MRIs and Herniated Disc Injury Claims

If you have a herniated disc injury, the results of your MRI will be crucial to the settlement value or trial value of your case.  The insurance adjusters and lawyers will probably spend more time debating the significance of your MRI than any other part of your case.

Why so much debate about radiological films we can all see?  The reality is that you can look at two identical MRIs.  One patient will be in extreme pain.  The other will not even know that she has a herniated disc.  This is the backdrop for the battle over the value of these claims.

Our law firm has had a lot of success in these cases.  Let’s talk about herniated disc injury cases and the significance of the MRI results to your claim.

  • Disc injury settlements and verdicts in Maryland
  • Disc injury settlements and verdicts nationally

What is a herniated disc?

Spinal disc herniation (sometimes called a “slipped disc”) is a common type of back injury or condition.  The human spine has discs that function much like cushions or pads between the bones in your spine.  These discs have a softer jelly-like area in the center surrounded by an outer case that keeps everything together. Disc herniation occurs when the outer case deteriorates or tears, allowing the soft center of the disc to bulge out.

Using an MRI to diagnose disc herniations

mri herniated disc cases

How your MRI impacts the value of your case

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of medical imaging that utilizes digital magnetic fields to produce a detailed graphic image on a computer of the inside of your body. Whereas a traditional x-ray can only show outlines of bone structures, an MRI can actually show multi-dimensional cross-section images of soft tissue that provide much more information.  The additional level of detail offered by MRIs is often critically important to diagnose a herniated disc. The reason for this is very simple – an MRI can actually show images of the discs between your spinal bones.

How does an MRI work?

An MRI machine has a large tube-shaped opening.  The patient lays down inside the tube while the machine performs a scan of their body.  The process is non-invasive and completely painless.  It can take a long time for the scan to be completed, however, and you have to remain completely still the entire time.  The tube opening is usually very small and can feel confining, so if you are claustrophobic you should discuss this with your doctor or the MRI technician in advance.

How to get an MRI to see if you have a herniated disc

Disc herniation is a fairly common condition and can lead to pain in not just your back but also your legs and feet. Disc herniation is one of the most common injuries resulting from a car accident or a similar collision.  The impact of a typical auto accident can put significant force and pressure on the spine. In some cases, the force of the impact can tear the outer casing of the spinal disc resulting in a disc herniation. This can occur even in low-speed collisions. If you start to experience pain or discomfort after being in a car accident, getting an MRI might be a very good idea.

If you are thinking about getting an MRI the first and somewhat obvious step is to go see your doctor.  If you don’t have a regular primary care doctor, there are many walk-in / urgent care providers (e.g., Patient First or Righttime) that you can go to without an appointment.  If the doctor believes an MRI might be necessary to diagnose your condition, he or she will write a lab order and refer you to an MRI imaging lab to have the scan done.  MRIs can be very expensive, but if you have health insurance, the cost should be fully covered.

Treatment for disc herniation

The course of treatment for a herniated disc typically starts out with a combination of medication (to limit inflammation) and physical therapy.  Sometimes steroid injections will be administered to help the herniated disc shrink and heal.  If this initial line of treatment is not successful there are a variety of surgical options are available to treat disc herniation.

What does this mean to the value of your case?   First, let’s state the obvious.  You don’t want to make medical decisions based on how it will impact the settlement value of your claim.  That being said.

herniated disc claims

How do I know if a car accident was actually the cause of my disc herniation?

Disc herniation can occur because of natural deterioration of the spinal discs that occur as you get older.  If you want to recover legal damages for your injury, you will have to show that your herniated disc was caused by an auto accident or other collision as opposed to natural aging.  If you plan to pursue legal action, you will eventually need to an opinion from a doctor that the car accident was the likely cause of your disc herniation.  In some cases, this conclusion might be simple and obvious.  If you are relatively young with no prior history of back issues and you experience symptoms right after a car accident your doctor will have little difficulty concluding that the accident was the cause.

In cases where this conclusion is less obvious, the results of an MRI can be very helpful in establishing whether your herniated disc was caused by the accident. The results of an MRI scan can sometimes provide definitive evidence that your disc herniation resulted from acute trauma (consistent with a car accident) as opposed to chronic deterioration over time.


If you or someone you know was recently in a car accident and may have a herniated disc or another injury, contact our office at 1.800.553.8082 or submit a request for a free consultation.