Some car accidents, medical errors, and other types of accidents can cause spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord, which runs through the middle of your vertebrae, carries nerve signals to and from your brain. If the spinal cord is damaged or severed, you might suffer full or partial paralysis, or you could have problems with the feeling in your trunk and/or extremities.
If the negligence of someone caused a spinal cord injury, contact a Morgantown spinal cord injury at Wagoner Desai, PLLC, for a free case evaluation.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
You could suffer from one of two types of spinal cord injuries. If the injury is complete, you lose all feeling and cannot control motor function below the injury. If you have some feeling and some motor control below the injury, the spinal cord injury is incomplete.
If you suffer from paralysis, you could have tetraplegia, which is sometimes referred to as quadriplegia. Tetraplegia means that you have no control of your pelvic organs, hands, legs, arms, and trunk.
If you have paraplegia, the paralysis affects the trunk, pelvic organs, and legs. It might affect all or part of these parts of your body below the injury.
Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The most common causes of spinal cord injuries include trip or slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle wrecks, drunkenness, sports injuries, recreation injuries, diseases, inflammation of the spinal cord, and acts of violence.
According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly half of the spinal cord injuries each year are caused by vehicle and motorcycle accidents. About a third of the spinal cord injuries that happen yearly are from falling. Injuries from sports and recreation cause about 10 percent of spinal cord injuries every year. Finally, acts of violence account for about 13 percent of spinal cord injuries.
Symptoms Associated with Spinal Cord Injuries
In addition to paralysis, you might exhibit additional symptoms if you injured your spinal cord:
- Your bladder and/or bowels. While both might continue in their functions, you could lose control of your bladder, or your bowel movements might change. You might be more susceptible to urinary tract infections.
- Control of your circulation. You might notice swelling in your hands, feet, arms, or legs. Spinal cord damage could cause you to have high or low blood pressure.
- You might lose sensation in your skin. If this happens, you might not feel injuries, such as burns, cuts, and scrapes. You could also develop pressure sores without realizing it.
- Your respiratory system, including chest and abdominal muscles, lung problems, and your diaphragm.
- Issues with your muscles. You could experience spasticity or flaccidity.
Additionally, a spinal cord injury could cause muscle atrophy, weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It could also lead to sexual problems with fertility and function.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Your Mental Health
In some cases, living with the pain and limitations of a spinal cord injury could cause some people to suffer from depression. Those with spinal cord injuries could also suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder if the accident that caused the spinal cord injury was traumatic.
A combination of dealing with pain, the inability to return to work, worrying about someone taking care of you all the time, worrying about paying the bills, and the traumatic events of the wreck could also cause you to suffer from mental health issues.
Recoverable Damages for Spinal Cord Injuries
One of the first questions that people ask is how much money they can recover for a spinal cord injury. There is no set amount. It depends on the severity of your injury and whether the person who caused the accident was negligent, grossly negligent, or caused intentional harm. You may be able to collect two types of damages: Compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages have two types: Economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a monetary value—that is, they have a specific price. Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. They are items that no one can really put a direct price on. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make someone whole again. While the money cannot bring back a loved one or erase your injuries, it can significantly reduce the financial stress of not being able to work.
The court only orders punitive damages if it finds the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional. Additionally, you cannot recover punitive damages if the court does not award you compensatory damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages include:
- Medical expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
Medical expenses also include expenses for physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological therapies an accident victim might require. They could also include updates you need to make to your home or vehicle to make them more accessible to you.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship and/or consortium.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, and home repair and maintenance.
- Paralysis in any of its forms.
How a Morgantown Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help You
If you suffered a spinal cord injury, a spinal cord attorney at Wagoner Desai, PLLC, could help you by investigating your case, handling settlement negotiations, finding the appropriate parties who are liable for your injuries—sometimes more than one person is responsible, filing a lawsuit when the insurance company is not being fair and reasonable, and many other factors involved when recovering damages after a Morgantown spinal cord injury accident.
Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer FAQ
You probably have many questions, including how you can afford a personal injury lawyer when you cannot work and how you are going to pay your medical bills while waiting for a settlement or for your case to go to court. We will answer those and other questions here.
If you suffered spinal cord injuries in an accident, contact Wagoner Desai, PLLC, for a free case evaluation and to get your case started today.
I am not working. How can I afford to pay a spinal cord injury lawyer?
Our spinal cord injury attorneys work on a contingency fee. At Wagoner Desai, PLLC, your initial case evaluation is free, and you do not pay us unless we win your case. If you decide to retain us, we will go over our contingency contract with you and how you get your money if you win a settlement or a trial award.
My doctors want to be paid, but I am still undergoing treatments, and it will be a long time before I can go back to work, if ever. How do I pay my medical expenses?
You have other options to pay some of your medical bills, though the available options depend on the type of accident you were in. Your health insurance will cover many of your medical expenses until you receive your settlement or a trial award.
If the accident that caused your spinal cord injury was a vehicle accident, your vehicle insurance should cover some. This depends on your insurance company. Contact your representative to ask. When you receive your settlement or a trial award, you might have to reimburse the insurance company.
Does the defendant have to pay for therapy?
If the court finds that the defendant was at fault for your spinal cord injury, he or she would likely have to pay for your medical expenses, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive and other psychological therapies. If your doctors expect your therapy to last past the time your case might settle, or litigation ends, you could receive additional damages.
Do I have to go to trial?
No. You can try to settle your case. While it is recommended that you go to trial if the insurance company and/or the defendant refuse to offer a fair and reasonable amount, the choice is ultimately up to you. If you accept a settlement that is not fair, you might not have enough to cover all of your damages.
What happens if doctors tell me that I will never fully recover from a spinal cord injury?
Make sure you share what doctors tell you with your spinal cord injury attorney. You will have ongoing medical records. Obtaining them and submitting them to your attorney will help him or her work toward getting additional damages for long-term or permanent disabilities caused by the accident.
I am still in the hospital and do not expect doctors to release me soon. How can I file a spinal cord injury claim?
We can visit you in the hospital or set up a video call for your initial case evaluation. After the initial consultation, we can communicate by phone, video call, or email. If you are unable to speak, a loved one or someone with power of attorney can contact us on your behalf.
I heard that I have to prove negligence to collect compensation from the defendant. How do I do that?
Your attorney will review and investigate your case to see if the defendant’s actions or inactions that caused your spinal cord injury were negligent.
You must show that the defendant:
- Owed you a duty of care.
- Breached the duty of care he or she owed you.
- Caused the accident by breaching the duty (via the defendant’s actions or inactions).
- Caused your damages and losses as a result of his or her breach of duty of care.
How much compensation could I recover because of my spinal cord injury?
The amount of compensation you receive for damages depends on the severity of your spinal cord injuries and whether doctors believe that they will lead to long-term or permanent disabilities. You could recover compensatory damages, which include economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages have a monetary value and may include:
- Medical expenses, including surgeries, follow-up appointments, appointments with other medical professionals, and therapy appointments.
- Lost wages from the time of your accident until you collect a settlement or trial award.
- Lost earning capacity if doctors believe your injury will prevent you from working in the future.
- Replacement or reimbursement of destroyed or damaged personal property.
Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value since no one can put a price on these factors. They may include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take medication, use ambulatory aids, or make other major changes for the rest of your life because of your spinal cord injury.
- Loss of companionship if your spinal cord injury prevents you from taking part and/or enjoying time with your family.
- Loss of consortium if your spinal cord injury prevents you from having a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part or a bodily function caused by your spinal cord injury.
- Paralysis, whether complete or incomplete.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as house cleaning, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, laundry, and home repair and maintenance.
Contact a Morgantown Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, whether in a vehicle accident, workplace accident, a slip and fall, or another type of accident, do not go through the process of trying to recover a fair and reasonable settlement yourself. You have enough to do with working on recovering. Let someone else take on that stress for you. Contact Wagoner Desai, PLLC, for a free case evaluation today.
Wagoner Desai, PLLC
265 High Street, 3rd Floor
Citizens Bank Building
Morgantown, WV 26505
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