Just as there’s no such thing as “brain injury law,” there’s no such thing as “spinal cord injury law.” The applicable law depends on the circumstances of the injury, not the size of the damage caused. If someone experiences a few days of back soreness after a fender bender, the same law applies to their claim as if they had been rendered quadriplegic in a passenger van rollover. If a hospital negligently fails to check on bedpans often enough and causes a mess, the same law applies as if the intensive care unit failed to recognize autonomic dysreflexia and treat it with anti-hypertensives and patient movement. (For more about spinal surgery malpractice, click the link.)
Thus, law for spinal cord injury (“SCI”) lawsuits and back injury cases is the same as for every other personal injury case — what makes them different is the intensity and cost of the litigation. SCI lawsuits are high stakes cases. The damages inflicted are extraordinary, the injuries life-changing, the future treatment and rehabilitation expensive. The insurance companies know that, and so they fight tooth-and-nail to limit the plaintiff’s compensation or deny them recovery entirely.
A “spinal cord injury lawyer” is thus no different from your ordinary automobile accident, workplace injury, premises liability, or personal injury attorney, except for one thing: their skill, perseverance, and dedication, including their willingness and ability to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation costs (like hiring experts and investigators, conducting tests, deposing witnesses, examining electronic evidence, et cetera) to put together the very best case for a judge and jury. Our Philadelphia spinal injury lawyers have handled everything from trucking accidents, to workplace injuries, to defective spinal implants, and we focus our practice on catastrophic injuries, so that other cases don’t take time or attention away from our seriously injured clients.
If you suffered a spinal injury, use the below contact form or call us at 1-215-948-2718 for a free, confidential consultation. We represent clients across Pennsylvania, with a focus on our medical malpractice and hospital negligence cases on Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, and Lancaster counties. Similarly, in New Jersey we focus on Camden, Burlington, Glouchester, Salem, Mercer, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties.
The Causes Of Paralysis and Spinal Cord Injuries
Over 5.5 million people in the United States — nearly 1 in 50 — live with some form of paralysis. Roughly two-thirds of that paralysis is caused by medical conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, post-polio syndrome, and neurofibromatosis. Most of this conditions do not implicate legal liability, with the exception of undiagnosed strokes, which are sometimes the result of medical malpractice, and cerebral palsy caused by birth injuries.
The remaining one-third of paralysis is caused by spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, with spinal cord injuries outnumbering TBI 5-to-1 in causing paralysis. Just over half of spinal cord injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents and workplace accidents, with the remainder distributed among falls, sporting / recreational accidents, violent crime, and other causes. Males are almost twice as likely to suffer a spinal cord injury as females, largely because workplace injuries occur in male-dominated trades like construction workers, police officers, firefighters, and service in the military (the cause of 7% of severe spinal injuries), and because males are generally involved in more riskier recreational activities. Pediatric spinal cord injuries are thankfully rare, fewer than 1% of overall, but they nonetheless occur as the result of birth injuries and shaken baby syndrome.
The Degrees and Severity of Spinal Cord Injuries
Two factors generally determine the severity of symptoms that will result from a spinal cord injury: the degree of injury to the vertebrae / spinal cord and the location of the injury.
The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale grades degree from A to E, with A being a “complete” injury that causes a total loss of motor or sensory function in the sacral segments S4-S5, i.e., the anal sphincter, and E being normal motor and sensory functioning. Level B is rare, since few injured patients retaining sensory but not motor functioning in S4-S5, and most spinal cord injury victims fall somewhere in the C or D range, depending upon the neurological level at which their muscles below the injury function.
The two most common forms of disabling paralysis are paraplegia, in which the injured person retains full use of their arms and hands, and quadriplegia (sometimes called tetraplegia), or paralysis of all four limbs. Both paraplegia and quadriplegia are caused by the same injury, just in different locations. Paraplegia can be caused by injury to any level of vertebrae, while quadriplegia is caused by injuries in the cervical spine, above the first thoracic vertebra. Given the specificity of the nerves that pass through the cervical spine, injuries at different locations cause subtle differences; someone whose C6 is damaged will be able to extend their wrists, while someone with C5 damage will not. Certain injuries can also cause hemiplegia (weakening of a single side) or paraparesis (reduction, but not complete loss, of function below the neck).
Severe spinal cord injuries typically cause permanent injuries, although the administration of methylprednisolone (Medrol) within eight hours after the initial injury or accident has been correlated with improved outcomes. Further, better treatments, such as rehabilitative therapy, neurostimulation and baclofen, can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Because spinal cord injuries are often permanent and affect an individual’s ability to work and to care for themselves, there are government benefits for brain injury victims, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Generally, though, these benefits are limited, and so most individuals who suffer a spinal cord injury in a car or truck accident, in a fall at a business, an accident in the workplace, or hospital, or as the result of other negligence receive most of their care through the compensation and recovery provided by a spinal cord injury lawsuit.
Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys and Back Injury Lawyers
You can send me a private, confidential message using the form below, or call us at 1-215-948-2718 for a free, confidential consultation.