If you are among the 243,000 to 347,000 Americans who face the many challenges of a spinal cord injury, you know that the day your accident happened was the end of the life you had lived up until that point, and the beginning of having to adjust to a new reality. Spinal cord injuries are usually devastating, catastrophic events that require courage and patience as you work to build a future that may bear little resemblance to your past. About 17,000 new spinal cord injuries occur in the United States every year.
Many of these often catastrophic injuries are not caused by anything the victim did, but by the negligent, careless, or violent act of some other person. Having to face life with the serious disabilities that often come with a spinal cord injury probably seems horribly unjust to you—and it is. Why do you have to live with a disability that you had no part in causing? Nothing can take away the terrible injustice, but the law does allow you some recourse against the individual or other party that caused your injury. You have the right to make a claim for a monetary recovery from the responsible party, and although money will not give you your old life back, it can go a long way toward helping you get the medical treatment and therapy that will help you adjust to your post-injury limitations, as well as keeping the bills paid and providing for your family when you are unable to return to work. The first step to obtaining the recovery that can provide you with a degree of security for your future is to establish a relationship with a skilled personal injury lawyer who has experience and a record of success in obtaining settlements and jury verdicts in favor of seriously injured clients. In the Baltimore, Maryland area, contact the Baltimore personal injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras to learn about your legal options.
Some Facts and Statistics about Spinal Cord injuries in the United States
These are some facts and figures about spinal cord injuries in the United States provided by the National Spinal Injury Statistical Center, compiled from various sources:
- The average age at injury was 29 in the 1970s; today it is 42.
- Males account for a large majority of new spinal cord injuries—about 80 percent.
- Vehicle crashes are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries (38 percent), followed by falls (30.5 percent), acts of violence, mostly gunshot wounds (13.5 percent), sports injuries (9 percent), and medical errors (5 percent).
- The initial hospital stay for an SCI is now 11 days, followed by 35 days in rehabilitation.
- Incomplete tetraplegia is the most frequent type of spinal cord injury; next is incomplete paraplegia, followed by complete paraplegia, and then complete tetraplegia.
- Approximately 30 percent of those with spinal cord injuries will need to return to the hospital for further treatment at least once in any given year after the injury, for an average period of around 22 days. Genitourinary problems are the most frequent cause of having to return to the hospital.
- The average annual and lifetime expenses for health care and living costs that can be directly attributed directly to SCI vary significantly, depending on the person’s degree of impairment, educational level, and employment history prior to the accident. Typically, the lifetime the costs of a spinal cord injury run from slightly over a million dollars to well over two million.
- Less than 12 percent of spinal cord injury victims are able to return to work within the first year following the injury. That number only goes up to 20 percent by year five.
- The average remaining life expectancy for individuals with SCI is below the average life expectancy of those without this type of injury; the largest number of deaths occur among the most seriously impaired, and in the first year after the injury. Pneumonia and septicemia are the most frequent causes of death.
Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury typically impairs function below the point on the spine where the damage occurred. In some cases, there is a loss of all function below the injury. This is known as a complete spinal cord injury. In others, some of the nerve fibers are not affected and there is some remaining sensation and limited function, in which case it is classified as an incomplete injury.
Paraplegia vs Tetraplegia
Paralysis resulting from a spinal cord injury is also classified according to the area of the body affected. When the injury is near the top of the spine, everything below that point is affected—all four limbs, as well as the diaphragm in many cases. This is called tetraplegia or quadriplegia. When the diaphragm is involved, as it often is, a person with tetraplegia may need to use a ventilator to help with breathing.
An injury lower to the spine will only cause paralysis in the lower part of the body, while not affecting the arms and other functions of the upper body. This is called paraplegia.
How a Spinal Cord Injury Affects Lives
Spinal cord injuries are usually life-changing events that leave the victim with loss of mobility and other physical functions, including loss of bowel and bladder control and loss of sexual function. As a result, the victim may experience difficulty finding a job and having intimate relationships. As previously mentioned, life expectancy is reduced, especially among those requiring a ventilator, and depression is common. For those who enjoyed sports, dancing, and other physical activities before the accident, adjusting to the physical limitations of an SCI is especially difficult, and social isolation may result.
Getting Legal Help in the Baltimore, Maryland Area
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, the costs of your medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care will be astronomical. Your ability to obtain the best possible treatment and to maintain some quality of life will hinge largely on the amount of money you are able to recover from the insurance company that covers the party responsible for your injury. Insurance companies seldom pay on these large claims without a fight, so you will need an attorney who understands not only the many ways your life has been damaged, but also how insurance companies work. Choose a lawyer with experience in handling serious and catastrophic injuries and a record of success in obtaining awards for clients in these high value cases, a skilled personal injury attorney like G. Randolph Rice.
With Randolph Rice’s help, you will first need to prove that your injury was caused by the other party’s negligence, and then will be able to claim compensation for both your economic damages—those that can be proven by bills, receipts, and employment records—and your non-economic damages, those that affect your quality of life: pain, suffering, disability, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of your life. In some extreme cases, a jury might also award punitive damages.
Free Case Consultation with Our Baltimore Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
At Rice law firm, we offer a free, no-obligation preliminary consultation and accept injury cases on contingency. You pay nothing at all until you receive money for your injuries. Call and schedule your appointment today. The quality of your future may depend on it. (410) 694-7291