Spinal Cord Injuries
After a traumatic event, such as a car accident or truck accident, a victim will likely incur injuries. If an injury is disabling or permanent, it is considered a catastrophic injury. Under certain parameters, a victim may be eligible to collect compensation for their catastrophic injury from the at-fault party. A spinal cord injury (SCI) is considered catastrophic if it impairs the victim, creating financial and physical hardships. When an SCI occurs, there is disruption in the electrical impulses between the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to paralysis from the site of the injury. Since spinal cord injuries cause significant damage, it can lead to costly medical bills, therapy sessions, and lost wages. If one is suffering from a SCI, it is wise to consult with a South Jersey catastrophic injury lawyer for assistance with their case.
What are the Top Causes of SCIs?
Every year in the United States, there are approximately 17,500 spinal cord injuries, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC). The NSCISC indicates that the main causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Road accidents, such as car, truck, pedestrian, and motorcycle crashes
- Slip and fall accidents
- Violent attacks
- Medical or surgical causes
Out of all reported spinal cord injuries, 42.1 percent are attributed to motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, most lawsuits involving SCIs center around negligence. This means that the victim was injured by another party because of their reckless actions. For example, if a person was hit by a distracted driver, they may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to collect damages for their SCI. Before seeking litigation, it is important to review the different types of SCIs and symptoms.
What are the Different Types of SCIs?
The spinal cord contains 31 vertebrae bones, and the location of the injury is very important when a doctor assembles a recovery plan. The spinal cord is categorized into five different sections:
- Cervical Region: The cervical region is the uppermost area of the spine. It is arguably one of the most important sections because it helps to directly transmit messages to the brain.
- Thoracic Region: This is the mid-section of the spinal cord.
- Lumbar Region: The lumbar area is where the spine starts to curve. One may be able to feel this section in their lower back.
- Sacral Region: This region is directly below the lumbar region. It is important to note that the spinal cord is not in this area, but it contains important nerves.
- Coccygeal Region: This is commonly known as the tailbone.
A SCI is classified into one or two categories: incomplete or complete. An incomplete SCI means that there is partial damage, while a complete SCI means that there is total damage to a section of the spine. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, about 50 percent of SCIs are complete. In some cases, a victim may be able to undergo rehabilitation to reverse or improve a complete SCI. However, the more severe the injury, the less likely the victim will be able to recover from the damage. The different forms of SCIs are:
- Paraplegia: Loss of mobility in the lower half of the body; this damage occurs in the thoracic region.
- Quadriplegia: This is the most severe injury because it involves paralysis in all limbs. The inability to control bowel movements is common for victims, as well as difficulty breathing.
- Triplegia: This is the loss of sensation and mobility in one arm and both legs.
How Do I Know I Have an SCI?
In most cases, an accident or another severe event causes an SCI. It is important to obtain immediate medical attention after any accident. Even though most injuries are apparent after a collision, some might be hidden, including SCIs. Some critical symptoms to look for after a collision include:
- Extreme pain, especially in the neck and head area
- Tingling or loss of sensation
- Partial or loss of control of a body part
- Trouble urinating or defecating
- Pressure or swelling
- Difficulty breathing
These symptoms are indicative of an SCI. A person should go to a doctor as soon as possible after an accident, even if they believe they are fine or the collision was a minor fender-bender.
Why is Going to the Doctor Necessary After an Accident?
If the victim is considering taking legal action, speaking to a medical professional is a way to start documentation that is crucial for a case. A doctor will evaluate the injury and determine the best recovery plan. In order to diagnose the damage, a doctor will call for an X-ray, CT scan, or even an MRI to detect blood clots, which signifies a herniated disc. The patient should also obtain copies of their medical care and receipts of any related costs. This helps establish a paper trail, as well as the direct cause of the SCI. Collecting medical documents will strengthen a personal injury case.
What Damages can I Receive for Spinal Cord Injuries?
If one is suffering from a catastrophic injury, costly forms of treatment are likely involved in recovery. Caring for spinal cord injuries might involve wheelchairs, housing, and other necessary medical supplies. Since a catastrophic injury usually results in long-term care, whether it is temporary or permanent, it is pertinent to seek legal representation to afford treatment. Damages in a spinal injury lawsuit will cover the following:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitative expenses
- Lost wages
- Punitive damages
In New Jersey, punitive damages are reserved for the most severe cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the extremely negligent party in a personal injury lawsuit. The court awards punitive damages in hopes that it will ward off other defendants from committing the same reckless behaviors. Punitive damages are awarded if there was:
- Willful misconduct
- Intent to cause harm
- Drugs and alcohol involved
A plaintiff must state that they are seeking punitive damages, and a jury and judge will determine if they are eligible to collect them. To obtain the maximum amount of damages available, the plaintiff has to build a strong case against the defendant.
How can I Build My Case?
New Jersey is a no-fault state, which means that a person’s auto insurance company will cover their damages, no matter who is the at-fault party. If a plaintiff is a basic policyholder, they can only sue the defendant for damages if they have a severe injury, such as a loss of a body part or another permanent injury. Since the state abides by strict no-fault laws, a plaintiff and their lawyer should construct a convincing case for compensation.
If it is possible, a person should collect information at the car accident scene, such as witness statements; photographs and videos of the property damage, injuries, and surroundings; and a copy of the police report. Any evidence that proves the other party acted recklessly is vital.
Not all car accident victims are able to collect evidence at the scene; however, they do have other ways to prove their claim. Medical records of the diagnosis and treatment of the SCI are the most important documents to gather. This includes emergency room visits, doctors’ notes, and paramedic reports. A lawyer will also be able to strengthen a case by using expert testimonies. In an SCI case, a lawyer might seek out a vocational rehabilitation expert, life care planner, and even an economist.
Since an SCI is especially debilitating and expensive, it is in the victim’s best interest to acquire a knowledgeable lawyer who will fight on their behalf. Hiring a lawyer right away should be a priority due to the statute of limitations in the state. In New Jersey, a victim has two years to start a lawsuit for a personal injury case, which begins on the date of the accident.
South Jersey Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Fight on Behalf of Severely Injured Car Accident Victims
If you are suffering from an SCI, you deserve to be properly compensated for your financial losses. A South Jersey catastrophic injury lawyer at DiTomaso Law will be able to assist you with your case. Our legal team understands how catastrophic injuries devastate victims, and we will fight for the justice you deserve. Complete our online form or call us at 856-414-0010 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we assist clients throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.