If you were injured in a car accident, fall, or other personal injury incident, a spinal cord injury is one of the most serious injuries you can suffer. The spinal cord is an important part of your body, and an injury can have a life-altering effect on accident victims and their families. If you or a loved one has recently suffered a spinal cord injury, the legal team at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact our spinal cord injury attorneys for a free and confidential case review.
What Is the Spinal Cord Responsible For?
The spinal cord runs from the center of your spine, extending from your brainstem to your lower back. The spinal cord is responsible for:
- Carrying messages from your brain to the rest of your body
- Sending signals from your brain to different body parts to control their movements
- Directing involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing rate, heartbeat, and bowel and bladder function
- Reporting sensations to your brain
- Managing involuntary reflexes
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of your spinal cord or spinal nerves. Many spinal cord injuries are due to a traumatic blow to the spine, including any injury that fractures, compresses, crushes, or dislocates a vertebra. These injuries can also occur from penetrating injuries to the spinal column, such as a gunshot or stabbing.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports that there are more than 294,000 people in the United States currently living with a spinal cord injury. About 18,000 new spinal cord injury cases occur every year. According to the NSCISC, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Acts of violence
- Sports/recreation activities
- Medical or surgical errors
Spinal cord injuries can result from other causes, such as workplace injuries or diseases.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of spinal cord injuries include:
- Loss of movement or limited range of motion
- Numbness or lost sensation
- Difficulty breathing
- Odd positions of your head, neck, or back
- Intense pain
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
If you or your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are given levels based on where they occur on the spinal column, which include the lumbar, thoracic, sacral, and cervical regions.
Furthermore, spinal cord injuries are classified as either complete or incomplete injuries.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
Complete spinal cord injuries (SCI) permanently damage the spinal cord. They also cause paralysis or a loss of sensation below the injury site, as well as loss of function below the site of injury. Both sides of the body are affected equally. When severe injuries occur to the thoracic or cervical region, the victim may suffer paralysis and loss of function.
Some of the more common forms of complete SCIs include:
Quadriplegia or tetraplegia is the paralysis of all four limbs. It also affects the victim’s bowel and bladder function. Some people with this condition also experience breathing problems.
Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower half of the body. This condition occurs when the spinal cord injury is to the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral region of the body.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Incomplete SCIs cause partial damage to the spinal cord. Victims may retain some feeling and function below the injury site. Only part of the spinal cord is damaged by this type of injury. The victim may be able to feel and move one part of the body. Incomplete SCIs can vary tremendously, mostly based on the location and severity of the injury.
How Can a Spinal Cord Injury Affect Your Life?
Spinal cord injuries can impact every aspect of your life. They can permanently impair your strength, sensation, and body functions. This can impact your current job or even make it impossible for you to work any job. You may need to make renovations to accommodate your disability. Everyday routines and functions may have become difficult. You may not be able to enjoy your favorite pastimes or hobbies. Your life expectancy may be significantly reduced.
In addition to the physical limitations a spinal cord injury can cause, SCIs may also impact your mental health. Many SCI victims struggle with these life changes and may suffer from depression or other mental health issues. Your relationships with your spouse, children, and other loved ones may be negatively impacted.
Medical Treatment and Care for Spinal Cord Injuries
Unfortunately, there is no way to reserve spinal cord injuries and no cure for them. However, medical treatment can help treat symptoms, regain lost function, and prevent further injury. Depending on the injury, treatment may include:
- Immobilization of the neck and back until the spine can be realigned
- Surgery to repair herniated or ruptured discs, remove bone fragments, or stabilize the spine
- Medication to prevent the death of nerve cells, promote nerve regeneration, treat pain, and improve muscle spasticity
- Physical and occupational therapy to strengthen muscles and improve function
- Medications and techniques to address secondary issues, such as the loss of bowel, bladder, or sexual function
- Exercises to complete tasks with the injury and improve independence
Many SCI victims require ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives, which can often be invasive and expensive.
Potential Complications of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can cause numerous complications, including:
- Paralysis in all four limbs or from the waist down
- Chronic pain
- Problems breathing or other respiratory issues
- Uncontrolled muscle spasms or loss of muscle tone
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
Potential Compensation in Spinal Cord Injury Cases
Given that lifetime care for a SCI will run in the millions or even tens of millions of dollars, you may wish to pursue compensation against the party or parties responsible for your spinal cord injury. You may be able to recover damages for the following types of accident-related losses you suffered, including:
- Past and emergency medical treatment
- Ongoing medical care and reasonably anticipated medical expenses in the future
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages, permanent disability, and lost earning capacity
- Home modifications
- Physical, mental, and emotional pain, suffering, distress, and anguish
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of consortium
A spinal cord injury attorney can review the circumstances of your case and explain which damages you may be able to recover.
How a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Can Help
A spinal cord injury lawyer can be a compassionate advocate for you during this difficult time in your life. If you have suffered a serious spinal cord injury, you should not have to go through the process alone. Your lawyer can handle the legal aspects of your claim so you can focus on your treatment.
A spinal cord injury attorney can:
- Investigate the accident and identify all at-fault parties
- Identify all of your accident-related losses and negotiate fair compensation for them
- Review your medical records to determine the severity of the injury and its impact on your life
- Accurately account for the full extent of your financial damages, including your lost earning capacity,
- Consult medical, economic, and accident reconstruction experts, as necessary
- Take your case to trial, if necessary
Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. offers a free case review, so contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. is here to help. Turn to us for legal help with your case and to hold the at-fault party accountable for the harm they caused. We will work tirelessly to recover fair compensation on your behalf. Contact us today to take advantage of your free consultation.
Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about spinal cord injuries:
What Do I Have to Prove a Spinal Cord Injury?
Most spinal cord injury cases stem from accidents, such as motor vehicle accidents or falls. In these cases, you must prove the following legal elements to recover compensation for claims stemming from negligence:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care, such as the duty to drive safely
- The defendant breached the duty of care, such as by speeding
- The defendant caused the accident
- You suffered damages as a result of the accident
A spinal cord injury attorney knows the evidence that can help prove these types of claims, so don’t delay in contacting a lawyer for help with your claim.
What Is My Case Worth?
The potential value of a spinal cord injury claim depends on several factors, including:
- The severity and extent of your injuries
- Whether the SCI is complete or incomplete
- The damages you sustained
- How the accident affects your claim
- The ease of proving the defendant’s liability
- The insurance coverage available
- The damages you have suffered
How Long Do I Have to File a Spinal Cord Injury Claim?
Each state has its own statute of limitations. In Illinois he statute of limitations is generally two years for personal injury claims. This means that you generally have two years rom the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. If this deadline passes without taking any action, you can lose your right to recover compensation through the court system. There are some exceptions to this timeline, so contact an experienced spinal cord injury attorney to learn what the deadline is for your particular case.