For North Carolina emergency centers, summer is dubbed "trauma season" because of the high number of accident victims rushed to the hospital. Among the many injuries ER doctors see, spinal cord injuries are the most serious and require the most delicate, yet immediate care.
Essentially, spinal cord injuries result from sudden, severe trauma to the spine where the vertebrae are fractured or compressed. Injured vertebrae can affect nerve fibers and disrupt the sensations passing through the injured area, thereby impairing your corresponding muscles and nerves.
A prime example is how a lower back injury can affect your chest, abdomen, legs, bowel and bladder control. Further, severe neck injuries can affect your ability to move your arms and, possibly impair your ability to breathe. Severe injuries to vertebrae may result in permanent paralysis.
This article will explore the circumstances in which traumatic spinal cord injuries occur, and describe the legal implications for those who cause them.
Traumatic spinal cord injuries commonly occur in car and motorcycle accidents. In these instances, a person's head or neck, or back suffers a violent collision with part of a vehicle. Rollover accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) the number of serious injuries increases 33 percent when a car rolls over in a crash. When this happens, tremendous pressure is placed on passengers' heads and necks, thereby causing debilitating injuries. Rollover accidents are most common in sport utility vehicles and other vehicles having a high center of gravity and a narrow wheelbase.
Spinal cord injuries also occur when a person is ejected from the vehicle. Faulty seatbelts may fail or rip apart, or the passenger may not be wearing any seatbelt at all. Once a person is thrown from the vehicle, they no longer have the protection a vehicle provides, and will come face to face with hard, unforgiving surfaces; usually asphalt, concrete, or another vehicle.
Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Severe injuries come from skiing and diving accidents, as well as horseback riding falls and off-road vehicle crashes.
Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in the 1980s, is perhaps the most widely known spinal cord injury victim. On May 27, 1995, Reeve landed headfirst on the ground after he was thrown from his horse. The injury shattered his first and second vertebrae, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Falls in cheerleading accidents are also prevalent. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR), cheerleading accidents account for 65 percent of catastrophic injuries involving female athletes.
In recent years, increasing numbers of football players are suffering spinal cord injuries as bigger and faster players create violent collisions. The NCCSIR reports that 314 football players have suffered such injuries in the past 34 years. In four of the last eight years, there have been at least ten spinal cord injuries. In 2010, there were five spinal cord injuries on the high school level, and two in college. Researchers also found that defensive players are more likely injured than offensive players.
Accidents leading to spinal cord injuries are also caused by improper equipment in gyms, falling debris on construction sites and improperly marked swimming pools.
Compensation for Injuries
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering, as well as future medical expenses.
Proving how a negligent party breached the duty of care that led to your injury is only one part of the equation. You must also describe the costs of future care and rehabilitation. According to the University of Alabama's National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the lifetime costs of caring for a spinal cord injury victim can range between $700,000 and $3.1 million. This includes the costs of a rehabilitation team (which could include physicians, recreational therapists, social workers, and physical therapists).
Victims of spinal cord injury also have to adjust to a new way of life. This could include wholesale changes to their homes and vehicles to make them wheelchair accessible. The compensation awarded would consider the costs of including ramps or railings to the home, as well as modified driving systems in cars that enable a disabled person to drive effectively using their more limited range of motion and strength.
Insurance companies usually bear the burden of paying compensatory damages.
If you have suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury, an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you and help you obtain the compensation you need to meet your new obligations.