New York Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
Each year in the United States, about 12,500 people incur spinal cord injuries, most of which are due to some type of accident. Due to the catastrophic nature of this type of injury as well as the high likelihood of ongoing symptoms and chronic conditions related to it, the victims of spinal cord injuries and their families often face significant injuries.
If you suffered a spinal cord injury in New York that was caused by someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions, you may be eligible to seek compensation for these expenses through a New York Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys.
While a lawsuit cannot give you back your mobility, it can ensure that you have the funds necessary to pay for medical treatment, physical therapy, aides and attendants, social services, mobility devices, home modifications or accessible housing, a vehicle that can accommodate you, and more.
What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?
There are four main causes of spinal cord injuries, which include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, which account for around 46 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
- Falls, which account for 22 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
- Violence, which results in 16 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
- Sports injuries, which cause 12 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
As many as one-quarter of all accidents resulting in spinal cord injuries involve alcohol impairment.
What Are Spinal Cord Injuries?
Spinal cord injuries may result from a sudden blow to the spine that fractures or crushes one or more vertebrae. This type of injury may also result from violence, such as a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates or severs the spinal cord.
Contrary to popular belief, spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis don’t always involve a severed spinal cord. In fact, most people who suffer this type of injury have a spinal cord that is bruised but intact. Unfortunately, the initial damage isn’t the only harm sustained when one suffers a spinal cord injury. After the initial damage occurs, a loss of oxygen and the release of chemicals at the site of the initial injury can cause further damage to nerve cells.
The spinal cord is responsible for coordinating the body’s movement and sensation. Therefore, an injury to the spinal cord often results in loss of sensation and function beneath the site of the injury.
There are two types of spinal cord injuries:
- When an individual can retain some function and sensation below the site of the injury, then the injury is considered incomplete.
- When an individual loses all function and sensation below the site of the injury, the injury is considered complete.
Some of the symptoms of a spinal cord injury—which may vary drastically based on the severity of the injury—are:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, or touch
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Exaggerated reflex, or spasms
- Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity, or fertility
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
A severe spinal cord injury isn’t always immediately obvious, which means that the condition may worsen if not immediately recognized. The time between the injury and treatment may be a critical factor in determining the extent of the severity, complications, and expected recovery. If a person is moved after suffering the injury, the condition may also worsen.
The amount of function a person retains in his or her limbs depends on the location of the injury. The spinal cord is divided into four regions, which include:
- Cervical region: This is the area of the spinal cord that is located in the neck and controls signals to the neck, arms, hands, and—in some cases—the diaphragm. Injuries to this area are most likely to result in tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, which is loss of sensation and function to the feet, legs, pelvis, torso, chest, arms, and hands. The lower on the neck the injury occurs usually means more function, with some sufferers retaining enough wrist control to operate an adaptive vehicle and complete some personal hygiene tasks as well.
- Thoracic region: This part of the spine is located in the upper back and controls signals to the torso and some parts of the arms. The lower into the thoracic region the injury occurs, the more control the individual has of his or her torso and abdominal muscles.
- Lumbar region: This part of the spinal cord can be found in the mid-back. Injuries to the lumbar region may impact an individual’s ability to control signals to the hips and legs.
- Sacral region: The sacral segment of the spinal cord is located in the lower back. Injuries to this region may impact sensation and function to the groin, toes, and some parts of the legs.
Early treatment of spinal cord injuries is mainly focused on maintaining the individual’s ability to breathe, preventing shock, immobilizing the neck or back to prevent further injuries, and avoiding potential complications such as blood clots in the extremities.
The patient is generally admitted to the intensive care unit and may be transferred to a regional treatment center for spinal cord injuries. The patient may also be given IV medications to reduce swelling of the spinal cord. Generally, after the swelling from the injury goes down, an improvement in function will be noticed.
The fastest rate of recovery for spinal cord injury patients typically occurs within the first six months after the injury. However, smaller improvements in function and sensation may be seen over the first several years. There is no known cure for spinal cord injury.
Additionally, the development of new technologies has given spinal cord injury patients the ability to communicate and complete daily tasks independently through electronic devices.
Around 1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with spinal cord injuries. More than half of these injuries are in the cervical area, a third are located in the thoracic area, and the remainder are mostly in the lumbar region. About 80 percent of those living with spinal cord injuries are male. Those who sustain spinal cord injuries are generally in their teens or twenties, though the age of those living with paralysis is increasing.
What Are Some Complications Related to Spinal Cord Injuries?
The secondary issues related to a spinal cord injury can be numerous. Some of them include:
- Respiratory issues: Respiratory complications are not only a worry immediately after a spinal cord injury has been suffered but also throughout the life of the individual. Respiratory problems may include an inability to produce a sufficient cough, insufficient ability to control the respiratory muscles, and pneumonia.
- Cardiovascular complications: Spinal cord injury victims may have difficulty regulating their blood pressure.
- Urinary and bowel complications
- Spasticity: A frequent condition suffered by spinal cord injury patients, spasticity involves involuntary and often painful muscle spasms.
- Chronic pain: Chronic pain impacts about 80 percent of those suffering from spinal cord injuries. Chronic pain may result in functional disability and may negatively impact the individual’s ability to participate in community gatherings. Nociceptive pain is a chronic musculoskeletal pain caused by abnormal gait, posture, and overuse of the arms and shoulders often caused by the use of a wheelchair. Neuropathic pain is related to damage to the nerves, nerve roots, or the spinal cord itself and may occur either above, at, or below the site of the injury.
- Pressure ulcers: Also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers are a common condition with paralyzed patients who are unable to regularly change their position. Pressure ulcers may be life-threatening as they can become infected and result in the need for further medical treatment and even surgery.
- Osteoporosis: Bone loss after a spinal cord injury generally occurs 12 to 18 months following the injury but can take place over several years.
- Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: Deep vein thrombosis, which is blood clots in the legs, occurs in 47 to 90 percent of spinal cord injury patients. Pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lung, occurs in 20 to 50 percent of spinal cord injury patients.
What Expenses Are Associated With Spinal Cord Injuries?
The treatment of spinal cord injuries results in costs to the country’s healthcare system of around $45 billion a year. But how much does it cost each individual to obtain the treatment they need for their injury? Estimated costs are between $320,000 to $985,000 in the first year after the injury, and as much as $5 million during the individual’s lifetime.
Often individuals who have recently suffered a spinal cord injury are solely concerned with the medical expenses involved in treating the injury. However, these injuries can be quite complex and can result in other types of expenses, as well. Some of those expenses include:
- Medical expenses: The medical expenses for treating spinal cord injuries can range in the millions of dollars. Some of the services that are necessary to treat this type of injury include spinal surgery; trauma care that may include the use of a ventilator; hospitalization, which may be extensive; rehabilitation services such as physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and mental health counseling; long-term care such as the use of in-home aides; medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and home modifications to accommodate the injured individual when he or she returns home. Most spinal cord injuries involve secondary conditions that may result in the further need for treatment throughout the life of the individual.
- Travel: Spinal cord injury patients often have to travel far from home to participate in treatments not available in the region where they live. This travel comes with associated costs such as the cost of airfare, lodging for family members, eating out on the way to and from the hospital, parking, and tips for valet and other services.
- Lost wages and earning potential: One year after suffering a spinal cord injury, fewer than 12 percent will be employed. 20 years after the injury, only 35 percent will be employed. If an individual can return to his or her job after suffering a spinal cord injury, there will have been a significant amount of lost wages due to hospitalization and the need to miss work to attend medical appointments. Many spinal cord injury sufferers can work, but cannot perform the same duties that were part of their job descriptions before their accidents. Their injuries may force them to accept lower paying jobs.
- Other expenses: Those who have experienced a spinal cord injury will often require mental health services to cope with the extreme changes to their employment and lifestyle. These extreme changes can produce non-economic costs in the form of impacts to the person’s quality of life, including pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
What About Life Expectancy?
Death from a spinal cord injury and related complications are most likely during the first year, and among the most severely injured individuals.
Complications from the injury can result in death. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death for spinal cord injury patients. Other conditions that can dramatically shorten an individual’s life expectancy after a spinal cord injury include pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and infection from pressure ulcers.
For a ventilator-dependent patient over the age of 60, life expectancy after the injury is about 1.5 years. For a 20-year-old injury victim who has preserved motor function, the life expectancy is about 52.6 years. The life expectancy of spinal cord injury patients has not changed much during the past three decades.
If someone’s negligence robbed you of a portion of your life in this way, you deserve the compensation that an experienced spinal cord lawyer can help you recover.
New York Spinal Cord Injury Frequently Asked Questions
As humans, we rely on our central nervous system for everything we do. The brain allows us to think, process, and simply be human. The spinal cord takes messages from the brain and sends them to the rest of the body. Yet, as vital as the central nervous system is, it is particularly vulnerable to injury.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injuries are diagnosed every year. If you have been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, you likely have questions. If your injury was the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for financial compensation. To learn more, contact an experienced New York spinal cord injury attorney at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, today.
What is a spinal cord injury?
The human spinal cord runs from the base of the skull to midway down the back, just below the ribs. It consists of 31 pairs of spinal nerves and roots. These nerves are made of specialized cells that transmit messages throughout the body. The spinal column consists of 33 individual vertebrae that help support the body and protect the spinal cord from injury.
A serious injury can cause damage to the cord, interfering with the body’s ability to send signals back and forth. Because the spinal cord is made of such specialized cells, the body has a hard time regenerating those cells to repair the cord and restore function. As a result, spinal cord injuries most often result in permanent paralysis. This lack of feeling and movement usually exists from the point of injury down.
Doctors classify spinal cord injuries (SCI) as either complete or incomplete. When a patient suffers an incomplete SCI, they generally retain some sensation and function on one side of the body below the point of injury. On the other hand, a complete SCI usually results in total paralysis below the point of injury.
Will I know right away if I have a spinal cord injury?
There’s a common misbelief that spinal cord injuries always result in immediate paralysis. While this is true in a large number of cases, it is not always the case. According to the Mayo Clinic, numbness or paralysis can occur over time as the cord swells and bleeds. That’s why it’s so important to seek immediate medical treatment if you sustain a head or back injury. In some cases, your healthcare provider may limit the severity of the injury with immediate care. After an accident, watch for symptoms of a spinal cord injury.
These may include:
- Extreme pain or pressure in your back or neck.
- Difficulty walking.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Numbness, tingling, or a loss of sensation.
If you believe you have a spinal cord injury, talk to your doctor right away. If you suspect your loved one may have a spinal cord injury, do not attempt to move them. Instead, call for emergency help.
How do New York spinal cord injuries happen?
Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents: Almost half of all spinal cord injuries are the result of motor vehicle accidents. They happen most often during accidents that occur at high speeds, when a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when a large vehicle collides with a smaller vehicle or a pedestrian.
- Falls: Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries and the leading cause for adults 65 and older. Falls that result in spinal cord injuries also occur in high-risk workplaces, such as factories or construction sites, particularly if the employer does not follow appropriate safety protocols.
- High contact sports: We are learning more and more about the potential consequences of high impact sports. Most spinal cord injuries are the result of a hard blow. This can happen as a result of contact with another person or object. High-risk sports include swimming, horseback riding, football, gymnastics, and boxing.
- Criminal violence: Acts of violence account for 13 percent of all spinal cord injuries. While a hard push or hit can potentially cause an SCI, most injuries are the result of a gunshot or stabbing wound.
- Medical mistakes: Spinal cord injuries are not always the result of an external injury. In some cases, an injury can happen because of a surgical error or an infection or disease. Even if you signed a waiver before a medical procedure, you may still be eligible to file a medical malpractice suit. If you suffered a spinal cord injury because of a doctor’s actions, contact a medical malpractice attorney right away.
Does a New York spinal cord injury mean permanent paralysis?
There currently is no cure for a spinal cord injury. In some cases, a patient may regain some movement, but this is rare and generally only happens in the case of an incomplete injury. If there is any improvement, this usually happens within the first six months. However, some people may experience changes in sensation and mobility for up to two years after the injury.
What happens if I can’t go back to work?
The last thing you want to think about after an injury is work. But the simple truth is, most of us need to make money to survive. Unfortunately, if you work in a physically demanding job, your injuries may make working difficult or impossible.
If you file a New York spinal cord injury case, your attorney will most likely ask the other party to compensate you for lost wages. If you cannot return to work, this can include future wages. In most cases, the insurance company will consider your age, your average income before your accident, and how long you likely would have continued to work had you not been injured. If your case is successfully settled or you receive a final judgment, your final payout may include a lump sum amount for any future wages.
I think someone else was responsible for my injuries. What can I do?
When someone else’s actions lead to your injuries, you deserve fair and just compensation. To recover damages after an injury, you must file a New York spinal cord injury claim.
To make a successful claim, you will need to prove three things:
- The at-fault party had a duty of care to you.
- They breached this duty of care.
- Your injuries are the direct result of the other party’s actions (or inaction).
After a serious injury, one of the best ways to preserve your rights is to contact an experienced New York spinal cord injury attorney. An attorney can review the facts of your case and help you decide whether you should move forward with legal action. If you do move forward, a New York spinal cord injury case may help you recover both economic and non-economic damages.
In New York, you have three years from the date of your injury to file a New York spinal cord injury case with a court, unless your injury is the result of medical malpractice, in which case, you have two years and six months to file a case. While this may seem like a long time, spinal cord injury cases are extremely complicated. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the more time they will have to prepare everything they need to file your case.
Will my settlement pay for a wheelchair ramp or other home modifications?
Nearly all spinal cord injuries result in some degree of paralysis. If you rely on a wheelchair to move around, you may find it difficult or impossible to get in and out of your house. In this case, residential modifications may be necessary. According to Home Advisor, a professionally-installed wheelchair ramp can range in cost from just over $900 to nearly $3,000. If you have stairs in your home, additional modifications or equipment may be necessary.
The reality is that the other party’s insurance company will likely try to avoid paying any amount they can. That said, the need for a wheelchair ramp is a direct consequence of your accident. Because of this, it is not unreasonable to ask for or expect the other party to cover the cost of any residential modifications you must make as a result of your injury.
How much is my New York spinal cord injury case worth?
Spinal cord injuries are extremely expensive. Unlike many other types of injuries, spinal cord injuries typically require lifelong care and medical treatment. According to the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation, the lifetime cost of a severe spinal cord injury is close to $5 million.
It is worth noting that you should not attempt to negotiate a spinal cord injury settlement by yourself. Insurance companies are notorious for offering victims far less than they deserve, and courts rely on the victim to make a clear and well-justified case about the cost of their injury, which generally requires the help of an experienced attorney.
Many factors go into the calculation of a New York spinal cord injury settlement. Each case is different and two plaintiffs may receive greatly different settlements for substantially similar injuries. However, there are a few things you can look at for a rough estimate of the value of your case.
- Medical bills, including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medication, and rehabilitation for both past and future medical care related to the injury.
- Lost wages for any time you miss from work as a direct result of your injury. Even if you were not employed at the time of your injury, this may include payment for services you cannot do after your injury, including cooking, cleaning, and yard work.
- Structural modifications, including wheelchair ramps, stairlifts, handrails, and widened doorways.
- Medical devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, or communication devices.
- Pain and suffering to compensate you for physical and emotional distress including physical pain, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
- Loss of companionship when your physical injury interferes with physical or emotional relationships with the ones you love.
How will I pay for my medical bills while I wait for my New York spinal cord injury case to settle?
This is an understandable question. It’s normal to worry about money when you are out of work and facing increasing medical debt. When it comes to paying your bills, you have a few options. Some of these options may depend on how your injury happened.
Resources may include:
- Your personal auto insurance: If your injury is the result of a motor vehicle accident, your personal injury protection will kick in right away. You can use your PIP insurance to cover any medical bills up to your policy limit. Call us for help in filing your PIP claim—we can file it correctly and make sure your insurance company doesn’t try to shortchange you.
- Your health insurance: Your personal health insurance is one of your best options after an injury. Your insurance will pay out as it would with any other injury. This means you will be responsible for any co-payments or deductibles at the time of treatment. If you settle your case, your attorney can ask to have these costs included in your settlement.
- A letter of protection: Medical providers often consider a promise to pay for New York spinal cord injury cases. When there is ongoing litigation, the provider understands that you do not have access to funds now, but you may at a later date. In this case, your attorney can draft a letter of protection promising payment after your case. This is not automatic so be sure to talk to your attorney if you need help with your bills.
Don’t Wait To Get The Help You Deserve for Your New York Spinal Cord Injury Case
A spinal cord injury is a life-changing experience. It is something that affects not only you, but also the ones you love. When someone else’s actions resulted in your injuries, you shouldn’t have to carry the burden of your care alone. A New York spinal cord injury claim can help you pay for your treatment and care and allow you to focus on your recovery. The sooner you get started on your New York spinal cord injury case, the sooner you can move forward.
If you have questions or need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Contact an experienced New York spinal cord injury attorney at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, today for more information about your legal rights.
Call Jacoby and Meyers if You Suffered a Spinal Cord Injury in New York
Have you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury that was caused by someone else? Let our experienced New York personal injury lawyers help you to understand your legal options.
“If it were not for the integral legal team of experts at Jacoby & Meyers I would not be where I am today with my recovery. I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
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