A spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the most serious and life-altering injuries that a person can face. SCI causes paralysis and a host of secondary complications. Living with a spinal cord injury is not only expensive, but also riddled with physical and emotional pain. While many events can cause a spinal cord injury, motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall accidents remain the top causes.
If you suffered an SCI due to an accident in Bradenton that someone else caused, you should seek compensation to cover the expenses and life impacts that you face. An experienced Bradenton Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman can help you understand your legal options.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord and the brain represent the body’s central nervous system, and the spinal cord controls the body’s movement and sensation. The term “spinal cord injury” generally refers to damage to the nerves within the bony protection of the spinal canal, known as the spinal cord.
Contrary to popular belief, spinal cord injuries usually don’t involve a severed spinal cord, but rather a bruised but intact one. Injuries to this part of the body result in loss of sensation and function below the portion of the cord that is damaged. Therefore, the higher up on the spinal cord that the damage occurs, the more widespread the resulting loss of function and sensation.
The spinal column is divided into four segments, as follows:
- The cervical region of the spine is located in the neck. This region controls movement and sensation to the neck, arms, hands, and diaphragm. An injury to this part of the spinal cord will often result in tetraplegia—also known as quadriplegia—in which an injured individual loses function and sensation below the neck. Eight sections of the spine are located within the cervical region, known as C1-C8. If the injury occurs in the area of C1-C3, the individual will usually require a ventilator to breathe. Injuries to C4 or higher will often result in loss of all four limbs, but will preserve control of the shoulders and neck. C5 injuries will often still allow movement and sensation in the shoulders and biceps and may even allow the injured individual to feed himself or herself. Injuries to C6 will often still allow the injured person control of the wrists, which may enable them to operate an adapted motor vehicle and care for their own personal hygiene.
- The thoracic region is located in the upper back. Twelve sections of the spine are in this region, known as T1-T12. T1-T8 injuries often impact the ability to move and control the torso. Trunk movement may be limited by injuries to this area, though injuries to T9-T12 typically allow for good trunk and abdominal muscle control. Injuries in this section of the spine tend to result in paraplegia, or paralysis in the legs and pelvis.
- The lumbar region of the spine is located in the middle back, and contains five segments, known as L1-L5. Most individuals with injuries to this area of the spinal cord can retain some control of the hips and legs. If the injury occurs to L4, problems will likely extend his or her knees.
- The sacral region of the spine, divided into five segments known as S1-S5, controls signals to some parts of the legs, the groin, and the toes.
Along with loss of function and sensation, spinal cord injuries can cause the loss of bowel, bladder, and sexual function, spasticity, chronic pain, low blood pressure, and deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the lower legs due to lack of movement. Deep vein thrombosis can create a life-threatening situation known as a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot travels from the leg to the lung.
Spinal cord injuries are categorized as either complete or incomplete:
- Complete – There is a total loss of sensation and function beneath the damaged area.
- Incomplete – The individual retains some sensation and function beneath the damaged area.
Individuals who suffer a complete loss of sensation and function after the initial 72 hours following their injury have very little chance of recovery.
What Causes SCI?
The major causes of spinal cord injury have remained unchanged for many years—90 percent of new spinal cord injury cases are caused by motor vehicle accidents, accidental falls, acts of violence, and sports and recreational activities. Of these common causes, 40 percent involve a motor vehicle accident, with half of those cases involving passenger cars.
The second most common cause of this type of injury is accidental falls, accounting for 30 percent of all spinal cord cases. The incidences of spinal cord injuries resulting from a fall from a height, those resulting from a same-level fall, and those caused by a fall down stairs and steps are about equal.
The vast majority of the third most common source of this type of injury—violent acts—are the result of gunshot wounds. Sadly, violent acts produce about 15 percent of all new spinal cord injury cases.
Sports and recreational activities constitute the fourth most common cause of spinal cord injuries. Of the sports and recreational causes of spinal cord injuries, the most common is diving, followed by winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and horseback riding.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer a Spinal Cord Injury in Bradenton?
A study by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation revealed that spinal cord injuries are much more prevalent than previously reported. Approximately 1.2 million Americans are living with paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries. 80 percent of these individuals are male, and many of them become injured when in their teens or twenties. While the initial onset of the injury occurs early in life, the age of spinal cord injury survivors is increasing over time.
Eight Common Complications in Bradenton Spinal Cord Injuries
Complications may arise from a spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, many of these complications aren’t merely an issue with new injuries, but rather may arise many years after the injury took place. Complications include:
- Respiratory complications, which are the leading cause of death in individuals with spinal cord injuries. These complications are most common in people with injuries in the cervical and thoracic regions whose chest and abdominal muscles have been weakened by the injury. This weakening increases the chance of respiratory infections, including the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia, as well as sleep apnea and respiratory failure.
- Cardiovascular complications, including abnormally low blood pressure. This complication is present for about 60 percent of individuals with spinal cord injuries occurring in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions and may result in dizziness, weakness, and temporary loss of consciousness when transitioning from a sitting or lying down position to a standing position.
- Autonomic dysreflexia, which is a damaging event below the site of the injury—such as bowel impaction or pressure ulcers—which can cause the autonomic nervous system to malfunction, producing symptoms like an inability for the body to regulate breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
- Secondary immunodeficiency, which is a disruption of the white blood cells caused by the injury and results in an increased chance of developing infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and infected wounds.
- Bladder conditions, such as urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections, caused by the weakening of the bladder muscles.
- Bowel complications, including constipation, which impacts the quality of life for about 40 percent of all individuals living with spinal cord injuries.
- Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, which occur due to the lack of voluntary body movement in individuals with paralysis. These sores can cause an infection that may become life-threatening.
- Neurogenic heterotopic ossification, which is abnormal bone development suffered by more than half of spinal cord injured individuals. This abnormal bone development generally occurs in the large joints of the hips, knees, elbows, and shoulders, and it can lead to pain, fever, and spasticity.
The Personal and Societal Impacts of Bradenton Spinal Cord Injuries
The cost of treating spinal cord injuries and the burden that these injuries place on society has increased by about 317 times in the past 20 years. Currently, the treatment of spinal cord injuries comes with a price tag of $40.5 billion a year for the U.S. healthcare system, as people who have spinal cord injuries often do not have the health insurance to cover the continuous medical monitoring and treatment associated with paralysis and its extensive complications.
Individuals with high tetraplegia can expect to pay about $1 million for their first year of medical care, and around $184,000 for each subsequent year of treatment. First-year costs for low tetraplegia are about $769,000, and about $518,000 for paraplegia, with recurring yearly costs of $113,000 and $69,000, respectively. However, the cost of medical care is not the only harmful financial situation caused by a spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injured individuals also face a loss of wages and earning potential due to their injuries. Fewer than 12 percent of individuals with this type of injury can return to work a year after the injury takes place. More than 35 percent will still be unemployed 20 years after their injury occurs. Other expenses include treatment for mental health and long-term physical health issues, modifications that are made to the home to accommodate the injury, and adaptive devices, such as hand-controlled vehicles.
Spinal cord injuries create implications for not only the injured person, but also for his or her family. Injured individuals, as well as their caretakers, have been found to have a higher incidence of depression, anxiety, physical symptoms, and reduced satisfaction with their quality of life. Family members often feel isolated from social activities due to their loved one’s lack of mobility, and family members often struggle with the transition from being someone’s spouse or child to being that person’s caretaker.
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of people who have suffered a spinal cord injury die soon after the injury occurs. For those who survive the initial acute hospitalization, many will die earlier than expected due to secondary complications of the injury, from suicide or from alcohol-related issues. Patients who have suffered a complete spinal cord injury have less than a 5 percent chance of recovery.
Bradenton Spinal Cord Injury FAQ
Spinal cord injuries are among the most expensive and life-altering injuries that an individual can experience. This injury often causes changes in strength, function, and sensation below the injury site, which is known as paralysis. Approximately 1.2 million Americans are currently living with spinal cord injuries, with approximately 17,000 new cases every year. Although improvements in treatments for this type of injury have led to an increased life expectancy for those suffering a spinal cord injury, the risk of potentially fatal complications arising from the injury remains high.
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in Bradenton that was caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person or entity, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear most frequently on the subject.
What is a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury involves damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. Although many people believe that a spinal cord injury involves the severing of the cord itself, most individuals suffering from this type of injury have an intact spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries can occur anywhere from the base of the skull to the lower back, in four distinct regions that include:
- Cervical region, located in the neck. This is the most severe area for a cord injury to take place, as it causes paralysis to all four limbs, the torso, and may even prevent the person suffering the injury from breathing without assistance.
- Thoracic region, located in the upper back. Injuries to this region generally allow for the individual to have control of the torso, shoulders, and arms, but cause paralysis to the lower extremities.
- Lumbar region, located in the mid-back. The lumbar region of the spinal cord controls movement and sensation in the hips, pelvis, and legs.
- Sacral region, located in the lower back. Injuries to the sacral region may affect the groin area, toes, and parts of the legs.
What causes Bradenton spinal cord injuries?
The four main causes of this injury include:
- Motor vehicle accidents (cars, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents) accounting for approximately 40 percent of all spinal cord injury cases.
- Slip and fall accidents, with the fall either occurring on stairways or steps, from the same level, or from an upper level.
- Intentional acts, such as a gunshot wound or an assault.
- Sports and recreation activities, including diving, surfing, and horseback riding.
How would I know if I suffered a spinal cord injury?
Spinal cord injuries are usually immediately apparent and present with symptoms such as:
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- Weakness, lack of coordination, or paralysis in any part of the body
- An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back
- Loss of movement
- Loss or altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, or touch
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Exaggerated reflexes or spasms
- Changes in sexual function or sexual sensitivity. Spinal cord injuries may also impact fertility.
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation as a result of damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs
You will need immediate care for spinal cord injuries to maintain as much function and sensation as possible. If you think you have suffered a spinal cord injury, you should seek medical help right away to ensure your best chance of recovering.
Is there any cure for spinal cord injuries?
Currently, there are no cures for spinal cord injuries, and the spinal cord has very little ability to cure itself. However, researchers and research organizations are devoted to discovering a cure.
According to one of those organizations, the Miami Project, finding a cure is likely a process of remedying or curing the specific complications of spinal cord injuries, such as:
- Loss of motor function
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Chronic pain and spasticity
- Loss of sensory function
- Loss of autonomic functions, such as breathing and heart rate regulation
- Other negative outcomes from the injury, such as pressure sores and depression
Patients can try experimental treatments for these complications and or enroll in clinical trials for spine-injured individuals. Some of these experimental treatments may involve the use of stem cell therapy.
How are spinal cord injuries treated?
Treating a spinal cord injury begins with verifying that the injured individual is breathing and that his or her heart is beating. Because those with injuries in the cervical area of the spinal cord may lose the ability to breathe on their own, initial treatment may require a ventilator. Immobilization is also an important early step in treatment, as it prevents further damage that may be caused by movement.
The individual will then undergo a series of diagnostic tests aimed at pinpointing the location and severity of the injury. He or she may also be given steroid medication to reduce inflammation and swelling of the spinal cord. Surgery may be required to relieve pressure from the spinal cord and to remove portions of the vertebrae that may be broken and compressing the cord. A halo may also help provide further stabilization of the spine.
Injured individuals may need further treatment to deal with the myriad of complications that accompany a spinal cord injury, including urinary tract infections, constipation, pneumonia, pressure ulcers (bed sores), blood clots, muscle spasms, chronic pain, and depression.
How much do spinal cord injuries cost?
The cost of living with a spinal cord injury depends on the severity of the injury and the issues that it creates. For a person with high tetraplegia, the medical costs alone may exceed one million dollars for the first year of treatment, and around $184,000 for each year after. While injuries occurring lower on the spine carry a lower price tag, the costs will still be well over $100,000 in the first year, and tens of thousands of dollars for subsequent years. Because spinal cord injuries are generally permanent, the injured individual should expect to incur these costs every year for the rest of his or her life.
In addition to medical expenses, those suffering spinal cord injuries incur other expenses as well, including necessary modifications to the home to accommodate the injury, adaptive vehicles, and lost wages due to an inability to work. Many people can never return to work after a spinal cord injury, with only 35 percent employed 20 years after their injury takes place. Those who suffer from spinal cord injuries often can’t afford to pay for the health insurance that they need to access treatment for chronic complications that result from this type of injury.
Spinal cord injuries not only affect the injured person and his or her family economically, but the national healthcare system as well. This type of injury comes with a societal cost of around $40.5 billion annually, an increase of 317 percent since 1998.
Can people die from spinal cord injuries?
Yes. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of the individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries will die even before receiving treatment, and another 3 percent will die during the acute hospitalization phase of treatment.
For those who survive, several life-threatening complications can arise, including:
- Respiratory complications. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for those who have suffered a spinal cord injury.
- Autonomic response complications, such as the ability to breathe or to regulate one’s heart rate.
- A higher risk of infections that may lead to death due to immunodeficiency complications.
- Deep vein thrombosis, which is blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, which can lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
- An increased risk of suicide due to depression and anxiety caused by chronic pain, an altered sense of self, and the continuous need for medical treatments due to the ongoing, permanent health issues caused by this type of injury.
I was told that my spinal cord injury is “incomplete.” What does that mean?
An incomplete spinal cord injury is one where the individual retains some function and sensation beneath the site of the injury. Those who suffer incomplete injuries often have the best prognosis, and many individuals can improve their mobility and function even further through significant physical therapy.
Can I ever work again?
The answer to this question depends on the severity of your injury. You are more likely to participate in gainful employment if you have an incomplete injury that allows you some function and sensation. Likewise, if your injury is located lower on the spine, you can control more of your body, making certain types of work possible. Unfortunately, fewer than 12 percent of spinal cord injured individuals are employed a year after their injuries, and only 35 percent are employed 20 years after their injuries.
My spinal cord injury resulted from a Bradenton car accident. Will my PIP policy pay for my expenses?
Your PIP policy may pay for some of your initial medical treatment. However, you will likely reach the limit of your policy pretty quickly, considering the extensive medical intervention that is usually required to treat spinal cord injuries. However, a spinal cord injury satisfies the serious injury threshold, which would allow you to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit against the individual or entity that caused your accident.
What damages can I recover in a Bradenton personal injury lawsuit?
If you decide to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will establish a value to your case based on the following damages:
- Medical expenses, including emergency services, both at the scene of the accident as well as in the emergency room; transport to the hospital by ambulance or aircraft; diagnostic testing; surgical services; medications administered while you are hospitalized and prescribed after your hospitalization ends; hospitalization; physical therapy and rehabilitation; and long-term care. You may also seek compensation for the estimated medical expenses that you will incur in the future.
- The cost of psychological therapy necessary to handle the depression and anxiety that often result from this type of injury
- Lost income if the accident left you too injured to work
- Loss of future earning capacity due to permanent disability and the inability to work or earn the same pay as you did before the accident
- The cost of household and personal care tasks that you can no longer complete on our own
- The cost of home modifications to accommodate your injury, including wheelchair ramps, lifts, roll-in showers, automatic door openers, and lowered countertops
- Non-economic damages, such as physical and mental pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, and your spouse’s loss of companionship and consortium. Loss of consortium refers to the loss of physical intimacy suffered by the spouse of an injured person when the injuries result in loss of sexual interest, loss of sensation, and sexual dysfunction.
- In cases where the at-fault party’s behavior was particularly reckless, you may also collect punitive damages, designed to punish defendants and deter them from exhibiting the same reckless behavior in the future.
Do I need an attorney to file a lawsuit for my Bradenton spinal cord injury?
Spinal cord injuries create a tremendous amount of expenses and impacts to an injured person’s quality of life. When living with this type of injury, you need the financial resources to continue treatment and make the appropriate adjustments to your life. An experienced attorney who understands spinal cord injuries, case valuation, and the legal process of obtaining compensation can provide you with guidance and skill as you navigate the process.
Call Our Bradenton Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
If you suffered a spinal cord injury due to an accident that resulted from someone else’s careless or reckless behavior in Bradenton, you should seek compensation to handle the extreme expenses of your injury and to offset the impacts that your injury has created in your life. Florida law allows victims of accidents to pursue compensation from at-fault parties through personal injury lawsuits.
Some of the damages that we can help you can recover through this type of lawsuit include:
- The cost of all reasonable and necessary medical care, including emergency treatment, transport to the hospital, hospitalization, surgical services, prescription medication, rehabilitation, and long-term care.
- Lost wages if you can’t work due to your injury.
- Loss of future earning capacity if you become permanently disabled as a result of your injury.
- The cost of necessary modifications to your home, including wheelchair ramps, widened doors, roll-in showers, lowered countertops, and automatic doors.
- The cost of assistive equipment, such as wheelchairs.
- The cost of hiring someone to assist with personal care or household services that you cannot perform due to your injuries.
- Non-economic damages, such as physical or mental pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, physical impairment, inconvenience, and your spouse’s loss of companionship and consortium.
- In some cases, courts may award punitive damages, as well. Punitive damages are not related to the injury and expenses themselves, but instead, are damages designed to “punish” an at-fault party for particularly egregious behavior.
Personal injury lawsuits in Florida are complex and often require the guidance of an experienced attorney who has handled similar cases in the past. Let our Bradenton spinal cord injury lawyers discuss your case with you.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or by contacting us online.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 961-8841
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