Spinal cord injuries are life-altering events that can occur due to various accidents, such as on the road, at work, or in public places. There are approximately 17,700 new spinal cord injury cases each year in the United States and their devastating impact can drastically change your quality of life. If you’re a victim of a spinal cord injury, it’s essential to understand that you have rights, particularly the right to seek compensation for your loss.
In this article, we’ll delve into the details of spinal cord injuries, potential paralysis, recovery, and the legal aspects of making a claim. We will avoid legal jargon and provide clear explanations to help you understand how to proceed. We’ll also discuss the common causes of these accidents, common injuries, information on time limits, and steps to make a claim.
What is a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury, often abbreviated as SCI, is a traumatic event that significantly impairs the spinal cord’s function. This impairment can lead to a range of severe and life-changing effects such as paralysis, loss of sensation, and other physical complications.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can occur due to various reasons, often resulting from accidents that could have been avoided. While these injuries can range from mild to severe, they often have life-altering effects and can lead to conditions such as paralysis. The following are some of the most common types of accidents resulting in spinal cord injuries:
- Car and Road Accidents: Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 38% of all new cases. High-speed collisions or accidents involving pedestrians often lead to severe spinal cord injuries. Despite safety features in vehicles, the impact might be severe enough to cause damage to the spine and spinal cord.
- Workplace Accidents: Certain work environments can be hazardous and may lead to spinal cord injuries. This is especially common in jobs that require heavy lifting, operating machinery, or working at heights.
- Public Place Accidents: Faulty stairs, escalators, or slip-and-fall accidents can cause spinal cord injuries. Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. In such cases, the person or organization in charge of maintaining the premises can be held responsible.
Understanding the cause of spinal cord injuries is essential for your compensation claim. The type of accident often determines who is legally responsible for your injuries, thereby influencing the outcome of your claim.
Common Injuries Resulting from These Accidents
The severity and type of spinal cord injury depend heavily on the nature of the accident. Here are some common injuries associated with the above-mentioned accidents:
|Car and Road Accidents
|Whiplash, herniated discs, fractured vertebrae, and spinal cord bruising
|Spinal fractures, compression injuries, and dislocation
|Public Place Accidents
|Slip and fall spinal injuries, fractures, and spinal cord bruising
It’s important to note that these are only some of the common injuries. The physical impact of a spinal cord injury varies greatly, depending on factors such as the force and direction of impact, and the immediate medical response.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are varied and can result in different degrees of impairment. The location and severity of the injury often determine the type of spinal cord injury. Here, we highlight the main categories:
- Complete Spinal Cord Injury: This type of injury results in total loss of sensation and motor function below the level of the injury. It often results in paralysis (paraplegia or quadriplegia).
- Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury: An incomplete injury means the victim retains some function below the level of the injury. This may include movement in one limb more than the other, feeling parts of the body that cannot be controlled, and more.
- Tetraplegia: Also known as quadriplegia, this injury results in loss of movement and sensation in all four limbs and the torso, often caused by an injury to the cervical spinal cord.
- Paraplegia: This involves loss of movement and sensation in the lower half of the body, including both legs, often due to an injury in the thoracic or lumbar spine.
Understanding the severity and the type of your spinal cord injury is the first step towards seeking the rightful compensation. It is crucial that you seek a spinal cord injury lawyer who is well-versed in handling such complex cases and can guide you toward a fair claim process.
Immediate Steps to Take After a Spinal Cord Injury
Experiencing a spinal cord injury can be a life-altering event, not just for the injured individual but for their loved ones as well. Taking immediate action can be vital in minimizing further damage and improving the long-term outcome. This section outlines the immediate steps to take following a spinal cord injury, some of which may need to be carried out by a partner or family members if the injured person is too incapacitated to complete them.
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: The first and most important step is to seek immediate medical attention. This is crucial to prevent further injury and to begin necessary treatment.
- Keep the Injured Person Still: Movement can cause further damage to the spinal cord. It’s essential to keep the injured person as still as possible until medical professionals arrive.
- Gather Information: Try to gather as much information as possible about the incident that led to the injury. This could include taking photos of the accident scene, collecting contact information of witnesses, etc.
- Document Medical Treatment: Keep a detailed record of all medical treatment received, including dates, treatments, and the names of medical professionals.
- Contact a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer: As soon as possible, contact a specialized lawyer who can guide you through the legal process and ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
Remember, the period immediately following a spinal cord injury can be critical for recovery. Even if the injured person is unable to act, their loved ones can take these steps on their behalf.
How to File a Spinal Cord Injury Claim
Suffering a spinal cord injury can be life-altering, affecting not only your physical well-being but also your emotional and financial stability. If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you have the right to seek compensation to help cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and more. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to file a spinal cord injury claim:
- Consult an Attorney: Finding an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in spinal cord injury cases is crucial. They can provide expert guidance, assess the strength of your case, and explain your legal rights and options.
- Gather Evidence: Document the accident scene, collect witness statements, and obtain medical records and reports that detail the extent of your spinal cord injury and its impact on your life.
- Determine Liability: Your attorney will help determine who is liable for your injury. This could be an individual, a company, a government entity, or a combination of parties.
- Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Your attorney will communicate with the responsible party’s insurance company to negotiate a fair settlement. They will ensure your rights are protected and that you’re not pressured into accepting a low offer.
- File a Lawsuit: If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf. This formal legal action initiates the court process.
- Discovery Phase: Both sides gather evidence, conduct depositions and exchange information related to the case.
- Mediation or Settlement Talks: Prior to trial, your attorney might engage in mediation or settlement talks to explore options for resolving the case without going to court.
- Trial: If a settlement is not reached, your case will proceed to trial. Your attorney will present evidence, call witnesses, and argue your case in front of a judge and jury.
- Verdict and Compensation: If the court rules in your favor, you’ll be awarded compensation for your damages, which may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Filing a spinal cord injury claim requires careful planning, strong evidence, and legal expertise. With the support of a skilled attorney, you can increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you need to move forward after a devastating spinal cord injury.
What factors determine the compensation amount for a spinal cord injury?
Several factors come into play when calculating compensation for a spinal cord injury. This complex process considers various aspects related to the injury itself, the aftermath, and the lifestyle changes experienced by the victim. The first year after a spinal cord injury is the most expensive, with costs ranging from $347,484 to $1,064,716 depending on the severity of the injury. Let’s break them down:
- Medical Costs: These include all immediate and future medical expenses associated with the injury. It encompasses hospitalization costs, surgeries, medications, assistive devices, and ongoing treatments like physiotherapy or occupational therapy.
- Lost Income: If the injury has resulted in missed workdays or has incapacitated the victim from returning to their job, they may be entitled to compensation for the lost income. This also considers the victim’s potential future earnings had the injury not occurred.
- Pain and Suffering: This is non-economic damage that considers the physical pain and emotional distress experienced by the victim due to the injury. It’s a subjective area that varies greatly between individuals, but it can significantly increase the compensation amount.
- Loss of Life Quality: Spinal cord injuries often result in significant lifestyle changes and reduced quality of life. This could include loss of enjoyment in hobbies or activities, difficulties in performing daily tasks, and impacts on relationships.
- Rehabilitation Costs: Rehabilitation is a crucial part of recovery for spinal cord injury victims. The costs of long-term physical and psychological rehabilitation can be substantial and are taken into account when calculating compensation.
- Care Costs: This refers to the expenses associated with hiring care professionals or services to assist the victim in daily life due to the debilitating effects of the injury. In severe cases, the victim might need round-the-clock care, which can significantly impact their financial situation as well as expensive home and vehicle modifications. The lifetime cost of care for a 25-year-old with a spinal cord injury ranges from $1.5 million to $4.5 million depending on the severity of the injury.
How long do I have to file a claim for a spinal cord injury?
If you’ve unfortunately sustained a spinal cord injury within the boundaries of California, the law allows you a certain period to file a claim for compensation. The time limit, often referred to as a statute of limitations, is generally two years from the date of the incident. However, the time limit to file a personal injury claim varies by state. Here are the statutes of limitations for filing a spinal cord injury claim in some other states:
- Newyork: New York law permits a two-year period for injury-related legal claims. This reduces to two and a half years for medical malpractice cases, counted from the malpractice date or the end of continuous treatment by the accused party.
- Florida: Florida provides a broader time frame, with a four-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If the spinal cord injury is caused by medical malpractice, the limit is two years from when the patient either knew or should have known about the injury.
- Texas: Texas presents a more stringent limit. Victims of spinal cord injuries have just two years to file a claim, regardless of whether the injury resulted from a personal injury or medical malpractice incident.
Always remember that these time frames are subject to change, and various factors can affect them. As such, it is vital to engage a spinal cord injury lawyer promptly to protect your right to compensation.
How long does it take to resolve a spinal cord injury case?
Resolving a spinal cord injury case is a complex process and the time it takes can vary widely. Typically, it can take anywhere from several months to a few years, depending on the specifics of the case. Engaging a specialized spinal cord injury lawyer can help expedite this process, ensuring that all legal procedures are correctly followed and that your case is presented in the most compelling way possible.
How Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Can Help
Dealing with a spinal cord injury can be a physically and emotionally draining experience. The aftermath of such an incident can leave you with significant medical expenses, loss of income, and a drastic change in your quality of life. A dedicated spinal cord injury lawyer can provide the necessary legal support during this challenging time. Here’s how:
- Understanding Your Situation: First and foremost, a spinal cord injury lawyer takes the time to comprehend the specifics of your case. This includes understanding the nature and severity of your injury, the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the impact it has had on your life.
- Providing Expert Legal Advice: A spinal cord injury lawyer is well-versed in the nuances of personal injury law. They can advise you on your rights and the best course of action based on your unique situation.
- Gathering Necessary Evidence: Your lawyer can help gather crucial evidence to support your claim. This may include medical records, witness statements, and any other pertinent information.
- Negotiating with Insurance Companies: Insurance companies may attempt to minimize their payouts. Your lawyer will represent your interests during negotiations, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Representing You in Court: Your legal team will be your voice in court, fighting tirelessly to ensure your rights are upheld and your interests are represented.
Occupations Most at Risk of Spinal Cord Injuries
Certain occupations are more prone to spinal cord injuries due to the nature of the work or the types of tasks involved.
Some professions that are most at risk of spinal cord injuries include:
- Construction workers: Construction workers are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the heavy lifting, working at heights, and exposure to hazardous machinery and materials.
- Truck drivers: Truck drivers are also at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the long hours of sitting, heavy lifting, and exposure to vehicle accidents.
- Factory workers: Factory workers are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the repetitive motion, heavy lifting, and exposure to hazardous machinery.
- Healthcare workers: Healthcare workers are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the heavy lifting and moving of patients, as well as the exposure to violence and accidents.
- Warehouse workers: Warehouse workers are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the heavy lifting, repetitive motion, and exposure to hazardous machinery.
- Security guards: Security guards are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the long hours of standing, heavy lifting, and exposure to violence.
- Athletes: Athletes, particularly contact sports players, are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the physical nature of their sport.
- Firefighters: Firefighters are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the heavy lifting, working at heights, and exposure to hazardous materials and environments.
- Police officers: Police officers are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the physical nature of their work, including heavy lifting, working at heights, and exposure to violence.
- Military personnel: Military personnel are at high risk of spinal cord injuries due to the physical nature of their work, including heavy lifting, working at heights, and exposure to violence and accidents.
Other Commonly Asked Questions About Spinal Cord Injury Compensation
Here are some answers to other commonly asked questions about spinal cord injury compensation:
- Can I file a claim if I was partially at fault for my injury?
In some states, you may still be able to file a claim for compensation even if you were partially at fault for your injury. This is known as a “comparative negligence” rule, which means that the amount of compensation you are awarded may be reduced based on your level of responsibility for the injury.
- Can I file a claim if I was injured on someone else’s property?
If you were injured on someone else’s property due to their negligence or failure to maintain the property in a safe condition, you may be able to file a claim for compensation. This is known as a premises liability claim.
- Can I file a claim if I was injured in a slip and fall accident?
Slip and fall accidents can result in serious spinal cord injuries. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim for compensation.
Further Spinal Cord Injury FAQ’s
- What is a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord, the bundle of nerves that runs from the brain down the back and carries signals to and from the rest of the body. This damage can result in a loss of sensation and movement in the areas of the body controlled by the affected nerves.
- What causes a spinal cord injury?
There are several common causes of spinal cord injuries, including car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and violence. In some cases, a spinal cord injury may be the result of a congenital condition or a medical condition such as cancer or inflammation.
- What are the symptoms of a spinal cord injury?
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Common symptoms include loss of sensation or movement, weakness or paralysis, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Other symptoms may include pain, difficulty with bowel or bladder control, and respiratory problems.
- How is a spinal cord injury diagnosed?
Spinal cord injuries are typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans.
- Can a spinal cord injury be treated?
There is no cure for a spinal cord injury, but treatment can help to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment may include medications, physical therapy, surgery, and assistive devices such as wheelchairs or braces.
- What is the prognosis for someone with a spinal cord injury?
The prognosis for someone with a spinal cord injury depends on the location and severity of the injury. In some cases, the individual may recover some or all of their lost function with treatment. In other cases, the individual may have permanent paralysis or other disabilities.
Seek justice for a spinal cord injury
The aftermath is not only physically challenging but it also carries significant emotional and financial burdens. Seeking appropriate legal recompense is not just about financial gain, but it’s about pursuing justice for the harm caused to you.
Finding the right spinal cord injury lawyer is paramount. They can navigate the complexities of your case, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Remember, each state has its own statute of limitations, so it’s crucial to initiate your claim as soon as possible. Be proactive in your journey toward recovery and seek justice. While the process may seem daunting, remember that you’re not alone.