If you've had a carpal tunnel injury that required surgery, you're probably wondering how that might affect the value of a personal injury claim. This article discusses some of the main considerations when you're trying to value an injury claim where carpal tunnel surgery was necessary -- including unique issues related to worker’s comp claims -- and gives some examples of past verdicts and settlements involving carpal tunnel surgery.
How the Parties Value a Potential Case
“Valuing” a case means coming up with a best guess at what a jury might award the person suing for a carpal tunnel injury. It also could mean guessing what the person being sued (the defendant) or the plaintiff would be willing to pay or accept to settle the case before trial. That's quite a bit to consider. But the two big factors in valuing any injury case are the extent of the plaintiff’s damages, i.e. how bad the carpal tunnel syndrome is and how much medical treatment did it necessitate -- and how likely the jury is to find the defendant liable for the injury.
Estimating the Plaintiff’s Damages
Estimating the amount of compensation you're likely to receive in an injury case (damages) is quite difficult for one main reason: at trial, it will most likely be a jury that ultimately decides just how much money the defendant must pay the injured plaintiff.
Some damages, like medical bills and lost wages, are easier to predict because “concrete” damages like these will mostly be based on the amount the plaintiff demonstrates he or she has paid or lost and/or will continue to pay or lose.
For subjective, less concrete damages like “pain and suffering,” predictions are at best an educated guess based on awards in similar carpal tunnel cases in the past. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.
How the carpal tunnel injury affects a particular plaintiff is also key in valuing damages. For example, if the plaintiff was a sculpture or musician who can no longer engage in his pursuits without pain, his damages based on “loss of quality of life” will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than if he did not have hobbies or pursuits that are impacted by carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
Similarly, if a plaintiff had a preexisting wrist or similar injury, his damages might be reduced because it won't be as clear that the defendant is entirely responsible for all of the plaintiff's pain and suffering (some share might be attributable to the pre-existing condition).
Finally, many people are required to use their wristds for their employment, whether typing at a keyboard or some other activity. If the carpal tunnel injury temporarily or permanently prevents them from making a living, the defendant could be liable for the full extent of lost wages or diminished earning capacity.
Likelihood That the Defendant Will Be Found Liable
The other major factor in valuing a case is the likelihood that the defendant will be found liable at trial. If the plaintiff has little or no evidence proving the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s carpal tunnel injuries, the value of the case goes down considerably.
In cases alleging carpal tunnel syndrome, a defendant might admit to liability for negligence, but successfully convince the jury the negligence did not cause the carpal tunnel injury. For example, if the symptoms show up months after the accident, and the plaintiff delays visiting a physician, the defendant may be able to convince the jury that the carpal tunnel injury is a symptom of the plaintiff’s employment or other activity.
Even if the potential damages are high, a defendant in a case where liability or causation is unclear will be less willing to settle and more inclined to take her chances at trial. Similarly, the plaintiff will be more inclined to accept a low settlement because he runs the risk of getting nothing at trial.
Workers' Compensation Settlements
A workplace carpal tunnel injury will typically only be paid out through workers' compensation. The standards of compensation vary from state to state, but an injured worker is typically entitled to the payment of medical bills and compensation for disability and impairment, as well as vocational rehabilitation. Learn more about workers' compensation.
Examples of Carpal Tunnel Injury Settlements and Verdicts
- $7,500 verdict for plaintiff who claimed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by auto accident. Liability was admitted, but causation was unclear. Jury essentially awarded half the plaintiff’s medical bills.
- $75,000 settlement after plaintiff in car accident was diagnosed with neck and arm pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. No surgery required.
- $150,000 settlement after defendant was found liable at trial for causing a plaintiff pedestrian’s carpal tunnel injury in an auto accident.
- $400,000 verdict for plaintiff after sustaining carpal tunnel injury in auto accident.