While any injury can come with debilitating side effects and symptoms, a spine injury can completely change a person’s life. Severe trauma to the spine from elevated falls, a car accident, or a traumatic event can cause long-term or permanent pain, dysfunction, or even partial or complete paralysis. If you or someone you know has suffered a back or neck injury affecting their spine and believes someone else is to blame, a Chicago spinal cord injury lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can evaluate the situation and determine if there are grounds for a personal injury claim.
Thomas Law Offices only handles personal injury cases, meaning our experienced attorneys have extensively represented victims hurt due to someone else’s negligence in an accident, and we’re prepared to take your case on next. However, to understand your legal rights and options, and what you may be eligible for in terms of compensation, your personal injury lawyer will first need to have a solid grasp of how your spinal cord injury happened.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The spine is made up of 33 disc-shaped bones called vertebrae. Muscles and ligaments connect the vertebrae in an S-shaped curve. A person can lose some or all feeling and movement in the area below the injury when a spinal cord injury occurs.
There are two primary types of spinal cord injuries. Someone who suffers an incomplete spinal cord injury generally retains some feeling and motor control along the damaged area. A complete spinal cord injury damages a person’s nerve roots, causing a loss of sensation and control over body movements. Individuals who suffer brain injuries in conjunction with spinal cord ones may experience more notable deficits.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
- Tetraplegia. Sometimes referred to as quadriplegia, tetraplegia is paralysis of all four limbs and the torso. The loss usually causes sensory organ and motor deficits.
- Paraplegia. Similar to tetraplegia, paraplegia is the paralysis of the legs and torso. Severe impact injuries like these do not affect the arms.
- Triplegia. This type of partial paralysis affects three limbs. There is no typical pattern of involvement, but triplegia is usually associated with both legs and one arm. However, it can involve both arms and one leg.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
- Anterior Cord Syndrome. This spinal cord injury involves motor paralysis and loss of temperature and pain perception below the injured site. Light touch, vibration, and proprioceptive input are preserved.
- Central Cord Syndrome. This is the most common incomplete spinal cord injury. It typically starts in the cervical spine and impairs the arms and hands and sometimes the legs. The brain can still send and receive signals to and from the parts below the injury site, but they’re not as strong, resulting in weakness.
- Brown-Sequard Syndrome. This is a rare neurological condition where a spinal cord injury results in weakness or paralysis on one side of the body and a loss of sensation on the opposite side.
Spine Injury Levels
When your doctor diagnoses your spinal cord injury, they will determine which portion of your vertebra has been injured. The higher up the spinal cord injury, the more severe the damage. The five regions include:
- Cervical. Bones C1 through C7 are located in the neck area. The main job of these bones is to support the weight of the head. When an injury happens in the cervical spine area, the victim could partially or entirely lose feeling and use in both the arms and legs for their entire life.
- Thoracic. Bones T1 through T12 are located in the mid-back region. These bones hold the rib cage in place and protect a person’s heart and lungs. Unfortunately, paralysis is possible with an injury in this region as well.
- Lumbar. The lumbar region contains bones L1 to L5 in the lower back. These five bones bear the weight of the body and absorb stress when someone lifts and carries something. Lumbar spine injuries can result in paraplegia.
- Sacrum. There are five bones in the pelvic area, S1 to S5. They connect the hip bones to the spine and are fused together. Spinal cord injuries like these can cause paralysis or weakness among muscle structures in the legs and hips.
- Coccyx. The coccyx is made up of four bones, typically called the tailbone. They are located in the lower pelvic region and are fused together like the bones in the sacrum.
The severity and type of cord injury you sustain will significantly impact your recovery and what you expect to be able to do in the future. When you work with a spine injury attorney from Chicago, they can help you determine liability and calculate the monetary award you’ll need from the negligent party to manage medical costs.
What To Expect When Recovering From an Incomplete or Complete Spinal Cord Injury
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 17,000 spinal cord injuries happen every year. Most victims are between the ages of 16 and 30 and male. Recovery is based on factors such as age, the severity of a victim’s injuries, and available treatments. Treatment can involve immediate care, rehabilitation, medical devices, medication, and living needs.
People with incomplete spinal cord injuries have a better chance of recovery. Doctors rate the severity of an injury using the American Spinal Injury Association grading scale, and recovery is separated into two stages.
Stage 1 of Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
The injured person usually spends time in a hospital’s critical care department during the first stage of recovery. Surgery is sometimes required.
An initial exam will involve ensuring the airways are clear, and the heart is beating normally. Doctors also test the spinal cord injury patient’s movement and sensation in their arms and legs. Sometimes, a cervical collar keeps the spine stable while an MRI or CT scan is performed.
A patient can only be released from the hospital once the doctor is clear about the damage the spinal cord injury caused and they are stable. Physicians must also have established a long-term care plan.
Stage 2 of Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
The second stage of cord injury recovery focuses on rehabilitation. It may also involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.
A spinal cord injury victim may need to live in a rehabilitation facility to ensure that they receive adequate care, depending on the severity of their injuries. Their mortality risk is higher the first year after spinal cord injuries occur, so caregivers and physicians must monitor for complications.
Patients will often reach their maximum medical improvement (MMI) around 18 months post-accident. Some bodily functions may be recovered after that. While it’s rare, some Chicago spinal cord patients have even regained added functionality years after their injuries.
Once you’ve reached your MMI, you’ll have a better idea of the total cost of your medical expenses. Your Chicago back injury lawyer will then be able to value the economic damages for your claim.
Determining the Cause of Your Spinal Cord Injury
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), automobile crashes, including construction vehicle accidents, are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Following that, falls, violence, sports, and surgical errors also commonly cause spinal trauma. Athletes vulnerable to spinal cord injuries are equestrians. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation was founded after actor Christopher Reeve suffered a severed spinal cord in a horse jumping competition.
The type of accident you were in will likely be clear; however, the cause can be harder to determine.
Challenges That Arise in Determining Spinal Cord Injury Causes
The force of a car crash, such as a Lyft or other rideshare accident, could, for example, impale internal organs, cause brain injuries, and damage the spine much like making contact with the inside of the vehicle could. Construction accidents, such as caught-in or crush ones, may cause both spinal cord and internal organ damage too. Bicycle accidents may also leave bike riders with spinal cord trauma.
Your doctor will likely be able to determine what harmed you, no matter whether you have a complete or incomplete injury. An auto accident reconstructionist could even be brought in to simulate your collision to aid in such determinations. The cause of your accident will play a role in determining who to hold accountable and what you’re owed.
Filing a Claim With a Chicago Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
Recovering maximum compensation for a spinal cord injury starts with scheduling a free consultation with an attorney who specializes in spinal cord injuries as one of their practice areas. When you contact Thomas Law Offices in Chicago, we’ll schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys so you can discuss your injury accident.
What You Can Expect From Personal Injury Attorneys
If you choose to pursue a claim, your spinal cord injury attorney starts investigating by gathering medical records, accident reports, and income statements necessary to prove you’re owed compensation. Our personal injury lawyers handle filing paperwork and communicating with insurance company adjusters so you can focus on receiving the medical treatment necessary to recover as fully as possible from your severe injury.
Compensation Eligibility and Spine Injuries
When you file an injury claim, the goal is to seek compensation for your losses. They fall into two categories: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit are calculable, while noneconomic losses are based on subjective losses, like emotional distress.
Understanding What Economic Losses Are
Economic losses your lawyer will calculate first are medical expenses and lost income. The medical bills for spinal cord injuries can easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Statements often keep rolling if you require extended care. It’s easy for you and a family member to go into debt fast. In addition to medical bills, it’s possible the injured person can’t return to their previous job or work at all, warranting the filing of a lost wages claim.
What Noneconomic Losses Are
As for noneconomic damages, how much compensation you can recover will depend on the severity of your injury and its effect on you. For example, you’ll probably be more eligible to pursue compensation for chronic pain and suffering if you’re paralyzed than someone who suffers from incomplete motor function.
While most personal injury claims settle through negotiations with an insurance company, it may not be possible in your case. Your Chicago spinal cord injury attorney can help you pursue a lawsuit to get a favorable verdict from a judge or jury if that happens.
Get Help From Thomas Law Offices in Chicago
If you’ve sustained severe injuries to your back, and don’t know where to turn, a Chicago-area spinal column attorney with Thomas Law Offices is here for you. Regardless of the severity, we understand how drastically your spine injury can change your circumstances. When someone else’s actions or inactions contributed to that spinal canal injury, you deserve to recover compensation for your losses. Compromising your health and wellbeing isn’t necessary to keep food on the table and pay your bills.
Schedule a free consultation with our law firm today to learn more about the Illinois injury claims process. One of our spinal cord injury attorneys will review details surrounding your injury, explain your options, and how to make the best decision for your family’s future during your free case evaluation. Contact us today to learn more from an experienced attorney.