Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can change someone's life irrevocably. SCIs can result in partial or full paralysis. People with an SCI may never work again or perform daily life activities independently. They may need daily care around the clock.
If you or a loved one suffered an SCI in the Clearwater area, call the experienced spinal cord attorneys at Dolman Law Group today. We will review your case and offer a free, no-obligation confidential consultation and case evaluation. People who have suffered an SCI and their family members can feel overwhelmed. Our Clearwater spinal cord injury lawyers can help navigate the aftermath of the injury and fight to see that justice is done.
How Can I Recover Compensation for a Spinal Cord Injury?
SCIs range from mild to severe. But in every case, it is natural to wonder how you can be compensated. SCIs can cause both economic and noneconomic damage to the injured. If another person has caused the SCI, Florida law allows you to seek damages from that person.
The other person must have been negligent in their duty of care to you to be entitled to seek compensation. Drivers, for instance, owe a duty of care by virtue of receiving their driver's license. They are expected to exercise caution and safe driving principles that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in their driving and maintenance of their vehicles. If they do not, they have breached the duty of care. To do so is to be negligent. If their negligence causes an accident, and the accident causes an SCI, they can be legally responsible for the accident and liable for the injuries.
The duty of care extends to all people or entities with a duty of care to the public. Store owners and other property owners whose premises are open to the public must make those premises safe. That is their duty of care. If a problem occurs that makes it unsafe, the issue must be fixed with all reasonable speed, and the public warned that it is unsafe. If they do not do this, they have also breached the duty of care.
In general, Florida law allows people who have been injured by the negligent actions of another to seek redress by receiving economic compensation in the following categories.
- Medical bills, including doctor's visits, surgery, emergency services, prescription medication, and more
- Future medical bills if you are expected to need medical services in the future
- Wages lost from work, if the injury causes you to lose time from work renders you unable to work at your former occupation, or results in your being unable to work
- Pain and suffering
Due to the potential extent of an SCI, people who have suffered an SCI in an accident can also receive compensation for the following, as part of medical-related bills and expenses.
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs
- Home modifications, such as retrofitting homes for hospital beds and wheelchair ramps
How Is Fair Compensation Determined?
After a spinal cord injury, fair compensation needs to be determined by identifying the full spectrum of injury-related losses and assigning a monetary value to them.
For economic damages, such as medical bills, it is arrived at by adding together all medical bills and expenses that have been incurred. If future medical bills are expected, expert opinion can be accessed to give a reasonable estimate of what will be required for treatment. The costs are assessed from there.
For economic damages such as wages lost from work, the process is very similar to that of medical bills. Wages lost are assessed by calculating the injured person's current wages and multiplying it by the amount of time lost. If prospective time is expected to be lost, the estimates multiply wages by the amount of expected time lost.
Pain and suffering is a type of noneconomic damage, and thus assessing the amount of compensation that is just is more subjective than economic damage is. Among insurers, pain and suffering is usually assigned a multiplier, usually between 1.5 and 5. The lower end of the scale is applied for injuries that heal easily, such as a simple fracture. The higher end of the scale is applied for catastrophic injuries that will require life-long care. In other words, complete SCIs that have resulted in paraplegia, for example, are highly likely to be assigned a pain and suffering multiplier of five.
All incurred and expected economic damages are tabulated, and the multiplier is applied. So, if an SCI were expected to result in lifetime economic damages, medical and wages lost, of $500,000, and a multiplier of five was applied, the pain and suffering damages would equal $2.5 million.
In a Vehicle Accident
Floridians, of course, know that we are a no-fault state for insurance. Ordinarily, this means that people injured in any vehicle accident must turn first to their own insurance, regardless of whether another party's negligence was involved or not.
Every Floridian is covered by personal injury protection (PIP) if they are injured in a vehicle accident. To register a vehicle, you must carry $10,000 in PIP benefits (as well as coverage for property damage liability).
However, given the cost of medical care in today's world, $10,000 does not go very far, especially in a potentially catastrophic injury such as an SCI.
Fortunately, Florida law allows people who have suffered any serious injury caused by another party to recover damages from that party, either through filing a claim with the other person's insurance company or pursuing a personal damage claim via a personal injury case.
The law defines serious injury as one or more of the following:
- Fractured bone(s)
- Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or
- Substantially full disability for 90 days
- Significant disfigurement
People who have suffered an SCI may well have one or more of these.
Who Is Liable for Compensating a Spinal Cord Injury Victim?
The one or entity responsible for causing your injuries can be held liable for your damages. This party could be a single person, or several entities may be involved.
In a Slip and Fall
People can receive an SCI if premises are inadequately maintained or dangerous. Tenants can tumble down uneven stairs or trip and fall under inadequate or inadequately maintained lighting. Missing or broken handrails can cause people to fall. Cracked pavement in front of stores or buildings can pose a danger. People in stores or other public premises can fall if there is debris on floors, liquid on floors, or even cracked or uneven flooring.
Premises law in Florida is complicated, but one thing is clear. Owners of public premises have a duty to make their premises safe, repair any damage promptly, and warn customers. This applies to store owners and owners of large commercial enterprises, such as hotels, entertainment centers, theme parks, shopping malls, etc. If they do not, they can be deemed negligent and thus liable for your injuries.
Private property owners have a similar duty, as long as they have invited people into their homes.
Premises law in Florida divides the duty of care up by four classes of visitors to a property, as follows.
- Business invitees: This is the legal term for all people who go into a property for business purposes: to shop, buy something, and so on. Business owners also have a duty to inspect their property regularly, so the law covers damages and dangerous conditions they reasonably should have known about. Generally, repair people invited into a private home specifically to do repairs are also considered business invitees.
- Licensees: Licensees are social guests invited onto private property, such as friends and family members. Friends and family members who show up uninvited are also included. They are owed the second-highest standard of care. Property owners must maintain the property in a reasonably safe manner. They need to repair any unsafe conditions. These must warn licenses of known dangers on their property (such as an empty swimming pool or exposed wiring).
- Children and property responsibilities: Florida has specific laws that apply to property owners and children. First, all property owners need to take care to protect all children who enter their property, regardless of the class of visitors, they are (business invitees, licensees, and even trespassers). This means, for instance, that a private property owner must take care that their swimming pools are safe, surrounded by fencing or other types of barriers, so young children cannot wander into them and drown.
Second, all property owners need to follow the attractive nuisance doctrine. This holds that all property owners are responsible for protecting children from conditions and items likely to attract children. This applies to swimming pools, trampolines, and even old and abandoned appliances—anything young children might find fascinating, feel drawn to play with, and be too young to realize constitutes a danger.
- Trespassers: Trespassers are anyone on a private property without permission, including people, for example, cutting across a yard without express permission. Property owners owe them a limited duty of care, according to Florida law. They do not have to make the premises safe, but they must also not make them specifically dangerous. They also must warn of any known dangers if they are of a nature that could not be detected with ordinary observation.
In a Construction Accident
Falls are one of the most frequently occurring accidents in the construction industry. Construction companies owe a duty of care to make construction sites and conditions as safe as possible.
In Medical Malpractice
A healthcare provider's medical negligence can cause or exacerbate spinal cord injuries. SCI may occur during invasive medical procedures, such as surgeries.
In this case, the physician, nurses, anesthesiologist, or any other medical provider who attended to your care may be responsible for your SCI. However, since they are probably employees at the hospital where your injury took place, the medical facility will be liable for your losses.
Our Clearwater Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Can Help File for Compensation
The pursuit of recovering settlement after a spinal cord injury begins with determining who caused your injuries. This process can become complicated if multiple parties are involved in the episode that resulted in your SCI. However, a lawyer with our firm can take on this task for you.
They will also help you by:
Negotiating a Settlement that Covers Your Damages
When you file a claim with the at-fault party's or parties' insurance companies, they may either deny their role in the incident or attempt to blame you or someone else for your injuries. They could try to close your case by offering a settlement that may seem sufficient at the time but is much lower than your case's actual value.
Furthermore, an SCI attorney from our legal team will collect compelling pieces of evidence, complete the required documentation to present a strong claim, and negotiate fair compensation with the insurer. If the adjuster refuses to offer a fair settlement, we will represent your claim in court.
Gathering Evidence to Prove Your Injuries
You must also prove that you have sustained compensable damages and their value. We will compile medical reports, police reports, photographs, eyewitness interviews, and other documentation to support the validity of your injuries and sustained damages.
A lawyer from Dolman Law Group will be able to use their experience in similar cases to help you designate a fair value to each type of damage.
You Have Limited Time to File a Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit
Under Florida Statutes § 95.11, in most cases, you have four years to pursue legal action against those responsible for your injuries. However, if a physician's negligence caused your SCI, you can then seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. In this case, the time frame within which you must file is usually limited to two years from the date you discover the injury.
Adhering to the defined time limits is essential. Once the deadline is up, you risk getting your case closed or dismissed by the court. You forgo your chance at holding those responsible for your condition accountable.
The spinal cord attorneys at Dolman Law Group can examine your case and file the necessary documentation within the appropriate time limit so that you do not lose your right to compensation.
What Happens in a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is a set of nerves running along the spine and surrounded by vertebra and blood vessels. The spinal cord nerves transmit information from the brain to the rest of the body.
An SCI results from direct trauma, either to the nerves themselves or the bones, soft tissues, and blood vessels surrounding the spinal cord. If these latter three receive direct trauma, it can injure the spinal cord. The spinal cord can be bruised, torn, or severed in an SCI.
These injuries can cause the following conditions.
- Spinal contusions/nerve damage: These are the most common SCIs. In these, the spinal cord is bruised, or there is damage done to the nerves. Although the symptoms can be significantly painful, they resolve fairly quickly as the spinal cord heals.
- Incomplete spinal cord injuries: These SCIs result in some limitation of movement. There are five categories of injury:
- Anterior cord symptom
- Central cord syndrome
- Posterior cord syndrome
- Brown Sequard syndrome
- Cauda equine lesion
- Complete spinal cord injuries: These cause total paraplegia, in which the person has no motor or nerve function, as well as complete loss of sensation and movement. This is, clearly, the more comprehensive SCI, with the greatest impact on a person's life.
All these types of SCIs can result in one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Loss of or altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
- Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
- Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity, and fertility
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs
- Loss of movement
If an SCI is caused by an accident, the person may feel the following immediately or shortly after the accident.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Balance and walking difficulty
- Extreme back pain or pressure in your head, neck, or back
- Weakness, incoordination, or paralysis in any part of your body
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your extremities
- Difficulty breathing
You Are Not Alone
Roughly 12,500 people suffer a spinal cord injury (SCI) every year across the United States. An overwhelming preponderance of these, 90 percent, results from an accident, such as a car or motorcycle accident or a fall.
In fact, vehicle accidents are the leading cause of SCIs in the United States and are responsible for more than 38 percent of all injuries. Falls are the second leading cause, at more than 30 percent. Violence such as gunshot or knife wounds is third; these cause over 13 percent of cases. Sports-related incidents are the fourth most prevalent cause, at nearly 9 percent.
If You Need a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer in Clearwater, Call Us
Do not handle an SCI alone. If you are in Clearwater or the surrounding areas, the experienced spinal cord attorneys at Dolman Law Group can help. We can review your case at no charge to you and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today.
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765