People who survive a spinal cord injury typically suffer from a wide variety of medical complications, including heart and respiratory problems, chronic pain, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and more. Depending on the injury, the victim may no longer be able to earn a living and may require significant care for the rest of his or her life.
If your injury was due to the negligent or intentional behavior of another party, you shouldn’t be stuck paying for the consequences. Fortunately, in many cases, compensation is available through a personal injury claim.
To find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit, contact the experienced attorneys at Omaha’s Cullan & Cullan LLC. In addition to being skilled lawyers, Joseph and Patrick Cullan also have medical degrees. This is a quality that very few other lawyers possess and allows our firm to fully understand the impact spinal cord injuries will have on a client’s future. Call (402) 882-7080 today for a free case evaluation.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury (SCI) typically occurs after a sudden blow to a person’s spine that either dislocate or fractures vertebrae; the displaced disc material, bone fragments, or ligaments then tear into or bruise the spinal cord tissue. In most instances, trauma to a person’s spinal cord does not sever it completely; instead, it is more likely to result in compression and fractures of the vertebrae, which in turn crush and ruin the axons, the nerve cells that relay signals between the body and the brain up and down the spinal cord. Some SCIs allow a patient to make a complete recovery, while others may result in permanent paralysis.
A spinal cord injury can be classified as either incomplete or complete. When an injury is incomplete, it means that the spinal cord can still relay some motor and/or sensory messages between the brain and body below the level of the injury. A complete injury is categorized by a total loss of motor and sensory functions below the injury.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) reports that approximately 12,000 new spinal cord injuries occur each year in the United States.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics
It is believed that upwards of 250,000 people are currently living with a spinal cord injury.
According to statistics compiled since 2005, about 41.3% of all SCIs have been caused by motor vehicle collisions. Tractor-trailers accidents have a greater potential for spinal cord injuries due to these trucks’ size and weight. Slip-and-fall accidents are the second most common cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 27.3%. Other major causes of spinal cord injuries include acts of violence at 15%; sports-related incidents at 7.9%; and about 8.5% due to unknown or other causes.
Paralysis is a life-altering condition that deeply impacts a victim and family. It is defined as an impairment of voluntary muscle function caused by disease or injury to the brain, nerves, or spinal cord. Spinal cord injury is a leading cause of paralysis. Unfortunately, once spinal cord nerves are damaged, they can't regenerate, and lost functions are lost forever.
According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the leading causes of paralysis in the U.S. include:
- Stroke (29%)
- Spinal cord injury (23%)
- Multiple sclerosis (17%)
- Other (9%)
- Cerebral palsy (7%)
- Post-polio syndrome (5%)
- Neurofibromatosis (4%)
- Traumatic brain injury (4%)
- Birth injuries (2%)
Though some of these causes relate to a specific illness, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and even stroke (though rarely) are caused by external trauma.
Hemiparesis is a weakness or partial paralysis that affects only one side of the body. It is often less severe than hemiplegia, which is total paralysis on one side of the body. Nevertheless, hemiparesis can make life much more difficult for those who experience it. Hemiparesis can impair a person's ability to perform basic daily tasks, like bathing, eating, dressing, or moving around the house. Hemiparesis that affects a person's face can also make it hard for him or her to make facial expressions, talk, or deal with irritants in the eyes or nose by blinking or sneezing. Hemiparesis can also cause difficulty talking, especially if the condition affects the left side of the brain, where most people process language. Some people with hemiparesis experience difficulty remembering which is their right side and which is their left.
Of all types of paralysis that can be suffered, quadriplegia is the most difficult to cope with and recover from. Quadriplegia results from injuries either to the brain or a high level of the spinal cord, specifically vertebra C1 to C7. Typically, injuries to C1 through C4 affect arm movement the most, while injuries to C5 through C7 can result in hand and finger dysfunction, although all of these injuries cause a total or partial loss of function for the torso and below.
Frequently, car collisions and falls will lead to these injuries. When the spinal cord is twisted, torn, stretched, cut, or pressurized, the damage can have serious effects on the central nervous system. Quadriplegia can include not only impairment of limb movement, but of bowel and bladder control, breathing, digestion, sexual function, and involuntary nervous system functions. The weakening of the body can have further complications, such as bone fractures, spasticity, respiratory system complications, cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, pressure sores, osteoporosis, and more.
Overall, because the body cannot function properly, many functions will break down and leave a victim susceptible to further harm. The psychological and emotional effects of such harm can also be extremely severe, as victims will have their lives changed in mere moments, losing many of the capabilities they once depended on in day-to-day life.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
In many cases, aggressive treatment and rehabilitation may reduce damage to the patient’s nervous system and may even restore limited abilities. It appears certain steroid drugs can reduce the damage done to nerve cells if administered within the first few hours after the injury is sustained. Approximately one-third of patients who sustained an injury to the neck will need assistance with breathing and will likely require respiratory support their whole lives.
Many spinal cord injury victims will also need to participate in physical therapy programs with skill-building activities, and undergo counseling to receive emotional and social support.
Damages in Spinal Cord Injury Accidents
If another party’s negligence, carelessness, or intentional actions contributed to the injury that resulted in paralysis, a personal injury lawsuit can help recover compensation for the following losses:
- Medical bills
- Future medical bills related to the injury
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and mental duress
- Costs of psychological therapy
- Loss of career or earning capacity
- Loss of future income (this is not only for the victim but also a family member who has to quit his/her job to care for the victim)
- Lost wages from missed work (this applies to the victim, as well as a loved who has to miss work to take the victim to doctors’ appointments or surgeries)
- Costs of in-home care
- Household and vehicle modifications to accommodate the victim (wheelchair ramps and lifts, respirators, steering wheel controls, etc.)
- Hedonic damages for loss of joy of life
- Loss of household services the victim performed (childcare, vehicle and property maintenance, etc.)
Call Today for a Free Consultation
To get the compensation you and your family deserve, contact the Nebraska catastrophic personal injury lawyers at Cullan & Cullan. Our attorneys are also physicians, so we fully understand the difficulties victims face, both in regard to physical recovery and legal challenges. We can help you determine whether you have a valid claim and help you understand what options are available to you. For a free consultation, call our law offices at (402) 882-7080.
Nebraska Spinal Cord Injury Case Results
$19.6 Million Verdict - Truck Accident - Spinal Cord Injury: Client suffered serious spinal cord injury in a truck accident on U.S. Highway 75. More information can be found here.
- Spinal Cord Injury Blogs
- Cullan & Cullan LLC Wins $19.6 Million for Victim of Truck Crash with Spinal Cord Damage
- Watch Your Back: How to Prevent Back Pain and Injury
- Spinal Cord Injuries - MedlinePlus
- National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)
- Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
- Paralysis Info from MedlinePlus