Spinal Cord Injuries in Personal Injury Cases
Spinal cord injuries are some of the most serious injuries someone can suffer. They can cause permanent damage that changes entire lives. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury because of someone else’s negligence, The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, P.C., can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Spinal Cord Injury Types and Causes
The spinal cord is the thick bundle of nerves extending from the brain down through the bones of the spine, branching out into nerve endings all over the body. These nerves transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body, allowing a person to control motor functions and some bodily functions. The spinal cord also helps regulate automatic behaviors, such as breathing and digestion.
Although the spinal cord is one of the most important parts of the body, it does not share one significant trait with the rest of the body: it cannot self-repair. Any damage to the spinal cord is permanent and will entail significant problems for the victim. People who suffer complete spinal cord injuries will lose function and sensation in the affected areas. A wound to the lower area of the spine may result in paraplegia, or loss of the use of the legs and control over the lower portion of the body. A complete wound close to the skull can leave the victim completely paralyzed, even unable to breathe without assistance.
There are many types of spinal cord injuries, but most can be classified into one or two of four categories: complete, incomplete, tetraplegia, and paraplegia.
- A complete spinal cord injury is when someone loses all sensory feeling and motor function beneath the spinal cord injury. The brain will no longer send or receive signals below the injury site, so a complete injury higher on the spine in the cervical region of the spine will have more dramatic effects than an injury to the lower lumbar region of the spine.
- An incomplete spinal cord injury is when the injury only causes someone to lose partial feeling and motor function beneath the injury. There are many degrees of incomplete spinal cord injuries, depending on how much of the feeling and function are lost. An incomplete spinal cord injury typically results in a blend of lost function and lost sensation. Some people retain all motor function but have no sensation. For others, the results are the opposite. Still, others may experience diminished function and sensation but retain a bit of both. Some incomplete spinal cord injuries can improve over time, but the damage is permanent.
- Tetraplegia, also called quadriplegia, is when the injury paralyzes or affects the legs, arms, hands, torso, and pelvic organs.
- Paraplegia is when the effects of the injury are to your lower half, including all or part of your torso, legs, and pelvic organs.
Spinal cord injuries occur when someone suffers damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or discs of the spinal column or the spinal cord. Car accidents are the cause of almost half of all spinal cord injuries each year, making them the most common incident that leads to a spinal cord injury.
According to the Mayo Clinic, slips and falls of some kind cause more than 15 percent of spinal cord injuries. They are most common among people 65 and older, as their bodies are more fragile than younger people.
Violent acts account for approximately 12 percent of spinal cord injuries. Gunshots and knife wounds can sever the spinal column or spinal cord.
Athletic and recreational activities account for around 10 percent of spinal cord injuries. Impact sports and diving into shallow water can lead to a harsh blow to the spinal cord that can cause permanent damage.
Diseases such as cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and inflammation can also leave the spinal cord more at risk for a severe injury.
Proving Negligence in Spinal Cord Injury Cases
Proving negligence involves four basic elements: duty, breach, damage, and causation. The plaintiff’s attorney will need to establish all four elements in court to succeed with the lawsuit. First, the plaintiff must prove the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care in the given situation and failed to uphold it. Next, the plaintiff must show that actual harm occurred as the direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty.
Proving negligence is arguably the most significant aspect of a spinal cord personal injury case. You need to show that the defendant had a duty, failed to uphold that duty, and was the direct cause of your spinal cord injury.
If someone has a duty to a person or a group of people, he or she has a legal responsibility to keep someone reasonably safe. Motor vehicle drivers, for example, are responsible for driving safely and keeping others safe when they are on the road.
Negligent actions take place when a person fails to uphold his or her legal duty. If a breach of duty was the cause of your spinal cord injury, the defendant is liable for the incident and owes you compensation. If you’re unsure if someone acted negligently or owed you a duty of care, contact our Texas personal injury lawyers to schedule a free consultation.
When the court is determining how much to award in damages, it will look at a variety of factors. How much you spent on medical expenses, however, is always a central factor. The defendant may be responsible for covering all or a significant portion of your medical bills.
You also may receive compensation for any wages you lost as a direct result of the injury and recovery process. Due to the permanent nature of spinal cord injuries, if the incident lowered your potential salary, the defendant may also be responsible for covering the difference in your salaries.
The final factor is pain and suffering. Pain and suffering includes any emotional or mental trauma that the accident caused.
Texas is a comparative fault state. The comparative fault rule means that the court will consider the percentage of fault each party has and adjust the compensation according to that number. For example, if you are found to be 10 percent at fault, you will receive 90 percent of the awarded compensation.
Texas Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury and are considering filing a case against the responsible party, contact The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, P.C. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.