and help you to get some justice for what has happened to you. The claims process can also be used to help facilitate recovery from your spinal injury, where at all possible and where liability is not in dispute, where the insurers will typically cover the cost of any physiotherapy, surgery or any other treatment needed.

How long does a spinal injury claim take?

The length of time that it can take to conclude a spinal injury claim can vary, depending on a number of different factors, including whether or not liability for the accident remains in dispute, as well as the extent and severity of your injury or combination of injuries.

For minor spinal injuries for which liability has been admitted and you have fully recovered, the case could be concluded within a matter of months. In contrast, for the most complex cases, either where liability needs to be decided by the courts and/or the injury is especially serious, this could take up to 1-2 years to be resolved, in some cases, even longer.

What is the time limit for bringing a spinal injury claim?

To be able to bring a spinal injury claim, this must usually be issued within 3 years of the happening of the accident or date of knowledge of the wrongdoing. It is therefore crucial that you seek expert advice from a spinal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

In serious cases, involving a solicitor right from the outset can also help you to utilise the claims process to fund your recovery and rehabilitation. This could include the cost of mobility aids and adaptations to your home, as well as interim payments to cover loss of income where you are unable to work. Sustaining a spinal injury can have a significant impact on your life and the lives of your family, but getting the financial help that you need can help you to make the necessary changes to adapt to your new way of living.

Spinal injury claim FAQs

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Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

 

Author

Spinal Injury Claim Guide 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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