Spinal cord injuries are one of the most serious consequences that one can suffer from a personal injury. Most of these injuries are permanent, and the accident victim will lose some or all of their quality of life. Beyond that, the costs of treating and caring for the victim are astronomical. This does not even account for the emotional cost imposed on the victim and their families.

Those who have suffered injuries in an accident that is someone else’s fault may seek financial compensation for their past and future losses. At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, our Phoenix spinal cord injury attorneys take on tough cases on behalf of clients with life-altering injuries. Reach out now for more information about how we can help.

Spinal Cord Injuries Can Impact an Accident Victim Permanently

While spinal cord injuries are rare, they are extremely significant in the life of the person who sustains one. Often, spinal cord injuries will lead to partial or complete paralysis. Even though there have been advances in treating these injuries, this is often permanent, requiring a lifetime of care and prohibitive costs on treatment and medical equipment. Even when someone recovers to an extent, years of grueling rehabilitation may consume their life.

Accidents That Can Lead to Spinal Cord Injuries

Victims can suffer spinal cord injuries in many different types of accidents, including:

  • Car accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Sports accidents

According to the Mayo Clinic, auto and motorcycle accidents account for half of the total of spinal cord injuries each year. Men are much more likely to suffer spinal cord injuries, and victims are predominantly younger males. Falls are the second-leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Nearly 18,000 people sustain these injuries every year, and there are over a quarter of a million people in the United States who are living with spinal cord injuries.

How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur

Spinal cord injuries occur when any part of the spinal cord or the connected nerves are damaged. The body can lose function or feeling below the site of the injury because the spinal cord transmits messages from the brain to the rest of the body that control movement.

Spinal cords can suffer damage from a sudden and traumatic impact. Often, broken vertebrae will puncture or otherwise injure the spinal cord. The vertebrae can become fractured or crushed by the injury, and it will compress or traumatize the spinal cord. There is both the damage from the initial impact and the weeks of swelling and inflammation from the original injury.

Signs and Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

Many accident victims are aware right off the bat that they have suffered a spinal cord injury. They lose feeling and sensation at the time of the accident. However, other accident victims may notice signs of the injury in the days following the accident.

Some of the signs of a spinal cord injury include:

  • Loss of movement in parts of the body
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Inability to feel heat or cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Pain or stinging sensation
  • Difficulty breathing

If you feel any of these symptoms in the days after your accident, it is essential to get medical care immediately. Time is of the essence when treating spinal cord injuries. There have been advances in treatments that have given patients some more hope of a partial or full recovery. However, time lost in treating the injury can lessen the chances of recovery. If your head or neck has suffered any sort of trauma in an accident, it is a good idea to get checked out by a doctor regardless of whether you feel any symptoms.

Diagnosing Spinal Cord Injuries

Doctors will use a variety of tests to diagnose a spinal cord injury. These include:

  • Checking motor function and the ability to move certain parts of the body
  • Checking sensory function and the ability to feel a touch
  • CT scans
  • MRIs
  • X-rays for broken bones and vertebrae

Chances are that the doctor will perform some combination of the tests listed above to confirm that you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury and to determine the severity. Often, the long-term prognosis is not always known right away. You need an exact understanding of the severity of the injury before you file a claim or lawsuit.

The Different Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries vary in severity. Here are the different types of spinal cord injuries:

  • Complete spinal cord injury – This is the most severe type of spinal cord injury. The patient will lose all function below the site of the injury, usually on both sides of the body. They may suffer the loss of the use of all of their limbs.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury – While this is less serious than a complete spinal cord injury, it is still a difficult medical condition. The patient will lose some function, although some may remain. These injuries are more conducive to treatment and rehabilitation.

Within these two categories of spinal cord injuries, there are additional subcategories. They are:

  • Tetraplegia – This is the inability to move the lower and upper parts of the body. The patient may suffer complete paralysis. The higher the injury on the spinal cord, the more severe the injury
  • Paraplegia – This is the inability to move the lower half of the body, and it will primarily affect the legs and feet.

Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

The costs of treating spinal cord injuries depend on their severity – obviously, the more complete the injury, the greater the costs. In the interim, doctors have more treatment options as research and medicine have advanced.

One of the first things that a doctor may do to treat a spinal cord injury is to operate on the patient. These are expensive procedures, and a patient may require multiple surgeries.

There are a greater number of therapies and treatments that can help the patient either regain some function or learn to better live with their spinal cord injury. The costs of these treatments add up fast. Medicine has made significant advances in spinal cord injury care, both minimizing the severity of some of the injuries and giving patients new hope. Even if the health insurance covers these procedures for now, families may have significant out-of-pocket costs right after the injury.

The Costs of Caring for a Spinal Cord Injury Victim

There are some estimates that the lifetime cost of care for some spinal cord injuries can reach $6 million per patient, and this is only in today’s dollars. With health care cost inflation, it is possible to envision damages from a spinal cord injury reaching into the eight figures. This figure does not even include the other damages that an accident victim will suffer, and these can be extensive.

For a high tetraplegia injury, the costs can top $1 million in the first year alone. This is why families need to move quickly to start the legal process. Any type of paraplegia will have lifetime costs that reach seven figures, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first year, as the victim undergoes surgeries and purchases equipment meant to help them live with spinal cord injuries.

The younger the accident victim, the higher the costs. Families need to recover enough money for a lifetime of care. People are living far longer with spinal cord injuries due to the advances in care, and families need to consider that.

Damages in a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Besides the cost of medical procedures, the damages from a spinal cord injury are extensive.

These can include:

  • Pain and suffering – when someone has sustained a severe injury that takes away their quality of life, this can be a significant part of the damages award.
  • Rehabilitation costs.
  • The cost to specially outfit homes and cars to accommodate someone with limited or no mobility.
  • Lost wages for the money that the accident victim could have earned (and also that the family lost having to take care of the accident victim).
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • The cost for a home health aide to care for the patient.
  • Any specialty medical equipment that the patient needs.

As you can see, each of the individual elements of a spinal cord injury claim can add up quickly. You are likely dealing with an extensive claim or lawsuit. This is why you need an attorney with experience in handling large claims. These are not the same as other personal injury claims (although no personal injury case is just “routine” to us at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers).

Why You Need to Get Started on the Legal Process

It is critical to begin the legal process quickly since the medical bills will mount quickly. While this does not guarantee that you will receive any settlement sooner, waiting to file a claim will not help your legal or financial position. Your attorney will quickly get to work to gather the evidence necessary to prove that someone else was responsible for your accident injuries. This is what you need to show to be in a position to receive financial compensation.

The amount of damages that you would receive in a spinal cord injury case is critical. What you seek is not some back-of-the-envelope calculation designed to put money in your pocket. This is money that you will need to take care of yourself or a family member for a lifetime. This is why you must be deliberate and careful before accepting any settlement.

Dealing With the Insurance Company in Your Case

No matter how much an insurance company likes to tell you that you are in good hands, they do not really care about the particulars of your case or your situation. To them, your claim is nothing more than a matter of dollars and cents. The less they pay, the happier their shareholders are, so they will clearly not go out of their way to make sure that you get fair compensation. This is why you need a lawyer on your side to look out for your legal interests.

The Spinal Cord Injury Claims and Legal Process

The legal process after a spinal cord injury can be difficult.

It could include:

  • Learning as much as we can about your case and asking you the right questions
  • Gathering evidence that could document the cause of the accident that caused the injury
  • Establishing how much your claim may be worth depending on the severity of the injury and the costs
  • Presenting the claim to an insurance company
  • Evaluating any settlement offer made by an insurance company and rejecting a settlement offer that does not pay you enough
  • Filing a lawsuit in court if necessary to get your case in front of a jury

You do not have to accept a settlement offer just because the insurance company made it. You are not in a position where you have to take only what they offer. When you have suffered injuries in an accident, you have legal rights. One of these rights is to receive fair compensation when someone else caused your accident.

Hiring a lawyer is one way to protect your legal rights when the insurance company tries to offer an unfair settlement. You always can file a lawsuit, and a jury would decide your compensation if you cannot reach a settlement agreement.

Phoenix Spinal Cord Injury FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions that accident victims will commonly ask about spinal cord injuries. If you have questions about your specific situation, consult with our Phoenix spinal cord injury attorneys today.

Will My Spinal Cord Injury Show Symptoms Immediately?

Most injuries result from some sort of trauma to the head or neck, and weakness or loss of sensation will be apparent immediately. However, that is not always the case. Some spinal cord injuries will show few symptoms right off the bat. Some injuries can take days or weeks to become apparent.

However, even if symptoms are not apparent, the injury can be getting worse. This is why you need to see a doctor after an accident, even if you think that you are OK. It is always better to get a clean bill of health and not worry.

Prompt treatment of a spinal cord injury can make the difference between an injury from which you can recover and a long-term issue. There is little downside to seeing a doctor after an accident. The alternative is minor symptoms that can worsen over time when they are untreated.

How Will a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Body?

The most obvious effect is a loss of motion and sensation in the part of the body impacted by the injury.

Numerous other problems result from spinal cord injuries, including:

  • Loss of bladder control – depending on where the injury occurs, the brain may not communicate with the bladder or bowels, causing a lack of control.
  • Impaired sexual function
  • Respiratory problems – accident victims who end up paralyzed from the chest down can suffer problems breathing on their own. They may not have control over their abdominal or chest muscles.
  • Circulatory issues – the brain will lose the ability to communicate with cardiac nerves. This will affect how the heart pumps blood throughout the body.
  • Changes in sensation – victims may feel a stinging sensation after their injury. Alternatively, they may not be able to distinguish the difference between hot and cold.
  • A greater likelihood of pressure ulcers

Not all of these injuries may be apparent at the time of the injury. Some of these symptoms can take time to develop.

How Do Car Accidents Cause Spinal Cord Injuries?

Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Approximately half of these injuries are the result of automobile crashes. These accidents result in a sudden trauma to the spinal cord or tissue.

One of the common reasons for damage to the spinal cord is an injury to the surrounding vertebrae that can fracture in an accident. The vertebrae can puncture or compress the spinal cord. Any area on the spinal cord below the part that suffers damage can lose the ability to receive messages from the brain. This is why injuries higher on the spinal cord can result in complete paralysis of more body parts. Pressure on the spinal cord can cause damage.

While it is rare, some spinal cord injuries can even occur from whiplash. This is when the head snaps forward from the impact of the crash. This can cause misalignment of the vertebrae, placing pressure on the spinal cord. It is always better to be safe and get a full evaluation if you have suffered whiplash in an accident. In fact, see a doctor after any trauma to the head or neck.

Can I Recover from an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

An incomplete spinal cord injury is one where the spinal cord is bruised or damaged, but it is not severed. These injuries offer the best hope for recovery and rehabilitation. However, the cost of these therapies and the effort that the patient must put into the rehabilitation process are extensive.

Incomplete spinal cord injuries can be temporary, and victims might find relief from symptoms once the pressure on the spinal cord goes away. However, the patient needs prompt diagnosis and treatment because the pressure may not be relieved on its own. However, the accident victim will likely have some lasting damage from the spinal cord injury that will restrict their functions.

The exact prognosis is not always apparent at the time of the injury. The patient may not know for months how much of their function that they may regain. This is why it is important to take some time for treatment before beginning the insurance claims process. You have time to file a claim, and it may be premature before you know exactly what you are facing. You should be able to state your future needs with more certainty at the time that you file the claim.

What Is the Average Settlement for a Spinal Cord Injury?

It is hard to answer this question in a vacuum. As you saw above, there are different types of spinal cord injuries. It all depends on how bad your injuries are and the extent of the care that you will need.

Here are some factors to consider regarding the damages in your specific case:

  • The degree and extent of your injury
  • Whether there is any permanent paralysis
  • Whether the spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete
  • Your age at the time of the injury
  • How many activities of daily life you can still do on your own
  • How much care you need for your injury
  • Whether you can work again in any capacity
  • Whether you still have any sexual function

Your lawyer will present the insurance company or jury a picture of your current and future life in settlement discussions. Of course, the insurance company will argue that you have far more capabilities than you really do. This is where you need an attorney who knows your case well, who can present your claim in the most compelling way possible.

How Are Life Care Costs Computed in a Spinal Cord Injury Claim?

One of the largest elements of spinal cord injury damages is life care costs. When you are not able to completely care for yourself anymore, you will need help. The degree of help that you need depends on the extent of your injuries.

Lifecare costs can include:

  • In-home nursing care
  • Housekeeping assistance
  • Medical devices to help the person through their daily life
  • Transportation services
  • A specially adapted car, if they can drive
  • Fitting a house to accommodate the injury

The costs of all of these add up quickly. In addition, you need to forecast what these services may cost years in the future. This is not always easy to do. Your lawyer will need to work with numerous experts to come up with an appropriate amount to seek in damages. There are life care planners for accident victims that will help your lawyer. The insurance company will have its own, less-favorable estimates.

Even if the family chooses not to hire someone to perform these services and do this on their own, they may still receive compensation, especially when they are missing work to care for an injured family member.

You are likely looking at a settlement or an award that reaches past $1 million. Some estimates of the care costs of spinal cord injuries are near $5 million. This is before the accident victim receives compensation for their pain and suffering.

What if the Insurance Company Will Not Offer Me Enough to Pay for My Injuries?

You can assume that you will be facing this situation if you choose to try to negotiate a settlement. The insurance company does not care if you have enough money to pay for care years in the future. You and your family are not in their considerations. Instead, they are thinking about their profits and shareholders. This is why getting the compensation that you need will require a fight.

When you hire an attorney, they will carefully prepare an estimate of your damages for an insurance claim. Therefore, they will know when the insurance company’s offer is not enough to fully pay you. In that case, you are under no obligation to accept a low offer. In the end, the legal right to full compensation belongs to you and not anyone else. Your attorney will advise you to reject the offer. You can then counter with your own demand of what you deserve.

At some point, the insurance company will likely raise its settlement offer. It may or may not be closer to what you deserve. If your lawyer feels that the insurance company is being unreasonable and is dragging its feet, they will advise you to file a lawsuit. Then, the jury will decide how much you deserve, assuming that your lawyer can prove that someone else was responsible for your injuries.

What if the Person Responsible Did Not Have Enough Insurance Coverage?

We have been talking about injury damages that reach millions of dollars. However, many drivers do not carry that type of insurance that will pay for these damages. That will leave you with costs and needing to find another way to pay for them. If your injuries happened in a motor vehicle crash, you may use your underinsured motorist coverage to pay for your injuries You may need our help getting your insurer to pay what you deserve, however—your carrier is no different than the at-fault party’s in that it will fight every claim that comes its way, even after you have paid it premiums for years.

After that, you have options to get additional compensation, including:

  • If there are multiple people responsible for your injuries, you can sue them all, giving you access to several insurance policies.
  • The person who caused your injury might have an umbrella policy that can help cover their liability.
  • If the person who injured you was working at the time of the accident, you can sue the employing company. The business likely has a larger insurance policy.
  • You can get a judgment against the defendant for any uncovered damages if the case goes to court. Then, you could gain access to their assets (excluding protected assets like their home and car).

What Are the Risks of Dealing Directly with the Insurance Company?

We are not just saying this to get business. Time and time again, we have heard of people who settle their cases for far less than they are worth or have their claims denied because they tried to deal with the insurance company on their own. Trying to speak to the insurance company without an attorney to try to save money is a case of being pennywise and pound foolish.

Any time that you talk to the insurance company, you are on the record. Anything that you say is fodder for their adjusters to use to either deny your claim in its entirety or reduce the amount that they try to pay you. Even using the word “fine” in response to the innocent question of “How are you?” can harm your claim.

Take great care when dealing with an insurance company. There are plenty of times when the best thing to do is not talk to them at all. Moreover, never talk to an insurance company without your lawyer present.

We cannot stress this strongly enough: never trust the insurance company. They have one motivation, and it is to avoid paying out money any way that they can. Always have an attorney representing you to handle all of the communications. Studies show that people with legal representation achieve far better outcomes than those without it, even after accounting for the attorney’s percentage of a settlement or jury award.

This is not the same as a more straightforward auto accident claim. This is not a claim that you can handle directly with the insurance adjuster, given the extent of the damages. If you try to do this, you will lose without even knowing it. You will end up accepting a check for less than your claim is worth without ever really knowing how much you truly deserved. And you will end up having to pay for your medical treatments and other expenses out of pocket.

Don’t do that. Instead, call Zanes Law Injury Lawyers today.

Get a Phoenix Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Working on Your Case

The important thing to give your family peace of mind is to know that you have someone working on your behalf. Your time and attention will be occupied, either with your own injury or working to care for a family member. You can leave the details of the legal process to our Phoenix spinal injury lawyers.

At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, we will explain your options to you, and we will never stop fighting for you to receive a full financial recovery. This will allow you to focus on your health and your family. It costs nothing out of your pocket to get an attorney working on your case, and you owe us nothing unless we are successful in helping you recover.

Contact us today at (520) 777-7777 for a free case evaluation!

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