Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, Paralysis
The Mayo Clinic states that spinal cord injuries result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. It also may result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts your spinal cord. Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation, and fluid accumulation in and around your spinal cord.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS), there are an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 spinal cord injuries every year in the United States. NINDS reports that approximately 40% of all spinal cord injuries happen during car accidents (auto, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian), almost 25% percent are the result of injuries relating to violent encounters (guns and knives), and the remaining are due to sporting accidents (swimming pool accidents), slip and falls, and work-related accidents.
Spinal cord injury is among the most devastating type of injury a person can experience because it often involves long term hospital stays, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Common injuries can include:
- Broken Back
- Spinal Fracture
- Herniated Disc
- Spinal Cord Compression
- Fractured Vertebrae
- Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control
- Loss of Sexual Functioning
There are a variety of ways in which spinal cord injuries occur; they can happen in a car accident, as a result of a slip and fall, or even in the process of being treated for another condition. If you or a loved one has experienced a spinal injury due to the carelessness or the deliberate actions of another person, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries; it is important to know some basic facts about spinal injuries in order to determine how best to proceed.
First, a spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord (the bundle of nerves housed within the spine or “backbone” that carries sensory information between the brain and the body) which can result in full or partial loss of motor control or sensation. In cases where the victim is paralyzed in the lower parts of the body, the diagnosis is paraplegia, while in cases where all four limbs are paralyzed are quadriplegia. Because the spinal cord is responsible for a wide variety of bodily functions ranging from breathing, body temperature, bladder, and sexual functioning, accident victims with spinal injuries can suffer a range of permanent and serious health issues.
Usually, spinal injuries occur when there is a traumatic injury or blow to the spine. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the more common causes of these injuries include motor vehicle accidents (42.1% of spinal injuries), falls (26.7%), acts of violence (15.1%) and recreational sports activities (7.6%). The NSCISC also documents that spinal cord injury can be caused by errors that occur during risky surgical procedures involving the neck and back.
There are a few situations where spinal cord injuries can be the basis of a lawsuit. Spinal cord injuries that are caused by negligence—for example, injuries occurring as a result of a car accident, medical malpractice, or slip and fall—require that you prove that the person or company you are suing is legally responsible or “at fault.” Another cause of spinal cord injuries may be a defective product, such as a faulty seatbelt or air bag causing injuries during a car accident. You may in these cases be entitled to compensation from the companies that designed, manufactured, and sold the product. There are some circumstances in which spinal injuries occur that may not be as clear-cut, however; for example, spinal injuries incurred during an activity such as bungee jumping or skiing may allow the defendant to raise a defense of “assumption of risk,” which means that you chose to take part in an activity that was likely to cause you harm.
Compensation in a spinal injury lawsuit is designed to provide for the losses sustained as part of that injury; damages may include not only existing medical costs but future treatment and care, as well as lost income—both current and future—pain and suffering, and the cost of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and modifications to the injury victim’s home to accommodate the victim’s new needs. You may want to consider retaining the services of a Boca Raton personal injury attorney early on to ensure that your rights are preserved.
Unfortunately, in most cases there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord despite some major breakthroughs with medical research. A spinal cord injury can change a person’s life forever, and many patients suffer permanent injury. Many face a growing number of medical and care expenses, including hospital bills, physical therapy bills, medication, nursing home or in-home care bills, home modifications, and equipment purchases (wheel chairs, ramps), not to mention lost wages, diminished quality of life, and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence of an individual or corporation and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please contact Baker & Zimmerman online or call (954) 509-1900 or toll free at (800) 886-LAWS. We offer free consultations and charge you only if we win your case.