Spinal cord injuries are usually categorized as catastrophic injuries, because they can change your life forever. While some victims are lucky enough to fully recover from a spinal cord injury, most are not. Minor spinal cord injuries might cost thousands of dollars to treat, while severe and catastrophic spinal cord injuries could lead to millions of dollars in medical bills and for round-the-clock care. Because everyone is different, it is difficult to predict the results of a spinal cord injury. An experienced accident attorney who settled and/or litigated spinal cord injury cases knows how to carefully assess your potential spinal injury compensation payout – even if they are unable to predict or guarantee a specific result. In other words, they can help you understand the necessary ingredients for successful claims, and to help you understand the various elements of damages that can recovered.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are auto and motorcycle accidents. They cause nearly half of spinal injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Next are falls, which cause over 30% of total spinal cord injuries and are the leading cause in older adults. Sports activities and violent crimes also cause spinal injuries.
In some cases, spinal cord injuries are not readily apparent. It could take hours, or even days, for you to notice a spinal cord injury. Part of successfully recovering the compensation you deserve is documenting the accident and your injuries. It is important that you seek medical care immediately after an accident, whether a vehicle accident, work injury, slip and fall, or another type of incident. Doctors can run certain tests to determine if you have an injury that you do not know you have. For example, what might feel like a bad bruise on your back could be a serious spinal cord injury.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
One of the common questions we hear is, “How much compensation will I get for a spinal injury?” That depends on the type of spinal cord injury you have. Spinal cord injuries are difficult to diagnose right after they happen because of the swelling involved around the injury. However, once the swelling decreases, it is easier to determine the severity of the injury. Doctors also look at symptoms and tests to determine the severity of a spinal cord injury.
The symptoms of a spinal cord injury can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the injury and how the injury happened. This also affects how much compensation you could recover from the accident. Symptoms include:
- Quadriplegia: Loss of use of the arms and legs
- Paraplegia: Loss of use of the legs and lower body
With both quadriplegia and paraplegia, the injury could be complete, where you have no feeling and cannot move anything below the location of the injury. An incomplete injury means that you have some feeling and might be able to have some movement below the location of the injury.
- Breathing issues
- Weak muscles
- No feeling in the chest, legs, and/or arms
- No voluntary muscle movement in the chest, legs, and/or arms
- No bladder and bowel function
- Severe pain in your back and/or neck
- A stiff back or neck
- Tingling in your hands and feet
- Inability to balance properly
- Loss of muscle coordination.
Doctors not only look at symptoms, but they will also use imaging tests to help diagnose spinal cord injuries.
- X-rays show dislocations and broken bones.
- CT scans show blood vessel damage, blood clots, and broken bones.
- MRIs show doctors what the soft tissue in and around the spine looks like.
- Electromyograms (EMGs) allow doctors to see the electrical activity in the nerve cells and muscles.
Recovering Damages After a Spinal Cord Injury
When someone acts carelessly and causes someone else to be injured, they may be liable for negligence. But sometimes attorneys for the negligent party will argue that the injured person also contributed to their accident. Just how much is a spinal injury worth?
Under Texas law, if the court finds you partially responsible for causing your own injury, the worth of your spinal cord lawsuit will be reduced by the percentage you were responsible for. For example, if you were 20% at fault and the award was $500,000, you would receive $400,000. However, if the court finds you more than 50% at fault, you won’t receive anything.
Additionally, the more severe your injuries, the more your case is worth. For example, if you have a slipped disc that doctors can repair, you won’t get as much compensation as someone who suffered paralysis in the same type of accident.
Finally, if you can prove the defendant was grossly negligent, you could recover punitive damages.
How Much is a Spinal Cord Injury Worth?
The amount you could recover after a spinal cord injury depends on several factors, including the type of injury, the severity of the injury, whether doctors expect the injury to cause long-term or permanent disabilities, and whether the defendant’s actions or inactions that caused the injury were grossly negligent.
You could recover two types of damages: Compensatory damage and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages. The court orders the defendant to pay these types of damages in an attempt to make you whole again. The court orders punitive damages as a way to punish the defendant for his or her grossly negligent or intentional actions or inactions that caused your spinal cord injury.
Most people in accidents can recover economic damages, which have a monetary value. Sometimes called special damages, economic damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, therapies, ambulatory aids and prescriptions
- Lost wages
- Future loss of earning capacity. Even if you are able to return to work, but not in the same position or industry, and you earn less, you could still recover some lost earning capacity.
- Repair or replacement of personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident or incident.
If you lost a loved one because of injuries related to the accident or incident, the decedent’s estate could also recover certain expenses caused by death, including probate filing fees, funeral, burial and cremation expenses. You can also recover any medical expenses incurred by your loved one before his or her wrongful death.
After an accident or incident that causes spinal cord injuries, the victim often needs various types of therapies, including:
- Physical therapy to prevent muscle atrophy and to retrain other muscles and nerves to help with moving
- Occupational therapy, which helps you learn new ways to do tasks that your spinal cord injury is preventing you from doing.
In addition to physical and occupational therapy, some accident victims might require psychological therapy. It is not uncommon for those in catastrophic accidents to feel depressed or anxious because of the situation they are in. Depression is often the result of not being able to take care of your family or because you are recovering too slowly. People often develop anxiety because certain situations remind them of the catastrophic accident.
Additionally, some could develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is often a combination of depression and anxiety. PTSD could cause intrusive memories, avoidance, negative thinking and mood swings, and changes in the way you react to situations, both emotionally and physically.
Symptoms could be very mild or severe. They could start mild but become more severe as time goes on, even with therapy. The hope is that therapy decreases symptoms, so if you or a loved one notices symptoms of PTSD, you should seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible.
Even if you suffered only minor injuries, the accident could have been traumatically emotional. Always seek medical help when showing symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD after an accident. The negligent person is responsible for those expenses.
In most cases, only those who lost a loved one or who develop long-term or permanent disabilities because of accident or incident injuries can recover non-economic damages. Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value but are also meant to make you whole again. They include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium and/or companionship
- Loss of use of a bodily function or body part
It is usually difficult to win punitive damages. However, when it is clear that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional, it is worth the extra steps to obtain a punitive damages award. Unlike compensatory damages, which the court orders to make you whole again, punitive damages serve as a punishment for the defendant’s egregious behavior.
Our Experienced Houston Attorneys Will Work Toward Getting You a Maximum Spinal Injury Compensation Payout
If you have a serious spinal injury, you may need some level of care or assistance for the rest of your life. When another’s negligence caused your spinal injury, you deserve a spinal injury compensation payout that will fairly cover all of your losses. Our seasoned spinal cord injury attorneys are skilled at helping people get maximum compensation for their injuries. You shouldn’t wait to speak with an attorney. Generally, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations from the time of the injury or death for filing personal injury or wrongful death claims. *However, always speak directly to an attorney for the exact deadlines that apply to your potential claim(s).
Contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law today at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 for a free case evaluation. We can help you discover what your spinal cord injury might be worth. We will fight for your right to be fairly compensated for your injuries.