Back pain refers to pain that occurs in the lower, upper, or head and neck area of a person’s back. Some signs that may indicate severe back pain include sharp pain, dull aches, muscle inflammation, and numbness. In extreme cases, severe back pain may radiate down a person’s legs or arms, restrict a person’s range-of-motion, and can cause serious nerve damage.
Although some back injuries can be cured, people who suffer from chronic severe back pain may experience a loss in their quality of life. Aside from being in constant pain, back injuries can make it difficult to work, exercise, and even sit on your couch. For instance, a person who seriously injures their lower back may have issues sitting at a desk all day, which can hurt their work performance and may eventually cost them their job.
What Causes Severe Back Pain?
Severe back pain can be caused by a number of things, such as sports related injuries or repeatedly carrying items that are too heavy. It is also one of the most common afflictions cited in personal injury cases. The facts in a case will determine whether a person may sue a party for inflicting their severe back pain.
Some examples of situations that may allow an individual to recover damages for their severe back pain include:
- Slip and fall incidents;
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Instances of medical malpractice during back or neck surgery;
- Work-related or on-the-job accidents; and
- Various other scenarios that involve a negligent actor.
What If I was Injured on Someone’s Property?
The laws that govern what happens when someone is injured on someone else’s property are known as “premise liability laws”. Such laws may change depending on who the property owner is (e.g., landlord or tenant), where the incident took place, and how the injured person is classified.
Under premise liability laws, property owners generally owe different duties to the following categories of people:
- Invitees: Although many state laws have consolidated invitees and licensees into one class, some states still divide them. An invitee is a person who is openly invited onto the property, such as a shopper at a grocery or retail store. Property owners owe invitees a duty to inspect their premises for dangerous conditions.
- Licensees: Licensees, on the other hand, enter a property for personal reasons (e.g., attending a party at someone’s residence). Property owners have a duty to warn licensees about any known dangerous conditions on their premises.
- Anticipated trespassers: If a property owner is aware that trespassers frequently enter their property, then the property owner must provide a reasonable warning for any hidden or dangerous conditions on their property. A trespasser may be anticipated if the property owner lives near a hiking trail and often sees lost hikers wander onto their property.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who enters the property without the landowner’s permission. Generally speaking, property owners do not have any duties to warn or inspect the premises when the person is a trespasser.
- Children: Property owners owe the greatest duty to inspect and protect children. This is especially relevant when there is something called an “attractive nuisance” on their property like a swimming pool or construction equipment.
- If a child would not be able to identify the dangers associated with the attractive nuisance, then the property owner must take reasonable care to warn the children or erect protective measures that would prevent them from being harmed when entering the property.
Thus, if an individual sustains a severe back pain injury while on someone else’s property, then they will need to determine what duties (if any) were owed to them by the property owner. For instance, if the injured party is considered a trespasser, then the property owner may not be liable for damages.
What are the Elements of a Negligence Lawsuit?
Many personal injury lawsuits are based on a claim for negligence. In order to prove that a defendant was negligent, the plaintiff will have to demonstrate the following four elements:
- Duty: Duty refers to a responsibility that one party owed the other. This is known as the “duty of care”, which is measured by the reasonable person standard. In other words, how would an ordinary and prudent person act if faced with the same situation. Thus, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them the duty of care. In cases where a professional or business person is involved, this standard will be heightened.
- Breach: After the plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant owed them a duty of care, they must then prove the defendant breached that duty by acting in a manner that fell below the reasonable or professional standard of care.
- Causation: Under the causation element, the defendant’s breach must be both the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, did the defendant actually cause the incident (actual) and was the incident foreseeable (proximate) based on the defendant’s careless or reckless actions. Note that the defendant’s liability may be reduced if there were other factors present that also led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Damages: The plaintiff must be able to measure the damages that they suffered, which means that they need to quantify them into a verifiable amount. For instance, if the plaintiff is injured during an auto accident, they must be able to show the amount of damages that will be necessary to fix any injuries they suffered from the accident.
A plaintiff can prove that a defendant was negligent in a severe back pain lawsuit by applying the above four factors. For example, suppose a person injures their back after slipping and falling on a wet floor in a grocery store. A grocery store is considered a public business and thus owes its shoppers a duty to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions.
If the plaintiff can show that the grocery store did not warn shoppers about the wet floor conditions with either a sign, cone, or some other signal, then the plaintiff has already met the requirements for duty and breach.
Since the grocery store owed its shoppers a duty to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions and failed to warn them about the wet floor, the plaintiff was injured as a result of their careless actions. The test used to show actual cause is known as the “but-for” test. In this scenario, “but for” the grocery store’s careless conduct, the plaintiff would not have fallen and injured their back.
As for proximate cause, the plaintiff is really just asking whether the grocery store could foresee that failing to inspect the premises could lead to a shopper getting hurt in the way that the plaintiff did.
Finally, the plaintiff can show they suffered actual damages by producing medical records, hospital bills, surgery expenses, pharmacy receipts, and so on.
Can I Recover Damages for Severe Back Pain? Who Can be Held Liable?
An individual who suffers severe back pain due to an accident may be able to recover damages or other legal remedies, such as:
- Monetary damages awards, which can be used to cover:
- Hospital visits;
- Lost wages;
- Lost earning capacity; and
- Future medical treatment (e.g., physical therapy);
- Damages for pain and suffering, or emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium;
- Punitive damages; and/or
- Changes to work policies or safety standards.
Some examples of parties who can be held liable for severe back pain injuries include:
- Private individuals;
- Supervisors or subcontractors;
- Business or property owners;
- Local governments;
- Manufacturers or distributors of defective products;
- Coaches or sports trainers; and
- Medical professionals or staff (e.g., physicians, nurses, hospital organizations, etc.).
Are there any Defenses?
Some potential defenses that might be raised against a claim for a severe back pain injury include:
- Assumption of risk;
- Comparative or contributory negligence;
- Expired statute of limitations; and/or
- Lack of proof or fault.
Should I Hire a Lawyer about a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Severe back pain can last for years, which can limit a person’s ability to earn a living, perform standard daily tasks, and impact their overall quality of life. Therefore, if you believe your severe back pain was caused by an accident or other incident, then you may want to consider contacting a local personal injury lawyer for further assistance.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to determine whether you have a viable claim, can discuss what damages you may be able to recover, and can help you prepare and file a personal injury claim. Your lawyer will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the legal process and can represent you on the matter in court if necessary.