Imagine waking up one morning. Everything goes as it usually does. You walk to your car for your drive to work. You get in, fasten your seat belt, and are on your way. The next thing you know, you are waking up in a hospital, unable to feel or move your arms and legs.
A doctor comes in and tells you that you were in a car accident and have suffered a spinal cord injury. Your condition will be closely monitored to see if you regain any feeling or movement in your limbs. Soon, you will realize your life has changed forever. Your family members will also experience a dramatic change in their daily lives.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a spinal cord injury refers to any damage to “any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal.” The injuries are often so traumatic that the injured person feels the effects “mentally, emotionally and socially.”
There are two main types of spinal cord injuries:
- Complete: The patient has no feeling or movement in the body below the injured area of the spine.
- Incomplete: The patient has some feeling and motor activity below the the injured area.
The most common ways of referring to the condition of those paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury are:
- Paraplegic: The injury affects the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs. Bowel and bladder control are impaired.
- Quadriplegic: The injury is the same as for a paraplegic with the addition of paralysis to the arms and hands and generally a complete lack of bladder or bowel control.
Every year, 17,500 people suffer a spinal cord injury. Approximately 40 percent of those injuries were caused by car accidents. This means that every day, the lives of about 20 people are dramatically changed, and most of them are changed forever. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 350,000 people are currently living in the U.S. who are coping with spinal cord injuries.
Signs and Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Some injuries are so severe that there is an immediate loss of movement and sensation. Other times, there are emergency signs and symptoms that need to be taken very seriously, and the injured person should be treated as though he or she had a spinal injury “until proved otherwise.”
The numbness or paralysis may not be immediate, but develops gradually as bleeding and swelling occur. The diagnosis often involves differentiating between a spinal injury, whiplash, or other type of back injury. Whiplash may mimic symptoms of a spinal injury, but this involves injury to soft tissue and not the spinal column.
Settlement Considerations for Spinal Cord Injuries
Although any type of sudden injury is upsetting, spinal cord injuries have particular unpleasant consequences to those who are injured. There are different levels of injuries, and the more severe and extensive the paralysis, the more severe the consequences will be.
Whe World Health Organization (WHO) reports that most people with a spinal cord injury will experience:
- Chronic pain: Even most who lose entirely their feeling in their limbs, suffer from phantom pain as though the limbs still had feeling.
- Premature death: The risk increases with the injury level and its severity.
- Increased risk of secondary debilitating diseases or conditions, such as blood clots, urinary tract infections, pressure sores, and more.
- Dependence on caregivers.
- Unemployment or different employment than before the injury.
If the car accident that caused the injury was due to a negligent driver, insurance settlements need to reflect the specific needs of the person who suffered from the spinal cord injury. This may include compensation for:
- Lifelong medical expenses.
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity.
- Cost of caregivers.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Cost of rehabilitation, including vocational, physical, and occupational.
Spouses and other family members may also obtain compensation for loss of consortium, which is the loss of a family relationship. Damages may include loss of financial support and loss of companionship. Your attorney will discuss this with you to see if you have a viable claim.
If you are the victim of a car accident resulting in a spinal cord injury, you know better than anyone how your life has changed. Your loved ones, whether they are parents, spouse, or children, also suffer.
Choosing the Right Austin Personal Injury Lawyer
Spinal cord injuries are often complex and typically require medical care into the future. In cases like these, a vocational expert and economists may be hired to determine the lost earning capacity the client will suffer over the course of their work-life. Also, a medical doctor or a life care planning expert may be retained to testify as to the future medical care that the person will require to manage complications that will arise from the original injury. When choosing a personal injury law firm to represent you, you need to ensure that they are able to retain life care planning experts, biomechanical engineers, and other experts that will be able to speak to the nature of your car accident injuries, the cause of the accident, and the life-long impact it will have on you and your family.
There are many personal injury law firms in Austin, but few have the level of expertise and resources to not just address your injuries today but also give you peace of mind for your future. At The Cagle Law Firm, we are experienced car accident attorneys and have helped many clients that have suffered from spinal cord injuries. We will vigorously fight in order to see that you obtain all the compensation to which you are legally entitled. Call The Cagle Law Firm at 512-371-6101, use the live chat on our site, or fill out the form on this page for a free evaluation of your case or have a family member contact us on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.