How Much is My Cauda Equina Syndrome Case Worth?

Lower back pain medical examination

Cauda equina syndrome is a serious medical condition involving pressure on the bundle of nerves at the root of the spinal cord. This bundle resembles the tail of a horse, or “cauda equina” in Latin. If not promptly diagnosed and treated, this condition can lead to permanent nerve damage, loss of mobility, sexual dysfunction, and bowel and bladder problems.

Many of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, or CES, are also found in other conditions. But in evaluating those symptoms, which may include lower back pain and weakness or numbness in the legs, doctors should consider the possibility that the patient has CES. Needless delay in diagnosis costs nerve function, and lost nerve function costs quality of life. In some cases, a delay in diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome may be medical malpractice.

If you are living with cauda equina syndrome, you would probably rather have your full neurological function restored than any amount of money. But if that is not possible, and if your medical providers’ delay is responsible for the severity of your condition, you may need and deserve compensation. Let’s talk about what a cauda equina syndrome case is worth, and the factors that go into that determination.

Damages in a Cauda Equina Syndrome Case

Damages in a CES case are primarily compensatory—designed to compensate you for losses you have suffered. Compensatory damages are divided into two categories:

  • Economic damages: medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning potential, cost of adaptive equipment, etc. Economic damages are those that include a readily discernible economic cost.
  • Noneconomic damages: pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other losses that are harder to put a clear “price tag” on, but which definitely deserve compensation.

In extremely rare situations, punitive damages may be available. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate an injury victim, but to punish whoever caused the injury if their conduct was especially egregious. (For instance, if a doctor failed to order appropriate diagnostic tests because they were intoxicated or high on drugs while at work, punitive damages might be considered.)

Resolution of Cauda Equina Syndrome Cases

Medical malpractice cases that result in a financial recovery to the patient end in one of two ways: a settlement or a verdict at trial. If a case results in a settlement, the amount is determined by the parties and their attorneys. If the case goes to trial and the jury returns a verdict for the plaintiff (person making the claim), the jury determines the amount after hearing testimony from expert witnesses about the value of the claim.

So, what determines whether a case settles or goes to trial? The great majority of medical malpractice lawsuits—probably 90%—or more, settle out of court. That said, medical malpractice claims, like cauda equina syndrome cases, are more likely to go to trial than most injury cases.

Some of the reason for this is that medical malpractice cases are complex and high-stakes. In addition, many doctors don’t want the “stain” of a medical malpractice settlement on their reputation, and accepting a settlement could also cause the doctor’s medical malpractice insurance rates to go up. Because medical malpractice insurance often covers litigation costs, doctors may be more willing to take a case to trial if they believe they can defeat the claim.

Maximizing the Value of a Medical Malpractice Claim for CES

Some of the factors impacting the value of your case are out of your control. These include the severity of your injury; the more severe your injury, the greater your damages will be. Another factor you cannot control is how clear the causation of your injury is. Not every bad outcome is the fault of the treating physician, and there are some things that a patient may do (like delaying seeking treatment) that can contribute to an injury or its severity. The more clear it is that a doctor’s negligent conduct caused an injury, the less likely that the doctor will want to risk a huge jury verdict against them.

However, there is one factor in the value of your cauda equina syndrome malpractice case that is entirely within your control: your choice of medical malpractice attorney. An experienced lawyer whose practice consists primarily or exclusively of medical malpractice cases, and who has handled numerous cauda equina syndrome cases, is best for your needs. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will understand what is needed to build a strong case, how to gather the evidence that will encourage a favorable settlement, and how to successfully try the case before a jury if settlement isn’t possible.

In addition, attorneys who focus on medical malpractice often have relationships with the most experienced and respected expert witnesses, whose testimony can make a case or justify a large award of damages. Choosing a medical malpractice attorney is the first, and arguably most important, decision you will make in your case.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for a blog post to tell you exactly what your cauda equina syndrome case is worth. That determination depends on your age, your injury, and your future losses, among other things. To learn more about cauda equina syndrome and what your case may be worth, contact The Fraser Law Firm P.C. to schedule a consultation.