Spinal cord injuries are among the most serious of all personal injuries. In addition to a lifetime of lost wages and medical bills, a spinal cord victim might require in-home care and rehabilitation. A spinal cord injury can even decrease the victim’s life expectancy. Spinal cord injury victims have the right to be compensated for all of these losses.
A Zephyrhills spinal cord injury lawyer can help ensure that you file all potential legal claims, fight for fair compensation, and ensure that your legal rights have protection in the process. Learn more about your legal rights after any spinal cord injury by contacting Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers.
When Should You Consult a Zephyrhills Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer?
The sooner you have an experienced personal injury attorney fighting on your side, the better protected your legal rights will be. Your lawyer starts protecting your rights as soon you hire them. Once the insurance company has notice that you have counsel, they may no longer contact you directly about your claims. All communications must go through your attorney’s office. This protection ensures that you will not accidentally say something that could hurt your case. It also protects you from lowball settlement offers or high-pressure tactics that insurance adjusters sometimes use to try to pay less than an injury claim is fairly worth.
Your lawyer will take other critical steps as soon as you hire them. Physical evidence can be crucial to proving your case, but this evidence could disappear if your attorney does not take action.
For example, companies regularly purge security camera footage to free up server space. Your attorney can prevent this by contacting the property owner and requesting that they preserve the footage for litigation. If your case involves an auto accident, the insurance company might not save the vehicle’s parts. Here, too, your attorney could notify the insurance company that this is relevant evidence that the company must preserve.
An experienced lawyer knows how to find all relevant evidence and make sure it stays preserved before your case resolves.
These are just some of the immediate steps your spinal cord injury lawyer can take to protect your legal rights at the start of your case. Your accident attorney will also prove liability, prove the fair value of your case, and file a lawsuit if necessary. All of these tasks will be easier if you hire an attorney in time to preserve evidence and prevent the insurance company from contacting you directly.
How Can To Get Compensation For Your Losses?
Injury victims are entitled to compensation for all the losses that happen due to the defendant’s negligence. This includes future losses that have not yet occurred.
Experienced Zephyrhills spinal cord injury lawyers know how to prove:
- The decrease in the victim’s future earning capacity (including commissions, bonuses, overtime, raises, and the value of lost employment benefits)
- The projected cost of future medical bills the victim will incur for the rest of his or her life.
- The value of the pain and suffering the victim will continue to endure for years to come.
Personal injury lawyers work with expert witnesses to prove the value of these losses. For example, your lawyer might hire a vocational expert to prove that you are unable to work and an economist to calculate the value of your future lost wages. A life care planner might have to testify about the medical care you will require throughout your lifetime and what this care might cost. Expert witnesses help to support the value of an injury claim with tangible data.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the Mayo Clinic, a spinal cord injury can happen due to damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or discs that are supposed to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord can also be injured directly if it is the subject of high forces. Trauma such as car accidents, workplace accidents, falls from a height, or even street violence (like gunshot wounds or stabbings) can all damage the spinal cord.
The spinal cord can even be injured worse in the days after the trauma. Blood and spinal fluid can cause swelling and accumulation around the spinal cord, further exacerbating your injuries. It is important to get medical help as soon as possible after an injury occurs. The sooner your doctors examine your injuries, the better options they will have for treating them. They might also be able to mitigate the damage by preventing further injuries to your spinal cord.
Here are some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries:
- Motor vehicle accidents (These account for nearly half of all new spinal cord injuries every year.)
- Falls (Falls cause about 31 percent of spinal cord injuries.)
- Acts of violence (More than 13 percent of spinal cord injuries are the result of violent encounters.)
- Sports and recreation injuries (This is the cause of about ten percent of spinal cord injuries.)
- Alcohol (One out of every four spinal cord injuries involves alcohol.)
The Mayo Clinic also identifies risk factors for spinal cord injuries. Those most likely to suffer spinal cord injuries are:
- Men (Women suffer only about 20 percent of all spinal cord injuries in the United States)
- People aged 16 to 30 and older than 65
- Those who engage in risky behavior (such as diving into shallow pools or reckless driving)
- Anyone who suffers from a bone or joint disorder (for example, arthritis can cause a relatively minor impact to result in serious damage to the spinal cord)
Medical Malpractice and Spinal Cord Injuries
In some cases, a spinal cord injury does not an accident or trauma. Medical malpractice can actually cause spinal cord injuries - or exacerbate a spinal cord injury that would otherwise be treatable. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians have strict protocols for transporting patients with suspected spinal injuries. If they do not follow these protocols exactly, your spinal cord injury could be made worse.
Emergency room doctors must accurately diagnose spinal cord injuries and get patients the care they need as soon as possible. Every second counts in the early hours after trauma to the head and neck. Surgeons must also be extremely precise in their surgical techniques. Having the patient set in the wrong position, or failing to notice leaks of cerebrospinal fluid, or operating in the wrong location can all make a spinal cord injury worse. In some cases, reversible damage to the spinal cord is made permanent by the negligence of the medical staff that treats the injury.
If this is the case, you have a medical malpractice claim against the medical facility and staff that provided treatment.
Complications of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are many potential complications of a spinal cord injury. Because the spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, damage to it can affect almost every part of the body.
Some of the most common complications include:
- Incontinence of the bladder or bowel
- Poor blood circulation (which can lead to blood clots, high blood pressure, and other dangerous complications)
- Loss of sensation (which can lead to secondary injuries, such as pressure sores)
- Muscle atrophy due to lack of motor control
- Weight loss
- Pain throughout the body
Some of these complications are merely inconvenient, but many of them can endanger your life. Blood clots can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, strokes, and heart attacks. All of these conditions can be fatal. Loss of sensation can make a victim susceptible to serious burns and other life-threatening injuries because they may not even realize the affected body part suffers injury.
It takes a complex network of medical care, rehabilitation, in-home care, and preventative safety measures in the home to reduce the risk of these complications. Spinal cord injury victims are entitled to compensation for the costs of these preventative measures - and for the costs associated with treating these complications as they arise.
How Zephyrhills Spinal Cord Injuries Affect Your Future
A spinal cord injury is almost certain to affect you and your loved ones for the rest of your life. Even if you do not have permanent paralysis, you will continue to endure financial and emotional losses for the rest of your life. You are entitled to receive compensation for these losses by the person who is legally responsible for causing them. Here are some of the most common areas of compensation in a spinal cord injury claim:
Financial losses are those that you can document and prove with receipts. Spinal cord injuries result in huge amounts of medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and assistive devices (such as a wheelchair). You might even have to modify your home to accommodate your disability: for example, by adding a wheelchair ramp or lowering countertops.
A special vehicle might be required to accommodate your new physical limitations. If you require in-home care, this too is a financial loss that you can claim in your spinal cord injury case. These are just some of the many financial losses you can incur after a spinal cord injury.
Financial costs are not the only type of loss you can claim in a personal injury lawsuit. Often, the largest component of compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is for non-economic damages. These losses are broadly referred to as pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering cover a huge range of both physical and emotional losses, including:
- The physical pain and discomfort of your injuries
- The loss of enjoyment of life you suffer due to your injuries
- Your impaired relationships with relatives, friends, and other loved ones
- Missing major life events (like dancing at a child’s wedding or crossing the stage at your own graduation)
These are just some of the many non-economic losses a person can suffer as a result of a spinal cord injury. These emotional losses are not easy to value. Insurance companies like to make a quick calculation based on your medical bills, but this is a very impersonal way to estimate the value of your most personal losses. Injury victims have the right to let a jury decide the value of their losses.
Jurors are human. They understand the pain of being unable to work or pick up a child. Your lawyer will have the opportunity to make a persuasive case to a jury about what your losses are truly worth.
Losses Are Both Financial and Emotional
Some personal injury claims are a combination of financial and non-economic losses. For example: imagine that you are unable to return to work because of your spinal cord injury. A negligent defendant must compensate you for all the wages you would have earned between the date of the accident and the date of your expected retirement. (An economist would include bonuses, commissions, overtime, and lost employment benefits like health insurance and retirement contributions to the total before adjusting the entire amount for inflation.) The result is what you lost financially because you cannot work.
But what about the emotional losses you suffer as a result of being unable to work? Many people feel a deep sense of pride in the work they do. Workers enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a raise or promotion. Many of us enjoy having co-workers to talk to throughout the day.
If a person who is happily employed must suddenly stay home all day, he or she is likely to feel bored. Depression and other mental health conditions can also develop. These results are the non-economic losses associated with being unable to work. Injury victims are entitled to seek full compensation for all the financial and emotional losses they suffer as a result of being unable to work after a spinal cord injury.
Resources for Spinal Cord Patients in Zephyrhills
A spinal cord injury victim needs as much information as possible about his or her unique medical condition. Every case is different. Your prognosis can vary greatly, even from another patient with similar injuries, so it is important to inform yourself and surround yourself with expert medical providers who can oversee every aspect of your care. This is no small task: spinal cord injuries are complicated, and it is possible to have dozens of medical providers involved in a single case.
The process of managing all this information can be overwhelming. Luckily, the National Institutes of Health maintains a website with helpful resources for spinal cord injury victims. These websites provide information on the medicine, science, and technology that is available, as well as specific foundations and medical institutions that might be of use in your particular case.
Resources for Caregivers
When a loved one suffers a serious spinal cord injury, the burden of care often falls on family members and friends. Providing full-time care can be physically and emotionally taxing. Too often, family members and friends overlook their own needs in the ongoing battle to care for a loved one with a spinal cord injury. Caregivers do not have to go through these difficult times on their own.
The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation compiled an entire network of caregiver resources. In addition to support groups and peer mentors, the Foundation provides basic tips on how a caregiver can help meet their own needs at a time when so much of their energy focuses on someone else’s needs. The Foundation has an extensive network of mental health professionals and other families who can help support you through these challenges.
There are also certain claims in a spinal cord lawsuit that can help support caregivers on the long road ahead. For example, the cost of in-home care is a claim in many spinal cord injury lawsuits. If your spinal cord injury lawyer recovers compensation for in-home care, your caregiving tasks can lighten considerably. Spouses, parents, and children of injury victims may also have a claim for “loss of consortium.”
Loss of consortium refers to the changes in a relationship because of a victim’s injuries. Children, for example, could be deprived of parental guidance, support, and affection. Spouses might lose emotional support and love—as well as the physical aspects of a healthy marriage. Loss of consortium claims do not undo the damage of a spinal cord injury. They can, however, help to ease the financial and emotional burdens placed on caregivers after a spouse, parent, or child suffers a spinal cord injury.
Neither spinal cord injury victims nor their caregivers have to face this stressful situation alone. There are extensive networks of medical and mental health professionals who can help treat spinal cord injury victims and offer much-needed support to those who care for them. Other families and injury victims are also happy to provide social support. And in addition to medical and social support, you can also find extensive legal support. Experienced spinal cord injury lawyers work hard to protect their clients’ legal right to compensation and provide accountability for the negligence that causes these devastating injuries.
Zephyrhills Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Spinal cord injuries are among the most complex of all personal injury cases. A spinal cord injury can affect the most basic body functions, like breathing and keeping your heart beating. These injuries can prevent victims from working, enjoying their hobbies, spending time with family or friends, or simply walking and talking. Spinal cord injury victims have the legal right to receive compensation for all the losses they suffer due to someone else’s negligence. Learn more about your legal rights after a spinal cord injury:
How Common Are Spinal Cord Injuries?
The World Health Organization reports that between 250,000 and 500,000 spinal cord injuries occur every year worldwide. These victims are between two and five times more likely to die prematurely. Spinal cord injuries also seriously increase the risk of secondary medical problems that can be life-threatening (such as deep vein thrombosis, urinary tract infections, and respiratory complications). While half a million spinal cord injuries sound like a lot, it is a relatively lower incidence rate than the global population. Spinal cord injuries are, however, far more expensive than other types of injuries due to their lasting and catastrophic effects on victims.
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis reports that the costs of care for the first year after a spinal cord injury range between $375,196 and $1,149,629 (depending on the injury severity). For each subsequent year the patient lives, care costs range between about $50,000 and $200,000. These figures quickly add up to millions of dollars in care costs and medical bills throughout a lifetime. The financial consequences of a spinal cord injury can be devastating for any family. As a result, spinal cord injury victims must protect their legal right to get fair compensation for all their injuries and losses.
How Will a Spinal Cord Injury Affect My Body?
The spinal cord controls thousands of nerves that affect many different areas of the human body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are some of the changes you might notice:
- Changes in breathing and heart rate
- Malfunction of the bladder or bowels (incontinence)
- Involuntary muscle movement and impaired reflexes
- Odd sensations in the body (such as numbness, tingling, and hot or cold feelings)
- Changes in metabolism (such as indigestion, weight gain or loss, fatigue, or a general sluggish feeling)
The changes you experience will depend on where your spinal cord suffered damage - and how severe the injury was. Speak with your doctor about both your immediate symptoms and the long-term changes you are likely to experience. Consult with any specialists your doctor refers you to, and be sure to follow through on any recommended medical or rehabilitative therapies.
How Do I Pay My Immediate Medical Bills?
Paying medical bills is one of the biggest concerns that our injury clients have. If you are out of work, you could be losing income at a time when your medical bills are piling up.
Your injury lawyer can help you get the medical care you need.
First, if you have health insurance (including Medicare or Medicaid), your carrier is required to pay for care related to your injuries. If you later get a personal injury award that pays for these damages, your health insurance carrier can seek reimbursement for the bills it paid, but they may not deny bills upfront.
You might also have other personal injury policies that can cover your medical bills. Short and long-term disability policies, auto insurance policies, workers’ compensation policies, and even homeowners insurance policies can cover medical bills in certain situations. Ask your lawyer about all possible insurance policies that could apply to your situation.
If you do not have health insurance or other insurance coverage, your attorney can help you find providers that will wait for payment. Some doctors and rehabilitation providers (like physical therapists and chiropractors) are willing to work on a lien. This means that they will take no fees upfront and instead file a lien against your spinal cord injury settlement. Once you get a settlement or jury award, the medical bills are paid from the proceeds before you receive funds.
There are many options for getting your medical bills paid before your spinal cord injury case resolves. The important thing is that you get all the care you need. If you do not, the insurance company could claim that you made your own injuries worse and try to devalue your claim. Getting the medical care you need will protect both your health and your legal rights.
What If the Defendant Does Not Have Enough Insurance Coverage?
In some cases, a defendant has insurance coverage, but the policy limits are simply not enough to pay for the full value of the injury victim’s losses. This is especially common in spinal cord cases. Serious spinal cord injuries can require a lifetime of care, and this costs far more than the legal minimum of liability coverage on an auto insurance policy. But many different insurance policies could cover a single accident.
If, for example, you suffered injuries at work by a defective machine, you could have claims for:
- Health insurance
- Workers compensation
- Personal injury
- Products liability
Skilled personal injury lawyers know how to find all potential defendants and all potential insurance policies that will cover their clients’ injuries. If you do not get legal advice from an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer, you could miss out on compensation to which you are entitled.
What Happens At Trial?
Personal injury lawyers work hard to negotiate fair settlement offers for their clients’ claims. If, however, an insurance company refuses to make an offer that fairly compensates you for all your losses, your attorney might advise you to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. The lawsuit can proceed to a jury trial if no resolution occurs. This court process is known as “litigation.” Here is how it works:
Filing a Lawsuit. A lawsuit begins when your attorney files a formal, written complaint in court. You must officially serve this complaint on the defendant (who has a set deadline to answer the complaint). Neither you nor your attorney has to appear in court to start your lawsuit. Sometimes, the mere fact that your attorney filed a lawsuit is enough to get the insurance company to make a fair settlement offer. If not, your case will proceed to the discovery phase.
Pretrial Discovery. After the complaint has been filed and formally answered by the defendant, the attorneys begin gathering evidence. Lawyers on both sides will gather physical evidence and interview eyewitnesses. The attorneys can also take depositions, request documents, and send written questions to be answered by the other party.
All of these investigations help an attorney collect admissible evidence to present at trial. These investigations also show an attorney the strengths and weaknesses of his or her case - as well as the opponent’s case. With all the information available, attorneys are often able to negotiate a settlement during the discovery phase. If they are not, your case will proceed through other pretrial matters.
Legal Issues Before Trial. Attorneys sometimes have legal disputes before a case goes in front of a jury. They might disagree about what evidence is admissible or whether an expert witness is really qualified to testify as an expert. A judge resolves these matters before the case goes to trial. Both attorneys will present their arguments to a judge at an evidentiary hearing. The court hears the evidence, then makes a ruling on the issue before the case goes to trial.
The Jury Trial. A jury trial begins with jury selection. Each lawyer will be allowed to question potential jurors and challenge having them on the jury. (Lawyers also get “peremptory” challenges, which they can use without giving legal grounds.)
The attorneys and judge work together to impanel a jury that both sides agree on. Once the jury is given instructions and sworn in, the attorneys present their opening arguments. The plaintiff’s lawyer then presents the injury victim’s case. This will include testimony about what happened to cause the injury, expert testimony about the plaintiff’s injuries, and the victim’s testimony about how the injuries have affected them. The defense attorney is allowed to cross-examine each witness after the plaintiff’s lawyer completes a direct examination.
After the plaintiff’s lawyer finishes presenting their case, the defense lawyer will present their case. This might include testimony from rebuttal experts who disagree with the conclusions of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses. It could include testimony from the defendant about what happened on the day of the accident. Here, too, the plaintiff’s lawyer is allowed to cross-examine each witness after the defense lawyer completes their direct examination. After the defense rests its case, the lawyers present their
closing arguments to the jury. The jury is then excused to deliberate the case in secret.
Call Our Zephyrhills Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys Today
Our Zephyrhills spinal cord injury attorneys at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers are ready to help you. If you sustained a spinal cord injury, and bills are coming in that you don’t know how to pay, please contact us today at (813) 489-6485 for your free case evaluation.