Knowledge base

Herniated Disc Injury Compensation

Back injuries are one of the most common health conditions suffered by Australians and account for over 21 per cent of all serious workplace injuries.  One of the most common back injuries is a herniated disc, also referred to as a ruptured, slipped, prolapsed or bulging disc.

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Can I claim herniated disc injury compensation?

Herniated disc injury

You may be able to claim compensation for a herniated disc if it resulted from an injury that occurred because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, or if it developed over a period of time in the course of your employment. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings such as at work, in a road accident or a public place injury.

Slipped disc at work - can I claim compensation?

Worker suffering a slipped disc in the workplace

If you have suffered a slipped disc at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:

  • providing safe systems of work
  • maintaining safe machinery and equipment
  • maintaining a safe workplace; and
  • providing employees with adequate facilities, training, supervision and instruction.

If you were injured because your employer neglected to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.

Jeff’s employer requires him to climb a ladder whilst hauling up buckets of chemicals, which are  commonly up to 20 kilograms in weight. When the buckets are too heavy to lift he hauls them up with a rope. This unsafe system of work, leads to Jeff sustaining a herniated disc injury. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Worker and cart with boxes on top
Rick is a warehouse worker. His employer has trained him on how to safely lift loads and issued him with a safety harness belt to prevent injury. Rick refused to wear the safety belt as it was uncomfortable and sustained a herniated disc injury as a result. Rick may not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.

See also: WorkCover Claims

Bulging disc from a car accident - can I claim compensation?

If you sustain a herniated disc due to a car accident and it was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer using a car accident injury lawyer.

Jeff is injured in a car accident when a delivery truck failed to stop at a red light because its brakes were not properly maintained. Jeff can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.
Herniated disc injury after truck accident
Rick is injured in a car collision because he doesn’t look properly before pulling out onto a main road. Rick is unable to claim compensation for his injuries because the accident was totally his fault (although exceptions may apply for catastrophic accidents). If the accident occurred after July 1, 2016 he may be able to seek necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation services through the National Injury Insurance Scheme of Queensland (NIISQ).

See Also: What does CTP Insurance Cover?

Herniated disc from an accident in a public place - can I get compensation?

Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their premises. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury.  This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.

Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floor surface, tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.

Cleaning products and dangers of slip and falls
Jeff suffers a ruptured disc when he slips over at a shopping centre because cleaners employed by the centre left a large pool of detergent on the tiled floor. There are no warning signs about the spill. Jeff may be able to claim compensation for his injuries.
Rachel suffers a ruptured disc when she slips while running down an outdoor staircase in the rain in high heels to get to the movie theatre. Rachel may not be able to claim compensation since her injury resulted largely from her own failure to take care for her safety.

I have a herniated disc - what can I claim for?

General damages

General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life that results from your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating. 

For example a moderate disc herniation has a rating of 5 to 15 corresponding to a monetary range of $6,950 to $25,150.

Medical costs

Calculating medical costs after herniated disc injury

To diagnose and treat a herniated disc you may nerd to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear special medical apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation.   You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.

Some costs for alternative treatments such as supplements designed to help herniated discs may be considered optional costs unless recommended by your health professional such as GP.

Hospital and surgical costs

Surgery may be required to remove or replace a herniated disc. Surgical and hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.

Rehabilitation costs

Rehabilitating after a herniated disc may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.

Loss of income and future earning capacity

Protection against loss of income and superannuation

If you suffer a herniated disc you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income.

If your herniated disc prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity.
Occupations that require manual labour, repeated bending and twisting, or sitting for long periods may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a herniated disc and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.

Loss of superannuation

Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.

Care & assistance

A severe herniated disc injury may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.

In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.

Common herniated disc injuries

Pelvis, spine, and herniated disc injuries

The spine is a complex skeletal structure of 33 vertebrae which house the spinal chord. Protecting the vertebrae is a thick layer of muscle, and absorbing shock between the vertebrae are soft discs which are made up of a soft jelly-like core and tough exterior.

These discs can become damaged through trauma or degenerative conditions causing their soft core to leak out and place pressure on nerves around the spine (ruptured disc) or begin to bulge out from between the vertebrae (bulging disc). In some cases a fragment of a damaged disc may break off and lodge in the spinal canal. These conditions can put pressure on a nerve root which can cause pain and/or numbness to radiate through the back, buttock and leg.

Common causes of a herniated disc

A herniated, slipped, ruptured, bulging or prolapsed disc may occur as a result of:

  • Spine wear and tear (spine degeneration): Our backs are used on a daily basis to distribute our weight and absorb shock from movement and can become worn out over time. When this occurs the outer layer of a vertebral disc can start to weaken allowing the soft centre to push through creating a herniation.
  • Road accidents or other trauma: Car accidents can subject the spine to a sudden jerking movements which can place stress on the spine. This can place pressure on the discs causing herniation.
  • Lifting carrying heavy objects: Lifting heavy objects incorrectly or while twisting can place excessive pressure on a disc causing damage.
  • Injuries: Trauma from an injury can place excessive pressure on a disc causing damage.
  • Falls in the workplace: Trauma from a fall can result in damage to a vertebral disc.
  • Slips or trip and fall incidents: Similarly trauma from slips and trips can result in damage and herniation of a disc.
  • Sporting injuries: Trauma, falls and over-stretching muscles during weight training can damage a vertebral disc resulting in a herniation and pinched nerves.

Professions at risk of developing herniated disc

Nursing home worker at risk of developing herniated disc

Jobs that are physically demanding and involve a lot of pushing, pulling or twisting, increases the chances of suffering a herniated disc. This includes carpenters, builders, plumbers, concrete layers, brick layers, diesel fitters, nursing home workers, warehouse workers, landscapers, cleaners, assembly line workers and other trades people doing manual work.

How will my settlement be calculated?

In general terms, the settlement for a herniated disc is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now, as a result of the injury.

Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.

The amount of compensation payable for a herniated disc will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the prolapse: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders, such as anxiety, and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater a impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries, for example, a professional ruby player will suffer a greater loss as a result of a herniated disc than a person who works part-time in an office and will therefore receive greater compensation for their injury.

What time limits apply to a herniated disc injury claim?

Time limits to start a herniated injury claim

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the right to claim compensation.

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are claiming against, specific pre-court procedures may apply which may have much shorter time limits. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. 

Those aged under 18 will typically have until they are 21 to start the claims process.

In addition, getting accurate records such as CCTV or reliable witness statements for example may be difficult if starting a claim several years after the incident.

In summary, it’s best to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights and the required evidence to make a strong claim can be gathered. View time limit information article for more detail.

Next steps: what to do if you have suffered a herniated disc

Handshake and compensation agreement

Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.

Smith's Lawyers are Queensland injury compensation experts and run all claims on a truly risk-free basis, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch.®'. Unlike the vast majority our competitors, this means no upfront costs or risks. 

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Last update on:
September 10, 2020
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

Next steps — get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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