Spinal cord injuries are some of the most devastating injuries a person can suffer. Unfortunately, they are common in the United States. Approximately 300,000 people are estimated to be living with spinal cord injuries today. The average age of people who incur these injuries is reportedly just 43 years old, and 78 percent of all new spinal cord injuries in America occur in men.
The spinal cord is an integral part of the central nervous systems, working with the brain to coordinate our bodies’ posture, movements and sensations. When spinal cords sustain damage, resulting conditions are often catastrophic. Paralysis, loss of sensation and life-long pain are common side effects.
Spinal cord injuries also carry the risk of substantial personal and societal costs, with those who suffer from them being two to five times more likely to die premature deaths.
If you suffered a spinal cord injury in Brockton or the greater Boston metro area and it wasn’t your fault, an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer can help you move forward with your life. An attorney on your side will explain your legal options, determine the potential value of your case, and fight on your behalf for the compensation you deserve.
To schedule a free consultation with a spinal cord injury lawyer in Brockton, call The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan today or contact us online.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries are wounds or damage to a person’s spinal cord that result from things like disease, degeneration, a back injury or direct trauma. A common misconception is that a spinal cord must be completely severed for loss of function to occur. However, a spine injury is often more than just a single event, and most cases of spinal cord injuries feature cords that are bruised but still intact.
When a human spine absorbs the impact of a car accident, sporting injury, slip and fall accident, penetration wound or other violent trauma, the initial blunt force of the impact can cause internal damage that actually kills spinal cord cells.
During the following hours and days, a lack of oxygen or the release of toxic chemicals at the site of a spinal cord injury may cause even more damage. This kind of sustained trauma to the nervous system can have consequences that range from unpleasant to life-threatening.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries in Brockton
While no two injuries are alike, the majority have preventable causes that fall into a few broad categories. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are:
- Vehicle accidents, which caused 38.6 percent of all spinal cord injuries. These include car and truck accidents, motorcycle crashes and pedestrian collisions.
- Fall accidents, which accounted for 32.2 percent. Slip and fall injuries often occur because of conditions such as unsafe premises or unsafe products.
- Acts of violence, which caused 14 percent of these injuries. Acts of violence include assault, domestic abuse, nursing home abuse or gunshot wounds.
- Recreational or sporting accidents caused 7.8 percent of spinal cord injuries. High-impact sports such as skiing, football or ice hockey are especially dangerous.
- Medical or surgical causes accounted for 4.2 percent of spinal cord injuries. Medical malpractice cases often involve improper procedures or incorrect diagnoses.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
These terms and definitions are often used to describe spinal cord injuries:
- Complete – Complete spinal cord injuries refer to injuries that result in the total loss of movement and sensation below the injury. These are often the most devastating type of spinal cord injuries.
- Incomplete – Incomplete spinal cord injuries are those in which messages between the brain and spinal cord are not completely lost. People with incomplete injuries often retain some movement and sensation below the site of their injury.
- Paraplegia – A general term used when an injured individual loses movement and sensation in lower parts of the body like the chest, stomach, legs, hips, and feet.
- Tetraplegia or quadriplegia – These terms refer to a condition in which someone who has an injury or illness in the cervical spine loses the ability to move the arms, legs or torso.
Complications Posed by Spinal Cord Injuries
The amount of the body that loses movement and sensation in a spinal cord injury depends largely on where the injury occurred. Generally, an injury that is high on the spine has a greater effect on the body than a lower injury. For example:
- The cervical spine is located in the neck. As this is the highest portion of the spine, injuries to this area have more severe impacts, such as the loss of movement and sensation, and a loss in the ability to breathe without a ventilator.
- The thoracic region, which controls the torso and part of the arm, is located in the upper back. People who suffer an injury to the thoracic spine may experience limited trunk movement and a lack of abdominal muscle control.
- The lumbar region, located in the middle of the back, controls brain signals to the hips and legs. Injury to the lumbar region may result in loss of sensation or movement to the hips, legs or feet.
- The lower spine is known as the sacral region. Injury to this region may result in loss of feeling and movement in the groin, toes and parts of the legs.
According to research by the World Health Organization, people who suffer spinal cord injuries often deal with both physical and economic challenges, including:
- Paralysis of the muscles used for breathing
- Loss of feeling in the trunk, arms, legs, and pelvic region
- Weakness or numbness
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- An increased risk of deep vein thrombosis
- Urinary tract infections
- Muscle spasms
- Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores
- Chronic pain
- Dependence on caregivers
- Increased health care costs for immediate and ongoing treatment
- Accessibility expenses for home modifications or mobility devices such as wheelchairs
- Increased risk of premature death
How Can a Brockton Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Help Me?
If you’re suffering from a spinal cord injury in Brockton, you do not have to deal with the resulting personal and financial complications all by yourself. A lawyer with experience in catastrophic injury cases can help you by:
- Determining the cause of your injury – If your spinal cord injury was caused by a negligent driver, a medical malpractice event or a fall accident in unsafe premises, an attorney can gather evidence to prove your claim.
- Calculating how much compensation you can pursue – Spinal cord injury treatments are expensive. Sometimes those treatments will be needed for the rest of one’s life. A lawyer will help ensure you don’t pay out-of-pocket unnecessarily for any related expenses.
- Helping you file insurance claims – You may need assistance in filing a claim against the negligent party’s insurance provider or with your own insurer. A legal representative can make statements and file claims on your behalf to maximize compensation and help you avoid any self-incriminating language.
- Negotiating a fair insurance settlement – If you were hurt through no fault of your own, it is only fair that an insurance settlement should represent an amount that covers all of your expenses as well as your pain and suffering.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit – If an insurance provider is unwilling to offer a reasonable settlement, a personal injury lawyer will not hesitate to file a lawsuit against the insurer for damages.
- Arguing your case in a court of law – If your case goes to court, a skilled attorney will present a compelling argument to help you obtain a damage award for your injuries.
Compensation for Your Spinal Cord Injury
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan have used their legal skills and experience to win compensation for many spinal cord injury victims in Brockton and throughout Massachusetts. Damages we commonly pursue in these cases include:
- Expenses related to current and future medical treatment
- Expenses related to rehabilitation or accessibility equipment
- Costs of pain, suffering and emotional distress
- Losses in current income and potential future wages
- Loss of companionship or quality of life
- Wrongful death
How Long After an Accident Do I Have to File a Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit?
If someone else’s careless or intentional act caused your spinal cord injury and you cannot reach an appropriate insurance settlement, you may choose to seek a civil remedy in Massachusetts courts. If you decide to bring a lawsuit, Massachusetts’ statute of limitations imposes a three-year deadline on personal injury cases. This time limit begins on the date of the incident that caused your injury.
Should you allow this time limit to pass, the person you are trying to sue can file a motion to dismiss your lawsuit. With few exceptions, this means that the court will dismiss your case. If this happens, you lose your right to sue for damages.