Spinal Cord Injury Overview
Spinal cord injuries are some of the most severe personal injuries a person can experience. These injuries can cause almost global paralysis and loss of sensation or otherwise cause a serious life-changing disability.
The potential causes of spinal injuries are far too numerous to name but include sports accidents, slips (or trips) and falls, boating accidents, auto accidents, bullet or stab wounds, extreme twisting incidents, surgical negligence, emergency room errors and incidents during physical therapy or chiropractic treatments. Whatever the cause, a serious spinal injury is almost always a radically life-changing event in an individual’s life.
If you or a loved one has experienced a serious injury to your spinal cord as the result of another person’s negligence it is important that you contact a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer as soon as possible.
Because proving medical damages in a spinal injury case involves medical records and testimony by doctors, it can be very important that the lawyers prosecuting your case understand the medical issues in your case in order to maximize your verdict or settlement. More than ten of our attorneys are also doctors. We understand the medicine in your case and use that knowledge to get results in spinal injury cases.
There are many ways the spinal cord can be injured, including paralysis injuries, but spinal cord injuries are broadly divided into two categories: complete and incomplete.
- Incomplete spinal cord injuries: These account for more than 60 percent of spinal cord injuries. With incomplete injuries, the spinal cord is only partially severed. Some function is retained below the site of the injury.
- Complete spinal cord injuries: As you’d expect, complete injuries are those that completely sever the spinal cord. These injuries eliminate all function below the site of the injury.
These are only the broadest categories of spinal cord injuries. These injuries are also differentiated by where the spine was injured (front, back, middle) and the patterns the paralysis takes quadriplegia, paraplegia, etc.
Spinal cord injuries are also categorized in terms of their level. The level of a spinal cord injury measures which of the vertebrae has been injured. The injury level specifies which portion of the cord (cervical, thoracic, or lumbosacral) has been injured, as well as which particular vertebra has suffered the injury.
In this naming and numbering system, the higher the number of the vertebra, the lower down the back it is located. The C1 (first cervical vertebra) is the first vertebra of the neck, for example. If you have suffered an injury, your doctor will give you more detailed information about which specific vertebrae are damaged. Be sure to ask questions, or have a patient advocate present to ask questions on your behalf. You will want to understand details of your injury to understand it, and to understand how you will live with your injury after your initial trauma heals.
Treatment for spinal cord injuries will vary significantly depending on the nature of the injury, but you can be sure it will involve at least a few of the following:
- Physical therapy to strengthen the area that has been injured
- Surgery, whether to remove an object or body part that penetrated the spinal cord or to limit movement in the spinal column
- Steroid injections, to reduce inflammation
- Short-term use of a ventilator or feeding tube if the injury prevents easy breathing or eating
- Lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, switching to a healthier diet, etc.)
- Family and individual counseling.
A severe spinal cord injury is a major change in the life of the person who receives the injury, but it is also a serious shift in the lives of an individual’s family and close friends. A free-spirited individual may suddenly find himself needing help from others to do even the most basic things. Family members may suddenly find themselves in the role of caretaker for an injured family member.
These sudden changes are one of the reasons why many families seek counseling after one of their members experiences a severe spinal injury. In some cases, this counseling may go on indefinitely.
Treatment for spinal cord injuries is involved and extensive. Even in the most treatable injuries, an individual is likely to need treatment for the rest of his or her life. This fact alone is partially responsible for the high medical costs involved in spinal injuries.
The financial costs of spinal cord injuries are more than most people can afford. A partially paralyzed person can expect to incur more than $100,000 in medical expenses during the first year. A fully paralyzed person may incur more than $400,000 in expenses during that first year.
Those are medical expenses alone. They do not include regular costs of living or lost wages due to being unable to work. Most individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries are not able to work as much or as effectively as they did before… if they are able to work at all.
It is important to note that these costs are the estimated expenses for the first year alone. A spinal cord injury is a lifelong injury that will require care and attention for the rest of the individual’s life. This means medical billings will be frequent, and it is not impossible that the costs will rise over time. With lowered income and increased costs, many individuals who experience spinal cord injuries are unable to afford to cover their new expenses. This means legal action is often a necessity.
Financial compensation is meant to make up for such costs as hospitalization, medical care, at-home caregivers, rehabilitation, psychiatric care, lost wages, expenses not covered by insurance, travel expenses for medical care, family support services, and funeral expenses.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, you will need legal help to get the funds to help you move forward with your life after the injury. We understand what you are going through in this time, and we will do all we can to make the process easier for you.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. In addition, in the case of a severe and expensive injury like this, you are likely to need it.
One of the first ways an injury lawyer can help you is by finding the negligent party. In a car crash where the other driver was not paying attention, it is obvious who the negligent party is. But in other cases, you may need to speak to a spinal cord injury lawyer before you can find the party responsible for your accident.
Many personal injury cases settle out of court. Of course, it’s always up to you whether you will accept a settlement offer or not, but an experienced attorney can offer you valuable guidance and let you know whether you’re getting a good offer from the insurance company (or whoever the negligent party might be). Many individuals who suffer a spinal cord injury are unable to work the way they did before the accident. That means it is crucial to get as much as your claim is worth. The right attorney can help you do that.
More than 10 of our lawyers are also physicians. As doctors, we understand the medicine in your case. As lawyers, we know how to use our medical knowledge to get justice for our clients.
Let us help you determine if a spinal injury you or a loved one suffered in an accident may qualify for compensation under a personal injury claim. We know all too well the upheaval serious injuries cause to daily life, and to prospects for the future. If you have suffered injury or lost a loved one, we can help.