By Marcus Fernandez
The frequency of people suffering catastrophic spinal cord injuries may surprise you. For example, estimates of people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States range from 249,000 to as many as 363,000, with approximately 17,700 new injuries occurring each year. Furthermore, car crashes and other motor vehicle accidents appear to be the leading cause of injury to the spinal cord, followed by falls. A victim may be entitled to recover damages against the responsible party to offset the significant costs of the medical care and long-term support services associated with a spinal cord injury. Knowing the consequences of this type of injury, how a spinal cord injury lawsuit works, and what it may be worth may help should you or a loved one suffer an injury.
What is a spinal cord injury?
The spinal cord serves as a sort of superhighway beginning at the brain stem and continuing to the base of the spine. Nerves contained within it carry signals to and from the brain and other parts of the body. Those signals control how your body functions, including:
- Sensations, including feeling pain and distinguishing between hot and cold
- Control over heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature
A spinal cord injury refers to a temporary or permanent interruption of the ability of the spinal cord to perform its normal function. Accidents or intentional trauma that may cause a spinal cord injury include:
- Car accidents
- Falls, including falls at construction sites and slip-and-fall accidents
- Swimming pool and other recreational accidents
- Defective products
- Intentional acts of violence, including assaults and shootings
Keep in mind that the signals transmitted along the nerve paths within the spinal cord play a role in controlling all functions of your body.
How does a spinal cord injury affect you and your lifestyle?
The first thing to take into consideration is whether the spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete. This analysis is required to determine how you may be affected. A complete spinal cord injury causes a complete loss of movement, as well as sensation below the location of the injury. The use of the term “complete” to describe the injury means the severing of the spinal cord causes the damage. The loss of function may be the result of a bruise, contusion, or impairment of the flow of blood.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries may cause impairment of sensation and loss of movement below the location of the injury. For instance, a person with a complete injury in the area of the neck may be unable to achieve any movement in the arms or legs. An incomplete injury may cause the person to be unable to move one or both limbs on only one side of the body.
However, it would be a mistake to only think of an injury’s effect in terms of motor function. Damage may cause many significant consequences, including:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and loss of sensation
- Uncontrolled fluctuations in blood pressure
- Neurological impairment
A person experiencing paralysis from an injury to the spinal cord may be prone to developing other medical conditions, such as pressure sores and infections.
What is the financial cost of life after a spinal cord injury?
Depending upon a person’s age when injured, and the severity of the impairment, the financial costs associated with a spinal cord injury can be staggering. Some of the costs include:
- Current and future medical care
- Medical equipment, including ventilators
- Physical therapy
- Long-term health care facility or in-home services
- Nursing care and home health aides
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Mental health services
The estimated lifetime cost of care that someone with a spinal cord injury may need can be as high as $5,000,000.
What qualifies for a spinal cord injury lawsuit?
A spinal cord injury lawsuit may exist when the negligent or intentional conduct of another party causes the injury. It may include any of the following parties:
- Drivers of motor vehicles
- Physicians and health care professions committing medical malpractice
- Manufacturers of defective products, such as malfunctioning airbags and seat belts
- Owners and operators of unsafe amusement park rides
- Manufacturers and installers of hazardous recreational equipment, including waterslides, swimming pools, and diving boards
- Business and property owners who fail to keep their premises safe to prevent accidents and injuries
- Owners of unsafe construction sites
- Individuals causing injuries during the commission of a crime
An experienced spinal cord injury attorney will review the facts of a particular injury. First, they may begin with identifying all parties who may be at fault. For example, a surgeon attempting to remove a bullet from a patient shot during a robbery might cause the spinal cord injury. In this case, your spinal cord injury lawyer might file against the surgeon and the person who fired the shot.
What is the value of your spinal cord injury?
The severity is something a spinal cord injury attorney takes into consideration when evaluating the value of the case. The attorney spends considerable amounts of time and money gathering the evidence, including expert witness testimony.
Nevertheless, achieving a settlement or verdict in a spinal cord injury lawsuit that fairly compensates you for past and future damages may require that your attorney obtain and use the following:
- Physician and hospital records
- Testimony of medical experts
- Financial experts to testify about lost and diminished past and future earning capacity
- Experts to testify about long-term care needed and its cost
- Photographs and videos depicting the accident scene
- Day-in-the-life journals and videos to show the impact of the injury on your lifestyle
Therefore, the personal injury attorney you choose to represent you in a spinal cord injury lawsuit can make a difference in the outcome. Subsequently, retaining the services of an experienced Tampa spinal cord injury attorney puts experience and legal knowledge to work fighting to achieve the maximum compensation possible.