While any injury can come with debilitating side effects and symptoms, a spine injury can completely change the course of a person’s life. Severe trauma to the spine from a car crash, fall, or another type of accident can cause long-term or permanent pain, dysfunction, or even 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 has extensive experience representing victims of all types of accidents, and we’re prepared to take your case on next. In order to understand your legal rights and options, as well as what you may be eligible for in terms of compensation, you first need to have a solid grasp on your spinal cord injury and how it 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. When the spine is injured, a person can lose partial or all feeling and movement in the area below the injury.
In general, there are two types of spinal cord injuries. An incomplete spinal cord injury means a person can maintain some level of feeling and motor control in the damaged area. A complete spinal cord injury happens when a person losses all sensation and control of body movements in the injured area.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
- Tetraplegia. Sometimes referred to as quadriplegia, tetraplegia is paralysis of all four limbs and the torso. The loss is usually sensory and motor.
- Paraplegia. Similar to tetraplegia, paraplegia is the paralysis of the legs and torso. It does not affect the arms.
- Triplegia. This is the paralysis of three limbs. There is no typical pattern of involvement, but triplegia is usually associated with both legs and one arm. It can, however, involve both arms and one leg.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
- Anterior Cord Syndrome. This 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 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 the signals aren’t as strong, resulting in weakness.
- Brown-Sequard Syndrome. This is a rare neurological condition where an injury to the spinal cord 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. They are five regions. The higher up the injury, the more severe the injury. 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 this area, the victim could partially or completely lose feeling and use in both the arms and legs.
- 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. 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. This type of injury 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. An injury can cause paralysis or weakness 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 type of injury you sustain and its severity 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 will be able to help you calculate the monetary award you’ll need from the negligent party to manage the costs of your treatment.
What to Expect When Recovering from a Spine Injury
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 17,000 spinal cord injuries happen every year. The majority of the victims are between the ages of 16 and 30, and most are male. Recovery is based on a number of factors, including age, the severity of the injury, 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 grade the severity of an injury using the American Spinal Injury Association grading scale, and recovery is separated into two stages.
In the first stage of recovery, the injured person usually spends time in the hospital in a critical care department. Surgery is sometimes required. An initial exam will involve ensuring the airways are clear, and the heart is beating normally. Doctors also test the patient’s movement and sensation abilities in the arms and legs. Sometimes, a cervical collar is used to keep the spine stable while an MRI or CT scan is performed. Once the doctor has established a long-term care plan and the patient is stable, they can be released from the hospital.
The second stage of recovery focuses on rehabilitation. Physical therapy, occupation therapy, and counseling are often involved. Depending on the severity of the injury, a person may need to live in a subacute rehabilitation facility to receive the proper amount of care. The risk of mortality is higher in the first year, so caregivers and physicians need to monitor for complications.
In most cases, a patient will reach their maximum medical improvement (MMI) around 18 months post-accident. Some bodily function may be recovered. While it’s rare, some patients have regained a level of function years after the injury.
Once you’ve reached your MMI, you’ll have a better idea of the total cost of your medical expenses. At that point, your Chicago back injury lawyer will 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 Data (NSCSC), vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Following that, falls, violence, sports, and surgical errors are the leading causes of spinal trauma.
The type of accident you were in will likely be clear; however, the cause can be harder to determine. In a car accident, for example, the force of the crash could cause damage to the spine, as could making contact with the inside of the vehicle. Your doctor will likely be able to determine the exact cause of your injury. If need be, we can look into getting an accident reconstructionist to rebuild your accident second by second. The cause of your accident will play a role in determining who to hold accountable and what you’re owed.
Filing an Injury Claim for Spinal Trauma
The process for recovering compensation for a spinal cord injury starts with scheduling a meeting with a personal injury attorney. When you contact Thomas Law Offices in Chicago, we’ll set something up on your terms to review what you’ve been through. We want to learn as much about your case as we can during the initial meeting and want to ensure you have the ability to ask questions and have your concerns addressed.
If you choose to pursue a claim, we’ll start conducting an investigation by gathering medical documents, accident reports, income statements, and more to begin proving you’re owed compensation for your accident. We will handle the conversations and paperwork with insurance companies and ensure you have the space you need to seek treatment and recover as fully as possible.
Compensation Eligibility and Spine Injuries
When you file an injury claim, the goal is typically to seek compensation for your losses. Those losses are often split into two categories: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are those that are calculable, while noneconomic losses are based on subjective losses.
The economic losses your lawyer will likely calculate first are medical expenses and lost income. The medical bills for spinal cord injuries can easily reach the hundreds of thousands of dollars—if not more. When extended care is needed, the statements keep rolling in, and a family can go into debt incredibly fast. In addition to the medical bills, it’s possible the injured person is no longer able to return to their previous job, or they may be unable to work at all. If that’s the case, they’ll also be dealing with lost wages.
In regard to the noneconomic damages you’re eligible for, it will likely depend on the severity of your injury and how your life has been affected. If, for example, you are now paralyzed, you’ll likely be eligible for more compensation for pain and suffering than someone who suffers from incomplete motor function.
While most personal injury claims settle through negotiations, there is a chance that may not be possible for your case. If that happens, your Chicago attorney will help you pursue a lawsuit to get a favorable verdict from a judge or jury.
Get Help From Thomas Law Offices in Chicago
If you’ve sustained serious back injuries and don’t know where to turn, a Chicago spinal cord injury lawyer from Thomas Law Offices is here for you. We understand how drastically your situation can change when you’re dealing with a spine injury—regardless of the severity. When someone else’s actions or inactions contributed to that injury, you deserve compensation for your losses. You don’t have to compromise your health and wellbeing to keep food on the table and pay your bills.
If you’d like to learn more about the injury claims process, schedule a free consultation with our law firm today. We’ll review what you’ve been through, explain your options, and help you make the best decision for your family and future. Contact us today to learn more.