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Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys


Regarding Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is a collection of nerves which originate near the base of the brain and travel down the back. The spinal cord consists of a bundle of nerves which send information back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is protected by thirty-three ring-shaped bones, or vertebrae, making up the spinal column. A sudden, traumatic blow to the spinal column can fracture or dislocate the vertebrae, damaging the spinal cord. Spinal cord damage often creates a displacement of spinal disc elements or causes serious bruising of the spinal cord tissue. Injuries to the region often cause serious nerve damage that can be difficult to detect. Many spinal cord cases result in patients suffering paralysis of one or more limbs. A spinal cord injury can lead to long-term or even permanent injury that can affect motor skills, sensation, and even breathing if not treated correctly.

A spinal cord injury refers to an injury to the spinal cord resulting in varying degrees of loss of function and paralysis, depending on which part of the spine was injured and the severity of the injury. A spinal cord injury has a significant impact on the injured persons functional, medical, psychological and economic well being.

The spinal cord does not have to be severed for a loss of function to occur. In fact, for most people suffering from these injuries, the spinal cord remains intact. In most cases, spinal cord injury as a result of neck strain comes from compression due to a herniated disc or bone spur. Often associated swelling also compresses the spinal cord, which results in two direct causes of spinal cord injury.

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury often include arm pain, and less frequently neck pain (neck pain may be present due to other reasons such as strained muscles, but not necessarily because of a spinal cord injury). Compression can lead to trapped nerves, and either immediate or eventual nerve damage. This type of injury can result in chronic pain, especially in the arms, that will not go away with normal neck strain treatment.

Spinal cord injuries can result in a broken back, spinal fracture, herniated disc, spinal cord compression, paralysis, paraplegia, quadriplegia, fractured vertebrae, neck strain or whiplash. Neck strain or whiplash is a common injury in rear-end collision car accidents. However, neck strain is a general term that describes a group of injuries with similar causes and similar results including chronic neck pain, headaches, and even brain injury. A small number of neck strain injuries also affect the spinal cord, resulting in spinal cord injury.

Victims of spinal cord injuries caused by another party's negligence have legal options available to them to seek compensation for their injuries. If you have neck strain, spinal cord injury or any other type of injury that was the result of someone else's negligence, contact the Sacramento spinal cord injury lawyers at the Crow Law Offices.

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Types of Spinal Cord Injury

The treatment immediately given a person with a spinal cord injury is critical to limiting the amounting of damage done and preventing secondary injuries from occurring.

Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types of injury - complete and incomplete. A complete injury means that there is no function below the level of the injury: no sensation and no voluntary movement. Both sides of the body are equally affected. An incomplete injury means that there is some functioning below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than another, may be able to feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other. With the advances in acute treatment of spinal cord injury, incomplete injuries are becoming more common. Many individuals with partial spinal cord injury may experience significant recovery, while victims with complete spinal cord injury are often permanently paralyzed.

Because of the great damages that result from spinal cord injuries, it is particularly important that the injured victim retain a Sacramento spinal cord injury law firm with extensive experience, exceptional expertise and a consistent record of significant results in spinal cord injury cases.

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Location of the Injury

Cervical Injuries: Cervical, also known as neck injuries, often result in full or partial tetraplegia (quadriplegia). Thoracic Injuries: Injuries at the chest or below often result in paraplegia, in which case the hands, arms, head, and breathing are usually not affected. Lumbar and Sacral Injuries: Injuries to this lower region of the spine result in decreased control of the legs and hips, sexual functioning, urinary system, and anus.

Tetraplegia: Tetraplegia is also known as quadriplegia. It is usually caused by an injury to the spinal cord in the neck region and causes the loss of use and sensation in the body below the neck, including both arms and legs.

Paraplegia: Paraplegia is caused by an injury to the spinal cord below the neck level and causes the loss of use and sensation in the lower part of the body, including the legs.

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Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are usually caused by a quick and sudden impact to the spine or back. If the spinal cord injury is treated quickly, it might be possible to minimize the amount of paralysis. Spinal cord injury can occur from many causes, including trauma from automobile, truck, motorcycle and bicycle crashes, falls, diving accidents, medical malpractice, construction accidents and various other causes. Car crashes are the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. It generally takes a very severe car accident to cause a spinal cord injury, but when a collision results in direct force on, or unnatural twisting of the back or neck, serious injury can occur. The next most common cause of spinal cord injury is falls, followed by acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds or stabbings)falls and sports-related injuries.

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Proving a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Most claims for spinal cord injury damages are brought under the legal theory of negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that the responsible party(defendant)had a duty to act with care toward others so as not to cause them harm. Next, it must be proved that the defendant breached that duty, by driving unsafely, failing to repair a pothole, creating an unsafe condition, etc… It must also be shown that the defendant’s failure to use care was a contributing cause of the injury causing event. Finally, you must prove that you suffered injury as a result of the defendant's breach of duty. Your Sacramento spinal cord injury attorney at the Crow Law Offices will seek to prove these elements through witnesses and evidence.

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Financial Damages in a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Along with physical disability, spinal cord injuries have the potential to cause financial hardship, due to lifelong medical expenses and loss of earning capacity associated with caring for a spinal injury victim. Damages in a spinal cord injury case are significant, and are generally limited by shortened projections of life expectancy. This is especially so in the catastrophic case.

Spinal cord injury victims are often faced with a lifetime of medical and rehabilitation expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering. The medical expenses that arise after a spinal cord injury are almost always enormous. This typically means expensive accommodations are needed over a long-term period.

Generally, there are past, present, and future wage losses, medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, physical, emotional, and psychological injuries, and attendant care costs coupled with special medical equipment costs. General damages, including the loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and psycho-social problems, including depression, are significant elements of damage in spinal cord injury cases. Perhaps the most difficult issues to address involve potentially life shortening sequelae, (suppositories, catheter and bag use), pressure sores (decubitus ulcers, ischemic ulcers, etc... and other psychosocial impairment.

The spinal cord injury rehabilitation requires comprehensive medical and therapeutic management and a tremendous amount of patience and hard work. It is a multi-step process that starts immediately after the accident and continues for the remainder of the patients life. Rehabilitation begins at the time of injury with management of the acute trauma. This is the most critical time as the patient is at highest risk for spinal cord injury complications, including death. Acute rehabilitation follows from physicians, rehabilitation nurses, physical, occupational and respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, case managers, psychologists, social workers and therapeutic recreation therapists.

Many people who live with a spinal cord injury have secondary complications including pain, respiratory and heart problems, bladder and bowel dysfunction. It is common to experience dysfunction of the bowel and bladder, including susceptibility to infections of the bladder and incontinence. Decubitus ulcers (bed sores)are potentially life threatening, though with proper care, they should never develop. These sores are caused by prolonged external pressure. A wrinkled sheet or underwear not perfectly even is a potential cause for the development of a pressure sore. Respiratory complications, urinary tract infections, spasticity, scoliosis, loss of sexual functioning, the inability to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and therefore body temperature, spasticity caused by increased reflexes and stiffness of the limbs, neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system, autonomic dysreflexia, which is a reaction of the autonomic nervous system to overstimulation, muscle atrophy, gallbladder and renal stones, osteoporosis and bone degeneration, and superior mesenteric artery syndrome are all complications that may arise.

A claim may also be made for the injured person's spouse. This type of claim is called a loss of consortium. The claim of loss of consortium establishes the right of one spouse to state a cause of action for loss of companionship, emotional support, love, and sexual relations caused by a negligent or intentional injury to the other spouse by a third party. The loss of companionship, emotional support, love and sexual relations are real injuries. There may not be deterioration in the marital relationship, but it will certainly alter it in a tragic way.

In addition to draining the victim both physically and emotionally, spinal cord injuries can also drain a family’s finances because medical care for spinal cord injuries is costly and long-term. Also many people can no longer work in their chosen career fields.

The Sacramento spinal cord injury attorneys at the Crow Law Offices have wide ranging experience with spinal cord injuries, and understand the complex medical and legal issues that frequently accompany these cases.

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Typical Experts Needed in a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedics, psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech, occupational and physical therapists, recreational therapists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, nurses, patients advocates, case managers, social workers, and other specialists are commonly used experts in spinal cord injury cases. Depending on the case, you may need to consult with a cardiologist, an infectious disease specialist, or numerous other medical sub-specialists. Psychiatric/ psychological intervention is generally necessary. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuropsychologists should be utilized to discuss the diagnosis of depression, the impact of medication and the prognosis of the plaintiffs emotional condition

Spinal cord injury cases require the use of a life care planner. This specialist deals with all of the plaintiffs treating physicians in order a clear medically probable future care plan. Recognizing that omission of medically necessary treatment can, and will, shorten the expected life of a spinal cord injury victim, the life care planner must work with the plaintiff and the medical specialists in order to put together an appropriate plan for medical services throughout the expected life of the plaintiff.

There are two essential expert witnesses in proving a victim's wage loss/loss of earning capacity claim. The first is a vocational rehabilitation specialist. The vocational rehabilitation counsel will consult with each of the plaintiffs treating doctors and will often times review pertinent medical records. In addition, the vocational specialist will test the plaintiff in order to determine what transferable skills exist and what job options are truly possible. A vocational rehabilitative counselor will likewise explore the pre-injury course of employment with plaintiff. Proper work-up of a spinal cord injury case necessitates a strong vocational rehabilitative specialist.

The second required expert is a forensic economist. Once the vocational specialists work is complete, his/her information should be shared with an appropriate forensic economist. While the forensic economists work is not limited to the area of past, present and future wage loss, (the economist will also set forth appropriate damages for the life care plan/present value of future medical expense), it is the economists burden to carefully review all wage information and documentation of the plaintiff. The economist, based on the vocational rehabilitative findings, computes plaintiff's lifetime earnings capacity but for the injury causing event. The economist will testify as to the most probable losses based upon the most probable pre-morbid career path or paths. The forensic economist will assist the jury in determining the appropriate net discount rates and rates of inflation. The forensic economist further assists the jury in understanding present value of the future losses as required by the courts. A forensic economist must take the findings of the life care plan, and place a value on the services, taking into account medical rates of inflation.

In addition to experts, lay witnesses, including family members, close friends, relatives, etc...are used to establish the plaintiffs damages.

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The Outcome of Spinal Cord Injuries

While there currently is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, the goal of rehabilitation focuses on preventing further injury and teaching people with spinal cord injuries to return to an active and productive life. A rehabilitation team can work to improve remaining muscle strength and teach the injured person new techniques to accomplish day-to-day activities. Extensive rehabilitation, psychological therapy and prescription medication, are all forms of treatment used to help victims cope with a spinal cord injury. With the help of the experienced Sacramento spinal cord injury attorneys at the Crow Law Offices, a financial recovery and the best medical experts will help get your life back on track.

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Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

About 450,000 people in the United States currently live with a spinal cord injury. The cost of treating and caring for people with spinal cord injuries in the US tops over $4 billion ever year. A quarter of a million Americans are currently living with spinal cord injuries (SCI), with 10,000 to 12,000 new injuries happening every year. Overall, 85% of spinal cord injury patients who survive the first 24 hours are still alive 10 years later. The most common levels of injury on admission to trauma centers are C4, C5 (the most common), and C6. Causing nearly 40% of all spinal cord injuries, car accidents are the most common cause of the injury.

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