A spinal cord injury can be one of the most traumatic and physically disabling injuries that a person can suffer. It can cause severe damage that can lead to loss of strength, sensation, or even paralysis.
As many as 450,000 people in the United States are living with a spinal cord injury (SCI), according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Every year, approximately 11,000 SCIs occur in the U.S., with the majority being caused by trauma to the vertebral column. An injury to this area affects the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages from the brain that control motor, sensory, and autonomic functions.
Spinal cord injuries are also a very expensive injury to treat and often involve multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. SCI costs the nation an estimated $9.7 billion each year.
At Morgan & Morgan, we are committed to helping victims of spinal cord injuries recover physically and financially after an accident, and have a history of success in representing these victims, which includes a $3.1 million settlement on behalf of a child who was rendered a paraplegic.
If your or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. To learn what our Ocala spinal cord injury attorneys may be able to do for you, please fill out our free case evaluation form today.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States.
However, falls from heights and injuries during recreational activities are also common causes. In a given year, there are an average of 12,500 spinal cord injuries in the U.S.— 40 for every one million members of the population.
Violent movements, such as in a car accident, can cause the vertebral bones in the spine or the discs that cushion them to move out of place, putting pressure on the spinal cord and other nerve roots.
In some cases, the trauma can be so severe that the spinal cord is completely severed. This can cause paraplegia (paralysis of the legs) or quadriplegia or tetraplegia (paralysis of the legs and arms).
Impact of Spinal Cord Injuries
Even minor to moderate back injuries can still have a significant impact. If a fractured vertebra or a ruptured or bulging disc puts pressure on the spinal cord, it can cause pain, weakness, and loss of feeling in the limbs as well.
Injuries to the cervical spine (neck) typically radiate into the arms and hands. Injuries to the lumbar spine (lower back) can cause symptoms to develop in the legs.
Spinal injuries can also cause incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other conditions. If the spinal cord is not severed, these symptoms may be alleviated by spinal surgery, including the removal of faulty discs and/or the fusion of two or more vertebrae together with wire or cadaver bone.
When the spinal cord is severed, there is currently no way to repair it, although medical science is progressing slowly toward a solution.
Nevertheless, a paraplegic victim can expect to incur more than $500,000 in medical and other expenses in the first year after the injury and nearly $70,000 each year thereafter. This means that getting fair compensation is of crucial importance to maintaining the quality of life going forward.
Why Do I Need a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney?
In many lawsuits involving spinal cord injuries, the wrongdoer’s insurance company may offer the victim a quick, and usually inadequate, settlement to avoid a proper damages award.
For this reason, it is essential for a spinal injury victim to retain an attorney with significant experience in navigating an insurance company’s settlement tactics.
At Morgan & Morgan’s Ocala office, our attorneys have the resources needed to fully investigate the circumstances of the injury and the ability to clearly articulate the value of the damages to a jury or settling insurance company.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it is important to retain an attorney immediately after the accident to ensure available evidence is collected and reviewed as soon as possible.
What Will an Attorney Do During the Investigation?
A spinal cord injury attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the accident, the parties who may be liable, and the extent of the victim’s injuries. As part of this investigation, the spinal cord injury attorney may:
- Conduct witness interviews;
- Review medical records, gather evidence, photograph the scene of the accident;
- Work with orthopedic surgeons, pain management specialists, and vocational rehabilitation experts to assess the injuries suffered and develop a treatment plan;
- Work with financial planners to calculate the value of expected future loss wages and income; and
- Determine whether the victim is covered by a workers’ compensation program (for workplace accidents).
In the case of a severe spinal cord injury, an attorney may prepare a life care plan to determine the costs of providing quality medical care and household services over the course of the victim’s lifetime.
Spinal Cord Injuries at Work
Employees who suffered a back or spinal cord injury at work may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, which provide wage replacement and medical benefits to employees who are injured in the course of employment.
In Florida, a worker must report the workplace injury to the employer within 30 days of the accident. Even if an employee does not think he or she is seriously injured, the worker should report the accident to the employer immediately. It is against the law for an employer to terminate or threaten to terminate an employee who has filed an accident report or a claim for workers’ compensation.
For workplace spinal cord injuries, it is important that the victim retains a lawyer immediately following the accident. Workers’ compensation forms can be confusing and any errors on these forms may result in a denied claim or otherwise limit a number of benefits the worker will receive.
If you suffered a spinal cord or back injury at work, an Ocala attorney can sit down with you and make sure that all paperwork is accurately completed and promptly submitted. In the case of a denied claim, an attorney may be able to assist with an appeal. Furthermore, an Ocala attorney can review the facts of your case to determine if any third parties, such as a product manufacturer, contributed to your injuries.
Damages Available in Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuits
Damages recovered through a personal injury lawsuit can help ease the financial burdens associated with a catastrophic spinal cord accident and help ensure that the victim will have a lifetime of quality medical care. The following types of damages are typically available in a spinal cord injury lawsuit:
Economic Damages A spinal cord injury lawsuit can help a victim recover payment for economic damages such as past and future medical bills, lost income, and rehabilitation expenses. In addition, spinal cord injury lawsuits may recover damages for transportation costs, such as the cost of a driver or the cost of a new vehicle that can accommodate the condition of a spinal cord injury victim.
Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages are intended to compensate for the physical pain and emotional suffering caused by the injury. A spinal cord injury victim may also be entitled to damages for loss of consortium if the injury affects the victim’s ability to engage in physical relationships.
Punitive Damages: When a defendant’s behavior is particularly egregious, the court may award punitive damages. Punitive damages aim to deter others from engaging in the kind of reckless behavior that caused the victim harm.
Furthermore, if a spinal cord injury results in death, the victim’s spouse or family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills, loss of income, emotional grief, funeral expenses, and other damages.
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, we may be able to help. To find out what our Ocala spinal cord injury attorneys may be able to do for you, please fill out our free case evaluation form today.