Each year in the United States around 12,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries. The majority of these injuries occur as a result of trauma - motor vehicle collisions, serious falls, industrial accidents, violence, or sports injuries. Around 250,000 people are now living in the U.S. with spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury is almost always a life-threatening injury. Survival requires immediate emergency medical care. Unfortunately, even with the best care, a spinal cord injury often results in severe and permanent disability.
Generally, when the spinal cord is injured high in the spine (in the cervical spine or neck), the result is full or partial quadriplegia (affecting all four limbs); when injuries occur in the mid-back (thoracic spine), the result is more likely to be paraplegia (affecting the lower extremities, sparing the upper extremities). A "complete" spinal cord injury is one where both motor and sensory functions are lost, resulting in paralysis and loss of sensation. An "incomplete" cord injury is one that spares some motor function, resulting in weakness but not paralysis, or spares some sensory function, resulting in altered but not absent sensation. Other common complications include loss of bladder and bowel function, impaired respiratory function, phantom-type pain, and loss of sexual function. These impairments also cause other potential long-term complications. Examples include increased risk of urinary tract infections, early onset of osteoporosis, skin breakdown and pressure sores (otherwise known as decubitis ulcers), chronic muscle contractures, increased risk of pneumonia and other respiratory complications, obesity and related complications, as well as a decline in cardiovascular function.
Damage to a Spinal Cord-Injured Person
Damages to a spinal cord-injured person are always substantial. The cost of acute care and rehabilitation is often hundreds of thousands of dollars. Depending on person's age, the cost of future medical care necessary to maintain person's health and function and to treat complications can be several million dollars. With rare exceptions, spinal cord-injured people are either unemployable or employed only part time with frequent absences due to medical conditions. Therefore, their damages also include loss of earnings capacity. Finally, every spinal cord-injured person's quality of life is drastically affected. This loss, too, is a recoverable element of damages.
Proving damages requires a number of different expert witnesses. Often treating physicians are involved to explain the specifics of the acute spinal cord injury and the acute care and rehabilitation required to treat the injury. Rehabilitation medicine experts testify concerning the future medical care, services and specialized medical equipment needed to meet the medical and disability needs of the person. A vocational expert may be needed to prove the earnings capacity lost due to the injury and disability. Finally, an economist is required to calculate the present value of the economic loss sustained due to the injury.
Lawyers with our firm have represented many spinal cord-injured victims who were injured in car wrecks, truck wrecks, by defective products and by medical treatment errors. We have worked with many of the expert witnesses who are necessary to prove damages in these cases. If you, a loved one or a friend has suffered a spinal cord injury, please contact us. Let us put our experience to work for you.