Spinal cord injuries and paralysis are two of the most serious injuries that a person can sustain in a motor vehicle accident. According to recent statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 46% of all spinal cord injuries suffered each year in the United States are the result of motor vehicle accidents.
When a nerve in the spinal cord is severely damaged in a car or truck accident, the accident victim may end up completely or partially paralyzed. Serious spinal cord injuries can lead to paralysis, and when that happens, the accident victim may be totally unable to care for himself or herself. In those circumstances, the accident victim may require 24/7 care at a nursing home or assisted living facility.
If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury in Baltimore or become paralyzed in one or more body parts as a result of a motor vehicle driver’s negligence, you may be eligible to recover monetary compensation for all of your injuries, pain, suffering, and inconvenience. The Baltimore spinal cord injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras have been representing victims of catastrophic injuries for many years and can help you recover the monetary compensation you need and deserve. For a free case consultation, contact us at (410) 694-7291.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Happen in Accidents in Baltimore, MD
Spinal cord injuries are common following serious car, truck, bicycle, motorcycle, boating, or slip-and-fall accidents. When an accident victim’s back strikes against something or suffers from serious strain in one of these accidents, the spine can flex beyond its normal range of motion, become misaligned, or have vertebrae broken. This can result in serious damage to the accident victim’s nerves or to the spinal cord. The spinal cord controls the muscles in a person’s body, and when it is damaged in an accident, the accident victim may experience paralysis in certain areas of the body, along with other serious medical problems.
Typically, paralysis starts at the spine, affecting the rest of the body that connects to that point. Your spinal column is the main conduit between your brain and your body, and any injuries to the spinal cord usually prevent nerve signals from passing beyond that point. This means that anything below the point of injury could be affected by the injury.
Types of Paralysis and Spinal Cord Injuries
Paralysis keeps an accident victim from moving the affected body part and from feeling anything in that body part. Paralysis is common when the spinal cord injury severs the connection between the spine and the brain entirely or compresses the spinal cord to the point where no signals can pass. This prevents your brain from signaling the body to move, and it prevents the nerves in your body part from being able to send signals back to your brain for processing. There are different types of paralysis, and these can usually be caused by different types of spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries are often named based on whether they are “complete” or “incomplete” and where they are in the spine.
Types of Paralysis
Depending on the seriousness of the accident, accident victims may suffer upper or lower body paralysis as a result of a spinal cord injury. When an accident victim experiences paralysis due to a spinal cord injury, the paralysis can take any one of the following forms:
- Monoplegia is where one limb is paralyzed.
- Hemiplegia is where both the arm and the leg on one side of the accident victim’s body are paralyzed.
- Paraplegia is where both legs are paralyzed.
- Tetraplegia or Quadriplegia is where both arms and legs are paralyzed.
Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are separated into “complete” or “incomplete” injuries depending on whether the injury completely disrupts the spinal cord or not. If the injury actually severs the spinal cord, the signal is completely cut off and the injury is called a “complete” spinal cord injury. If a misaligned spine or herniated disc compresses the spinal cord or the spinal cord is damaged but not completely severed, the injury is called an “incomplete” spinal cord injury.
With complete spinal cord injuries, paralysis is almost inevitable. These injuries are often difficult to repair since nerve tissue does not heal the same way that muscle, bone, or skin tissue does, and the nerves usually will not repair to their full capacity. Some advanced science has created treatments that can help, but a “cure” for paralysis does not exist for every injury.
Some incomplete spinal cord injuries do have a chance that the victim will regain function. In many cases, an incomplete injury is caused by misalignment of the spine or damage to the soft “disc” tissue that sits between vertebrae. These issues can be fixed through surgery, therapy, massage, and other treatments, potentially ending the compression and allowing the spinal cord to regain function. Minimal damage can also sometimes be healed, allowing a damaged spinal cord to form new connections.
Complete injuries often sever the connection entirely, but many victims facing incomplete spinal cord injuries might have tingling or pain in their limbs instead of complete paralysis. They may also have reduced motor function instead of complete loss of function.
Location of Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries that occur at different parts of the spine are likely to cause different effects. Because spinal cord injuries typically affect the body below the point of injury, identifying spinal cord injuries based on the section of the spine that was affected or the specific vertebra where the injury took place is common.
The spine can be divided into 5 sections: the cervical spine in the neck, the thoracic spine along the back of the chest, the lumbar spine at the low back, the sacral spine at your hips, and the coccyx or “tail bone” at the bottom. Injuries higher up in the back cause injury or paralysis for more of the body, so injuries to the cervical spine are often the most serious. Injuries in the low back or lumbar spine can cause paralysis in the legs, so these are still serious injuries, but they might not affect your motor skills with your hands or arms and might not affect breathing or other upper-body tasks.
Vertebrae are also numbered from top to bottom and named based on what section of the spine they are in. For instance, an injury to the C-5 vertebra would mean an injury to the 5th vertebra from the top of your neck, and an injury to the L-1 vertebra would be an injury to the top vertebra in your lumbar spine.
Treating Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis
Treatment of spinal cord injuries and paralysis can be both extensive and expensive, and many spinal cord injuries are medically irreparable. Medical treatment for victims of paralysis usually consists of helping the patient to live independently and improve their quality of life to the greatest extent possible. The costs of treating someone with a spinal cord injury or paralysis injury depends largely upon the severity and location of the injury, the geographic location where the medical treatment took place, as well as the patient’s overall health. Total costs for providing medical care and treatment to a spinal cord injury or paralysis victim can range anywhere from $300,000 to one million dollars during the first year of treatment and over $3 million during the course of a person’s lifetime.
Proving Injuries and Damages in Baltimore Spinal Cord Injury Cases
In order to recover monetary compensation in a spinal cord injury case, the injured accident victim must be able to show that the accident was a direct cause of the injuries and damages sustained in some kind of accident. You can sue for many different types of accidents, such as car crashes, slip and fall accidents, workplace injuries, or lifting and carrying accidents. In a lawsuit, you will need to prove the injuries you faced, the extent of the damages the accident caused you, and the defendant’s fault in order to get compensation in your case.
Proving the injuries that you faced typically requires that a medical expert be brought on board. A medical expert, such as a doctor or other experienced healthcare provider, is necessary to causally connect the spinal cord or paralysis injury to the accident. A medical expert will also be able to highlight all of the limitations that the accident victim may experience for the rest of their life and how those results will affect their quality of life. If the doctor who treated your injuries can testify on your behalf, they can also explain that these injuries were not preexisting conditions and that they can be linked to the injury you experienced.
Explaining the spinal injuries themselves and the medical impact of such injuries is often an important part of a spinal injury case, and it is important to work with a Baltimore personal injury lawyer who is experienced with these types of cases and can convey the seriousness of the injury to the jury. Your medical records will also provide good evidence of your injuries, as will your own testimony about how the injuries affected you.
A medical expert may also be able to estimate the need for – and potential cost of – future medical care, treatment, and procedures, such as follow-up surgeries. You may also use financial experts in your case to predict the cost of these ongoing care needs.
In many cases, insurance companies try and undervalue catastrophic injury cases, hoping to pay out as little money as possible in satisfaction of the claim. The Baltimore spinal cord injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras understand the tricks and tactics that insurance adjusters routinely use to try and undervalue these claims and avoid paying out money. Our attorneys will work hard to retain the best medical experts possible and gather all of the necessary medical evidence in order to successfully prove your case and maximize its value.
In many spinal cord injury cases, you can also claim damages for economic effects the injury caused you, such as lost wages and lost earning capacity. You can also make a monetary claim for the pain and suffering you faced. We explain these damages in depth below.
To hold the defendant responsible for your injuries, you must prove that they caused the injuries through negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. Sometimes, “freak accidents” happen without anyone to blame. However, many car accidents, slip and falls, workplace injuries, and other accidents can be blamed on someone who failed to use the proper care or skill. If someone’s mistakes caused your injuries, evidence of that fault can support a claim against them in court.
Our attorneys will assemble evidence from your accident and fight to prove that the defendant was responsible so that we can help you get damages from them and their insurance companies.
Damages Available in Baltimore Spinal Cord and Paralysis Injury Cases
Victims of spinal cord and paralysis injuries may be eligible to recover some or all of the following types of damages in their case:
- Payment of all related medical and physical therapy bills
- Compensation for lost wages and missed time from work
- Compensation for lost earning capacity
- Compensation for past, present, and future pain and suffering
- Payment for future medical procedures
- Compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish
- Compensation for loss of spousal support and companionship
- Costs of long-term or lifetime care at a nursing home or assisted living facility
The Baltimore spinal cord injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras can help you obtain all of the damages to which you may be entitled under the law.
Call Our Baltimore Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Case Evaluation
No one asks to be injured in an accident. The burden of proving spinal cord and paralysis injury cases is high, and you want a lawyer on your side who will aggressively advocate for your right to recover monetary compensation for the injuries and damages you sustained. The Baltimore spinal cord injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras are skilled negotiators and litigators who will aggressively represent your interests and advocate for you throughout your case, from beginning to end. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Baltimore, MD spinal cord injury lawyer, please call our Maryland personal injury lawyers today at (410) 694-7291.