Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain. Essentially, degenerative disc disease refers to symptoms of back and/or neck pain, which is frequently caused by repetitive stress on a spinal disc. In some cases, degenerative disc disease can cause the following:
- Numbness; and/or
- Hot, shooting pains in the arms or legs, also known as radicular pain.
Degenerative disc disease is generally associated with a low-level chronic pain, accompanied by intermittent episodes of considerably more severe pain. To reiterate, painful disc degeneration is most common in the neck or cervical spine, as well as the lower back or lumbar spine. This is largely due to the fact that these areas of the spine are exposed to the most motion and stress, and as such they are most susceptible to disc degeneration issues.
As the person’s spinal discs deteriorate over time, this can lead to issues such as:
- Pinched and/or impinged nerves;
- Chronic back pain;
- Inflammation of spinal areas; and/or
- Reduced space between vertebrae, which is referred to as spinal compression.
Degenerative disc disease pain may be more intense when:
- Twisting; and/or
- Making other movements.
Because of this, the person’s quality of life as well as their ability to work may be affected.
In most cases, this is the result of aging and not from major traumas, such as a car accident or back injury. However, it can sometimes be caused or aggravated by scar tissue from previous injuries.
What Are Personal Injury Accidents?
Degenerative disc disease, in a legal context, would most likely be covered by personal injury and injury accident law. Personal injury accidents occur when a person suffers some type of harm as a result of someone else’s carelessness or disregard. After an accident, the injured party may choose to file a personal injury claim against the responsible party. This is done through a civil court proceeding in an attempt to collect money damages for personal injury.
A personal injury accident damages a plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Mental health injuries generally include emotional pain and anguish resulting from the accident. Physical injuries most commonly include injuries to organs, limbs, and/or other parts of the anatomy. The injury that is sustained by a personal injury plaintiff may develop over time.
A personal injury may occur intentionally, such as when a defendant deliberately injures a victim, or intends to commit an act that would reasonably result in injury. However, a personal injury may also occur unintentionally; additionally, if an unintentional injury is associated with negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the negligent behavior. Auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries resulting from medical malpractice are all considered to be examples of negligence cases.
A negligence personal injury claim involves a plaintiff claiming that the defendant injured them as a result of breaching a duty of care that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff can show that the defendant owed a duty that they breached, and this breach caused injury which then resulted in quantifiable damage, the plaintiff has made their claim for negligence.
The duty of care that is owed to a plaintiff depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, a defendant is under a legal duty to exercise the same degree of care that an ordinary person would use under a particular set of facts. Whether a duty of care to a plaintiff exists largely depends upon the foreseeability, or predictability, of harm that may result if the duty is not met. The test for whether a plaintiff is owed a duty of care asks, “would an average person, in the position of the defendant, foresee that the type of injury sustained by the plaintiff was likely to occur?”
If the answer to the test is “yes,” then the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care. If the defendant breaches that duty, which causes an injury resulting in damages, the defendant has committed personal injury through negligence. If the answer to the test is “no,” then no duty is owed, and as such the defendant cannot have committed negligence.
When Can I Recover Damages For Degenerative Disc Disease?
If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease as a result of a personal injury accident, you may be able to pursue a damages award for your injuries. Compensatory damages are generally intended to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in before the harm or loss occurred.
Generally speaking, there are two types of compensatory damage awards. Special damages are intended to restore the injured party to the position they were in before the harm or injury occurred, as was previously mentioned. This includes damages that can be calculated, such as:
- Medical expenses;
- Property damage; and
- Loss of wages or earnings.
General damages are commonly awarded for losses that are not easily determined through monetary calculations. These can include losses such as:
If the plaintiff suffering from degenerative disc disease can prove that a defendant’s negligence was the source of their condition, they may be able to recover damages. One of the most prevalent examples of this would be a medical misdiagnosis of the patient’s back condition.
Medical misdiagnosis generally refers to a physician’s failure or delay in properly diagnosing a patient. If the misdiagnosis has resulted in injury of the patient or a further, unnecessary progression of the disease in question, the patient may be entitled to taking legal action against their physician.
- The medical professional owed a duty of care to the patient;
- They breached their duty;
- The breach was the actual cause of the patient’s tangible injuries; and
- Those injuries resulted in quantifiable damages that could be remedied through a monetary damages award.
The injured patient may be entitled to reimbursement for medical costs, treatment, and medications that are associated with the misdiagnosis. Additionally, they may be entitled to receive lost wages and other damages associated with the misdiagnosis.
It is important to note that the most difficult part of obtaining legal remedies is generally proving that the physician’s misdiagnosis was the actual cause of injury. This can be especially true in cases involving degenerative disc disease. However, if the patient clearly suffered measurable injury as a result of the misdiagnosis, they will most likely be successful in obtaining monetary damages.
Another potential cause for legal action would be the improper administration or prescription of medicines, as well as other pharmaceutical errors. Furthermore, some employment arrangements may provide workers compensation, as well as other aspects of coverage for degenerative disc disease that is caused by on-the-job factors.
Do I Need An Attorney For Degenerative Disc Disease Lawsuits?
If you believe your degenerative disc disease was caused by neglect or misdiagnosis, you will need to work with an experienced and local personal injury lawyer. An attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws. They will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while pursuing a suitable damages award.