Spinal cord injuries occur quickly, but the consequences can last a lifetime. In most cases, the injury begins when a significant force to the spine causes the bones of the spinal column—the vertebrae—to fracture or dislocate. The fibers of the cord get bruised or torn by the bones or other structures, like the spinal discs or ligaments, pressing on them.
The spinal cord is the means by which the brain communicates with the rest of the body. When fibers of the cord are damaged, some communications cannot get past the damaged area and any body functions that depend on the blocked signals are lost. It’s important to understand that, while we talk about SCIs as a single injury, the consequences of the injury vary tremendously, depending on how many fibers are affected and how severely they are injured. Severe SCIs high on the spinal cord result in a drastic loss of function that alters the victim’s life completely.
Why Hire a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer?
A Dallas spinal cord injury lawyer will have the experience, education and resources to help you with every aspect of your claim. From identifying the correct defendant to fighting for full compensation for your damages, a Dallas personal injury attorney will know what steps to take. Your lawyer will make sure you do not settle for less than you need from an insurance company. This could mean a brighter future for you and your family. Most importantly, hiring a lawyer gives you the freedom to pay attention to your physical recovery rather than worrying about a legal battle.
What Compensation Could I Receive?
Compensation from the at-fault party could be the only way to achieve financial stability in the aftermath of a serious spinal cord injury. The average lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury ranges from $1.5 million to almost $4.8 million depending on the severity of the injury. The typical victim does not have millions of dollars to spend on medical care and disability accommodations. A successful spinal cord injury lawsuit may be the only way to secure compensation for various damages.
- Lifelong medical expenses. Medical costs are the greatest expenses related to a spinal cord injury. Types of medical costs over your lifetime could include regular appointments, rehabilitation and therapy sessions, medical devices, medications, live-in nursing care and surgeries.
- Disability costs. If your spinal cord injury caused a permanent disability, you may be able to recover for related expenses. For example, you may need to pay for a new wheelchair-friendly vehicle or home modifications to accommodate your disability.
- Lost earning capacity. Paraplegia, tetraplegia or another type of spinal cord injury could put you out of work. You may be able to recover the costs of your initial missed wages during the time of your accident, as well as the future lost capacity to earn due to a disability.
- Emotional damages. Losing the ability to walk, run, pick up your children or eat on your own is life changing. You could seek recovery for intangible losses related to your injuries, such as emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of consortium, lost enjoyment of life and psychological distress. You could also seek compensation for physical pain and suffering.
- Property damage reimbursement. If the accident that caused your injury also resulted in damage to your property, such as a wrecked vehicle, you could receive payment for what it will cost to repair or replace the damaged item.
If you suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, your claim could be worth a significant amount. Even a minor spine injury could result in compensation to cover your medical expenses and related losses. Increase your chances of securing full compensation from a defendant in Dallas by hiring an attorney. The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert can evaluate your claim and give you an estimate of what it could be worth.
Average Settlement for Spinal Cord Injuries
Compensation for a spinal cord injury could cover all your damages in the past and the foreseeable future. The average settlement for a severe and permanently disabling spine injury often exceeds $1 million. However, less serious back injuries (e.g. slipped or herniated disks, whiplash, back sprains, etc.) will result in smaller settlements, on average.
An average spinal cord injury settlement might not reflect the true value of your specific claim. Each spinal cord injury lawsuit is unique. The amount you could receive through an insurance claim or injury lawsuit will depend on the extent, severity and impact of your injuries. You could be eligible for much more $1 million. A lawyer will work hard to prove the existence and monetary values of your physical and emotional damages during a claim.
Obtaining a settlement for a spinal cord injury takes proving your losses to an insurance company, judge or jury. This could require medical documentation, doctor’s notes, letters from your employer, copies of police or accident reports, or accident re-creation reports. The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert can put in the work necessary to calculate and prove your losses – past and future – during an insurance claim or injury lawsuit. We can help maximize your financial recovery.
Can Car Accidents Cause Spinal Cord Injuries?
Car accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. A car accident could cause damage to the nerves, vertebrae, rubber disks and fluids that surround the spine due to the extreme forces exerted on the body. The body can fly forward and strike elements inside the vehicle, for example, such as the steering column or windshield. This can lead to fractures in the neck or spine. In accidents involving proper use of seat belts and airbag deployment, spinal cord injuries are significantly less likely.
A vehicle crashing into something can cause a traumatic blow to the spinal cord that permanently injures one or more vertebrae. In the following days or weeks, the injury can worsen due to complications such as bleeding, swelling, infections or fluids accumulating around the spinal cord. Cumulative trauma to the spine could irrevocably damage the nerves in the injured location. This can lead to paralysis, or loss of feeling and function, below the point of injury.
Causes of SCI
Most SCIs since 2010 have been caused by:
Language of SCI
In discussing SCIs, you need to be familiar with three concepts:
- Complete versus incomplete injury: this describes whether all the cord’s fibers have been damaged (complete) or whether some fibers remain functional
- Tetraplegia (formerly quadriplegia) versus paraplegia; the former involves loss of ability to use both upper and lower limbs, while the latter involves loss of lower limb function only
- Level of injury; the point on the spinal column where the injury is located, described by region (cervical, thoracic, etc.) and the specific vertebra within that region (C4, for example).
Direct Consequences of SCI
Depending on the location and severity of the cord injury, SCIs can cause:
- Either temporary or permanent paralysis below the location of the injury
- Total or partial loss of sensation below the location of injury
- Loss of autonomic nervous system function, including heart function and respiration
An SCI only damages functions at or below the location of the injury, meaning that the closer the injury site is to the brain, the more areas and functions of the body are affected. That is unfortunate given that the portion of the spinal cord most susceptible to an injury is the portion in the neck—the cervical region. The extent of the damage from a cervical SCI generally follows this pattern:
- Injuries at the level of C-6 and C-7 allow victims to recover some degree of independence after considerable rehabilitation.
- Injuries below C-7 leave the victim able to perform enough basic functions to remain independent.
- Injuries above C-6 leave the victim unable to perform basic functions (at least with the therapy and technology currently available).
Long Term Consequences
Typical long term consequences of SCI include:
- Shorter life span
- Difficulty finding and keeping a job; the degree of difficulty depends on a mix of the severity of injury and the victim’s personality
- Loss of critical functions (mobility, bowel and bladder, etc.)
- Mood, behavioral and emotional changes that may be severe
- Chronic or intermittent pain (sometimes in parts of the body which has lost feeling)
What if My Life-Altering Injury Costs Me My Job?
It is common for the survivor of a disabling spinal cord injury to be unable to return to work. Some victims may be able to train for new positions that accommodate their disabilities, while others may have injuries severe enough to put them out of work entirely. If you have a life-altering injury that interferes with your ability to work, you may have a few options for financial assistance.
- Settlement or jury verdict. Going up against the at-fault party in pursuit of a settlement or judgment award could end in compensation for your past and future lost wages and lost capacity to earn. This includes an estimate of what you foreseeably would have earned over your lifetime were it not for the injury.
- Education or training for a new career. If you could return to a job, but not the job or industry in which you used to work, your settlement award could include compensation for returning to school or new job training. Your employer may have to pay these expenses if your spinal cord injury occurred on the job.
- Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration offers financial relief to people with temporary or permanent disabilities that make it impossible to work. You may qualify for short- or long-term benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
You may also qualify for financial assistance through nationwide programs and grants, such as through the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Working closely with an attorney from the Law Office of Aaron A. Herbert could help you discover all your potential outlets for financial recovery after losing your job because of a spine injury. Our attorneys truly care about clients and will offer assistance in as many ways as possible.
Should I Speak With an Insurance Provider?
In the days following a serious accident, insurance companies may contact you to try to resolve your claim. You may get phone calls from insurance claims adjusters from your own or another party’s insurance company. It may not be in your best interest to handle conversations with insurance providers without a lawyer’s assistance. Insurance companies are not on your side. They will try to settle your claim for a low amount to save money.
An insurance claims adjuster or agent may try to use known tactics to get you to settle your serious injury claim for less than it is worth. This is especially common in spinal cord injury claims, which are often worth $1 million or more. The insurance company may offer you a low settlement and say it is the best or final offer. It may request a recorded statement only to use it as evidence against you during a trial later. It may deny a valid claim altogether or unfairly delay a settlement.
Fighting against insurance providers who are not treating your claim in good faith can be difficult. Use a personal injury attorney to take over settlement negotiations for you, so you can focus on your physical recovery. If you have concerns about speaking with an insurance provider by yourself, call Aaron A. Herbert for help. He can take over communications with insurance companies on your behalf to make sure an adjuster does not take advantage of you during this difficult time.
Spinal cord injuries are devastating and very expensive. Recovering adequate compensation from the person responsible for the injury is both crucial to the family’s future, and very complex. Proving many kinds of damages requires testimony from experts on everything from assistive technology to the finer points of vocational programs and job requirements.
Dallas attorney Aaron Herbert has the experience to see your SCI case through to the end; a settlement when that’s possible, and a verdict when it’s necessary to go to trial. He’s a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Specialist and a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Call for a consultation today. We handle case throughout the State of Texas. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you.