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Compensation for spinal injury – what you might receive

When seeking compensation for a spinal injury, whatever the cause, the level of damages you will receive will vary depending on both the severity of your injury and your circumstances.

However in order to give you some guidance on the amount you may receive as a minimum for your claim, here we have outlined the current guidelines for spinal injury compensation. This is broken out by level of injury, and includes some explanation of where you might find yourself in the corresponding bracket.

Please note this is the compensation for the physical pain and suffering and loss of ability to do things (known as “General Damages”). Compensation for any financial losses caused by the injury (known as “Special Damages”) are separate to and in addition to this. Indeed compensation for financial losses often far exceed compensation for the injury itself.

If you want any more information on the level of compensation you might receive in your individual circumstances, we would recommend that you seek legal advice from our specialist solicitors.

Severity of paralysis

Compensation bracket

1) Tetraplegia (or quadriplegia)

For the mid-range of this bracket, the injured person is not in physical pain, has full awareness of their disability, and has a life expectancy of 25 years+. They will have retained the power of speech, sight and hearing but need help with bodily functions.

The top end of this bracket is for cases where physical pain is present, and the senses and ability to communicate is compromised in some way. These cases can involve brain damage.

A lack of awareness or significantly reduced life expectancy will justify a below average award.

Other factors that are relevant include: age, the extent of any ability to move, the degree of independence, or pain relief either through the provision of aids/equipment, treatment or otherwise, or the presence of any respiratory issues and depression.

£284,610 to £354,260

2) Paraplegia

The level of award in cases involving paraplegia will be affected by:

  • the presence and level of pain
  • the degree of independence
  • depression
  • age and life expectancy
  • impact on sexual function.

The potential for increasing paralysis from conditions such as syringomyelia, if not already present, might take the case above this bracket. This could be subject to a provisional damages order in the event this occurs.

£192,090 to £249,270

3) Shorter durations

Unfortunately, death can sometimes occur for unrelated reasons within a short period of time after an accident involving spinal injury.

In this event, a lower sum will be awarded. For a young adult claimant suffering paraplegia where death occurs within two years, an award of around £43,260 would be appropriate.

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Injuries to the spine don’t always lead to paralysis but can have life-changing consequences nonetheless. Therefore it is worth understanding more about back injury compensation:

Severity of injury to back

Compensation bracket

Severe:

1) Cases involving most severe damage to spinal cord and related nerve roots. Severe pain and disability with a combination of complete paralysis and impaired bladder, bowel, and sexual function.

£85,470 to £151,070

2) Nerve root damage which results in loss of sensation, impaired mobility, bladder, bowel and sexual function, and unsightly scarring. This bracket will be for people with special features to their claim taking them out of the lower bracket.

£69,600 to £82,980

3) Disc lesions, fractures to discs or of vertebral bodies or soft tissues leading to chronic conditions where, despite treatment, disabilities remain. These could be continued pain and discomfort, impaired agility or sexual function, depression, personality change, alcoholism, unemployability and the risk of arthritis.

£36,390 to £65,440

Moderate

1) Residual disability will be less than that of the above bracket. Examples of injuries will be a compression/crush fracture of the lumbar vertebrae where there is a substantial risk of osteoarthritis and constant pain and discomfort; traumatic spondylolisthesis with continuous pain and a probability that spinal fusion will be necessary; prolapsed intervertebral disc requiring surgery; damage to an intervertebral disc with nerve root irritation and reduced mobility.

£26,050 to £36,390

2) More common injuries to the back involving disturbance to ligaments and muscles giving rise to backache, soft tissue injuries resulting in a prolonged acceleration/exacerbation of a pre-existing back problem, usually by five or more years, or prolapsed discs necessitating laminectomy or resulting in repeated relapses. The final settlement figure will depend on a number of factors such as the severity of the injury, the degree of pain, extent of any treatment required (either in the past or future), the impact of the symptoms on the person’s life and the prognosis for the future.

£11,730 to £26,050

Minor

This bracket is for people who have experienced less serious strains, sprains, disc prolapses, soft tissue injuries, or fractures which recover without surgery. Factors that will impact which bracket the injury is in include:

  • the severity of the original injury;
  • the degree of pain experienced and the consistency of symptoms;
  • the extent to which ongoing symptoms are of a minor nature only;
  • the presence of any additional symptoms in other parts of the anatomy, particularly the neck;
  • the impact of the symptoms on the injured person’s ability to function in everyday life and engage in social/recreational activities;
  • the impact of the injuries on the injured person’s ability to work;
  • the extent of any treatment required;

– the need to take medication to control symptoms of pain and discomfort.

1) This bracket is for people where full recovery or a recovery to nuisance level takes place, without surgery, within two to five years. This bracket will also apply to shorter term acceleration/exacerbation injuries, also in two to five years.

£7,410 to £11,730

2) Full recovery takes place without surgery between three months and two years from injury. This bracket also applies to very short-term acceleration and/or exacerbation injuries, usually less than two years

£2,300 to £7,410

3) Full recovery is made within three months

Up to £2,300


Of course, spinal injuries can also take place in the neck:

Severity of injury to neck

Compensation bracket

Severe:

1) Neck injury associated with incomplete paraplegia or resulting in permanent spastic quadriparesis or where the injured person, despite having worn a collar 24/7 for years, still has no movement in the neck and suffers unmanageable headaches.

In the region of £139,210

2) Injuries which usually involve serious fractures or damage to discs in the cervical spine, giving rise to disabilities which fall short of those above but are still considered severe, e.g. permanent brachial plexus damage or substantial loss of movement in the neck and loss of limb function

£61,710 to £122,860

3) Injuries causing fractures or dislocations or severe damage to soft tissues and/or ruptured tendons that lead to chronic conditions and significant disability of a permanent nature. The precise award will depend on the length of time over which the most serious symptoms are improved, the extent of treatment required, and the prognosis for the future.

£42,680 to £52,540

Moderate

1) Fractures or dislocations causing severe immediate symptoms and might necessitate spinal fusion. This bracket may also include chronic conditions, usually involving referred symptoms to other parts of the anatomy or serious soft tissue injuries to the neck and back combined. They leave markedly impaired function or vulnerability to further trauma, and limitation of activities. Depending on how severe the injury is, this bracket can include cases where there are pre-existing degenerative changes or where symptoms have accelerated.

£23,460 to £36,120

2) Soft tissue or wrenching-type injuries, as well as disc lesions of the more severe type, resulting in cervical spondylosis, serious limitations to movement, permanent or recurring pain, stiffness or discomfort, and the possible need for further surgery or increased vulnerability to further trauma. This bracket will also include injuries which may have accelerated and/or exacerbated a pre-existing condition over a prolonged period, usually five or more years.

£12,900 to £23,460

3) Injuries in this bracket may have accelerated or exacerbated a pre-existing condition over a shorter period, less than five years usually. This award will also apply to moderate soft tissue injuries where the period of recovery has been fairly protracted and where there remains an increased vulnerability to further trauma, or where permanent nuisance-type symptoms are present as a result of the neck damage.


Injuries involving the spinal cord can also mean changes to bladder and bowel function. Below are the levels of compensation that could be delivered should you have experienced any form of incontinence: (once again the figures below are only for the pain and suffering and loss of ability and not for any financial losses arising from the loss of function)

Severity of injury to bowels

Compensation bracket

1) For cases of double incontinence – i.e. total loss of natural bowel function and complete loss of urinary function with medical complications

Up to £172,860

2) Total loss of natural function and dependence on colostomy

Up to £140,870

3) Faecal urgency and passive incontinence which persists after surgery and causes embarrassment or distress

In the region of £75,000

4) Severe abdominal injury causing impairment of function – perhaps needing a colostomy temporarily, and/or a restriction to employment or diet

£41,850 to £65,440

5) Penetrating injuries causing some permanent damage, however otherwise you will return to natural function and control

£11,820 to £22,970


Perhaps strangely, bladder injuries often have higher awards than bowel injuries. This can be because they frequently result from carcinogenic exposure:

Severity of injury to bladder

Compensation bracket

1) For cases of double incontinence – i.e. total loss of natural bowel function and complete loss of urinary function with medical complications

Up to £172,860

2) Total loss of natural function and control

Up to £132,040

3) Serious impairment to control of bladder with pain and incontinence

£60,050 to £75,010

4) Complete recovery has occurred, but there has been long-term interference with natural function

£21,970 to £29,380


These compensation amounts are strictly guidelines, so may not represent the value of your own claim. Your claim could be settled for either more or less than described above, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. However, our specialist spinal injury team will work to secure the maximum compensation for you to ensure that your needs are looked after for life.

Contact us if you have any questions about compensation for a spinal injury.