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When someone suffers a spinal cord injury, that person is forced into an incredibly uncertain situation. He or she may be able to walk again at some point or not. He or she may be able to continue with his or her career or not. He or she may eventually be able to enjoy life again to the same extent as prior to the injury or not. What is certain is that a person forced into this situation will face substantial financial losses. These losses need to be pursued and ultimately recaptured if a person suffers a spinal cord injury because of the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of someone else. If this includes you or someone you love, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Gomez Law Firm as soon as possible.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, or the NSCISC, the following statistics relate to spinal cord injuries in the United States:
These are significant statistics, and despite much in the way of medical advancement many spinal cord injuries are permanent.
There are several different types of spinal cord injuries that occur, and they are broken down into two categories: incomplete and complete spinal cord injuries. Incomplete spinal cord injuries involve those injuries where the spinal cord is partially severed. Complete spinal cord injuries are those where the spinal cord is completely severed. Complete spinal cord injuries result in a loss of movement and sensation below the site of the injury.
There are different categories of incomplete spinal cord injuries. These include:
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are the leading causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States:
Many of these situations also involve faulty actions by people that lead to spinal cord injuries in others. As stated above, these injuries also lead to a tremendous amount of loss in the financial and other senses.
When someone suffers a spinal cord injury, he or she will face several forms of loss, including:
In terms of real costs, estimates indicate that if a person suffers a spinal cord injury and is a paraplegic as a result, he or she will face lifetime costs of nearly $600,000 not including losses for pain and suffering and loss of companionship. A person who becomes a quadriplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury faces lifetime costs of nearly $1,500,000. Both of these estimates assume that a person is injured at the age of 25 and otherwise healthy at the time.
It only takes a few seconds, a singular moment to change the course of the rest of your life. If you had to make a list of the top five most frightening injuries, a spinal cord injury would likely fall near the top of the list. If you are researching spinal injuries and trying to determine what you or a loved one might be facing for the rest of your life, here is a list of frequently asked questions (with answers) that might help you decide on your course of action.
To know about spinal injuries, you need to know a little bit about how the central nervous system works. The brain directs the actions and processes of all your body’s systems. It is linked to every function in some way, from the touch you feel on your skin, to how many beats per minute your heart pumps blood. Specialized cells called neurons work to transmit and carry information. Because they work on an electrochemical impulse, communication between these cells is nearly instantaneous, which is why stubbing your toe on a chair results in immediate pain.
The spinal cord is a long, continuous group of nerve cells that serve as a superhighway of transmitting signals to and from the brain. Due to the specialized nature of these cells, however, they are very poor at regenerating if they are damaged. The spinal cord is protected by spinal fluid, tissue, and an articulated system of bones from the base of your brain all the way to your tailbone, which you might know as your spine. Since you need to be able to move and function, the spine has a range of motion, but these joints don’t move as much as an elbow or a hip.
The spine can only do so much to protect from a spinal cord injury. If massive amounts of force are directed in the right place, the spine can do little to protect the spinal cord. Kinking, bruising, or severing the spinal cord disrupts the flow of information from the brain to the rest of the body. The nerves cannot transmit their signals, and because the spinal cord is such a complex neural network, it does not heal as well as a stubbed toe or a cut finger. If a nerve is severed, it may result in permanent injury.
Depending on the area of the injury, your body responds in different ways. Typically, the lower the injury on the spine, the less severe the impact on the rest of the body. Upper spinal injuries, such as cervical injuries (the area of the neck), may result in permanent loss of sensation or movement in the majority of the body. Lower injuries may result in partial paralysis. Even tailbone injuries can damage reproductive and sexual health.
Breaking your neck and back are the most common types of spinal cord injury, but there are other ways to damage your spinal cord, as well. Fevers or severe infections, such as meningitis, have a similar effect on the spine. Also, compression without breaking the spinal column may cause swelling inside the protective sheath of the spinal cord. This buildup of blood and spinal fluid winds up crushing the tissue inside, and unless doctors can quickly reduce pressure with surgery or medication, the nerves may suffer permanent damage.
Spinal cord injuries are complex, just as any injury that involves the brain and nerve tissue. In broader terms, spinal injuries often mean loss of sensation in and the function of your extremities. Loss of feeling and function in arms, legs, and trunk is common. In some cases, only partial paralysis occurs. A spinal injury might leave you with partial function and feeling in one arm or leg, and the loss of use in the other. Severe spinal injuries affect more than arms and legs. Since the brain sends signals to and from your organs and systems, a spinal injury can result in difficulty breathing or other involuntary functions.
The most common way to injure your spine is through direct force. The spine can only move so far and still protect your spinal cord. Direct and general force bends and breaks the spine past its limits of flexibility. Our bodies are often at the mercy of the laws of physics, and though we have evolved to survive the forces of nature, sometimes technology and activities push those limits to the point of breaking.
Some of the most common causes of spinal injuries include:
Depending on the severity of the damage and the location of the injury, there isn’t much else to do other than wait for the body to heal before you can fully determine the extent of the trauma and its lasting effects. Some cases result in temporary paralysis, while others leave a person with quadriplegia, and learning to continue your life without the ability to move or feel anything from the neck down is challenging. Some survivors of neck injuries suffer from chronic pain or phantom pain, where extremities that are otherwise healed (or missing in some cases) continue to flare up with excruciating pain.
A spinal injury often results in a diminished quality of life, either through permanent disability, or a need to rely on medical devices, such as feeding tubes, respirators, and full-time care in daily survival. Whether it is a less severe injury or one that affects a person’s quality of life permanently, spinal cord injury victims will also face mental trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares, depression, anxiety, and other factors are common following a spinal cord injury. Some of these traumas contribute to self-harm, stress-related diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, and even suicide.
Medical treatment is necessary for the treatment and recovery of any spinal injury. Surgery, antibiotics, and medication to control swelling are important in dealing with the initial injury. Rehabilitation and physical therapy are also used to try to regain or strengthen motor skills that have been lost. In many ways, physical therapy is like teaching the body how to work all over again. It is extremely painful, frustrating, and a long, mentally exhausting process.
Some treatments of spinal injuries include medically-induced comas, long-term splinting and traction, multiple surgical procedures, and extended hospital stays. In some cases, spinal injury patients never return home. For those who do not succumb to their injuries, full-time critical care and hospice facilities are their only option. If a person’s family is unequipped to care for him or her at home, a critical care facility might be the best option moving forward.
This technology is still in its early stages, and though some anecdotal reports of its benefits are floating around in the media, it is not a common treatment method yet. As technologies improve, this may change, however. Right now, the stem cell regeneration process is experimental. Unfortunately, there currently is no cure or sure-fire treatment to reverse the damage caused by a spinal cord injury.
As with any severe trauma, you face the risk of succumbing to your injuries if you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury. Injuries may result in an extended vegetative state. A spinal cord injury may affect involuntary functions, such as breathing, pumping blood, and even digesting food, and thus lead to death. Even the use of ventilators, feeding tubes, and long-term care may result in a significantly diminished length or quality of life.
Spinal injuries are costly. From initial trauma treatment to long-term care and rehabilitation, you are looking at many hours, if not days or months, in a hospital. If you now have to use a wheelchair or require living assistance, it can get expensive. In addition, there is also the potential to lose your job due to your injuries, a new disability, or the rehabilitation that often follows. Following a spinal cord injury, your life may change significantly, and often permanently. Expenses can range into millions of dollars.
The pain and suffering, ensuing depression, and post-traumatic stress associated with a spinal cord injury can also take their toll on victims. Medication, therapy, and even permanent cognitive difficulty might make it impossible to maintain employment. At the very least, you will emerge with a limited range of movement, intensive rehabilitation, and probably some form of permanent disability. Some people face chronic pain as well as the trappings of a pain management program, which can often lead to opioid addiction or dependency on painkillers.
While doctors are fighting to save the life of the person injured, you should hire an attorney. In most cases, spinal injuries are avoidable and often result from another person’s negligence.
Insurance companies excel at low-balling claimants, which is why you should retain an attorney to help maximize your compensation for your injuries, recovery, and pain and suffering. Personal injury attorneys specialize in dealing with insurance companies that are more focused on their profits than the well-being of victims.
The road to recovery will be long, painful, and expensive. You need all the help you can get. Contact us today to set up a consultation and begin the process of seeking compensation for your injuries.
If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury because of the actions of someone else, you need to make sure that you protect and enforce your legal rights. If you choose to work with the spinal cord injury lawyers at The Gomez Law Firm, you will be represented by a law firm that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments and settlements on behalf of clients over the past decade. You will also be represented by a law firm whose reputation precedes it, and this can be invaluable when facing such a difficult situation. If you need this type of help, contact the firm today to schedule a free initial consultation.
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