Queens Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
Many doctors agree that a spinal cord injury is one of the most devastating injuries you can experience. It leaves you and your family with permanent consequences, such as impaired mobility, and affects every aspect of your life. Approximately 291,000 people in the United States have spinal cord injuries, and there are 17,730 new spinal cord injury cases each year. Each year, about 1,000 New York residents suffer traumatic spinal cord injuries.
Individuals living with a spinal cord injury need ongoing medical care and financial support. If your spinal cord injury was the result of someone’s negligence, you need appropriate compensation to afford the care you need. The law places time limits on filing personal injury lawsuits, so it is essential to speak with a qualified Queens personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, will evaluate your case for free, explain your legal options, and fight for the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?
- Motor vehicle accidents. Car, motorcycle, and other motor vehicle accidents cause nearly 40 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year.
- Falls. Falls cause about 31 percent of spinal cord injuries. Falls are an especially high risk for those over the age of 65. Among older people, most spinal cord injuries are the result of falling, slipping, tripping, or stumbling on stairs, loose carpets, bathrooms, and more.
- Acts of violence. Violent encounters, usually gunshot wounds or knife wounds, are another common cause of injury.
- Sports and recreation injuries. Athletic activities, such as impact sports and diving in shallow water, cause about 8 percent of spinal cord injuries. Football, ice hockey, wrestling, skiing, snowboarding, rugby, and cheerleading all have a high risk of spinal injuries, so proper protective equipment is essential for athletes. Even those who engage in casual recreational activities, such as biking, baseball, skaters, motorcyclists, and horseback riders should always wear the recommended protective equipment.
- Alcohol. Approximately one in every four spinal cord injuries involves alcohol use.
- Diseases. Osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, and inflammation of the spinal cord are among the diseases that may cause spinal cord injuries.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord controls movement and sensation in our bodies. Therefore, if it is damaged, it may lose the ability to transmit messages to and from the brain and other critical body systems. After an injury, your medical team will perform tests to establish the extent of your injury. Your ability to move and function after a spinal cord injury primarily depends on two factors: the location and severity of your injury.
Medical professionals classify injuries as one of the following:
- Complete. If you lose all sensation and motor function below the point of your injury, your injury is considered complete.
- Incomplete. If you have some degree of sensation or motor function below the point of your injury, your injury is called incomplete.
Spinal cord injuries often result in paralysis, such as:
- Tetraplegia or quadriplegia. In this type of paralysis, the injured person loses all or some of the functions of the limbs and the torso. Generally speaking, the higher on the spinal cord the injury is, the more severe the damage.
- Paraplegia. This paralysis is substantially the same as tetraplegia, but it does not affect the arm function.
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- A neck or back that is oddly positioned
- Pain or pressure in your back, neck or head
- Weakness or loss of movement in any part of your body
- The sense of touch and ability to feel heat and cold in your extremities is lost or changed.
- Problems with balance or walking
- Impaired breathing, or difficulty clearing secretions from your lungs
- Impaired bladder or bowel control
- Spasms or exaggerated reflex actions
Why You Need Prompt Medical Care
If you have experienced significant trauma to your head or neck, you should seek medical care right away. The time between the injury and treatment may affect the extent and severity of the injury, as well as the possibility of recovery. Some spinal injuries are not immediately obvious. Failing to get treatment may result in complications or a more severe injury. In some cases, numbness or paralysis happens immediately, but in others, the symptoms appear as bleeding or swelling occur around the spinal cord.
Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are catastrophic because they are life-altering. You may need specialized medical care for the rest of your life. You need to know about your condition and possible complications, but what you really want to know is, what will your life be like going forward? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. Recovery is unpredictable. Some people do improve, even beyond the doctors’ expectations, but most require years of physical therapy to regain movement. Many never fully recover.
About 30 percent of those with spinal cord injuries are readmitted to the hospital one or more times in the years following the injury, often with respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and musculoskeletal conditions. As you learn more about the physical effects of your injury, it will probably become clear that your injury affects many aspects of your life.
When people hear the words “spinal cord injury,” they often think of paralysis. However, there are other long-term complications as well. Some of these effects occur immediately, but others develop over time. Long term effects may include:
- Paraplegia, loss of feeling and function in the torso and legs
- Quadriplegia, or loss of feeling and function in all four limbs and the torso
- Lower back pain
- Impaired bladder and bowel function
- Impaired sexual function
- Syringomyelia, a disorder involving cysts within your spinal cord. This disorder is rare, but it may develop a long time after the injury.
Complications resulting from spinal cord injuries also include:
- Bladder infections
- Blood clots
- Blocked arteries
- Trouble breathing
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to feel pain
- Weight control problems
- Susceptibility to additional injuries
Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
For now, there is no cure for spinal cord injury.
Those who have suffered a spinal injury need immediate treatment to prevent further damage or complications. Medical professionals quickly stabilize the victim to avoid further trauma. Rehabilitation begins as soon as medically possible, usually starts within days of the injury and over the long-term, may take place at either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facilities.
The purpose of rehabilitation is to help the injured person regain as much function and independence as possible. Treatment also seeks to improve the injured person’s quality of life.
Rehabilitation may include therapy designed to improve:
- Mobility. Physical therapists work with patients to improve their skills at walking or wheelchair use.
- Respiratory support. Breathing exercises or ventilators strengthen and improve lung function.
- Communication skills. Therapists provide speech-language therapy for speech and occupational therapy for writing.
- Self-care. Occupational therapists provide guidance and support with feeding, grooming, bathing, and dressing.
- Socialization and emotional health. Counselors help the victim deal with the emotional effects of their injury.
- Family support and education. Education and family support helps the injured adapt to the lifestyle changes imposed by the injury.
Liability for Spinal Cord Injuries
An important question is, who is at fault for your spinal cord injury? Sometimes injuries are the result of defective products or medical malpractice. However, many spinal cord injuries are the result of negligence.
Negligence means “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” To prevail in a lawsuit based on negligence, the injured person must prove four elements of negligence. The victim will have to show that the defendant owed a duty to prevent unreasonable harm, and the defendant failed to fulfill this duty. Also, the victim must show that the injury resulted from the breach.
To recover damages for his or her losses, the injured person must prove that the negligence caused the losses. So you should keep careful records of all medical care and bills that pertain to your injuries. Unlike criminal cases, which a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof in personal injury cases is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, this means presenting evidence that is more accurate, truthful, and convincing than the evidence presented by the other party.
Gathering and Maintaining Evidence for Your Case
Evidence plays a big part in the outcome of your case. Therefore, you should collect as much detailed evidence as possible pertaining to your injury. The more documentation you have, the stronger your case will be.
Start right away to collect and preserve evidence relating to:
- The cause of your injury
- Who caused your injury (this may be more than one person or entity)
- The extent of your injury
- Damages incurred as the result of your injury
After a traumatic event, it is common for people to communicate with their family and friends through social media or email. It is best to avoid posting pictures, blogs, status updates, or sending emails about your injury on social media or email accounts. Opposing counsel may use the information or pictures in against you in an attempt to discredit your case. Even reassuring others by saying your injury is minor or you are okay can damage your credibility in a lawsuit.
Compensation for Spinal Cord Injuries
Treatment for these injuries can be unbelievably expensive and victims need help to pay for their care. Compensation may not change the damage caused by an injury, but it can help an injured person rebuild his or her life. Unlike less severe injuries, the damages for a spinal cord injury can go far beyond basic medical treatment.
Here are some of the compensatory damages that injured parties can recover:
- Medical expenses: Medical expenses start with emergency treatment at the scene of the accident, the ambulance ride, and emergency room care. Also, it may include anything from doctor bills, hospital bills, prescriptions, rehabilitation, therapists, and any necessary assistive devices. Many spinal cord injury cases require long-term treatment, so damages may be awarded for future medical costs.
- Lost wages: At the very least, a victim will miss a great deal of work. Damages generally award compensation for current and future lost wages. In addition, the injured person may never be able to return to his or her job or perform the same type of work they did in the past, so the capacity for future income is lost.
- In-home assistance and renovations: Even after the injured person is released from the hospital or rehabilitation unit, they will need help with a long list of tasks. These often include transportation, child care, cooking, cleaning, pet care and more. They may also need a wheelchair ramp, chair lift, other adaptive equipment, or home remodeling.
- Pain, suffering and emotional distress: The physical pain is bad enough, but the changes in your life may leave you feeling anxious, depressed, or socially isolated.
- Loss of consortium: A spinal cord injury also affects your relationships with those you love. Damages for loss of consortium are intended to compensate the victim for this type of loss.
- Punitive damages: Ordinary negligence is not enough for the court to award punitive damages. In certain circumstances, when the defendant’s behavior is deemed especially harmful, punitive damages are awarded.
Contact Our Experienced Queens Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury, you likely face untold challenges and an uncertain future. You need help, you need resources, and you need a plan. A Queens spinal cord injury lawyer has the knowledge and resources to pursue the best possible outcome for your case. For a free case evaluation, call the dedicated, compassionate lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, at (877)-565-2993 or contact us online. We are here to help you.