San Francisco Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
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Spinal cord injuries are catastrophic injuries that have the ability to affect both the life of the survivor as well as his or her family due to medical expenses, physical discomforts, emotional distress, lost wages, and other damages. For this reason, spinal cord injury victims and their families should seek experienced legal representation immediately.
A seasoned spine injury lawyer from our firm can help victims file an injury claim against the at-fault party right away. Failure to obtain legal advocacy can result in life-changing consequences for both the victim and the family.
If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord injury, you need the assistance of the Scarlett Law Group. Call (415) 688-2176 today for a free case evaluation!
Common Accidents That Cause Spinal Damage
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there are about 12,500 new cases of spinal cord injuries (SCI) each year. In 2015, anywhere between 240,000 and 337,000 people were living with SCIs in the United States alone.
Spinal cord injuries can be extremely painful and damaging, not to mention complex and long-lasting. These injuries can occur anywhere, anytime, and they can cause long-term damage, lifelong pain, or even be fatal. Some accidents could result from a workplace accident, while others might occur while on vacation or performing everyday tasks, like picking up your children from school.
Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Automobile crashes are considered to be the leading cause of SCIs, accounting for around 35% of new cases each year. An SCI can happen in a collision or motorcycle accident when a sudden traumatic blow to the spine dislocates, fractures, compresses, or crushes one or more of the vertebrae. Even severe whiplash could cause your spine some injury.
- Falls: SCIs that occur over the age of 65 are most often caused by falls. For all involved, falls cause more than 25% of all such injuries. They are also often the result of work-related injuries for employees who are required to work at dangerous heights, such as roofers.
- Acts of Violence: Violent encounters, such as gunshots and knife wounds, account for about 15% of all SCIs. These attacks are often random and hard to account for in terms of protecting yourself.
- Sports and Recreational Activities: Around 9% of all SCIs are caused by impact sports and diving in shallow water. Considering the amount of force present in sports such as hockey, football, rugby, and MMA, spinal injuries are not that uncommon.
- Alcohol: Out of every 4 SCI cases, at least 1 involved the use of alcohol. This isn’t surprising, given the fact that even small amounts of alcohol can impair peoples’ sense of balance and their judgment. People consuming alcohol often make poorer decisions while inebriated than they would sober. In addition, they are less coordinated and more likely to fall over or off something, which could lead to an SCI.
- Diseases & Medical Complications: Some diseases, such as cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis, and inflammation of the spinal cord can cause some SCIs. Additionally, medical errors can kill as many as 440,000 people every year. Among women, medically induced SCIs are the 4th-leading cause of such injuries, while in 2014, only about 2.2% of men suffered SCIs related to medical complications.
Spinal Cord Accident Statistics
According to The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, most spinal cord injuries in the United States are caused by car accidents. Motor vehicle accidents accounted for 38% of all spinal cord injuries in 2016, followed closely by falls at 30.5%, and acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds) at 13.5%. Other notable causes included sports injuries (9%), medical or surgical complications (5%), and other 4% of reported spinal cord injuries caused by other, miscellaneous accidents.
Data from 2016 also tells us that roughly 54 people per million suffer spinal cord injuries each year, with men accounting for 80% of all new spinal cord injuries. The average age of spinal cord injury victims is 42 years, compared to 29, which was the average age in the 1970s. Additionally, we know that, on average, spinal cord injury victims receive acute hospital care for 11 days and rehabilitation care for about 35 days.
Spinal Cord Injuries Often Result in Life-long Impairment
Trial lawyers representing individuals rendered quadriplegic or paraplegic as a result of the negligent conduct of others will undoubtedly face a host of problems not encountered in other personal injury actions. Perhaps the most difficult issues to address involve potentially life-shortening sequelae, including medical problems such as:
- Respiratory impairments (respirator needs)
- Physical impairments (sensory and motor losses)
- Bowel and bladder impairments (suppositories, catheter and bag use)
- Pressure sores (decubitus ulcers, ischemic ulcers, etc.)
- Severe depression
- Other psycho-social impairment
Damages in Spinal Injury Cases
No two spinal cord injury cases are the same. Damages in one paraplegia case are not the same as in another, and the same is true with quadriplegia cases. For example, the lower on the spine the injury, the better the chance is for the mobility of the arm or hand, even in quadriplegic cases. Conversely, the higher the injury, it is likely the greater the impairment.
The data collected by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center does tell us that less than 1% of all spinal cord injury survivors experience complete neurological recovery by the time they are discharged from the hospital. In fact, 45% experience incomplete quadriplegia, and 21.3% experience incomplete paraplegia, while 20% experience complete paraplegia, and 13.3% experience complete quadriplegia. Only 0.4% is at a normal neurological level when they are discharged from the hospital.
In many serious spinal injury cases, the compensation can include:
- Past, present, and future wage losses
- Past, present, and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Physical, emotional, and psychological injuries
- Attendant care costs
- Special medical equipment costs
But each injured individual will have unique needs, and “humanizing” the plaintiff’s case will dictate special attention to each such need.
Factors Affecting a Spinal Injury Case
When evaluating a spinal injury case, attorneys must consult with appropriate experts to address each of the issues relevant to a case. Physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedics, psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech, occupational and physical therapists, recreational therapists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, nurses, patient advocates, case managers, social workers, and other specialists are usual. Depending on the case, you may need to consult with a cardiologist, an infectious disease specialist, or numerous other medical sub-specialists.
Important factors that can impact a spinal cord case include:
- Life expectancy must be taken into account. Inexperienced counsel, in a rush to emphasize the catastrophic nature of the plaintiff’s injuries, can easily fall into a defense theory (backed with ample expert testimony) that plaintiff’s injuries result in a shortened life expectancy. While the defense argument tends not to take into account the sweeping improvements in rehabilitative medicine (increased mortality) it is necessarily an emotionally “rational” argument for the jury, and counsel must meet the argument head-on, and early in the trial.
- Respiratory problems. At its most devastating, a plaintiff may require the aid of a respirator because there is no longer control of breathing function. This may depend on unique circumstances, arguably place the plaintiff at greater risk for a respiratory infection.
- Bowel and bladder control. Similarly, in a given case, bowel and bladder control may be non-existent. It is not uncommon for orifices to be tightly closed, necessitating the use of suppositories. Catheters are required for voiding, along with a “void bag” or another such depository. Again, concerns of potentially life-threatening infections arise.
- Concern of infection likewise arises from the risk of development of decubitus ulcers or pressure sores. Given the lack of mobility caused by a spinal cord injury, a greater risk exists for the development of sores. The continued pressure on the particular point causes impairment of blood supply, depriving tissue of nutrition, causing tissue breakdown, and the development of painful sores.
- Medical equipment. Without a wheelchair and/or other medical equipment, each spinal cord injury client is at risk for death. On top of mobilization issues, the problem of loss of feeling and function of limbs, and it is not difficult to realize the potential need for attendant care, without which life expectancy could be significantly shortened.
- Psychiatric/psychological intervention is a must. A once healthy, active life is abruptly reduced to a mind trapped in a body that will not work. This is especially so given medications that may or may not be at issue. Significant neuronal damage can, for example, result in the prescription of such drugs as oxycontin or worse. Evaluation of a client’s mental condition is therefore absolutely required.
Our Team is Backed by Experience and Success
At Scarlett Law Group, our team of San Francisco spinal cord injury lawyers is dedicated to fighting for the rights of victims who have been severely injured by the negligence of another individual or corporation. Because we know spinal cord injuries can bring about severe hardships for victims and their families, we handle each case with diligence and compassion and ensure our clients receive the medical attention needed as we pursue maximum compensation.
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury due to the negligence of another individual or entity, get in touch with Scarlett Law Group today. We can provide you with a free consultation!