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How Much Is a Lower Back Workers' Comp Settlement?

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
April 29, 2024  ·  4 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that more than 150,000 people experience back injuries at work annually. Nearly one-third of those injuries required at least a month off work to recuperate.1

Workers can qualify for workers' compensation if their injury is work-related, but how much you get in benefits can vary greatly. Lower back injuries often prove especially challenging. For that reason, people who receive workers' comp benefits for their lower back injuries get settlements worth almost $40,000 on average. If you hurt your lower back while working, here's what you can expect in benefits.

The average workers' comp lower back settlement

The average settlement for lower back injuries through workers' comp is $39,328, based on data from the National Safety Council (NSC). Includes in that final cost is $17,643 for medical care and $21,685 as an indemnity payment (covering lost wages).2

How your settlement could be higher

Any injury that increases your recovery time can lead to a higher final payment. Back surgery leads to higher settlements in many cases because it results in more time out of work. Similarly, older workers tend to receive larger payouts because they need longer to recuperate and miss more work as a result.

Injuries or health conditions that affect multiple body parts also lead to higher payouts. The average settlement for multiple-injury cases is over $60,000. Back injuries that affect your hips or pelvis can also lead to average settlements, while spine injuries can lead to payouts over $100,000.

More medical care will generally lead to a higher payout, especially if you're getting more care because your condition isn't recovering as well as doctors initially expected. For example, the workers' comp settlement for a low back injury requiring two epidural injections is going to be higher if those injections don't reduce your symptoms or lead to complications such that you need surgery.

Otherwise, simply having a job that requires significant use of your lower back — like if you spend hours bending over or lifting items — you're more likely to miss work more likely to get an above-average settlement.

Settle your workers' comp claim today.

When do low back injuries qualify for workers’ comp?

Any back injury that leads to pain, numbness, stiffness, weakness, or decreased range of motion can qualify for workers' compensation. That includes injuries from one-time events — like falling on a concrete floor or a car crash — and repetitive-strain injuries that develop over years.

A chronic condition and deterioration of a pre-extisting condition could also get you benefits. As long as you can prove medically that your injury was directly caused by or significantly worsened by doing your job duties, you can get workers' comp.

Remember that workers’ comp is also a no-fault system. So whether you have an accident that was your fault or was caused by defective machinery, you're eligible for benefits.

Learn more about the many types of injuries that qualify for workers’ comp.

Examples of workers’ comp back injuries

The list below includes some common examples of eligible lower back injuries and conditions:

  • Bone fractures

  • Degenerative disc disease

  • Herniated discs

  • Pinched nerves

  • Sciatica

  • Spinal osteoarthritis

  • Spinal stenosis

  • Torn muscles

Conditions that primarily affect another part of your body, like your upper back or pelvis can also get you benefits.

When workers’ comp will offer a settlement

You're most likely to receive a settlement offer around the time you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). That's the point when you've recovered as much as possible from medical care and you still haven't returned to your pre-injury capabilities.

Even at MMI, not all claims end with a settlement. An offer is more common for workers who need an extended period out of work or could qualify for permanent workers' comp benefits. If you've had disputes with insurance — like if the insurer initially denied your claim, missed payments, or didn't pay for all of your medical care — those are also costs that you can recover through a settlement.

For more information, Atticus has an article on when workers’ comp could offer a settlement.

What to do if you get a settlement offer

Once you receive a settlement offer, you have three main options:

  1. Accept the offer.

  2. Reject the offer to continue regular benefits.

  3. Negotiate a higher payment.

Most people benefit from negotiating a better offer since insurance rarely offers more than the bare minimum. After all, the insurer is a company that's looking after its own profits and not necessarily your well-being.

To understand what a reasonable offer is, you'll need to estimate the amount of your future medical bills and any future lost wages while you're unable to work. Other potential expenses, like the cost of retraining, also factor in.

These calculations aren't easy to make on your own, so we suggest talking to a workers' compensation lawyer. A local lawyer is trained in the laws and procedures in your area, so they know what a fair settlement is for someone with your job and your injury. They can also help you secure better medical care from insurance, handle communications with your claims adjuster, and advise you on other available benefits.

How much workers’ comp pays if you don’t settle

Workers' comp offers two main benefits: wage replacement and medical coverage.

Replacement for lost wages is usually worth two-thirds of your pre-injury wages. Insurance will send a check every week or every other week. Those payments usually last until you go back to work, recover as much as possible and switch to long-term benefits, or agree to a settlement. You can find your state's pay rate here.

The insurance company will also pay for all necessary medical care. That includes copays, doctor visits, specialist appointments, prescription medications, surgeries, physical therapy, assistive devices, and any other procedures you need. These costs should go directly to the provider, though you can get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.

Do I need a workers’ comp lawyer?

A lawyer isn't necessary to file a claim or receive benefits, but there are multiple ways a lawyer can simplify the process for you. They can talk to the insurance company for you, handle paperwork, represent you in court hearings, negotiate a higher settlement for you, and fight for medical care that is more than what the insurer initially offered to cover. In some states, like California, you can only request certain independent medical exams if you have a lawyer.

A respectable lawyer is also affordable. For example, all Atticus workers' comp lawyers offer a free consultation and don't charge any upfront payments. They only get paid if you win, so you don't have to pay the lawyer's fee unless they help you get a settlement.

To take back control of your workers' comp claim, start with our 3-minute intake quiz or call us at the number below. An Atticus team member will reach out to learn more about your situation and answer your questions.

Get workers' comp help today.

Frequently asked questions about low back workers’ comp injuries

Who qualifies for workers’ comp?

Most full-time and part-time workers can qualify for workers’ comp, but independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers don’t usually qualify.

How do I know if my lower back injury qualifies?

If your back injury leaves you unable to do your job for at least a few days and you quickly report it to your employer, it can qualify for workers’ compensation. Here’s how long you have to report a work injury in your state.

How much will a settlement be for my lower back injury?

The average workers’ comp settlement for a low back injury is about $40,000 nationally. Your exact payout will vary according to the severity of your injury, your job, and your income level. Maximize your settlement by contacting a workers’ comp attorney. Settlements are twice as high with an Atticus attorney, on average.

Should I accept a workers’ comp settlement?

It depends on your personal situation. Negotiating is best in many cases, but we recommend getting a lawyer’s opinion before you make any decision. They can help you negotiate enough to cover your current and future medical expenses, lost wages, and other bills while you’re out of work.

Can back surgery increase my settlement?

More medical care tends to lead to higher-value workers' comp claims, so back surgery is likely to increase your eventual settlement. In particular, surgery can lead to a higher settlement if it requires a long recovery, it doesn’t improve your symptoms, or if you have complications. Learn more in our article on how surgery affects workers' comp settlements.

Will I pay tax on my workers’ comp settlement?

No. Workers’ compensation settlements aren’t taxable, with only very rare exceptions.

What if I can’t return to work after my back injury?

You may qualify for permanent workers' compensation payments or long-term benefits through a federal program like SSDI. Learn more about your options if you can’t return to work after an injury or illness.

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Related resources:

How Much a Workers' Comp Lawyer Costs

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

5 Common Questions About Workers' Comp Lawyers

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

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  1. 1.
    Bureau of Labor Statistics, Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities,” U.S. Department of Labor, accessed January 26, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/iif/.
  2. 2.
    Workers’ Compensation Costs,” National Safety Council, accessed April 30, 2024, https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/costs/workers-compensation-costs/.
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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