Spinal Cord Injuries
Newark NJ Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
New York & New Jersey Spinal Cord Damage Attorney
Are You a Victim of a Spinal Cord Injury in New York or New Jersey?
Robert A. Solomon, P.C. has aided the victims and families of accident victims who have suffered the devastating injury of permanent damage to their spinal cord. We are not "fast settlement" lawyers. We take extra care to ensure that clients with catastrophic injuries receive the total compensation they will need.
As New York & New Jersey spinal cord injury attorneys, we hire the best medical and financial experts to develop a life care plan that anticipates surgeries, physical therapy, medical equipment and other health care needs. We also seek damages for the loss of earning potential and loss of enjoyment. Our personal injury law firm represents spinal injury victims throughout the New York & New Jersey area. Our personal injury attorneys have a strong record of success. We can come to your home or hospital, day, evening or weekend, to discuss your case and your options for litigation.
Spinal Cord Injuries - An Overview
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a term used to describe any injury to the spinal cord that results in a loss of sensation or function in the body. Approximately two million people worldwide and nearly 200,000 in the United States live with a spinal cord injury. Nearly 11,000 Americans sustain SCI each year. These injuries cost the nation an estimated $9.7 billion a year. More than 80% of new spinal cord victims are young men between the ages of 16 and 30.
Any trauma that compresses, pushes sideways, or cuts the spinal cord may cause SCI. A severed spinal cord cannot be repaired. Car and motorcycle accidents, gunshot and knife wounds, falls, and sports injuries are the most common causes of damage to the spinal cord. In fact, nearly half of the estimated 7,800 non-fatal SCI's that occur each year are the result of motor vehicle accidents. Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents. In whiplash, an injury to the neck results from sudden backward and forward motion that can cause chronic pain and reduced range of motion.
In most instances, insurance companies and negligent parties may be obligated to provide victims with compensation for their injuries. As an injured party, you have the right to seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer to defray medical bills, compensate for pain and suffering and provide for lost potential income through legal action.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
Symptoms of spinal cord damage may include weakness, poor coordination, paralysis, numbness, tingling, loss of bowel or bladder control, and general pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When a physician suspects a spinal cord injury a CAT scan, MRI, or myelogram are typically used as diagnostic tools. Immediate treatment typically focuses on stabilizing the spine, and administering corticosteroid drugs to limit the damage. Surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine or to fuse the spine using metal plates or pins.
In most cases, some spinal cord fibers remain intact and become the focus of any prescribed treatment. A physical therapist can help determine the ability to move and, over time, the therapist may encourage exercise and increased activity to restore movement. Many victims suffer recurring back pain and inflammation, requiring prescription pain medication to manage the problem.
After the initial injury heals, functional improvements may continue for up to six months. Long-term treatment usually involves an intense program of rehabilitation therapy as well as nutritional management, occupational therapy, psychological counseling, and careful monitoring by physicians.
Roughly 37% of spinal cord injuries are caused by car accidents. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident, your automobile insurance company, or that of the other driver, may be obliged to provide compensation. Insurance policies may cover the costs of your injury and rehabilitation. The issue of who caused the accident may or may not be relevant, depending on your state.
Violence is the cause of 28% of spinal cord injuries. If your injury is the result of violence, you may be entitled to compensation, depending on where the incident occurred and who was responsible. If your injury is the result of a violent attack, such as a mugging, you may be entitled to legal compensation for your injuries even if the attacker is unknown. For example, if the attack took place in a shopping mall parking lot, the shopping mall may be responsible for the damages.
Slips and falls are responsible for 21% of SCI cases. These injuries are often work-related, occur on construction sites, or are caused by defective products. If you have a spinal cord injury as the result of a slip or fall, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Under the theory of premises liability, the property owner may responsible for preventing unsafe conditions. Under the theory of product liability manufacturers of defective products, such as a ladder with insufficient safety features, may be liable.
A personal injury lawyer with experience handling spinal cord injury cases can help determine whether you have legal recourse.
If you have been the victim of a spinal cord injury, you have a right to seek compensation for your injury. It is important that you consult an attorney as soon as possible after an injury to preserve this right. The law imposes a statute of limitations, which varies from state to state, that provides a limited time within which to pursue your claim. If you or a loved one have suffered health problems due to a spinal cord injury, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Compensation for Spinal Cord Injuries
- If you have suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI), you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries. To recover compensation you may be required to show:
- that the SCI occurred due to the reckless or negligent disregard for your safety by another;
- that you are injured;
- that your injury was caused by the accident and is not due to a pre-existing condition or unrelated occurrence, and;
- that the party who injured you was insured.
Negligent conduct includes car collisions due to another driver's error or drunk driving. In some cases, manufacturers of defective or unsafe products are liable for injuries caused by their negligence.
In some states, more than one person may be at fault for your spinal cord injury under the theory of comparative negligence; this may include you. In states that apply this legal theory, a court may distribute the responsibility for compensation between all of those found at fault. In general, this means that if the other person bore 80% of the fault and you were 20% responsible, you would collect 80% of your damages.
What types of monetary damages may I recover?
Future medical expenses
Lost future earning capacity
Pain and suffering
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, you have the right to seek compensation. Consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury. The law imposes a statute of limitations that varies from state to state. You have a limited period in which to pursue a legal claim. If you or a loved one have suffered a health problems due to a spinal cord injury, contact our New York & New Jersey personal injury lawyers; we have experience handling spinal cord injury cases and can meet with you to discuss your options.
New Treatment Options for Spinal Cord Injuries
For decades, rehabilitation from spinal cord injuries has focused primarily on compensating for lost function. Recent research has shown that appropriately designed exercises, may assist in retraining the spinal cord to perform lost functions. The ability of a nervous system to adapt to performing tasks after an injury is known as plasticity. This has been seen in cases where a part of the brain injured is responsible for performing a certain function and other parts of the brain learn to compensate for the lost ability.
Research and development is quickly proceeding on several electrical devices designed to restore lost functions following spinal cord injury, including the ability to control urination, standing/walking and hand grasp. To assist with urinary control, an internal stimulator is surgically implanted under the skin in the chest or abdomen. The device is then connected to electrodes implanted in the spine in the area where nerves from the bladder and bowel connect. The device is operated by external control that, when activated, causes the bladder to contract and empty. The device may also aid in reversing erectile dysfunction.
A system has been developed to enable SCI survivors with thoracic injuries to stand and walk for limited distances. It consists of an external control worn on the body and electrodes implanted in the legs, hips and gluteus muscles. Up to three months of training is required to use the system, which is currently undergoing medical trials and evaluation in the United States.
Another device in development helps SCI survivors with cervical injuries grasp objects. The device requires retaining of upper shoulder and neck muscles. It requires surgical implantation and an external stimulator. With this device, one shrug sends a signal telling the hand muscles to pinch the thumb and fingers together, and another shrug tells the hand to lock in place. The system allows some quadriplegics to feed themselves and perform simple manual tasks.
Stimulating nerves to repair themselves
Unlike neurons in the brain and spinal cord, nerves in the peripheral nervous system, located outside of the brain and spinal cord, have some ability to repair themselves. As a result, severed nerves in parts of the body such as the hands and feet may be surgically reattached and regain significant function. Researchers are studying the chemical signals that trigger a peripheral nerve cell to self-repair. The hope is that similar signals can be sent to neurons to stimulate self-repair after a spinal cord injury.
Researchers have identified a number of the peripheral nerve cells that must be turned on for self-repair to occur. Once the genes have been identified, the next step is to determine what chemical signals are needed to turn the genes on. Some chemical signals have been identified, and the hope is that neurons can be artificially stimulated to self-repair.
New medical treatment options are available for victims of spinal cord injury, and more are on the way. These options offer great hope, but are expensive. If you have sustained a spinal cord injury, you have the right to seek compensation for your SCI, including medical treatment. It is important that you consult an attorney as soon as possible following your injury. The law imposes a statute of limitations, which varies from state to state, and you have a limited period in which to pursue your legal claim. If you or a loved one have suffered health problems due to a spinal cord injury, you should contact a personal injury lawyer with experience handling spinal cord injury claims to discuss your options.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur
The spinal cord forms a conduit, delivering messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Most of the spinal cord is surrounded by bones, known as vertebrae, which form the spine.
The spine consists of:
- 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck, numbered sequentially from top to bottom;
- 12 thoracic vertebrae in the trunk;
- 5 lumbar vertebrae;
- 5 sacral vertebrae;
- 4 fused vertebrae that form the coccyx, or tailbone.
Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves connect with the spinal cord through nerve roots and travel to specific parts of the human body. For example, the spinal nerves attached to the cord in the L4 (fourth lumbar) vertebrae run to specific muscles in the legs and designated areas of skin in the calves.
The spinal cord is surrounded by bony vertebrae, designed to protect the spinal cord from injury. The cord runs through an oval shaped opening in the vertebrae, separated by discs that act as shock absorbers for the spine. If a vertebra is broken and a piece of the broken bone presses into the spinal cord, the cord may be injured. The spinal cord can be injured if the vertebrae, normally held in place by strong ligaments and muscles, are pushed or pulled out of proper alignment.
Level of a Spinal Cord Injury
The level of a SCI refers to the vertebrae that are closest to where the injury occurred. An injury to the spinal cord at the level of the sixth cervical vertebrae is known as a C6 injury. An injury to the spinal cord between the C6 and C7 vertebrae is called a C6-7 injury. A T12 injury occurs at the level 12 thoracic vertebrae, and so on.
When the spinal cord is injured, the ability of the brain to communicate with the part of the body at the level of the injury may be reduced or lost. When an injury occurs, the affected part of the body will not function normally, if it retains any function at all.
The closer that a spinal cord injury occurs to the head, the greater the area is that may be affected. For example, a man with a T10 injury, which is in the thoracic area of the lower middle back, may lose the use of his legs but his arms may not be impacted. The same man with a C4 injury to the neck may lose use of both the legs and arms.
Incomplete and Complete Injuries
When an injured party retains some use of the body below the level of the injury, even if the function is not complete, it is an incomplete injury. For example, an incomplete injury may leave a person with weakness in the arms, but some mobility and sensation.
A complete injury occurs when there is a complete loss of sensation and muscle control at the level of the injury. Almost half of all spinal cord injuries are complete. Most injuries, including complete injuries, result from bruising of the spinal cord and not from cutting of the cord.
Whenever a person has a significant trauma to the head or neck, a spinal cord injury should be suspected until proven otherwise. Precautions must be taken to immobilize the spine until a physician has performed an examination. X-rays may be taken of the vertebrae, to look for any damage. X-rays are effective in detecting damage to the vertebrae, but not for showing damage to soft tissue such as the spinal cord. If the X-ray shows signs of a SCI, a CT scan or MRI may be required.
If you are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, you have the right to seek compensation. It is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your injury. The law imposes a statute of limitations, which varies from state to state, providing a limited period in which to pursue your legal claim. If you or a loved one have health problems due to a spinal cord injury, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience handling spinal cord injury claims to discuss your options.