Spinal cord injuries are considered catastrophic personal injuries. A person who suffers a spinal cord injury can experience life-altering conditions. The physical, emotional, and financial damages can be significant.
If you sustained a spinal cord injury, seeking legal advice from an experienced St. Louis personal injury lawyer is essential. An attorney can help you recover compensation for long-term care and other damages.
How Common Are Spinal Cord Injuries in the United States?
As many as 450,000 people in the United States have a spinal cord injury. About 17,000 new cases occur each year.
Some individuals are completely paralyzed because of the injury. Others experience partial paralysis and other secondary conditions.
The cost of treatment and care for spinal cord injuries totals millions of dollars each year. The cost increases with the severity of the spinal cord injury.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
Your spinal cord extends from the lower part of your brain to your lower back. It consists of nerves and cells that send signals to and from the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is the pathway that controls movement, sensation, body functions, and strength.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to any area of the spinal cord. An SCI can result from any external or internal trauma to the cord or one of its components.
The severity of the disability depends on where on the spinal cord the injury occurs. Typically, SCIs occurring high on the spinal column cause more catastrophic impairments. Loss of sensory function, bodily systems, and motor function occurs from the point of injury down.
What Are the Types of Spinal Cord Injuries and Their Symptoms?
Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. People with an incomplete injury to the spinal cord have some control of muscle activity and sensory function. The incomplete injury allows some messages to travel between the brain and the rest of the body.
However, a complete injury prevents all communication between the brain and the body below the injury site. As a result, the person loses all motor and sensory functions.
Therefore, a complete spinal cord injury located on the cervical spine (neck) can cause quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is the paralysis of most of the body and all limbs. An SCI to the lower spinal cord might only cause paralysis in the lower body and legs.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Loss of movement
- Tingling, numbness, and loss/change of sensation in the feet and hands
- Pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- Inability to move any of your body parts
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing
- Problems walking
- Unnatural positions of the head or spine
- Changes in sexual function
Spinal cord injuries are diagnosed through medical examinations and diagnostic tests, including MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays. Emergency medical treatment is required if a spinal cord injury occurs. Immobilizing the back can help prevent further damage.
The type of treatment depends on the severity of the spinal cord injury and the type of injury. Some individuals may respond to occupational and physical therapies. Other individuals might require surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for spinal cord injuries. Doctors can only treat the symptoms and complications that occur because of the SCI. Some patients might be able to regain some mobility and improve their quality of life with the use of adaptive devices.
What Are Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?
Many of the causes of spinal cord injuries are preventable accidents.
A person can suffer an SCI because of the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including crashes involving cars, large trucks, and motorcycles
- Sports injuries
- Gunshot wounds
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Medical malpractice and negligence
- Assault injuries
- Pedestrian accidents
- Construction accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Birth injuries
If another party caused the injury, you need to take steps to protect your right to compensation for damages. Going to the emergency room and your physician creates a medical record that can link your SCI to the accident.
A St. Louis spinal cord injury attorney will gather evidence proving causation and fault. Then, using the medical records and evidence of how the accident occurred, they can prove that the at-fault party is liable for your damages.
What Is My St. Louis Spinal Cord Injury Case Worth?
The value of your damages depends on the facts of your case. Many factors impact how much your case is worth.
Factors your attorney will consider when calculating damages include:
- What is the severity of the injury?
- Was the spinal cord injury complete or incomplete?
- Are you able to care for your personal needs?
- To what extent is your mobility impaired?
- Are you able to work to earn a living?
- Did you take steps to mitigate damages, including seeking prompt medical treatment?
- How has the injury impacted your quality of life?
- Will you require long-term personal or nursing care?
- Did your negligence contribute to the cause of your spinal cord injury (comparative fault)?
Depending on the severity of your injury, damages could total millions of dollars over a lifetime. Your lawyer might work with medical specialists, economists, vocational specialists, financial professionals, and other experts to accurately estimate the future expenses and damages you will incur because of an SCI.
What Damages Can I Recover for a Spinal Cord Injury in Missouri?
A catastrophic injury can result in substantial economic damages and financial losses. You will likely also experience pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages.
The types of damages available in a spinal cord injury claim include:
- Reimbursement for medical bills, rehabilitation therapies, and other medical expenses
- The cost of personal care and long-term nursing care
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of income, benefits, and earning capacity
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- A decrease in your quality of life
- Loss of consortium claims by family members
In a small number of personal injury cases, juries award punitive damages. These damages “punish” an at-fault party for intentionally harming someone or acting without regard for the safety of others. Your lawyer will evaluate your case to determine if the facts justify punitive damages.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Spinal Cord Injury Claim in Missouri?
The Missouri statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is five years after the injury date. However, exceptions could shorten the deadline for filing a claim. You can avoid missing the applicable deadline by consulting a St. Louis personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer To Discuss Your Spinal Cord Damage
Our St. Louis personal injury attorneys at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling spinal cord injury claims. Contact our law firm to schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney. We are here to help you recover the compensation you deserve from the party who caused your injury.